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Flag of Brazil  , State of Amazonas,
Saturday, November 16, 2013

From Guatemala we flew (via Miami and a lunch of Shepherd's pie and fish and chips - yummmmmmmmm) to Manaus which is the largest port town in the heart of the Amazon in Brazil (to those of you into your football England play their first world cup game here next year vs Italy). It is the jumping off point for most adventures into the Amazon jungle, including ours. We stayed there for 2 very humid, very sweaty days whilst we hunted out the best company to take us into the jungle. We had been warned about guides that pull Cayman out of the water and sloths out of the trees for a photo op and wanted to avoid any company that condoned that. It turned out to be difficult criteria to follow.
We did find one company we were happy with though, Iguana Tours, and the next morning they picked us up, drove us to the hectic, smelly port where we got a boat across the river to another hectic, smelly port. Here we were met by a man with a van to drive us an hour to another waiting boat that took us to the lodge. Four hours later we had arrived!
We were told at lunch that our first night would be spent an hour up the river camping deep in the jungle - brilliant! However,  the weather had other ideas and shortly after lunch the heavens opened and it didn't stop for the rest of the day. Still, a warm afternoon sat spotting grey and pink river dolphins playing and fishing in the rainforest rain wasn't so bad! By the evening it had eased enough to go Cayman spotting in the dark and unfortunately our guide did catch one, bring it back to the lodge and then prod and poke it and pretend to set it on people for photos. It seems this is common practice here, but definitely not one either of us felt comfortable with.
The next day got off to a better start with an early morning boat trip to spot wildlife, followed by a trek through the jungle and then off to camp! A German couple with a 4 year old daughter, Isabella, (who Bob promptly fell in love with) came with us. We sat in the boat trying to fish and watching the most incredible, pink coloured sun set below the Amazonian trees. Then the frog song started! The most intense noise and so funny to listen to in the dark as the stars came out.
We set up our hammocks, started a fire and cooked a delicious chicken, rice and pineapple dinner whilst watching the stars. We were introduced to the resident tarantula who had set up home in the roof of our shelter and then settled in for bed. We had a great night's sleep interrupted only by the sound of howler monkeys in the distance and the occasional rat trying to steal our food!
Next day we visited a local family and their garden full of exotic fruit trees and pineapple farm - who knew that's how pineapples grew? Then it was back to the lodge for a quick lunch and then the journey all the way back to sweaty Manaus ready for our boat trip down the Amazon.
Given all the controversy at home about the city itself as a world cup venue- it isn't the most beautiful town but it has its charms and did not feel that dangerous. The jungle of course is amazing. But the real concern for an Englishman is the heat and humidity, we're afraid football wise we have no chance.
So all in all we enjoyed our time in the jungle but it was hard not to compare it to the Pantanal, Galapagos and the cloud forest. There we had guides who loved the habitats and had incredible knowledge about the plants and animals and could answer any question you threw at them. Here it was very much geared towards tourism and the guides had very limited knowledge of and no real passion for the wildlife (at one point he tried to tell us that tarantulas have 12 legs and are probably hermaphrodites - eh?!). With all the lodges popping up along the river bank offering jungle experiences, who knows the impact this type of tourism is having, on the one hand making it economically viable to preserve this habitat, but on the other continuing to disturb it.
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