Oct 11, 2013 - National Geographic Explorer
After two full days at sea navigating from the remote archipelago of Fernando de Naronha, our expedition made sight of land yesterday afternoon and today we’re spending the full day exploring much of what this large city and the outlying area has to offer.
Morning outings set out to experience some of cultural and historic sights of Salvador, making stops at local markets and visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Town which today contains the largest assemblage of colonial architecture in South America.
As a naturalist, I am often on excursions that take us away from the bustle of the city and out to the neighboring natural areas. Today was no exception as we made our way to the Saparinga Reserve and later in the day to Praia do Forte and the coastal community where the Tamar Conservation project is headquartered. The Saparinga Reserve is a large protected area of Atlantic Forest, considered one of the most threatened forest biomes on the planet and certainly in South America. Despite over 90% of the Atlantic Forest’s destruction having occurred since 1500, the remaining 7% still harbors a rich assortment of life. Over 35% of all life here is endemic, occurring nowhere else on the planet.
Our hike was mostly through secondary growth and through thick bromeliad-laden forests. Occasional showers sprinkled us as we experienced the rain forest environment. Bird watching in the dense forest is difficult but we did manage to see several species of forest birds, including the endemic and rare golden-capped parakeet.
After an incredible lunch for our small group in Praia do Forte we strolled the streets of this lovely coastal tourist town and made way to the Tamar Conservation Headquarters. Tamar focuses primarily on preservation, protection and conservation of marine life. The five species of sea turtle that occur along the coasts and beaches of Brazil are a major emphasis. Getting a chance to see these incredible animals firsthand really helped people to realize how unique and threatened these giants of the sea are.
A very special evening performance was arranged at Teatro San Miguel by the world renowned dance group, Balé Folclórico da Bahia. The performance was energetic, to say the least, and covered the rich and diverse blend of Afro/Indian culture of this region. The dances and costuming told the story of this diversity and captivated each and every member of the audience.
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