The Brazillian Amazon: Welcome to the Jungle

Named after the female warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazon Rainforest is one of the most visually impressive places to visit. While the Amazon is the second longest river in the world, passing through 9 countries, 60% of the Amazon Basin is in Brazil. Soaring trees, morning mists, colourful tropical birds, river islands, forest meadows, the abundant & vibrant wildlife, the flooded Indian villages & Iguanas & Sloths everywhere, just sunbathing on top of trees, make the largest jungle in the world an ideal combination of tranquility & adrenaline. While there won’t be jaguars easily spotted behind every tree, the small things the Amazon has to offer are utterly unique. Utopiic, a lifestyle travel concierge, offers amazing itinerary bundles especially catered to your personal lifestyle & preferred balance.

Art & Culture:​ There is a lot of art & culture to be found in the Amazons too. A truly enchanting piece of renaissance architecture, The Manaus Opera house, also known as The Amazon Theatre, is a remarkable historic landmark that hosts the Amazonas Opera Festival & the Amazonas Film Festival each year in the state capital of Manaus. With its beautiful paintings & decorative panels, 198 chandeliers & unforgettable performances, the theatre also houses a small museum with the rich history of Brazil.

The floating docks (Porto Flutuante), rising & falling with the river water are a sight to behold, especially on a rainy day, while the city looks particularly magical in the nights. Ask your Utopiic guide about cycling through the city, under the starry sky, & feel the wind in your hair before you enter the humid jungle! Also, check out the stone pattern on the concrete streets in the centre of the city that depict the meeting of the rivers. They look like 3D ground illusions!

Santarém, a city to the south, is the pearl of the Tapajós. It is located on the meeting of the rivers of Amazon & Tapajós. It is well known for the archipelago in the river. Alter Do Chão is an appealing languid riverside town close to Santarém, known for its Bohemian air, Lago Verde - a huge crystalline lagoon & white sand beaches. It also has plenty of colourful architecture & cobbled streets, & looks straight out of a movie set. Ilha do Amor (the Island of Love) is a famous attraction here with its pristine white sand beaches. Various small thatched-roof restaurants line the beaches & offer beer, coconut water & fish dishes. Fun fact - you can both swim to the island & take a canoe with a local villager!

The Amazon Rainforest is home to many Amazonian (Indian) tribes & Mestizo communities. Indigenous people belonging to 305 different groups reside in just Brazil, some of which still have no contact with the outside world. Most of their villages are accessible via boats or dirt roads only. They offer a peep into the lives of these Indians with their village houses, tribal face paint & tattoos, fantastic rituals, traditional clothing & distinct dance forms. The house styles differ from tribe to tribe, some live in dried grass houses, while others construct elevated houses with wood. Açai berry production is their main source of income. Ask your Utopiic lifestyle manager for a native expert who can teach you more about their farming & cooking techniques, or groove to tribal dance lessons with a local group of Indians.

The small village of Cachoeira, dating back to the 16th & 17th century, is home to a large collection of Baroque architecture, which is apparent in the Church Ordem Terceira Do Carmo. Samba de roda, a popular festival by the religious order of the Sisterhood of Good Death is observed by the inhabitants for a weekend in August. The descendents of 19th century slaves have a solemn mass & take to streets in a joyous procession of traditional dances, poetry & music. Ask your Utopiic guide for a tour of the conservation & education projects that are supported here, which would include a school tour & a class on making Cassava flour. If you’re with kids, encourage them to join in the football games with the local kids. Utopiic can also connect you to natives who can teach you to communicate in the forest with the help of trees, which is an off-beat experience but may prove to be so fun!

Take a walk through buildings being reclaimed by the forest in Airão Velho, a hub of rubber traders from 100 years ago. Your native guide can teach you to make rubber bands by heating rubber tree sap on a leaf. Visit the Almerinda Malaquais Foundation to see how it helps the community of Novo Airão by teaching carpentry skills & supplementing local education. While here you can work on carvings & sanding small Manatees & shop for souvenirs or buy carved jewellery at Bio Nobre, a local store. The store is located next to the local bar & in case it is closed, pop in the bar and ask for the shopkeeper, because that's how the Amazonians do it!

Food & Drinks: ​The Amazonian food is a rich array of fresh, locally sourced produce of fish, meat, vegetables & fruits. Get your fill of freshly prepared juices & desserts of tropical fruits like avocado, passion fruit, coconut, grapefruit, pineapples & plantains.

Plantain is similar to bananas but less sweet. The local plantain chips are mouthwatering & usually included in lunch, which in the Amazon is served wrapped in plantain leaves. Most of the chocolate in the world also comes from here, where the Cacao plant grows in the wild. What lucky people, eh? Not to mention the local coffee!

Pirarucu is the world’s largest freshwater fish & is a rare one to come by. It is a delicacy in the Amazon. Our favourite though is the Tambaqui which has no small bones & is delicious, succulent & amazingly buttery. Caipirinha, a lime, sugar & locally distilled cachaça drink, is the national cocktail of Brazil & is a local must in the Amazonas.

