Brazilian Amazon: boat trip
The Brazilian Amazon is huge, with thousands of places to visit. Most travelers want to experience something different in the largest lungs of the planet, home to interesting populations (from small coastal communities to large cities) and many species of plants and animals. A very exciting plan consists of a boat trip along one of its rivers, stopping from time to time (if you want) to visit a community, a nature reserve, etc. The duration is variable, from little journeys of 2 or 3 days to week-long trips (depending on the distance and if you go for or against the flow). Do not be scared if it seems long at first. In fact, the longer the better: all you have to do is sleep in a hammock and watch incredible sunsets being devoured by the jungle. This is the route I took, but there are others highly recommended (a very popular one is the route from Manaus to Santarém and Belém):
Small city in the state of Rondônia, in the middle of the jungle, featured with many natural attractions: rivers, protected jungle, spas, etc. However, it is perhaps its location on the border with Bolivia what gives it a distinctive character. Two very different cultures separated by the Mamoré River mixing often, with "traffic" of people going from one place to another in search of products at a better price..
The capital of Rondônia grows around the Madeira River, one of the most important tributaries of the Amazon River. The river journey to Manaus takes about four days. Four days of relaxation in a houseboat with bathrooms and showers, kitchen, hammock room... In which whose passengers and crew will become your family. The city of Porto Velho is not very pretty, but it is interesting to see how a big city works in the middle of the jungle or, simply, stop to admire its people and culture before setting sail.
There are several entrances to the Brazilian Amazon. Manaus, the capital of the jungle, is perhaps the most famous and popular. Much of the blame may be due to the fact that it is the main port of entry for planes and ships (east, west and south), in addition to have a road to Roraima (north). But it is also partly because it is a city with much to discover. The chaos of cement, vehicles and people contrasts with the giant green lung in which it is located. And, although the main reason of your visit will probably be entering the jungle, you cannot miss the opportunity to also live this unique culture, enjoying even the extreme and humid heat of the city and the madness of the motorcycles (and the taxis, which drive as if the world is about to end).
What to do in Manaus city. Before (or after) a trip to the Amazon you can discover this unique city. To be highlighted: The Encounter of the Waters, where the Negro (Black) and the Solimões rivers merge to form the true Amazon River; the Municipal Market of Manaus; the Amazonas Theater; eat some typical dish of the jungle like tacacá.
Jungle tours. There are many agencies in the city, each one takes you to a different place. Of course, you must be careful because apparently scams are the order of the day (I recommend hiring an excursion with the agency once you are there, rather than online). We went with a small local agency with a very nice guide (the great Luis!). First, we took several passenger buses to a town called Lindoia, then a couple of boats sailing through the waters of a tributary of the Amazon River to the base camp (hosted by a local family). In total we spent five days in the jungle in which Luis took us to idyllic places, we made excursions in search of jacarés, we slept several nights in the jungle with a hammock and cooking delicious things, we visited a small community that gave us pure açaí (until then we had only tasted açaí na tigela, like ice cream)... It was a great experience.
Almost a week boat trip from Manaus (lovely trip) lies Tabatinga, right in the Triple Border with Colombia and Peru. This city of the state of Amazonas is not big deal, but it is worth stopping in this very peculiar corner of the planet just for the mere fact of the meeting of three very different cultures. Chatting with the inhabitants of each population will be enough to make you realize this: Tabatinga, Leticia (Colombia) and Santa Rosa (Peru). In addition, Leticia is a very interesting city with a handful of attractions for the traveler (including incursions into the jungle). If you happen to visit this region in mid-June, you are in luck: the Fiestas de la Frontera are commemorated! Every year is celebrated in a different country but what is for sure is that there will always be interesting music, dances, food, competitions and events.
From Santa Rosa boats leave for Iquitos, a very common destination among backpackers. To continue with this itinerary through Peru, click here.