Exploring the Amazon Jungle | Brazil

*Scroll to the bottom of this post for a complete packing list



2018 MAR 2

Our jungle guide sat at the bow of our long canoe-like boat confidently spotting and naming off each bird that came into view. He had grown up in these jungles. He knew them inside and out. For three days Geraldo would guide our merry band of travelers explaining and exploring the inner workings of the Amazon rainforest. From the outside, the rainforest is clothed in mystery and full of things that can kill you. Once inside its inner belly, you realize just how much you don't know... And just how many more things can kill you.

The rain didn't start as a trickle, it came with a bang. Not of thunder or lightning, but of the sheer sound of water falling as if we were suddenly inside a waterfall. I had just put my Outex cover on my camera, or else it would have definitely drowned in the soak. I couldn't believe my luck and vowed that I would keep it on throughout our stay in the Amazon. With such unpredictable weather, it was a must. As the rain slightly let up, Geraldo spotted a rare bird and had Marcos, our boat guide, turn us toward the river's bank of trees. Geraldo stood from a crouch in the boat to get a better view and with his quiet confidence said, "Look, there's a sloth." Sure enough, in the tree branch hanging over the water, a sloth was bundled up like a termites nest.

As we marveled at the wild sloth high in the tree, our guide decided he was going to climb up the wet tree in his bare feet, catch the sloth (which admittedly isn't very difficult) and drop it down for Marcos to catch like a football, all while he navigated the boat under the tree. Yeah. Pretty crazy. Before we were able to hold her, our guide asked, "Has anyone put bug spray on, yet?" Thankfully none of us had. Apparently, bug spray (or rather the chemicals it is made with) causes their hair to fall out. The two clawed female sloth was as pleasant as could be. She smiled as we gingerly passed her to the front of the boat. When it started raining again, she slowly covered her head with her arm. Geraldo put her back up in the tree and we watched her climb back up holding onto the bark firmly with her claws.

After the rain, we came to a part of the river where we sat in the boat and waited for the native freshwater dolphins. We waited and waited until we heard one blow air out from the edge of the water. They came up sporadically and in all different areas. Some were the legendary pink (yes pink) freshwater dolphins. The Amazon is the only place they are found in the world. We even saw a baby dolphin! The best part of the evening was being able to sit in silence, listening to the sounds of the jungle.

As the sun slowly crept out of view, we headed back to our camp for dinner.

After dinner, and once it was completely dark, we headed out to "hunt" for caiman, a relative to alligators often found on the shores of the Amazon River. Another group had taken our "spacious" boat and left us the smallest and most tippy boat on the river. We were mere centimeters from taking on water. My mind went crazy and I was legitimately freaked out. We are hunting caiman in this tiny boat!? In the darkest, scariest water in the world!? OK, maybe I was being a bit dramatic. But what if we tipped!?  Geraldo stood at the bow of the boat with a flashlight in hand to find reflective eyes hovering above the water. He shook the light in one area to indicate that he had spotted one. We backed into the reeds and Marcus, our driver, started fashioning a trap to catch it. I looked into the water and could see a caiman's head as big as mine. "Whoa, whoa, whoa." I kept thinking, "there is no way that is coming into this boat with us!" Marcus tried catching its snout several times, until he finally said to Geraldo, "It's too big. I can't get it." Phew!

We kept searching with no luck, but we still had tomorrow night to catch one. I was hoping for the bigger boat, as well.

2018 MAR 3

As we started to head out the door of our jungle hut this morning, we spotted a spider guarding the way out. This wasn't just any old spider. This spider was as big as my thumb in its body and as big as my hand with its legs spread out. We tried to shew it out the front door, but as I tried it shot up its front four legs in attack mode and held its ground. So we backed off. We regrouped and decided we had to kill it. Bryan grabbed a shoe and smacked it as hard as he could. We told our group about the encounter and our guide said, "Oh ya, that's a hunter spider. Their bite is three times more painful than a hornet's sting." We then took off to take a hike through the jungle. We learned about plants that heal and plants that kill. There were more plants that heal and create and have many uses, but there are a few that are very poisonous. It was fascinating to learn about the abundance of the jungle.

After our hike, we went fishing for piranha. We were given a bamboo stick with a fishing line and hook on it and a cup of fresh meat. Unlike most fishing I've done, you want to create a splash in the water before you drop the meat and hook in. This indicates a dying fish and draws the piranha in. I was a bit skeptical, but it totally worked. My first line in, I got a bite and pulled one up! It was thrilling! We quickly learned that you had to lead the piranha on a bit and drag the meat away from its biting until it became more aggressive, taking a bigger bite, hook and all. In the end, Bryan caught seven and I caught five and we had a nice piranha dinner that evening. Yum!

As the night drew closer, we sat near the dock and watched lightning light up the horizon. Again, we headed out to catch a caiman. This time in a regular sized boat. Thank the heavens above! Geraldo was certain we would catch one this time. He was motivated. Again, he stood on the bow, this time with lightning framing his silhouette. We headed toward the reeds as Geraldo crouched with the flashlight in his mouth. He got on his stomach, reached into the water and calmly came up with a small caiman in his hands! It was so smooth. He had caught a juvenile. We gathered around to see it and learn about this amazing animal. It was so cool to see one up close. To see its teeth and strength in such a small body. It was pretty incredible.

We headed back to our mosquito net covered beds to get some much-needed rest.

2018 MAR 4

One of my favorite parts of the entire tour was getting up to watch the sunrise on our boat. This morning we sat in humbled silence watching the magnificent colors fill the sky. Once the sun had fully risen, we continued slowly along the shores watching for birds in the dense jungle. As the sun established itself above the horizon the birds came out in all their glory. We spotted macaws, green parrots, kiskadees, the kingfisher, hawks, and my personal favorite the harpy eagle. Geraldo named off as many as we could spot. I wish this moment could've lasted all day. Unfortunately, we had to head back to Manaus that evening. So we packed up, said our goodbyes and continued on our journey.

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Many thanks to Amazon Gero Tours. They really made this adventure the best experience possible! Highly recommended!







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