08 August, 2008
A Dozen Anacondas
The name says it all: saw-grass. Marshes here are teeming with this plant whose leaves have extremely sharp edges – a slight rub of your finger is enough to produce a cut that looks as it has been done by a razor blade. This is the favorite refuge for anacondas, the heaviest and one of the longest snakes in the world. It has been a week now since I first started searching for them in Bonito (Brazil) together with award-winning US-based Israeli photographer Amos Nachoum and his restless assistant/apprentice John.
In addition to the peculiar habit of hiding among sharp leaves, the most likely period to find them is during the hottest hours of day, when they lay down basking in the sun. Therefore, I have spent the past days going up and down streams and walking in muddy swamps under the baking sun (winter never showed up here this year). At the end of the day, the wrinkled white feet strikingly contrast with arms and hands full of inevitable small cuts. This vision of paradise is completed by the so-called “micuins” (tiny ticks that look more like walking grains of dust) and bloodthirsty flies. Our objective is to get never seen images of anacondas – preferably under water. Today is the seventh day of our expedition and we have already found twelve “sucuris” (as the snake is known in Brazil). But so far we still haven’t got the images we need.
Despite these adversities, coming face to face with anacondas in a place with breathtaking landscapes – crystal clear water teeming with fishes and vegetation full of colorful birds – has been fascinating and compensates all efforts. Today we had the best encounter of the trip: we were stuck with our boat in a strong rapid, under a tree limb covered with spikes, when John looks back and calmly announces, with a “gringo” accent but in loud and clear Portuguese: “sucuri”...
There it was, majestic, with some unlucky victim (a capybara?) in its belly, staring at us without understanding what was the deal with those crazy folks wearing strange rubber clothes and breaking into its privacy with enormous cameras. When it swam calmly by our 6-meter (18-ft) long boat, Amos, buried in mud up to his waist and surrounded by thickets of saw-grass, made his calculations: “I could see the body along the whole boat, the rest of its tail was still behind and I could not see its head”. Now it’s your turn to estimate the critter’s length. As to the diameter, let’s say that – even if I went totally nuts and tried to hug it – I wouldn’t be able to get my arms around its body.
Tomorrow our search continues and next week it’s time to leave Bonito towards the Pantanal looking for jaguars and piranhas, then finally to the Amazon where we plan to photograph pink river dolphins.