Welcome to the Sea of Trees
People come from all corners of the world to Brazil to behold for themselves the vastness of the Amazon Rainforest. About 60% of the forest lies within Brazil’s territory and Manaus, as the capital, serves as the most convenient launching point for study, exploration, and eco-tourism. Most people will, of course, want to head off on one of the tours that take you piranha fishing, dolphins spotting, and hiking to visit one of the jungle communities, but even so visitors to Manaus should still consider stopping by the Museu de Amazônia (Museum of the Amazon).
It’s actually part museum, part biological reserve, and botanical garden (going by all 3 titles) and is an excellent way to take some short trail walks into the forest, visit some exhibits, and see the breathtaking view from the top of the 42 meter observation tower. This is the highlight for many people and a different view of the forest than you’ll get from the tours on the ground. Stretching out in an endless sea of trees into the beyond the view is epic and, no matter how many forests views you’ve seen before, this means a little something different when you know it’s the Amazon and it’s billions and billions of trees — 390 billion!! This sea of trees is quite literally what keeps you, me, and everyone else alive right now at this very second because of the amount of oxygen produced.
To walk on the trails you must be accompanied by a guide because there’s apparently a lot of places that you could get lost — it is kind of a two million plus square mile forest — but I thought the paths were fairly well marked. Be warned, our guide didn’t speak very much English (maybe there are others) and the entire tour was conducted in Portuguese so bring a friend who can translate if you want to understand anything. Our guide was really good at spotting the camouflaged insects that were hiding from us and full of tidbits of interesting facts about the trees and forest sounds.
Currently the museum is doing an exhibit on the many Amazon River fishes. One of the trail hikes included stopping by to small expositions with displays on frogs, fishes, and indigenous fishing methods as well as some fish specimen. It was cool to see them and learn that one of them could jump out of the water 2 meters to catch food and another had some kind of breathing mechanism that allowed it to walk on land for five minutes. But what a sad, ironic twist of fate? Living in a cage inside the rainforest… one of the jumping fish had actually attempted an escape some time before, not realizing the other side of the tank had no water. Needless to say the tank was securely shut for the current occupant.
Lastly we checked out some of the displays in the entry area and a small greenhouse type space where I found the cutest tiny pineapple. I had no idea there was an ornamental variety. A good day full of surprises and mosquito bites.
Even in all the excitement of being here and staring out at the trees on the top of the tower, I think of the old Fangorn’s pondering of the once great forests, “Time was when a squirrel could go from tree to tree from what is now the Shire to Dunland west of Isengard…” And like middle-earth we’ve lost almost all our trees and are losing them terrifyingly quickly with no tree herdsman to protect them. Two percent of the Earth’s land for fifty percent of its species… the math doesn’t seem right.
I’m pretty sure the reason the whole place isn’t gone yet is because part of the year it’s entirely in water. You can’t see it from all those sweeping plane shots you’ve seen in nature programs, but the only way around is boat. In my perfect world, the trees would take over once again and if people have to be around we could build some badass tree houses.
P.S. Stephen Colbert let’s do an LOTR trivia challenge… and help save the rainforest!