The Indians also eat ants from the trees, either raw or fried. The Leafcutter ants numb the mouth a little bit, so if you have a toothache, you crunch on as many as you want! You can also prepare your own food with the natives by fishing and cooking on the campfire, while camping overnight in the jungle.

Wildlife & Nature: ​The Amazon is the largest biodiversity on the planet of which large parts are still unknown. With its vast untamed wilderness & secretive wildlife, the Amazon forest is so dense that only 1% of the sunlight filters to the floor. The colours of the Amazon forest take on a dark hue that is as fascinating as the blue skies with beautifully coloured sunsets & pitch dark nights.

It is home to the largest snake - The Anaconda. While the Anaconda can be elusive, Pink Dolphins, Capuchin Monkeys, the strange Hoatzin bird, Capybaras - the largest rodents & vibrant parrots are easier to come by. Parrots like the Macaw, party in large groups & are often seen chattering away together on a tree.

More dangerous animals include the Electric Eel, flesh eating Piranhas, Poison Dart Frog, Jaguars & some seriously poisonous snakes. But, don’t forget the crazy small things. Weird insects straight out of sci-fi movies are everywhere! The Flannel Moth Caterpillar, Bullet ants, Leafhopper Nymph & Praying Mantis are just some.

Take a night safari for Caiman spotting & Utopiic can get the brave native expert who will even catch one & give you a crash course. At night, a unique bird life wakes up. Nocturnal birds like Owls can be spotted from over a 100mts away because of their unblinking glowing eyes.

The Anavilhanas Reserve is alluring with its flooded, high forests, sandy soil shrublands & 400 islands in the Río Negro. The raw natural beauty of this landscape is breathtaking. 60% birds of the Amazon forest can be seen on this reserve & the South American River Turtles, the Amazon Manatee, Jaguars, Pirarucu fish, Harpy Eagle, River Otters, Caiman, Black Spider Monkeys, giant Armadillos, Pink & Grey River Dolphins, Macaw parrots & toucans can all be spotted here.

Río Negro is a black water river. The water is just that colour, it is not dirty but in fact very clear. While swimming one can see their legs in red colour underwater. The river promises the most magical experience, especially in the tightly packed jungle as the still water makes for the perfect reflection. It’s like flying because one can’t make out where the forest ends and the reflection starts!

The meeting of the rivers - Río Negro & Amazon is a very interesting sight. One river is yellow & the other is black. The rivers do not mix & instead form a spectacular line separating the two.

The Dragon Blood tree, when cut diagonally releases red sap that looks just like blood. This is brilliant & straight out a scary nightmare at the same time! Interestingly, this killer tree is actually used medicinally due to its antiseptic & anti-inflammatory qualities.

Imagine Water Lilies as big as your 13 year old neighbour! Or you could really see them for real at the Parqué Ecologico Januari! Make sure to let Utopiic know if that’s what you have in mind!

Adventure & Sports: ​The Amazon is what adventures are made of! Consult your Utopiic guide to choose the best time to visit for the adventure you want to have. The wet season promises flooded villages & forest with an abundance of boat & canoe tours & short hikes, while dry season offers clear skies, long hikes & possibly bigger land animals as they come out in search of water.

Jungle treks, camping, exploration of the tightly packed forest in traditional wooden canoes & birdwatching are the norm, but for a more off-beat experience, one can learn tree climbing & sport fishing with Utopiic’s local connect & scale the tallest of trees while catching killer Piranhas! The locals use bamboo fishing poles with meat as bait to catch these flesh-eating creatures.

One can also opt for cooler adventures to beat the jungle humidity & feel refreshed. Swimming in the middle of the rivers is safe for everyone as the Caiman & Piranhas do not come near the swimming groups in the centre, so don’t worry! Paddle boarding is also really fun. If you’d rather just stay aboard the boat, feed the Pink Dolphins, as they jump up in the air beside the boat for a quick snack, delighting all on board!

Health & Wellness: Come to the rainforest & leave everything behind! Wellness here starts with the unplugging of all technology & being in the moment. Forest Bathing, or ​Shrin-Yoku,​ bridges the gap between the human self & the natural world & enhances natural senses while calming the mind. You do not need a guide to nurture yourself in nature, just lie down, close your eyes & focus on the forest soundscape.

Learn the art of the Shaman of the Indian villages. Ask Utopiic for the native shaman who can teach you about the ancient healing power of the plants & how to produce natural medicines. Amazon plants don’t only smell nice, but also save lives. 70% of the plants that have proven anti-cancer properties are found here. There are also various options for luxury & wellness retreats where one can find soulful yoga sessions & massage therapists that implement innovative treatments with Brazil Nut oil & herbs.

Scientists consider the Amazon forest to be the lungs of the world. In recent years, forest fires have been a leading cause of deforestation. The Amazon is vital in preventing climate breakdown of the entire world & is home to 10% of the species of plants & animals of the world & 24 million people in just Brazil. Sustainable tourism to this area is essential & Utopiic plans all tours & travel to be eco-friendly & planet efficient. Tranquil yet adventurous, the perfect type of trip...Welcome to the Jungle!

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