- Travel and Places
Amazon Jungle Adventure (Brazil)
The Mighty Amazon River
The Amazon and Rio Negro (The Black River) in Northern Brazil are wonderful places for a vacation. It is possible to stay in the jungle in a floating hotel, near the confluence of Amazon and Rio Negro or in the nearby city, Manaus the gateway to the Amazon.
There is plenty to see and do in the jungle including piranha fishing, jungle-trekking and visiting the small fishing village communities. There are also rare pink fresh water dolphins and caiman (alligators) to see.
This article give travel tips, advice and recommendations for travel to this wonderful, unique part of the world and lots of photographs.
Getting to the Amazon
How to get to Manaus
We flew from Sao Paulo to Manaus stopping briefly at Brasilia airport. The total flying time was about four hours. Brazil is a huge country and Manaus is a long way from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, so the only easy way for a tourist to get there is to fly from one of the major cities in Brazil.
Many tourists stay actually in Manaus and then do various trips into the jungle from there, but we intended to get the full jungle experience for at least some of our time there. We had already booked a stay at a floating hotel (a "floatel") on the Rio Negro and our guide from that hotel picked us up from Manaus Airport for the journey to the jungle Palace. We were dropped at Hotel Tropicale in Manaus and told to enjoy ourselves at the hotel mini zoo, while waiting for all of the guests to arrive. A few mangy old Jaguars, monkeys and birds kept us entertained for a while, before we set off into the Amazon.
Other Brazil Websites:
Map of the Amazon and Rio Negro Rivers and Jungles near Manaus, Brazil - Map of the Amazon Jungle
Brazil Guide Books
Places to Stay in The Amazon Jungle - "Floatels" (Floating Hotels)
The Jungle Palace is located about 50 minutes by motor launch from Ponte Negra, in Manaus, on the Rio Negro. This two-storey floating hotel is moored in the middle of a lagoon and is built on a floating steel platform. It was made mainly of PVC with a marble-floored reception, according to the description in the guidebook, but it's not as bad as it sounds, with lots of wood and bamboo. The hermetically sealed bedrooms are reassuring in this hostile environment, although I really wanted to stay in one of the more rustic sounding floatels. The Jungle Palace terrace was, however, a pleasant place to relax outside, in a large wicker chair and the air-conditioned rooms were a bonus. The black alkaline water in the Rio Negro keep the mosquitoes away, so the only real irritation to deal with is the humidity.
Our stay at the Jungle Palace included a busy itinerary, but even the boat-trip there was spectacular, as we headed into the jungle with four of the other guests and the guide, lightning crackled away repeatedly in the distance and heavy rain formed menacing dark diagonal streaks across the sky. On arrival, delicious fresh local fish was served, for dinner, upstairs in the restaurant, which was open at the sides, with ceiling-fans. Breakfast, the following day, however was a fairly mediocre buffet.
Pink Freah Water Dolphins - Excursions into The Jungle
The first excursion from the hotel was to the Arara River using a large motorboat. We saw rare fresh-water dolphins, both the pink and grey varieties, briefly sticking their noses out of the water, but not much else. The dolphins are almost impossible to photographs, even more so than the playful salt water varieties, but the pink ones are quite an amazing sight, if you do manage to catch a glimpse of one. En-route, we visited the Indian community of Terra Preta, which I assumed to be just an opportunity to try to sell souvenirs to us, which it was really, but this was the most charming souvenir shop I had ever been too. It was a round thatched shop filled with original handicrafts, such as Brazil-wood bowls and carvings at very good prices. We returned via the Anavilhanas Islands, after having seen a remarkably small amount of wildlife for a part of the world that claims to have so much. We did however see the beautiful villages, in their wonderful jungle setting, with their simple huts and a small school, which we were allowed to enter and their football pitch (They are football crazy in Brazil, even in the jungle) Even the weather continued to be dramatic, treating us to a short tropical storm on the way back in the boat.
