It’s 1am and I just woke up by a sound that is getting louder and louder. I open my eyes, but it’s pitch dark and I cannot see anything – I had forgotten that I was in the middle of nowhere, in the Amazon. I realise the sound I’m hearing are howler monkeys (I’ve heard them before), but I’m surprised by the hour of their appearance. But I guess you will hear every single noise if you decide to camp in the Amazon, sleeping in a hammock..
For years and years, I had been wanting to go back to the Amazon. After two trips to the Bolivian Amazon in 2008, I was hooked, and this huge rainforest with its stunning nature and abundant diversity has mesmerised me for a long time.
Last summer, 10 years after my first rainforest trip, the moment was finally there. I went back to the Amazon, this time on the Brazilian side. Our Amazon tour included an overnight stay in a hammock, shielded by a simple roof (and with a complimentary tarantula above us). No toilet, no lights – just us and the forest. I definitely cursed this when I had to pee after I had woken up at 1am that night and had to find my way outside of the camp. Shit scared of snakes and jaguars, but all forgotten when we watched sunrise the following morning in our boat on the river. Still listening to the same monkeys.
We spent four days in the Amazon near Manaus – not the best Amazon experience if you ask me, but it was still great being back in the rainforest. We saw only a few animals, such as monkeys, grey and pink river dolphins, snakes, tiny tiny alligators, and oh, that tarantula.
My favourite part was the boat tour at night. We were looking for these tiny alligators which didn’t interest me very much, but seeing the moon, the stars and beautiful lightning from the river was beautiful. I’m a galaxy kinda girl after all.
Another favourite part was our one and only land hike, where we walked in the forest for an hour and learned so much about its use. Did you know that you can make tea of the red roots of the açai tree, which helps for iron deficiency? We were also told that the locals use palm leaves to build their roofs (we saw how to fold the leaves – pretty easy!), but that you shouldn’t ‘harvest’ the leaves during full moon. The sweet heart of the plant goes up during full moon and gets into the leaves. If you use these leaves, your roof will be gone in a matter of time! Eaten by ants. A heartless roof, however, can last up to several years. Amazing! And there is so much more – a tree that contains honey, wax and antibiotics at the same time, and even a plant whose leaves you can use for an ‘abortion tea’. The Amazon truly is a treasure house of natural medicines.
One thing many people may not realise is that water is vital and abundant in the Amazon. The rainforest consists of many rivers, which we used to get around. We were there just after rainy season, when the river increases up to 7 meters! You could still see some marks on the trees. It’s amazing to look down the water near the river banks, where you will see the trees continuing to extend downwards and fish swimming around.
After this tour, we went to Alter do Çhão, a tiny village near Santarém, in Pará state. Due to its idyllic look on the river banks, it is also called “the Caribbean of the Amazon”. I kept being fooled that it was a sea, thinking that the tide might come up, or when we went out on a boat and had incredibly high waves.
You can simply relax in town, or take a tour. There are several offering a rainforest experience, which we had already done, so we opted for the Canal do Jari. And we loved it! We set out on a boat, just the two of us and our fun guide, and went to the Canal. Imagine more rivers, a few areas of land, a couple of houses, and a church. We visited some of the local families where we tasted local food made from lily pads and went canoeing to find more animals. I highly recommend this area, as tourism wasn’t well developed at all so it still has a very authentic and small-scale touch to it.
I had a wonderful time in the Amazon and I’m very excited about my next Amazon trip, later this month, to a more remote area.
Have you had a similar Amazon experience? Tell me about it in the comments! And if you are planning on going anytime soon, you may find my Amazon travel tips useful.