Friday, June 27, 2014

Touring the Amazon Rainforest with Amazon Backpackers

When most people think of Brazil, the first things to come to mind are jungles, monkeys, and indigenous tribes like those shown on National Geographic. Although there are many modern and large metropolis' along the coastlines of Brazil, the majority of the interior of the country remains as just one part of the world's largest tropical rainforest. For those of you with an adventurous spirit and a love of nature, an obvious trip to take while in Brazil would be one to this amazing natural reserve.

To start any trip into the Amazon Rainforest (on the Brazilian side) you will have to fly into the capitol city of Manaus. Located about 4.5 hours by plane from São Paulo, Manaus serves as Brazil's "gateway to the Amazon". 

When searching for a tour to take (no you cannot just go inside the jungle on your own), please go off of recommendations and do your research as to which companies are reputable so that you can have a fun, unique, and safe experience. 
*As an extra word of caution: be very careful when booking tours as there have been reports of fake tour companies popping up online or advertising at the airport offering to take tourists inside the rainforest and where they ultimately kidnap them for ransom, trafficking, etc.*

Our top recommendation would be to book your tour with Amazon Backpackers. Recommended by advisers at the local university in São Paulo, Amazon Backpackers provides a unique, fun, and hassle-free adventure into the untamed jungle. 

Offering many different tour options, you can choose to stay in their comfortable lodges for a more relaxed trip while still getting close to nature, or you can opt for a full on adventure choosing to sleep on hammocks in the middle of the jungle surviving on the land.

For my tour, I went with a combination of the two. The first night was spent in a hostel in Manaus (as my flight arrived late at night) with the following morning being our set time to head out of the city. For the next two nights I stayed in their one-of-a-kind lodge and enjoyed full, delicious meals while still getting to explore much of the surrounding area. For the remainder of the trip, we packed up our backpacks and headed deep into the jungle where we slept on hammocks under an existing shelter while living completely off of the land.

One of the best parts of Amazon Backpackers Tours are their wonderful guides. My guide was Conrado Farias and he was phenomenal! An experienced survivalist, having led nature and survival-training expeditions all over South America, my trip ended up not only being fun, but also educational. By the end of my week with Conrado as a guide, I felt like I really could survive off of the land in such an extreme environment.

As a side note, Conrado speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and English fluently with proficiency in many other languages as well.

Be prepared to go outside of your comfort zone. The heat and humidity in the rainforest does make it an extreme environment and the experience (unless you plan on taking a luxury tour) will be like no other as long as you are up for anything. We ate rice and watermelon out of leaves, made backpacks out of banana leaves, caught caiman in the dark, went fishing for piranhas, set up nets to catch lunch, used ants and termites as a natural mosquito repellent, and even tried eating some bugs! To make the most of the trip you really have to try and participate in everything. If you go out of your comfort zone for this trip, I promise you that you will feel so accomplished at the end of it all that it will be one of the most rewarding things you could ever do.

Last but not least, just enjoy yourself. On this trip you will meet some awesome people and make some truly amazing friends along the way.

xo Jessica

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