The second excursion was Piranha fishing. We took a small boat to IgarapÃ© do Cumaru (Cumaru Creek) and fished for piranha for an hour or so, catching a few small black piranhas. Most attempts were, however, unsuccessful, because the metal fishing line and hooks were not a match for their incredible jaws and teeth. The guide sat with these ugly creatures chomping away near his bare feet, for ages after we had caught them; being out of water seeming to be little more than an inconvenience to their health. He demonstrated the power of their jaws with small pieces of wood, which they happily munched through. Later, we ate them for dinner, but I would not recommend piranha, as they are very bony and crunchy without much meat on them.
More Photographic Equipment
If you don't already have an SLR camera and a long lens, it would be a good idea to get one, before going on a trip like this. A compact camera will not get such good results in the challenging conditions in the jungle, but is more convenient and makes a good alternative in easier lighting conditions.
I have written a more detailed recommendation of DSLR cameras here:
and digital compact cameras:
but here is some good kit for this kind of vacation:
The next excursion was caiman spotting. We took the boat just a short distance away from the hotel, after dark, and used torches to pick out the reflections of the caiman's eyes. The guide launched himself without warning into the murky water and returned with a tiny caiman, no more than about a foot in length. The poor confused reptile was then passed around and photographed by the tourists, before being returned to the water. Unlike the piranhas, this chap didn't end up as dinner.
Some More Reading
Into the Jungle and Amazon Fishing Villages
The next morning we took another short boat-trip through the narrower waterways and went for a walk in the surrounding jungle. The unusual light penetrating the wonderful thick layers of jungle vegetation and the creepers hanging from the trees make it a very memorable experience, but again, there was very little wildlife and still no Monkeys (except for the ones we saw in the mini zoo in the hotel). Even the birdlife was surprisingly absent from this area. It was quite hot, at about about 35 Celsius, and extremely humid, so we had to take it fairly slowly. The guide was knowledgeable and able to teach us quite a lot about the strange plants we were encountering and the huge variety of creepy crawlies scampering over our feet. Having a good guide is essential in situations like this, unless you are already an expert.
We also visited Paricatuba village, a nearby, picturesque traditional fishing village, on the way to the ruin of an early twentieth century prison which was later converted into a school. It was built around 1900 and is now almost completely overgrown with jungle, with thick creepers and fast growing trees penetrating the masonry. The village was built for the rubber-boom, and the prison for the slaves.
Meeting of the Waters
We finally did an excursion on the Rio Negro to the 'Meeting of the Waters,' where the tributaries of the Rio Negro and SolimÃµes run into the main Amazon River. The brown water of the Amazon and the black water of Rio Negro don't mix and form a distinct line for miles. This is not tremendously exciting to look at, after the first half an hour or so, especially with the traffic jam of other tourist boats doing the same thing, but I suppose it is something that has to be done when in Manaus. The trip overall is quite interesting, though, seeing the busy port and fish markets, with large menacing birds (vultures perhaps) hanging around for scraps and traveling across the enormous Amazon river, which seems more like an ocean, with the other side out of sight, is something that must be experienced.
Manaus: "The Paris of the Tropics"
We ended our trip to Manaus, with a tour of the interesting architecture in the centre. The city of Manaus is a large, sprawling cosmopolitan city, with a busy port. The main attractions for tourists, apart from the jungle surrounding it, are all in the centre, where the huge wealth created by the rubber boom allowed the construction of magnificent French style buildings in the late nineteenth century. The most striking building is the Opera House, built in 1898 which really does demonstrate the amount of money in "the Paris of the Tropics", as it was known, for that short period, just before the area went into decline. There was however an Indian settlement at this location from the late seventeenth century, and the city has also enjoyed renewed development and tourism over the last few decades.
Manaus city is an interesting place to visit, but the only real reason to go there, as a tourist is to see the Amazon River and rainforest, either using the city as a base or taking the slightly more adventurous option of actually staying in Rio Negro nearby.