There are certain places on this planet that seem almost like fiction. Unreachable destinations that you expect to only see in story books and documentaries.
The Amazon Rainforest in northern Brazil was one of those places for me.
So when I had the opportunity to come to Brazil, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.
My experience began in the gateway city of Manaus, where the journey into the jungle proved to be a task unto itself…
I took a taxi from the airport down to the city’s main harbor to catch a ferry across the Amazon River.
We passed giant shipping vessels, floating homes and a really cool point where the Rio Negro converges with the Amazon River, which forms a really cool color and temperature divide in the water.
Once on the other side, the landscape changed from the urban landscape of Manaus, to a very rural waterfront trading post. I passed street vendors selling giant fish and wild fruits, before boarding an old VW wagon.
Past the small towns and giant lilly pads, we drove further away from civilization before making one last transfer into a small motorboat.
As we weaved through the flooded forest, the reality of this experience started to set in!
The Ararinha Jungle Hotel would serve as the launch pad for all my Rainforest adventures. Speaking of, a big thank you to Amazon Gero Tours for hosting me on this epic travel adventure.
And after dropping off my bag and meeting my guide, it was time to go explore the Wild Amazon…
By day we explored the river and trekked through the rainforest.
In the water we looked out for exotic birds, hidden lizards and even the rare pink dolphins. On land it was giant spiders, poison dart frogs and all types of monkeys.
While the rare Anaconda and Jaguar were always in the back of my mind, it was the smaller animals that you really had to be aware of.
One day while on a trek through the jungle, our guide Kenrick, unknowingly came to close to a wasp nest and was stung on the cheek. This was right after he told us to be aware of these little bastards because they are extremely aggressive and dangerous… He told us they eat poisonous dart frogs for gosh sakes!
The craziest aspect of the trip was that I was never completely comfortable. There was a constant level of tension because of the respect Kenrick and the other guides had for their surroundings.
The whole thing was an incredible juxtaposition, as we would go catch piranha in the shallow waters and then boat out to the middle of the river nearby to swim.
It was a dangerous and beautiful place, and my senses were heightened the entire time.
Throughout the process, Kenrick and the other guides taught me some important skills and techniques for surviving in the jungle. From making weapons and building shelter to finding the best things to eat if you’re hungry… from nuts and fruits, to one very meaty maggot!
Another side of life in the Amazon Rainforest, is the close-nit community of people who live along the river. I was expecting to see naked tribes and face-painted cannibals, but that wasn’t the case at all.
I had the opportunity to meet and interact with many local residents and despite the remote location, life here seems relatively normal, and it comes with an alluring simplicity and self-sufficiency.
One morning we visited one of local farms who were in the middle of cultivating the popular Brazilian staple, Farinha or Farofa. He should us how to transform the poisonous root into an edible side-dish through a pretty intensive process of creating a powder and cooking it down.
On another day we were invited to a house party with some of the off-duty guides and surrounding neighbors.
It was great to see what life was like on a Friday night with people my age in the Amazon.
And at night, when the sensible locals would turn in, we’d launch the boat again and head out to explore the darkness.
With 75% of the animals here being nocturnal, the noises and commotion at night were like nothing I’ve ever heard.
The easiest thing to spot were caimans, whose beady red eyes surfaced across the river. And apparently, if you’re fast and quiet enough, you can reach down into the water and grab one…
The days passed and I grew more and more addicted to this life.
So, on my final day in the Amazon Rainforest, we decided to take a small crew out to get the full effect of the jungle, and go camp out
Usually we’d return to the lodge after our late night activities, but on this night, we were at the mercy of our surroundings.
We found a flat, dry space not far from the river and worked quickly to setup camp before dark.
We chopped trees for a tarp frame, cautiously gathered firewood and began cooking dinner over the fire.
As darkness and a little paranoia set in, we enjoyed dinner and drinks to the developing sounds around us.
We listened to music, played cards, and of course, peed close by.
We had some more drinks, made hats out of palm branch and shared stories well into the night…
After a delicious camp-made breakfast with fresh fruit, eggs and coffee, it was time for me to pack up and head back to Manaus.
And although I spent a week engulfed in this incredible place… the people, the wildlife, the environment… everything still makes the Amazon seem like fiction.
The Amazon Rainforest is absolutely amazing!