Nat Geo Explorer Inspires with Secrets of the Rainforest

Robyn Sheckler

by , External Communications Manager, Disney Institute and National Geographic Live

Today is World Rainforest Day and we’ve got a special treat for adventure-loving Disney Parks Blog readers! National Geographic Live speaker, wildlife filmmaker and conservationist, and star of Nat Geo WILD’s Untamed, Filipe DeAndrade, is sharing a behind-the-scenes look at his thrilling rainforest adventures and why conservation of these beautiful, dense and vibrant regions are so critical.

Credit: Filipe DeAndrade

Credit: Filipe DeAndrade

A native of Brazil, nature courses through his veins. After winning Nat Geo WILD’s “Wild to Inspire” film competition in 2015, DeAndrade spent four months documenting wildlife for Nat Geo WILD, National Geographic’s dedicated network to animals and nature, and the African Wildlife Foundation. Today, he is one of our awe-inspiring speakers that continues to grace stages across North America as part of National Geographic Live.  During his presentation called “Untamed,” he brings his skill, unbridled passion, and irreverent sense of humor to tell audiences about his thrilling tales and close calls with some of the world’s most exotic animals.

Born with a passion for wildlife and adventure, Filipe believes animals saved his life—and he wants to return the favor by now saving theirs. Growing up in poverty, he felt voiceless, but he related to animals because he felt they too, were voiceless. This very feeling catapulted his love for photography into a career, where he now gets to tell gripping stories through his images, giving viewers and Nat Geo Live event attendees an unfiltered look at what it’s like to come face-to-face with mother nature, survive extreme environments, and make unexpected discoveries. Along the way, and similar in his speaker presentations, he also emphasizes finding your calling in life and living with intent.

Credit: Filipe DeAndrade

Credit: Filipe DeAndrade

“When you are born in the jungle, and come up in those kinds of environments, you learn your place in the world. Nature does a great job of keeping us honest.” Filipe recalled his first trip to the Amazon at the ripe age of six years old and credits this impactful experience for catapulting his wonders and curiosities about our world forward to his work today.

One of the earliest lessons he learned from the rainforest was to live cautiously and with purpose. “The rainforest makes you understand that every step you take has a sound, and every sound has an impact on our planet – good or bad. As human beings, we are of nature, and we impact our surroundings.”

Having lived all over the world, including in New York City and Cleveland, Ohio, for nearly half of his life, and beyond, nothing quite compares to how the rainforest makes him feel. For a period, the very environment that gives his life meaning today was also his greatest fear.

Credit: Filipe DeAndrade

Credit: Filipe DeAndrade

“I feared jaguars. My mother’s rule was don’t get eaten by the boogie man – the jaguar was my boogie man.”

Rather than run away from fear, Filipe tackled his challenge head-on and used it to his advantage, turning this into a vehicle of knowledge. “I learned from the jaguars. They’ve been my greatest teacher in life, and now they’re my favorite animal. They taught me the meaning of patience, pulled me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to test out other environments.”

The beautifully patterned big cat and the last great descendent of the saber tooth tiger taught him that similarly to how sharks have a lateral line system, which is responsible for alerting a shark to potential prey and predators, the jaguar’s whiskers function as a blanket for security. While thought to be solitary creatures, jaguars are socially dynamic, group hunters that thrive in the water. They have a bite force of 2,000 pounds per square inch and their rosette patterns are as unique as fingerprints are to humans. Their calls, ranging from roaring, mewing, and grunting, can be heard from miles away, and while they do most of their stalking on the ground, they are also skilled at climbing and fishing.

Credit: Filipe DeAndrade

Credit: Filipe DeAndrade

The most impactful lesson he was taught while in the field, was how methodical and intentional animals are. “They know they’re being watched, and they know it is either a good thing or a bad thing. To have their level of self-awareness allows you to think about things differently. I’ve learned to perceive problems as situations to be dealt with, and to be appreciative of what is around you.”

So what’s it like to some of the world’s most dangerous, awe-inspiring and rare animals (face to face with lions, sharks, snakes, jaguars, jumping spiders, whales, and one of the rarest animals in the world—a hawk moth caterpillar that resembles a venomous snake)?! Electrifying.

“I waited 21 days to witness a jaguar in its natural environment, and when I did, it was the best 10 minutes of my life. When it looks at you, it looks through you. You feel like you’re transplanted into this otherworldly dimension. It knows you are there, and it was choosing to allow me to be there.”

So how can we protect these magnificent places? Be conscious of what you eat, understand where our food comes from, and experience the environment if you can, he said. “We protect what we love and if we can love and understand the rainforest, it will leave an imprint on your heart and will hopefully inspire you to learn more and appreciate it for all of its beauty and wonder.”

Credit: Filipe DeAndrade

Filipe is paying it forward with his work by implementing environmental education programs in countries, beginning with Costa Rica. Through technology, tools and first-hand experiences, the next generation of students are learning about conservation in their classrooms.

Outside of studying creatures in the wild, Filipe quipped that people are a great sociological subject. “When I work on new projects and I want to get to know someone on a deeper level, I invite people in my circle into the jungle. The jungle brings out insecurities, confidence, and intentions. When you’re surrounded in an area where you’re not the apex predator, it humbles you, and sure makes for a fun event!”

“The sound of the jungle is something that pierces your soul. I think the world would be a better place if we could sit in nature, in silence, for a couple hours a week or month. Every single profound positive, unique, beautiful memory and awakening that has happened in my life – I have nature to be grateful for.”

Watch for Filipe’s inspiring National Geographic Live session coming soon.  And to learn more about National Geographic Live and our upcoming events, visit our website.

Credit: Comfort Theory

Credit: Comfort Theory

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