Created in 2006 by science journalist Paola Catapano, MINIDARWIN aims at taking groups of children on scientific expeditions coached by real scientists and science communication professionals.

On the occasion of International Year of Biodiversity 2010, theMiniDarwins are ready to leave on their third expedition, to the Amazon Forest, devoted to biodiversity and its socio-economic spin offs. The MiniDarwins will be coached by biodiversity scientists and an ecological socio-economist specialised in ethno-ecology to experience life with an Indigenous population in the Amazon Forest

During the trip, we will publish on this blog a diary of the expedition and some of the photos, videos, interviews and texts we are producing for later publication on our website, book, reportage and documentary film.

4 August 2010

Fred and Polina have arrived!

4 Aug 2010

from Polina's diary

Last night we have arrived in Manaus after a long flight from Amsterdam, via São Paolo. A good thing I have made friends with the cabin crew, who have showed me around the airplane. Brazil looks so impressive from the sky, all the mountains, plains, forests and rivers. Not at all like The Netherlands, where I am from.

In Manaus you can feel the jungle is around you. It was already dark when we drove to the Mango Guest house from the airport. But I could see big trees everywhere. But it is also a very big city (with 2.7 Million inhabitants). Mike told us at breakfast, there are 30.000 new people arriving every year, who think living in the city will be better for them.

The Mango Guest House is a nice place, with rooms which are around a big tropical garden. We are staying in the Piranha room. When I woke up it did not take long for me to find out that Maxine, Alberto and Kai are in the Tucunare room. The names of the rooms are all fishes from the Amazon River. On the rooms are beautiful paintings of every fish.

Who could have expected, that we would start our expedition with a big splash in the swimming pool of the guest house. Probably the last swimming pool which we will see, because swimming at the Uakari lodge, where we are going from here, is dangerous, because of the crocodiles and piranhas in the water.

After breakfast Maxine told me what the children have been doing so far. Her report of letting the baby turtles out of their nests under the sand crawling to the sea is so exciting! I have made a drawing of the turtles, which we can put on the blog later. Well, that's it for now. In a minute we will be going to the zoo, to see all the animals before we, hopefully, meet them in the wild. Later this afternoon we will go to a special place, where two rivers stream together (Encontro das Aguas). Both have a different colour, which mixes into one.

We have brought a vaccine against rabies with us, which we have stored in the fridge of the guest house. It is just in case any of us gets bitten by an animal. Professor Ab gave it to us before we left. But the best advice he could give us: don't let an animals bite you.

Animals in the wild and in cages: a visit to the Manaus military zoo (CIGS)

The zoo of Manaus is really beautiful! The animals are from the Brazilian jungle and they are kept by the army. We saw jaguars, toucans, anacondas, araras, small monkeys and even a black panther. Although they live in captivity, the cages of the zoo do not look bad at all. The animals have a lot of space and in the cages there is water, trees and plants, so they can climb and hide themselves. Since I am here I want to drink water all the time. Sometimes it even seems better to me than ice cream.
After our visit to the Zoo, we have made our first trip on the Amazon river. The river is huge. It looks like the sea from a distance. A fast boat took us to the place where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões meet. Both rivers are totally different. Rio Negro (‘negro’ means ‘black’) comes all the way from Colombia and is very dark, Rio Solimões (‘solimos’ means ‘wild’) comes from Peru and has a much lighter colour. The rivers also flow at a different speed. That’s why the water keeps flowing apart in the Amazon without mixing for many miles.

We stopped at some floating houses where the people are keeping big fish in basins in the river. A man gave us some poles with a rope and small fish tied to it. He let us feed the big fishes, which came jumping out of the water, as soon as they noticed their meals. Later we ourselves had lunch too, in a restaurant which was floating in the river. From there we made a walk over a long wooden bridge into the jungle. At the end of the bridge was a platform where you could see beautiful water lilies. These plants have enormous round leaves. Funny, that some tourists had been throwing coins on the leaves. I wonder what they have wished for. Not to go swimming, I bet. Because we saw some alligators glide through the water. It’s amazing how many things you see there. Our first trip into the jungle was a good training to keep quiet. That’s something I find really hard, I must say. But once we get to Mamiraua it will be important. Our guides say that our screaming will scare the animals making them want to hide for the rest of the day.

On our way back, Maxine and I were sitting on the front deck of the boat. From there we had a good look on the little wooden houses among the river shore. We have visited one of these houses, where children showed us living animals. The smallest girl, called Leticia (3 years old) had a baby alligator, which was really cute. Her older sister, Franciana, was holding a big anaconda, which was very strong and looked dangerous. She said her father caught it for her. I also asked her where did the anaconda sleep at night and she said in a closed box. The middle sister, Etilene, was holding a baby sloth, which Alberto found was the cutest of the three animals since it looks like it’s always smiling. We were wondering why they keep these animals in their house. Wild animals are beautiful, but they’re not pets. Our guide told us, that is how the children here make some money, by showing animals to tourists.


The encounter of the waters (Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes)

Manaus Opera

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