It's been almost a year since one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life and I finally found the inspiration to tell you about it. I guess, sometimes I need to start "missing" that particular place, so I could wrap my feelings about it and write them down. So thank you for your patience.
I've been to Brazil several times already and while Rio de Janeiro for example is an amazing and super diverse city, the Amazon rainforest offered us a completely new experience. It is really one of the very few places where we can still surround ourselves with a scenery, unlike anything else we've seen so far. It's hard to describe it. And even if I try, words would never be enough to explain the feeling. Just knowing that within the short distance of a couple of kilometres there are still tribes, living their life they way they used to for hundreds of years and still hunting their food is mind blowing. However, in order to protect and keep their life authentic, Brazilian government has forbidden them to leave their territory and communicate with modern culture. Though, young people are allowed to go to the cities and study (mostly for doctors) and later go back and work for the better of their community.
We flew to Manaus, the capital city of Amazonas state in Brazil, and as we arrived quite late, spent the night in the city and got our transfer to the Amazon rainforest the next morning. In fact, this is where Rio Negro (the "black" river) merges into the Amazon river.
It took us around 4 hours to get to the most amazing lodging, beautifully located right at Rio Negro's bank. It is kind of an all inclusive resort (because we are in the middle of nowhere), but it includes so many cultural activities we would otherwise not be able to experience. They have different packages and we opted for the 4D/3N one. We arrived around noon and after checking in, a delicious buffet lunch was awaiting us. However, don't expect those long tables with loads of food and stuff from the normal resorts. One reason for that is the fact that resort is relatively small, and another is the cautious way of distributing and not wasting food. Same applies for the water - there was no bottled water. Each one of us was gifted a reusable can bottle that we could fill from the spring within the property. But back to the food - do I need to mention how tasty it was? And the fruits? Yummm...
Our first activity wasn't until 3 pm, so we had some time to kill by the pool after lunch. Located quite North in the Southern hemisphere, we were extremely close to the equator (only 3 degrees South), so sun rays were quite agressive. For the same reason, there were no activities between 11 am and 3-3:30 pm.
Our first ever activity in the Amazon rainforest was visiting a near by local community called Cabocla. It was just a short boat ride away and there we were able to see how they live and what art craft they usually make. It was a village with not more than 10 houses, but hey - they had a church. While we were there it started to rain cats and dogs and boy, that "black" river water looked turbulent and scary. Thankfully, it stopped soon and we were able to go back safe and sane. But hey, we wouldn't be able to enjoy the rainbow without the rain, right?
The "black" river is actually red-dish. The colour comes from the decomposition of the fallen leaves. In these waters there are two types of sweetwater dolphins ("botos") usually seen - the Tucuxi (grey) and the pink one ("boto cor de rosa"). In the morning of our second day we went out at the river trying the spot them both. Although they are not as playful as the dolphins we're used to observe in the sea, and did not approach our boat, we were able to see them. However, while looking for them, we had our first glimpse of how the rainforest functions around the river. And it amazed me once again the ability of nature to adapt in order to survive...
If we wanted, we could also swim in the water of Rio Negro. In fact, the resort has a deck with a bar by its dock, where there are SUPs available or you can just swim in the water.
In the afternoon we went for another boat ride, this time to catch some piranhas. Don't worry, we set them free afterwards. I never thought that fishing would be something I'd enjoy until I tried it a couple of years ago in the Azores and I have to say - every now and then it is a nice thing to do. Don't ever expect me to take the fish off the hook or clean it though... But it appears that I'm not that bad in it - I was able to catch 2 piranhas! They were quite smaller than I was expecting them to be, which was a good thing I guess. We were using ox heart for the bait.
After breakfast at our third day we went for a walk around the rainforest. This was quite different from all the other activities we've done so far. Passing between all these unique trees and bushes, each one of them strongly connected in some way to the local communities really makes us appreciate nature even more. Because in nature nothing is by chance...
Our guide was also very engaging, telling us stories from his childhood, showing us little tricks they use and even making us bracelets and tiaras from tree leaves.
Side note: there are no mosquitos by the Rio Negro, so you don't need to worry much about repellents and diseases, however there are some biting bugs in the forest (we survived though).
In the afternoon we went back to the river, hoped on canoes and went for a ride around the "igapós" and "igarapés". These are basically the tiny river canals in between the rainforest's roots where it's too tight for a regular boat to pass. Really makes you feel one with the surroundings.
After dinner we went for a special session of listening the night sounds in the forest. We also spotted baby alligators (jacaré) in the river. But the most amazing thing for me from this night walk was observing thousands (I'm not exaggerating) of big ants carrying leaves.
Our last morning in the Amazon rainforest started extremely early. At 5am we were already boarding the boats in order to watch the sunrise. It was quite a fresh ride, I was not expecting that, but as soon as the sun was up, temperature quickly rose up as well. And the sunrise was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Check it out for yourself.
After breakfast we had one last activity before heading back to Manaus - archery. We were going to try how bad we were if we had to survive in the rainforest. Of course, our targets were not live animals and it was much more difficult than it looks like, but we did quite well. Still, we would most likely starve to death if our lives depended on our hunting skills...
As you can see Anavilhanas Eco Lodge is not a regular all inclusive resort, and it was definitely one the most incredible and eco-friendly places I've ever stayed at. Being in such a close contact with the largest rainforest on earth is one in a lifetime experience that I wish more people could have, as it really helps you appreciate more how amazing our planet is and inspire us to do more in order to preserve it. After all, it depends on us. One step at a time.