At number 7. Anavilhanas Islands

These will be the only islands where I’ll need to explain where they are.  They are in the Brazilian Amazon about 2 days by riverboat upstream from Manaus on the Rio Negro.  They are the world’s largest freshwater archipelago and consist of hundreds of tiny islands and seasonally flooded forest.

The red waters in the flooded forest of the Rio Negro_wm

The red waters in the flooded forest of the Rio Negro, The Anavilhanas Islands

The thing about  the Rio Negro is that there are very few nutrients which is why it’s waters are clear. This lack of river life is reflected in the paucity of plant species in the flooded forest and the relatively few animal species found here compared to the rest of the Amazon so we had our work cut out for us. There were two highlights, 3 if you count the bird man of Brazil, an American born Brazilian national Mario Cohn-Haft who can recall and mimic the calls of 3000 American bird species! This film and a previous film I made in the Amazon would have been impossible to make without his encyclopedic knowledge.  So, the two highlights were the beautiful people of Mariua village who took us deep into the flooded forest where they collected tropical fish for export. And how could I forget the incredible courtship display of the wire-tailed manakin. A little yellow bird with a red cap who thinks he’s a typewriter as he shuttles back and forth along the thin branches of his lek.  He would hop up to a competitor and repeatedly brush it’s face with his tail.  This is quite a well documented display, but while we were there Mario discovered something totally new about the lek display. During each cycle of the display the male bird disappears high up into the sky then returns at full tilt to perch again on the branch to continue it’s typewriter moves and tail brush. This dive from height onto the branch had not been recorded before, but once Mario had pointed it out it became very obvious that this was indeed part of the birds display repertoire.  Damn near impossible to film though! There was a fourth highlight to this trip and that was the incredible boat we traveled up the Rio Negro in; a beautifully built traditional Amazon river boat the ‘Ibotyra’ skippered by Tatu and we had  a fantastic cookcalled Nega. This was therefore not the best time to start a 2 days per week fasting diet I’d seen on a BBC ‘Horizon’ programme , ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’with Michael Mosley. By the time I flew home though, I felt bloody good!

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