One of the coolest Natural History activities to do in Brazil is to go and check out the "feeders" at the Caraça Sanctuary in Minais Gerais. I have chickadees at my feeder in New York, but the folks at Caraça have something a little more exciting.
After reading about it for years, I finally got to check it out in August 2004 on a birding trip with Philip Dempsey, Judy Davis, and Michael Duffy. Caraça is an active monastery which has preserved a significant slug of good habitat around it. To make ends meet, the monks have converted part of the monastery into a hotel and market themselves primarily to eco-tourists. The rooms feel very much like monks' cells, well, because they were monks' cells at some point. The food was basic, but the beer was cold and the birding around the monastery was pretty good (lots of Swallow-tailed Cotingas), even if the weather was a little mixed. The highlight however, was the "feeders".
After dinner we went to a terraced area overlooking the grounds and, along with 20 or so other tourists, positioned ourself around the edges, leaving the center area open. At the appointed hour a monk appeared and placed a tray of meat in the center of the terrance, banging on the tray and making enough noise to attract potential dinner guests. And then we waited, silent with the proverbial baited breath, to see if the star animal would come in for dinner ....
|Is that something in the shadows?|
|The Maned Wolf comes cautiously up onto the terrace ...|
|Dinner is served ....|
|Judy, Michael and Philip (and their beers) ...|
|Charismatic Megafauna .....|