Have you ever seen an episode of National Geographic and wanted to jump through the screen to be right where they were? Or look through their magazines in awe and wish it was you visiting such a wondrous part of the world? As I was kayaking in Lagoa do Peri, it became surreal to me that I was not in one of these episodes or articles – but I was living in one. The beautiful community of Florianópolis, Brazil.
This past week, I finally got grounded with my apprenticeship at Projeto Lontra, a conservation and observatory for rescued otters who lost their mothers at a very young age and cannot survive in their natural habitat. The basics of my schedule for my apprenticeship consists of feeding, cleaning, observing, designing enclosures, environmental enrichment, teaching English to the staff, and helping when schools visit. Yet, everyday there is always something new. Fridays have definitely become my favorite day of the week, not because of the typical “Thank God it’s Friday” mentality, but because of the opportunity I get from my apprenticeship! There are many different observations going on. One consists of setting cameras around the lake in different otter shelters and observing the life of a otter living in their natural habitat. Otters are nocturnal so the cameras help a lot for observation. Today was my first time kayaking around the lake to help collect date. The cameras have been in the otter shelters for about three weeks so it was time to retrieve them.
After lunch Sabrina, Gi, and I walked down to the green shack that holds the kayaks and canoes for us to use in the lake. I used the kayak that covers my legs, which freaked me out a bit because I had this feeling there were a bunch of spiders just crawling around in there. The past two days I’ve seen two Armadeiras ( one of many poisonous spiders in Brazil) so I’ve been very cautious of my surroundings. We set off around Lagoa do Peri, the second largest lake with the area of 5.2 square kilometers (4 miles) and the maximum depth of 11 meters (36 feet). The first out of six otter shelters we stopped at were hidden behind a couple droopy trees, inside there were huge rocks and a cove inside. We hopped out to observe the area to see if there were footprints or feces. We also collected the camera.
Going around the lake took some good arm strength, I don’t have arms like Pop Eye, so I was struggling a bit in the beginning. Each otter shelter is different. From having to hop out of the kayak and see the shelter, to hopping from rock to rock, dodging spider webs, crawling into tight spaces, or hanging onto different branches to swing from one place to another. It may seem like I was being Jane from “Tarzan,” but let me reassure you it wasn’t that extreme. As I paddled my way around the lake I saw a couple of huge lizards ( known as Dinos) hanging around on the rocks. I saw flocks of birds flying from one side of the lake to the other, surrounded by mountains full of greenery. There is a huge population of bamboo growing, not native to the island or even Brazil, which is a problem because it is taking over the population for native plants to grow. Something that surprised me was the sight of relatively small cacti! Cacti in Brazil? No one could have ever imagined, or that’s just me. As we finished going around the whole lake, the sun started to set. The sky looked like an ombré of yellow, orange, pink, and a splash of purple. The only sound I could hear was the splashing of water against the soft white sand. At that moment, I finally sunk into the land of Brazil.