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Why Cocha Cashu Is So Special

by Jason on July 26, 2012

Experiencing Manu Park (Cocha Cashu) is about so much more than seeing wildlife. Manu is so much more than seeing a jaguar, a river otter, a macaw or a squirrel monkey. Witnessing each one of those species is equally magnificent and leaves me with a deference for nature and life.

What impacts me the most about Manu is the overwhelming experience of life. There is so much life, so many species, and abounding in great quantities. Today I woke up and without even walking ten feet from my tent, I encountered four mammal species. I witnessed a troupe of dozens of squirrel monkeys jumping through the trees and a rodent species I’d never seen before.

I have never experienced anything like Manu in my life before. I have never witnessed so many species, so much life, all in close proximity to me. I have never heard so many sounds before, seen so many plants, witnessed so much wildlife in such great variety. Nothing has ever come close.

And as I speak with John Terborgh, a scientist who has done 40 years of research and completed studies all around the world, I get that there is no other place like Manu in the world. Why? Because almost everywhere else in the world has been affected, corrupted, pillaged, destroyed or in some way impacted by humans.

For example, in Manu there are peccaries, tapirs, trumpeters, spider monkeys, giant river otters and other large animals. You won’t find those almost anywhere else in the Amazon, even though those species used to occupy most of the Amazon and more.

As I canoe across Cocha Cashu, an oxbow lake, I feel a serenity and tranquility that I have never before experienced in nature. A friend and I are the only humans on this lake. There are no other human sounds. Nothing is corrupted. And nature and wildlife abound. I can’t count how many species of bird I have seen or how many of each type of bird I have seen. I watch monkeys pass by in the trees. I observe a playful family of giant river otters, one of whom is eating an electric eel. Their squeals echo and reverberate across the entire lake. I notice the turtles, the caimans, the tadpoles. All in a thirty minute canoe ride traveling a total distance of 200 feet. Where in the world can I experience anything like this?

I asked John if there were any other places like Manu that had never been touched or corrupted by humans. He couldn’t name another place. He said there may be a few remote areas in Brazil, perhaps a remote area deep in the Congo, but that’s about it. Maybe an area on the west coast of Canada, but without the species diversity.

In an instant, I got that experiencing Manu is experiencing life on earth the way nature has been for millions of years. Now that I have Manu as a reference, every other place in the world seems second rate, pillaged, gutted, filtered, watered down, sterile, bare, a skeleton of its former glory.

The scary part is that this applies to almost every last square inch of land on earth and continues to get worse. Developing countries are following the path of the U.S. and heavily exploiting their natural resources, all throughout the tropics, especially Brazil. We are lucky to have ANY virgin untouched areas left in the world.

Besides extinction and the loss of species and nature, the most glaring issue is that we cannot continue at this rate of consumption. We are on a pace to consume the whole earth and all its resources within the span of our generation. As Bill Clinton said in a speech I attended, “Our way of life is not sustainable.”

But I digress. Before sidetracking too much on the issue of sustainability, I hope this clarifies just how special Manu is for the world and its heritage. I didn’t realize there were hardly any other virgin regions left in the world. Manu makes me wonder what North America was like 100 years ago when millions of buffalo roamed the plains, when grizzly bears still abounded, when nature was in its virgin state.

That is the experience that Manu gives. Manu enveloped me, overwhelmed me with nature and life. I am in a different world here. I almost feel like I am on a different planet. And I am. Because we have already converted nearly every inch of land into something other than what it was in its original state.

I can feel that Manu has already significantly changed my life, even if I can’t state how. I imagine when I get back to North America, I will never see the world the same again.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Claire Westlake July 30, 2012 at 11:17 am

Glad you are having a great time.

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