Manaus & the Amazon
Introduction to Manaus & the Amazon
The Amazon has been exciting people from around the globe for centuries, sometimes just with the mention of the name. The idea of visiting the world’s biggest river and the rainforest that surrounds it attracts many adventurous travelers to Brazil. With over half of the world’s largest jungle found in Brazil, it is little wonder that the area’s main city, Manaus, serves as the point for most people to begin their adventures into the Amazon Jungle.
The rainforest is home to more known species than anywhere on earth and plenty of unknown ones too as new species of flora and fauna are still being discovered regularly. One of the most sparsely populated regions in terms of humans, the Amazon is full of creatures of every kind and size. From the tiniest ants to alligators, pink dolphins, giant otters, macaws, anacondas and jaguars, the jungle has a diversity of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, fish, birds and insects unmatched elsewhere on earth. The flora sheltering them is equally varied. Huge hardwood trees like mahogany raise the canopy to as much as 295 ft (90m) above your head. Giant lilies and delicate rare orchids also grow in the shadows of the foliage.
One of the area’s most accessible attractions is the Meeting of the Waters, 6 miles (10km) downstream from Manaus. The black water of the Rio Negro and the sand-colored water of the Solimões run side by side, refusing to join together for miles. Differences in consistency, temperature and density mean that they don’t immediately mix.
It is possible to watch opera in the Amazon Jungle, or at least on the edge of it. Manaus has a magnificent opera house, built in 1896, while the Amazon island of Parintins hosts its Boi-Bumbá festival. This is possibly the craziest celebration in Brazil.
What not to miss in Manaus & the Amazon
Most people come to the area for adventures in the Amazon Jungle. Trips to lodges on the edge of pristine tropical rainforest can be a fantastic experience. Short excursions into the jungle or along the Amazon and its tributaries can be arranged.
Walks through the jungle are breathtaking, although so much vegetation does provide excellent hiding places for the bigger animals. The jungle comes alive especially at dawn and dusk, as a chorus of creatures surrounds you.
Visit Indigenous Villages
Visit indigenous villages to learn how people have survived in the Amazon Jungle for thousands of years.
City of Manaus
Back in the city, the Opera House is the main attraction of Manaus, especially during the Manaus Opera Festival.
The Meeting of the Waters
The Meeting of the Waters occurs at the junction of the two rivers. The dark waters of the Rio Negro and the sand-colored waters of the Solimões run side by side in the middle of the river, refusing to mix for miles due to differences in consistency, temperature, and density.
What you need to know
When to go
The Amazon Rainforest isn’t called a rainforest for nothing. In one of the wettest places on earth, you can expect to feel, see or just hear rain around 200 days per year. As the jungle straddles the equator, temperatures vary little from around 86˚F (30˚C) in the day to 72˚F (22˚C) at night. December to May is the rainy season, when travel may be difficult. The flooded forests are at their most beautiful at times of high water between April and June.
The Manaus Opera Festival takes place over three weeks in April and May, while the Boi-Bumbá festival on Parintins Island lasts for three crazy days from 28th – 30th June.
How to get there
The airport in Manaus has flights arriving from major cities all over Brazil. International flights arrive only from major South American destinations and Miami in the USA. From Europe and elsewhere it is better to fly into Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo and make connections. Flights to Manaus will be a delight for anybody who sees the verdant jungle canopy spreading as far as the eye can see, only broken by mighty rivers. For this, you need clear skies, which are certainly not guaranteed above a rainforest!
There are few roads in the Amazon area, so the rivers are used to transport goods, locals and travelers. Tours to the jungle start from Manaus, but the jungle close to the city has been cleared somewhat, so the further away your destination, the more likely you are to find the true Amazon Jungle. Lodges are usually reached from Manaus by river or sometimes by air. The island of Parintins and its Boi-Bumbá festival can also be reached by river or air from Manaus.
Where to stay
Manaus has good hotels in the city as well as plenty of midrange and budget accommodation, but for a true jungle experience it is necessary to travel further afield. Jungle lodges on the edge of the river and the edge of the jungle come in varied sizes and with very varied amenities! They range from very basic cabins to top-class eco-lodges with canopy walks and helipads. Staying in remote places means you will have to eat the food provided at your lodge. Cuisine in Manaus comes with Brazilian and international flavors.
The Amazon island of Parintins gets very busy for the Boi-Bumbá festival. Hotels need to be reserved ahead of time. Tours can be arranged from Manaus, including boat trip and accommodation.