Think of Brazil and most likely the Amazon jungle is one of the first images that springs to mind. And that’s no surprise. Covering around half of the country, the Amazon is one of the most famous destinations not only in Brazil, but in the whole of South America.
Despite occupying such a vast area, the Amazon is only home to around 10% of Brazil’s population. Some of these are indigenous tribes, whose remote locations leave them disconnected from the rest of the world. However, the majority live in cities such as Manaus, Belem and Santarem.
Manaus acts as the main tourist hub and gateway to the Brazilian Amazon. So to help you plan your trip into the rainforest, here’s our guide to this port city and all it has to offer.
Best Place to Visit: Manaus
Located in the center of the Brazilian Amazon, Manaus is the largest city in the region and home to approximately 2 million people. The city itself is worth spending a little time in before you begin your Amazonian adventure. Sights include the Manaus Opera House with its pastel-pink Renaissance exterior.
Situated close to the incredibly diverse Central Amazon Biosphere, Manaus offers the quickest and easiest access to the jungle. You’ll find plenty of tour operators there, offering day trips and multi-day cruises that range in comfort and cost from budget to more upscale.
Throughout the surrounding region are plenty of jungle lodges and, to truly immerse yourself in the Amazon, it’s recommended to spend at least two nights in one of these. A stay will include transport to and from Manaus and meals, as well as guides and excursions such as canoe trips, short treks, visits to local communities, caiman-spotting and more. Generally, the further from Manaus you travel, the more pristine the environment and the greater chances you have of spotting wildlife.
The Meeting of the Water
Manaus also boasts a natural phenomenon known as the ‘Meeting of the Water’ as it sits close to the confluence of River Solimões and the River Negro. Here, these two rivers merge to form what we know as the River Amazon, which is ten kilometres wide even at this point over 1,500 kilometres from the coast.
What makes this so extraordinary is the contrast in colours where the two rivers meet. The sandy coloured waters of the River Solimões collide with the black waters of the Rio Negro, forming a series of swirls that don’t blend completely for another six kilometres downstream. This is due to the differences in water properties and speed of the currents.
Best Time to Visit the Brazilian Amazon
Tropical rainforests such as the Amazon experience rainfall year-round, however the Brazilian Amazon is known for two seasons which are worth bearing in mind when booking your trip.
Lasting from March to August, the high-water season sees the strongest rainfall between February and April. Rains during this season are more frequent and water levels of the River Amazon and River Negro are 10 metres higher than in the low-water season. This can benefit travellers as areas of the rainforest become navigable by boat and trees produce edible fruits and flowers which attract more wildlife.
Running from September to February, the low-water season receives the lowest rainfall of the year, with water levels falling approximately 10 metres in the River Amazon and its tributaries. This allows for more opportunity to explore on foot, as flooded trails now become accessible again, as well as it being easier to spot snakes, lizards and fish. There are also fewer mosquitos during this season.
How to get to Manaus
If you’re planning to visit the Amazon Rainforest from Manaus, due to its isolated position in the Amazon you have two options for getting there:
Manaus can be accessed by boat from anywhere on the Amazon, including Port Velho in the upper Amazon River Basin and the port city of Belem, which is located in the Amazon Delta 130 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean. Note that the journey will take several days, depending on where you depart from, and is an experience unto itself.
As the main travel hub in the Amazon, Manaus is also serviced by direct flights from most Brazilian cities, as well as from Miami and Panama City. Flights from Rio De Janeiro to Manaus take around four hours, making flying by far the fastest way to reach Manaus and sometimes not much more expensive than by boat.
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