First of all, I love mosses, mushrooms, tiny plants and lichens. Going to Isla Navarino to visit the Omora Ethnobotanical Park, site of the “miniature forests of Cape Horn”, was something close to an obsession. Exploring at a slow pace an area of a few square meters, perched over fallen trees or rocks, all covered in mosses, fungi and liverworts, was an incredibly fulfilling experience, especially since we had an expert guide with us from the Omora Foundation. It was so different than what we normally do: hike, covering miles and focusing on getting from point A to point B in a certain amount of time. Now the focus was staying put in one small area and looking into the world at our feet that we otherwise just pass in the quest to conquer miles. The Omora Foundation are also the promoters of the concept of “tourism with a magnifying glass”, the idea of slow exploration with the special interest of discovering this unique ecosystem. Starting in the Omora Ethnobotanical Park and spending a week in the Yendegaia bay, which is also part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, I had plenty of time to feed my curiosity of looking down into the micro-worlds around me.

This activity and new-found passion gave me a different perspective. It created a path to a deeper connection with microscopic organisms that are sometimes ignored. It’s easier to observe and understand the behavior of an animal, or to look at a beautiful flower and feel moved. It’s harder though for us humans to really empathize with liverworts, mosses or lichens. However, staring at these microscopic organisms for days, I found them to be creators of complex beauty, geometry and art. Discovering the diversity of shapes and colors, their juxtaposition, their patterns and textures was always a surprise that kept up the excitement for exploring. From lichens and fungi I started looking at tiny grasses and flowers, all contributing to the incredible mix of colors present in the landscapes of the UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. From the hundreds of photographs taken, below is a selection that will hopefully inspire some curiosity about getting to know better the hidden worlds that lie at our feet.

Approaching the rocks in the Yendegaia bay a different world appears. The incredible diversity of shapes and patterns of the crustose and foliose lichens on a square inch of those rocks is a source of amazement for a nerd like me. I’m in awe of such micro-organisms but know little of their scientific names. A “Lichen-101” important piece of information, though, is that they are not plants, nor animals. They are something of their own, a partnership between an alga and a fungus. This symbiosis helps both survive in an environment that could be fatal, had they gone their separate ways.

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