Instead of the jungle cruise at Disneyland, consider this: a custom-built trip to the Amazon is far more luxurious than one might think. The city of Manaus is only 5,200 air miles from Seattle. From Manaus, riverboats sail nearly a thousand miles downstream to Belem, a four-day journey, or upstream 1,200 miles to Iquitos, Peru, which takes a week or so. Sailing the Amazon is part of the undeniable appeal of the river. The closest town to Manaus is Itacoatiara- a coastal town famous for its surfing, bodyboarding, and bodysurfing- which is 124 miles downstream. In a post on his personal website, Tyler Folsom describes his experience in Itacoatiara saying:
The night-time voyage continued to make frequent stops, offloading ice, supplies, and empty Styrofoam chests. The sky was now perfectly clear and filled with stars with Orion overhead. We stretched out on deck chairs or benches and rested under the starlight, listening to jungle noises and observing a flying beetle similar to a firefly. The light on the deck attracted a wealth of insects, but they were non-biting.
At 3:00 AM we finally reached Itacoatiara. Most passengers chose to stay aboard and sleep in their hammocks until dawn. The boat did not tie up at the main dock, but put in at the foot of a flight of concrete stairs. We balanced down the thin gang-plank to shore, climbed the stairs, and asked the waiting taxi to take us to the Christian Hotel, one of the best in town at $28 for two. We had no reservations and were glad to get a room without difficulty and catch up on sleep.
The Amazon River is the largest river in the world, with a flow greater than the next eight largest rivers combined. Further, at no point in it’s run is the river crossed by bridges. Because of its size and length the Amazon is home to a diverse collection of wildlife and fauna. More than one third of all species in the world live in the Amazon Rainforest, a giant tropical forest with an area that stretches more than 2.1 million square miles and is among the richest tropical forests in the world. The river has nearly 3,000 recognized species of fish, a number which is still growing. Notably, the river is one of the main habitats of the Boto, known as the Amazon River Dolphin.
Currently, ecological groups are mounting widespread and focused efforts to preserve and protect the Amazon Rainforest for future generations and the well-being of the planet. Their cause is bolstered by the findings of scientists and conservationists who are still discovering new species of plants and animals, some of which may have medicinal uses.
Whether you are an unabashed conservationist or a tourist seeking an off-beat vacation experience, a visit to the Amazon is an unrivaled experience. In a piece for the LA Times entitled An Adventure Along the Amazon, Amanda Jones described one aspect of her experience touring the Amazon saying:
We were right below the equator. The heat — it was 90 to 95 degrees — bore down on us, and the 95% humidity hung over us like wet wool. This meant the days had to be well planned. We took early morning and late afternoon excursions into the forest or up small tributaries on skiffs that enabled us to negotiate shallow areas.
The best news of the whole trip was that we could swim in the river, particularly in the clean waters of remote tributaries. Despite movie depictions and Internet myths, piranhas do not attack healthy humans. In fact, one moment, we’d be catching piranha with a bait of raw meat; the next, we’d be motoring a little way upstream to ensure the piranha did not confuse us with the beef, and then leaping off the side of the skiff, no questions asked.
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