When you ask 10 Brazilians if they have travelled to the Amazon, approximately 8 will tell you they
haven’t been there. The Amazon is not yet a very popular or frequently visited tourist destination and enjoys the non-existence of all-inclusive hotels or other mass tourist attractions. It’s a place for people that want to experience nature, wild life and adventure! The rainy season is November or December to June and the dry – or drier – season, runs from July to December.
The Amazon covers an impressive area of 7 million square kilometres and is home to the most diverse and numerous arrays of species in the world. The best way to experience the Amazon Jungle and its massive rivers are by boat or staying in a lodge and discovering the area by day trips. We were debating a lot which option to choose. At the beginning we preferred to travel by boat but at the end we decided to stay in a lodge for the following two reasons: 1. It was our honeymoon so we wanted a bit more privacy and 2. Two travel agencies recommended us to stay in a lodge to have more time at the specific sights.
We compared different lodges and decided for the Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge – the only one in the Anavilhanas National Park, which encompasses a huge river archipelago in the Rio Negro and is part of a World Heritage Site. The biggest advantage of staying at the Rio Negro and not at the Amazon river are the mosquitos. There are virtually none because the Black River has a very acidic pH value. Species wise the Rio Negro is home to approximately 800 types of fish, caiman and other water animals. The Amazon on the contrary hosts approximately 5000 different types of species.
We took the plane from São Paulo Manaus and from the Hotel Tropical a hydroplane to the lodge. Flying over the Amazon and seeing the massive never ending rain forest with all the river arms and a great part of the archipelago was worth the extra cost of going by hydroplane than by bus. We even saw “the heart”.
On the banks of the Black River, the hydroplane landed and we were greeted on arrival with juice in very charming and rustic accommodations. We stayed at the lodge for 4 nights / 5 days, which was a perfect period to get an impression of the Rio Negro.
At Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge everything is included, all meals and every tour. At arrival we received a schedule with all the planned activities with rides leaving in the morning and in the afternoon. In general we had 1-2 trips a day in very small groups (4-8 people). Every evening after dinner we got informed about on what to wear, what the wake up time will be, and the length of the trip.
Trips in the Amazon
Night spotting – This was a night tour by boat. It was pitch black and only the tour guide had a torch, a very strong one. We drove slowly close to the bank to spot animals and listen to the sounds of nature. We saw caimans, spiders and several birds.
Ride in Canoes – Paul and I started with a canoe a ride through the Amazonia creeks and the floods forest. It was so peaceful but on the same time adventures. It was like no one before has paddled through the underwood. We saw little monkeys in the trees and many types of birds. As the canoe was very small and rather instable we were glad not to meet a 5m caiman…
Jungle hike – We were really looking forward to this “hike” and even brought our hiking boots from Switzerland but we realized that this was actually not necessary. It was rather a walk than a hike. We took a boat into the jungle where we got off and started our tour. It was us, a lovely family from Switzerland and the tour guide. Paul was so excited to see snakes and was all the time looking for them. We learned a lot about the different plants and animals and how to build a night camp in the trees in order to be protected from snakes, panthers and other poisoning animals. Unfortunately for us, we were not able to spot any poisoning animals even though we knew they are around us and probably watching. Back at the lodge and already getting dark Paul then almost stepped on a snake. Luckily he realized it early enough. We took a picture and showed it to the guides later. Here we go… one of the 3 most poisoning anacondas in the Amazon.
Boat tour – We discovered the Amazon by a wooden three-story boat and sailed between the islands and canals all day. It is just fascinating swimming and boating on a black coloured river which looks like a strong black tea. And yes (!), you can swim in there. We were very surprised because of the caimans, snakes, piranhas etc. swimming there, but there are spots (we were told) that we can go for a swim, so we had to try (with a bit a funny feeling at the beginning…). For lunch we were served a very tasty buffet with fresh grilled fish. Surrounded by nosy dolphins, pink ones as well as grey ones, coming close the boat, we just enjoyed watching them.
Pink dolphins and local handcrafts – This was probably one of my favourite trips. We went to a spot to see and feed the Amazon river dolphins also known as the Boto or pink river dolphin. The Amazon river dolphin is the largest species of river dolphins, with adult males reaching 185 kilograms and 2.5 metres in length. We went to a spot where injured dolphins receive treatment. They are not in a fence, they somehow know that they get help there and just return. It was an unforgettable experience, sitting on the pontoon, making some noises with your hands in the water… and there they come… awwww… they dive up, right next to you, curious. They are quite big and we were told that we are just allowed to touch them gently under their nose. For me it was overwhelming and I returned back to that spot after we finished the tour. Just me with these beautiful animals, that are in danger of extinction. There is a legend in the Amazon Region about the pink dolphin, which goes as follows:
The pink dolphin turns from man to dolphin and backwards, changing its shape. The legend states that when dolphins find young women on the shore, they changes shape and impregnate them.
Unfortunately, they are still killed and people still believe in this legend. We were told that 6 out of 10 children are afraid of the pink dolphin and hence don’t want to go close to the water. This makes me really sad… and I was happy to hear that a group of more “educated” inhabitants started a project to educate the kids and to take them their fear.
After this dolphin experience, we visited a project run by a Swiss. He established a carpenter’s workshop where local people can create handicraft work made out of Amazonian wood. In addition he runs a school to teach English as well how to produce paper by hand. We also visited some local handcraft shops. I heard of the beautiful baskets made in the Amazon area and since I asked for that we made a stop at a shop where they had many kinds of different sizes in natural colours. See here:
Piranhas fun fishing – I am not a fan of killing animals, so I was more than happy to hear that we just catch the piranhas and throw them back in the water. It was my first time of going fishing and really not my luckiest day. Paul had much more luck and caught two piranhas. They are much smaller than I thought but really with sharp tees. It is strange to catch a fish with pieces of beef.
Sun rise boat trip – Bit of a shock to have a 4:30am wake up call and breakfast at 5.00 am for a 5.30 am start but well worth it! We saw the sunrise, loads of birds waking up and one of my most enduring memories were the sounds in the rainforest at 6 am when all the animals wake up!
The rest of our time we just enjoyed the lodge, the pool and staying on the floating pontoon. We went a couple of times stand-up-paddling, just the two of us paddling down the river followed by dolphins. One came until one meter close to our boards.
Review of Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge
The lodge is a lovely luxury place set in the middle of the jungle.
Rooms – The rooms are a dream including a hammock on the terrace! Even the lowest category is just stunning and for sure spacious enough. Every room is named by an animal which is a wooden figure on the door. We had the frog room. These wooden animals are hand made by the local people.
Staff – The local guides who are bilingual clearly are one of the hotel’s highlights. They patiently explain everything about the jungle and how the locals make good use of it. They are really passionate about the Amazon and protecting the environment – which is great.
Food – The hotel uses mostly regional ingredients like Amazon fish, different fruits etc. to prepare the meals which were served as a buffet. We loved the different fruit juices. However, we would have preferred a bit more variety of food.
Guests – Because of the daily trips, the lodge feels rather “empty” which is great if you seek privacy and want to come down. The guests were from both Brazil and abroad. We met lovely people, for example the Swiss couple with kids, who we are still in contact with.
All in all, it was one of the best trips we ever did- a fairy-tale in the Jungle!