Archive for February, 2007
During January, I had the pleasure of sitting down with three very interesting people; Glenmore Trenear-Harvey, intelligence and terrorism expert; Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), and Jean-Michel Cousteau, founder of the Oceans Future Society. Each one shared with me fascinating insights into matters of interest and importance to cruise passengers; including topics ranging from onboard safety and security to the future of the Jones Act and its impact in domestic cruising. As those articles are written and published, I will be sure to post links for all to read. Stay tuned - this is good stuff!
I hope that you enjoy the beautiful photos of Boi Bumba; they were taken by my dear friend Barry Hopkins, Cruise Director of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. If you would like to see more of his work please check out his website at www.barryhopkins.com!
As the United States government is finally formally acknowledging the reality of global warming, conservation is no longer reserved for just us, “tree huggers.” Information travels through cyberspace to the most remote communities on the planet carrying the word that dwindling resources and atmospheric contamination are now everybody’s problem. In the Amazon basin, an area so vast it could cover the entire contiguous 48 United States, forest is destroyed in ways that are insidiously legitimate.
For years, we have heard the outcry to “Save the Rainforest” as 400 football fields of land was being destroyed every day. The trees of the Amazon are often referred to as the lungs of the planet. They are crucial to its health. However, like lungs their value is not to create oxygen but to clear the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide. With no infrastructure to police or monitor the area, unauthorized roads have been cut through huge parcels of land enabling poachers to illegally log trees and clear for land for mining. The Brazilian government seemed helpless against these crimes. Thanks to the cooperation of scientists at MIT, a satellite surveillance system was launched whereby illegal activity can be identified and stopped. However many challenges remain as communities required to take action often do not have the telecommunications to receive this information. Nevertheless, its presence has been a deterrent as evidenced by the 30% reduction of forest destroyed in 2005 and 2006.
With the planet’s fifth largest population and sixth largest economy, development of the country’s interior is inevitable. The question is how? Recently completed Brazil highway BR-163, cuts through the heart of the Amazon and ends in the city of Santarem. Along its path soybean farms have been moving north from the state of Matto Grosso. Brazil is the second largest producer of soy in the world, and the US based Cargill company has built a huge terminal to process and ship the soybeans from the Santarem. Though they vow to buy soybeans only from farmers who practice sustainable framing methods it is almost impossible to monitor practices in remote areas. Poor farmers continue to clear forest by burning and use dangerous herbicides and insecticides that wash into tributaries. As soy grows more valuable on the world market, more and more farmers will turn to growing the crop encroaching on tracks of land unsuitable for agriculture.
Sorry to sound like a bleeding heart, but as we sailed from Santarem by mid-afternoon the air had become heavy with the sweet smell of smoke. By sunset, the sky was pinkish-brown. One hour after sunset, we passed it – on the port side, you could see the entire horizon was ablaze. Huge flames shot up into the sky silhouetting the burning trees. It was heart breaking. I asked the Amazon River pilot what was the nature of the fire and he said, “soy.” I consider myself a marginal vegetarian and do consume more than my fair share of soy products. However, after what I saw and learned about soy farming’s effect on the forest, I am determined to buy only from domestic, non-GMO, organic farmers and urge you all to do the same.
Everyone knows about Carnaval but what the heck is “Boi Bumba?” Celebrated in the town of Parintins (population 100,000) located on the Amazon River in the state of Pará, it is fast becoming one of Brazil’s most popular local celebrations complete with elaborate costumes and fantasy floats.
Boi Bumba means,“Charge the bull,” and originated as a rural festival. It is held the last weekend in June. The story goes that a wealthy rancher gave his trusted farm hand a prized bull for his care. The farmhand’s pregnant wife became overwhelmed with cravings for (of all things) a taste of the bull’s tongue. So the obedient husband killed the bull and waited for the impeding punishment of the rancher. However, before telling his boss, the farmhand employs the help of a local shaman who manages to resurrect the bull and they all live happily ever after.
But wait - there’s more! The story is played out in town by two competing teams that are represented by a red bull (Garantido) and a blue bull (Caprichoso). During the weeklong festival, the teams compete in the Bumbadromo Stadium. The bigger and better presentation wins the title of reigning team.
As Boi Bumba becomes more popular not just within Brazil but also worldwide, the pageantry is becoming more spectacular. New characters and choreographed dances have been added. With domestic jet service into Parintins from Manaus, the town is full and hotels rooms are booked a year in advance. For more information on Boi Bumba contact www.boibumba.com.
How many times have I been asked which cruise offers the best way to see and experience the Amazon? If you are not ready to string up a hammock on a local riverboat but you do want to get closer to nature than from what can be seen on a large cruise ship – have I got a trip for you!
Its the M/V IberoStar. Last year for the first time I saw the IberoStar docked in Manaus. I was gob-stopped! A 4 star shallow draft expeditionary riverboat it has 72 air-conditioned cabins, some with sliding glass doors leading to a spacious balcony. There are two restaurants, a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, fitness center and internet access. However, most importantly it carries five zodiacs for up close and personal exploration of tributaries with pre-excursions lectures by naturalists specializing in Amazonian flora and fauna. It took everything for me to resist jumping ship – I would love to work in that environment!
The IberoStar offers three and four night programs out of Manaus. Itineraries are complimentary and can be combined back-to-back for a one week cruise. For more information contact: www.iberostar.com or my friends at www.ladatco.com.