Posts Tagged ‘Auckland’

Leave the suntan lotion, take the umbrella

May 4th, 2009

The news out of northeastern Brazil, my first port of call, isn’t good. Floods and mudslides from heavy rains have killed at least 14 people and made more than 60,000 homeless. The Parnaiba Delta, where I’m heading on Wednesday, is on the border of the states of Maranhao and Piaui. In Maranhao, 40,000 people are living in shelters. And meteorologists predict two more weeks of downpours!

The heavy rains are probably good for the mangroves, which like a bit of fresh water with their salty diet, but will be challenging for the three of us who are visiting the area: myself, Elaine Corets, my translator and guide, and my son Jeremy, who is coding this site until his cyber-Neolithic father gets the hang of it.

Nothing daunted, we proceed.

Return to the mangroves

May 2nd, 2009
Kayaking down Belize's Rio Grande—from the rainforests of the land to the rainforests of the sea.

Kayaking down Belize's Rio Grande—from the rainforests of the land to the rainforests of the sea.

A cold rain is drumming on my roof in Auckland as I write this first post to the Last Stands blog. In a few days I’ll be leaving the chilly temperatures of a New Zealand autumn for the sticky heat of tropical mangrove forests in Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s a journey that has been four years in the making, and I’m excited to be sharing it with you.

The idea kicked off in 2005, when I was researching mangroves for a story for National Geographic magazine. I spent six weeks wading, wallowing, boating and diving my way through mangrove forests in Belize, Bangladesh, Brazil, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Malaysia and Eritrea. I got to see some of the amazing creatures that live in mangroves (including deer and a tiger in Bangladesh – more about that in a later post). But even more importantly, I visited communities of people who rely on mangroves for their food and livelihood. Their world is disappearing. And that tragedy is the catalyst that made me want to write a book about mangroves. Now I am—and that’s what this Last Stands journey is all about.

It’s going to be an incredible trip. Here are just a few of the things I’m looking forward to:

Giant mangroves of the Esmeraldas

Giant mangroves of the Esmeraldas

  • visiting the giant mangroves of the Esmeraldas, in Ecuador—some of the tallest mangroves in the world
  • meeting the Ecuadorian concheras—the women and children who gather cockles from the mangroves, and whose livelihoods are taken from them by the encroachment of shrimp farms
  • taking part in a shark-tagging survey in the mangroves of Bimini Island, in the Bahamas, where an environmental battle is raging between developers and mangrove conservationists
  • discovering how the indigenous and Afro-Brazilian culture in Caravelas has incorporated mangroves into the art, dance and music of the region
  • traveling to Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands wildlife refuge by airboat with an expert in mangrove mapping
  • catching up with Candy Feller, a mangrove scientist who started her career drawing illustrations of marine life underwater—yes, underwater!—before falling in love with mangroves and going on to spend her life researching them
  • seeing a very special species of mangrove in Panama which has flowers as big as magnolia blossoms that are pollinated by hummingbirds