As a part of our trip around the world, we chose to visit some exotic places. The Amazon Rainforest was perhaps one of our most exotic and remote destinations. Our trip to the Amazon Rainforest, among other things, made us realize how incredibly miserable it would be to live in the deep jungle, right on the equator.
By : Scott Grassi
We saw first hand the incredible natural resources which line the Amazon River and the lifestyle of locals who call the jungle their home. All in all, it was a humbling and challenging experience that was worth every penny and which we will tell our children and grandchildren about for years to come.
We booked our tour of the Amazon Rainforest with TourRadar.com, which was one of the cheaper options available with good reviews. We decided on the 4 day/3 night jungle tour as we figured that would give us enough time to truly experience the beauty of the Amazon Rainforest.
We departed from a port in Manaus, Brazil via speedboat on course for another smaller port on the other side of the river. On our way, we crossed over ‘the meeting of the waters’, a natural phenomenon where the Rio Negro (black) meets with the Amazon River (tan) but does not mix. The two rivers move at different speeds and have different viscosities, creating this incredible effect which lasts for over 5 miles.
After stepping off of our speedboat onto solid land, we took a van for over an hour through Amazonas backcountry over terribly maintained roads, passing small farms and countryside along the way. We arrived at a small house on the Amazon River where another small boat was waiting for us. We boarded the boat and embarked on our final leg of the journey, an hour-long boat ride through countless turns and tunnels along the mighty Amazon River.
We arrived at our lodge in the early afternoon. The ‘lodge’, as it turned out, was a series of floating houses connected by small bridges. This was certainly not luxury living – there was no air conditioning to battle the 100+ degree heat, and only mosquito nets full of holes to keep the bugs out. However, we expected this and could not complain about the situation.
The next four days were full of jungle treks, boat tours, piranha fishing, cayman (alligator) catching, and naps in hammocks. Each day was unbearably hot and humid, even at night, and the fan in our room was on full blast from the moment we arrived until the moment we left. We loved the opportunity to see one of the lushest and biologically diverse parts of the earth and will carry the lessons learned from this experience for years to come.
Here are the highlights from our time in the Amazon Jungle on our Trip:
1. Sunrise in the Amazon Rainforest
The sunrise from a small boat on the Amazon River is perhaps the most spectacular sunrise I have ever witnessed in my life. We woke up at 5:15 am to make it out onto the water in time to see the colors accumulate and the sun slowly peeks out over the horizon. The entire jungle was already awake, with the birds, insects, and monkeys already making their morning calls. It was a magical moment which we won’t forget anytime soon.
2. Piranha Fishing (and Eating)
On the afternoon of our second day of the jungle tour, our ‘guide’ who was born and raised in the jungle took us out piranha fishing. Our fishing poles consisted of a stick with fishing line and a hook, but apparently, that’s all you need to catch a piranha in the Amazon Rainforest. We caught several piranhas and took them back to the lodge to be cooked for dinner. Though there isn’t much meat on a piranha, it was delicious! I was quite surprised. Here is a photo of our guide with a piranha he just caught:
3. Cayman Catching
The Amazon River is infamous for its deadly alligators which kill more people along the river than any other animal. When we heard that we were going out on a boat at night, in the pitch-black Amazonian dark, to hunt for and catch cayman alligators with our bare hands, we were a tad bit reluctant to oblige.
We donned our headlamps and mosquito head nets and boarded the rickety wooden vessel. Luckily, we were looking for baby caymans, not the full-grown type! As we shone our lights across the surface of the river, hundreds of eerie red eyes shone back, letting us know the breadth of the massive population of caymans who shared the river with us. Our guide pulled the boat up next to a grassy marsh where a baby cayman was resting and told me to ‘grab it’. Without thinking twice, I thrust my hand into the water and pulled out a baby cayman. Exhilarating! Recommended For You: Why We Loved Rio de Janeiro
4. Amazon Jungle Trekking
Our main guide was a 40-year old man who had lived, quite literally, in the Amazon Jungle his whole life. He took us on a trek deep through the Amazon Rainforest to share the knowledge of the jungle that was passed down to him from countless generations. We learned of vines which dripped pure freshwater when cutting properly (and even drank the water ourselves), we ate grubs which dwell in coconut shells and are an excellent source of protein in the wild, and we learned that a certain type of ant, when crushed and rubbed on the skin, is the best natural mosquito repellent in the jungle.
We swung from vines hanging down from the canopy high above, learned to make rope from the bark of a rosewood tree, and even how to make a very sharp knife from the leaf of a large palm. Perhaps the strangest part of the trek was when our guide cut a very specific vine into a short stick, took out a lighter, and began to smoke it. He later explained that this hollow vine is smoked by locals when they have no more tobacco on-hand. We tried it, and I cannot relate to the desperation one must have to smoke a jungle vine, but, as they say, ‘When in Rome!’
5. The Night Sky in the Jungle
I have always been fascinated by the universe and our place in it, and looking up at night in different parts of the world is something that always brings me back to the center. The stars in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest were perhaps the best I have ever seen (better than the Australian Outback even). With nearly zero light pollution and the Milky Way Galaxy right overhead, the night sky was brighter than ever, and the billions of stars overhead shone light sparkling diamonds on black velvet.
All in all, our experience in the Amazon Jungle was beautiful, scary, miserable, humbling, and fascinating all at the same time. Would we go back and do it again? Not a chance, but we wouldn’t take it back for anything.
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