Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

Natural Navigation in Brazil

Tristan Gooley

A guest article by Pedro Jovchelevich

Natural navigation in tropical biomes – My experience in the southeastern region of Brazil

First of all I would like to thank you for the invitation to write about my experience in natural navigation in Brazil. I have been studying astronomical navigation without using instruments for the past few years, but when I visited Tristan’s website and read his book last year it was a great boost for my observation of nature and its relationship with natural navigation.

Brazil is a continental country with 6 large Biomes and a rich biodiversity: Amazon Forest, Cerrado , Atlantic Forest, Caatinga, Pantanal and Pampa.  There are more than 5,000 species of trees and almost 2,000 species of birds.  I live in the rural area of the city of Botucatu close to the latitude of the Tropic of Capricorn. Here, the Cerrado Biome predominates, ans it has similarities with the African Savanna.  With a rainy spring and summer and a cold and dry autumn and winter (Cold due to the attitude of 900 m). The vegetation that predominates are small trees, with twisted trunks and leathery leaves (photo), The soil is sandy and poor. The plants are resistant to drought and fire. The Cerrado also have a specific fauna, for example the Giant Anteater (photo). At the moment we are at the end of winter in full drought, but many native plants start to sprout and bloom.

Cerrado tree
Cerrado trees
Giant Anteater – Myrmecophaga tridactyla

The Birds

My wife has observed more than 200 species of birds in the region where we live. The area is surrounded by a biodynamic and organic farms, it is an ecological oasis in the region. Among the species identified there are some that identify the presence of wetlands (Yellow-rumped Marshbird and Slaty Breasted Wood Rail). Birds like Rufous Hornero make clay nests protected from the south wind, which is the most intense in my region .

Yellow-rumped marsh bird – Pseudoleistes guirahuro
Slaty Breasted Wood Rail – Aramides Saracura
Nest of Fumarius rufus


The shape of the Moon phase’s in the Southern Hemisphere is the inverse of how it is Northern Hemisphere. In the photo, the moon is waning. We can use the moon to find the North direction.

Regarding natural navigation, I still haven’t been able to observe clear indications of direction throught the shape of the trees, only the direction of the wind observing the leaves of the palm trees where is windy.

Palm trees reveal wind direction and trends

In the southern hemisphere the Pole star is not visible. To find the south direction, it is very important to use the South Cross (Cruzeiro do Sul)  Constellation. See diagram below:

During the day we can use the Sun’s meridian passage to find directions through the shadow of a stem. The shadow of the stem indicates the south direction.

Traditional Indigenous Knowledge

Brazil has more than 200 indigenous ethnicities. Below is an example of the traditional astronomical knowledge of the indigenous Guarani people. The appearance of the Ema (like a native Ostrich) constellation in the early evening on June in the East indicates the beginning of the dry season for the North region and the beginning of winter for the South of Brazil:

Constellation of Ema (mixture between Scorpio, Centaur and South Cross occidental constelations).

There are many challenges to develop the art of natural navigation in tropical biomes, however there are some tips e tricks that can be combined to help you to find the way.

Finding direction through bird nests in termite mounds – Second part: The Owl

by Pedro Jovchelevich and Gersony V.M.C. Jovchelevich

Continuing our observations we have noticed that birds that nest inthe base of termites (like the burrowing owl- Athene cunicularia) prefer to protect themselves from the predominant south wind, which is colder and more intense in this area. So the access holes to the nests are made mainly in the North direction.

Thank you and congratulations, Pedro and Gersony – I believe this is the first guest article from the southern hemisphere on this website!

Please keep up the observation and sharing – we need more clues, signs and voices from the SH!

For more information on natural navigation in Brazil:

Brazil Contact:

Pedro Jovchelevich: [email protected]




Live (Portuguese) about no instrument navigation: