By Stephanie Foden, Contributing Reporter
AMAZONAS, BRAZIL – The massive Amazon basin sits across eight countries in South America, and almost two-thirds of it lies in Brazil. In total it covers over seven million sq kms of land, an area almost the size of Europe, and travelers could spend a lifetime exploring its wonders.
Even though most are not lucky enough to spot jaguars and anacondas on short trips, it is the most species-rich rainforest on earth, and areas like the Mamirauá Reserve have even higher levels of biodiversity than the rest of the Amazon.
Within the reserve sits Uacari Floating Lodge, which specializes in ecotourism and close encounters with wildlife, and also works alongside local communities. However, getting here can be a bit more difficult, as there are no paved roads and flights to the nearby town of Tefé are hardly as frequent as Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state.
“We went out one night onto the waters surrounding the reserve and all I could see was a glow from the eyes of the caimans. There were thousands of them. It looked like a city skyline,” reminisces Canadian writer Jennifer Wilson, who recently spent her honeymoon at the lodge.
Travelers do not have to venture too far into the depths of the Amazon for an adventure, as plenty of thrilling activities can be found close to Manaus. There are excellent tree-climbing opportunities in the area where you can climb sumaúma trees on the riverbank around 200ft high.
Climbers here will have a chance to see the great natural wonder, Encontro das Águas (Meeting of the Waters). This is where the two huge tributaries that makes up the Amazon, the dark Rio Negro and the sandy-colored Rio Solimões meet but do not merge.
“The [Encontro das Águas] is perhaps the most distinct part of the whole Amazon forest and river system, and you get to see this from the treetops, an angle that most people would never see,” explains Adam Hirst of Brazil Adventure Tours to The Rio Times. “This wavy pattern inspired the tiles outside the Amazonas Theater in Manaus, and the Copacabana Beach [sidewalk] tiling.”
The Amazon is not just infinite stretches of jungle and rivers: perhaps one of the best-known mountains in Brazil is the Monte Roraima, which borders Venezuela, Guyana and the far north of Brazil.
“Roraima has its own endemic plant and animal species and a landscape that inspired ‘The Lost World’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and [Pixar’s animation] ‘Up!’. The trek to the top includes hiking through white-water rivers and up a path cleared by two waterfalls, which land on your head as they drop 1300ft from the top,” Hirst explains.
If that is not gripping enough, then travelers can try extreme treks to the top of Monte Caburaí and Pico de Neblina, two jaunts so far off the beaten track that there are often no trails at all to be followed.
“These treks also include visits and overnight stays with local indigenous communities, as do many of the others, and it all helps you to understand that the adventure you can find in the Amazon has as much to do with the human life found there as with the plant or animal life,” said Hirst.
While Amazon adventures cannot fail to impress, perhaps one of the simplest pleasures is relaxing in a hammock boating down the river or waking up to the sounds of hundreds of birds and the cry of a howler monkey.