You’ll want to be careful where you step at the OMORA Ethnobotanical Park on Navarino Island in Tierra del Fuego. Located in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve – heralded as one of the most sustainable places on Earth – OMORA specializes in scientific research projects examining the biodiversity of the region.
It’s also where visitors can come face to face with the diverse and prolific “miniature forests of Cape Horn” – mini-universes of vibrant and luscious mosses and lichens that guests can explore through the park’s unique “Magnifying Glass Tourism” initiative.
Picture yourself in a serene forest. Trees with cracked and rough bark form an interweaving canopy of green overhead, that either drips rainfall or spackles the rich, dark earth with sunlight. Everything smells like dirt and nature; an intense, primal smell of damp, growth, decay, and water and soil. Somewhere in the silence, the tock-tock-tock of a native woodpecker can be heard. Plastered along the bases of all the trees and sprawled over logs and rocks is a kaleidoscopic sea of greens and teals. At first glance, they are pretty, a nice addition to the surroundings. But look closer. Notice the differences. That moss has a soft, spongy surface, whereas its neighbor has a similar texture but the color is different. Peer harder. Get as close as you can. See the miniscule world. Tendrils stretching out. Insects making their daily commute through plush, green highways. A living organism. There is something incredibly fascinating and magical in little worlds, in the tiny and unseeable. Worlds in miniature. That’s what you’ll find when you cross the threshold into OMORA’s world of mosses and lichens.
Now, most people may not jump at the chance to spend a day looking at mosses. But OMORA’s program knows how to turn this seemingly mundane task into a nature adventure, unveiling entire universes hiding in plain sight, revealed with the simple addition of a magnifying glass.
Turismo con lupa, also known as magnifying glass tourism or ecotourism with a hand lens, was created by Dr. Ricardo Rozzi and his colleagues at OMORA. This “behind the looking glass” approach to science and education has proved highly successful, connecting tourists with the region’s biodiversity through a hands-on method that is both entertaining and enlightening.
Nowhere else on Earth can hold a candle to the lush mini-forests of Cape Horn. Why?
Thanks to the region’s cool, wet climate and the shelter provided from tree canopies, the moss and lichen communities of Cape Horn has flourished and diversified. In fact, the vast array of species in the park makes up an astonishing 5% to 7% of the entire world’s population of mosses, lichens, liverworts, and hornworts, some of which cannot be found anywhere else! That’s a lot of green!
With up to 50 different types of mosses and lichens calling a single tree home and vying for space, there are opportunities aplenty to examine and explore the differences in texture, color, and appearance of the species.
Visitors to OMORA are taken on guided tours with research and graduate students currently working or studying at the park’s research center. The treks and pathways weave through forests of native lenga, nirre, and coihue trees, taking a sheltered path that both showcases the richly green and earthy landscape and gives the best viewing opportunities for the mosses.
Guides point out different species along the trek, first inviting guests to observe them with the naked eye before getting a closer look with the magnifying glasses. This intimate look into a world that few see or truly understand gets explained along the way by the guide, pointing out details about each species, highlighting differences, and also discussing the various uses for such plants, like medical properties and how a mosses’ close relationship to its environment can indicate dramatic changes in the environment related to global warming and climate change.
The OMORA Ethnobotanical Park – created in 2000 – is located on Navarino Island in Chilean Tierra del Fuego. The island is also home to the Dientes Massif, which is famous for its dynamic shapes and the demanding Dientes Circuit, as well as the tiny town of Puerto Williams.
In addition to magnifying glass tourism and research, the park hosts science workshops for local school groups, as well as offering cultural trails around the park that expose visitors to the history and culture of the Yaghan people, an indigenous tribe formerly native to the area.
Interested in taking a walk through this other worldly abode? Our Navarino Island and Dientes Trek programs each include a visit to this fascinating program. Check out our Related Programs in the sidebar to find out more!