Kev and I planned a trip of a lifetime to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest equatorial forest on the planet extending into eight countries. We flew into Manaus, Brazil from Miami and stayed the night at the Hotel Tropical Manaus. In the morning we met the group of people we’d be spending the week with on a cruise aboard the Motor Yacht Tucano. The expedition cruise navigated upstream on the Rio Negro as far as a major river called the Rio Jauerperi, about 200 miles from Manaus, Brazil. Below is a map of our route.
The journey took us to many different rainforest habitats which allowed us to see a great diversity of wildlife. We did about three main activities each day each morning, afternoon and evening with our naturalist guides. Each day we walked in the forest and explored small streams that winded their way through into uninhabited interior in order to learn more about the flora and fauna and actually scout for the animals.
I had just as much fun on the day trips as the night trips because it enabled us to see different things. We saw animals including sloths, macaws, festive parrots, toucan, and giant otters during the day and different species of birds like owls, mice, snakes, and caiman in the evening. On the last day of the voyage we traveled to the “Encontra das Aguas”, the meeting of the waters of the world’s two largest rivers: The Amazon River and the Rio Negro. The light colored water of the Amazon and the dark water of the Negro do not readily mix and the two rivers flow side by side for many miles. It literally looked like what black coffee looks like when milk is poured in but not yet stirred.
I’m really glad our first trip to the Amazon was on the Rio Negro. The Rio Negro is a much more acidic river, therefore being home to less mosquitoes. It made it the ideal river to swim in without getting eaten alive. Also, even though there is greater density of wildlife on the Amazon river, there is more diversity of life on the Rio Negro.
After several days on the Tucano, it was nice to be on land. As soon as we got off the boat, we continued on our journey to Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge. It was about a 3 hours drive/110 miles from Manaus back into the thick of the jungle. Even though we were still on the Rio Negro, I’m glad we spent time at the Anavilhanas Lodge because it was a very different experience. The lodge was quite comfortable. My favorite part of our room was the screened sun room with two hanging hammocks. I enjoyed relaxing and reading in the hammock whenever we had a break each day.
My animal highlights from the trip include the following:
– Seeing a boa on a branch looming above a mouse obliviously eating a nut
– Swimming very close to Amazon river dolphins which are endemic to the Amazon
– Seeing an adorable baby sloth very close up on a low brand of a tree in a local village
– Coaxing a tarantula out of its nest
– Reading in the hammock in the sun room and watching a group of squirrel monkeys jump by right in front of us
Learning how to shoot a bow and arrow was a lot of fun too and swimming in the river with the river dolphins were two of my favorite activities. The most bizarre experience I had was getting locked in the zoo at the Hotel Tropical Manaus while waiting for our shuttle to the airport back to the U.S. but that’s a story for another day.
Some of the key animals we saw on the trip: caiman, Amazon river dolphins, sloths, macaws, Anis, howler monkeys, giant otters, hoatzin, kingfisher, sardine, squirrel monkeys, frog, boa, sting ray, vultures, tarantula, osprey, rusty-barred owl, sickle-winged nightjar, toucans, festive parrots, eagle, piranha, capybara
I often reminisce about me and Kev’s honeymoon trip to Boreno, and I didn’t think anything could top it, but the Amazon Rainforest is definitely up there. We both had an amazing time and got to see so many cool animals, and learned quite a bit too. I really appreciate that our guides took care to present the natural history of Amazonia without exaggeration (i.e. no feeding the animals to make sure we saw them). Everything was guided by the principles of minimum impact, responsible tourism and harmony with the local community. I hope we preserve this amazing place so many future generations have an opportunity to see these spectacular animals.