The vast, steamy Amazon rainforest is a region shrouded in mystery, and few first time visitors to the jungle really know what to expect from a trip here.
Although the jungle is home to some incredible creatures including the jaguar, tapir and giant anteater, they tend to keep themselves to themselves and visitors expecting to encounter abundant large mammals will probably be disappointed. On the other hand bird watchers have a great deal to be excited about, thanks to the sheer number and variety of bird species that can be easily spotted in and around in the trees and waterways.
Another misconception is the thought of muddy waters teeming with piranha, caiman and other bloodthirsty beasts. In actual fact, parts of the Brazilian Amazon boast unique blue-water rivers with gorgeous white sand beaches that are perfectly safe for swimming and are as paradisiacal as any Caribbean coast. That said, the famed piranha can be readily found elsewhere, and piranha fishing makes for a fun and popular activity. Culinarily-curious visitors should be sure to try piranha soup – it’s a staple on many menus here.
Many people imagine the rainforest as a place filled with swarms of mosquitoes. In fact, large swathes of the jungle are almost mosquito-free, particularly in the dry season. Even in the wet season, a good insect repellent is all you need for a comfortable, bite-free trip (see recommended packing list). The beaches here actually have fewer mosquitoes than in Rio and elsewhere on the Brazilian coastline.
Don´t expect to encounter a world of isolated indigenous communities, either – although some uncontacted tribes do still live in the Amazon, they are not only impossibly remote, but there are also strict controls in place restricting access to these tribes. Stay away from any operator claiming to offer access to uncontacted tribes, as in reality such access is strictly prohibited. However, some reputable companies can organise ethically-sound stays with tribes that continue to live much as they have done for centuries. It is vital to thoroughly research any company offering such stays and find a trip that is culturally rewarding for visitors and doesn’t exploit host communities.
Another widely-held misconception about the Brazilian Amazon is that it is pretty much off-limits for families with young children. Fears about dangerous animals, stifling heat and biting insects can scare off cautious parents from even contemplating a trip to this vast rainforest, but in fact the opportunity for jungle adventures make the Amazon a surefire hit with older children, and the beaches that emerge in high season are truly pristine, with calm, clear waters – perfect for swimming even with very young children.
The importance of the preservation of the rainforest only truly becomes meaningful if it speaks to your personal experience.
Stick to the international Leave No Trace principles to minimise your environmental impact.
How to get around Manaus and the Amazon