Once the showplace of rubber barons, Manaus now plays host to tourists eager for a taste of the Amazon’s rainforest.
During the city’s rise to fame as the center of the rubber trade in the late 19th century, ornate buildings were constructed (Amazonas Opera House, Palácio Rio Negro, etc.) to celebrate the city’s newfound wealth and the fantastically rich rubber barons vied to outdo each other in extravagance and luxury. However, as with most booms, there was a subsequent bust, as rubber cultivation moved from Brazil to Southeast Asia in the early 20th century.
Today, Manaus is the thriving capital city of the Amazonas state — and it’s unusual in two ways: it’s a remote city of 2 million people surrounded by rainforest, and Manaus is a port city some 1,000 miles from the ocean (located on the Rio Negro River). Both of these aspects make it an ideal launching point for ecotourism adventures into the Amazon.
Here are but a handful of these ecotourism opportunities in the Amazon’s waters and forests accessible from Manaus.
Take a riverboat cruise from Manaus to the area 20 kilometers southeast of the city known as Encontro das Aguas (Meeting of the Waters) — where the dark blue waters of the Rio Negro run alongside the muddy, light-colored waters of the Rio Solimões. The river waters do not mix, due to differences in density, temperature, and current, creating a natural phenomena rarely seen.
So you’re a fan of Bear Grylls and the many “surviving in the wild” shows on TV — care to test your own will to survive in the wilds of the rainforest? This half-day cruise excursion lead by a professional guide will teach you how to use the forest’s natural surroundings to prevail in the wild. Learn about edible plants, and those to stay away from; build traps for small animals; shoot a blowgun; and learn where to locate drinking water. And it’s capped off with lunch and a canoe ride to a nearby native village.
South America’s largest forest preserve and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Jaú National Forest encompasses nearly 2.5 million acres of Amazon rainforest. Located approximately 250 kilometers northwest of Manaus, it’s worth the journey, as you’ll encounter all that the Amazon is known for: flora and fauna of all varieties, jaguars, Amazonian manatee, river dolphins, and birds of every color of the rainbow. Canoe trips are available and jungle lodges provide accommodations.
This archipelago in the Rio Negro is best described as a flooded forest — an effect creating a complex of hundreds of islands, waterways, inlets, and waterfalls rich in biodiversity. River otters, jaguars, manatee, monkeys, giant armadillos, and many more endangered creatures call this area home, as well as the largest array of electric fish. Most of the species of wild bird in the Amazon are also seen here, such as parrots, toucans, herons, and woodpeckers. Due to the fragility of this ecosystem, only a select number of tour operators are allowed to visit the area to minimize human impact.
The wilds and wonders of the Amazon rainforest await with a Holland America Line cruise to Manaus.