Trip Report Part 2 of 3
Hello Brazilians and fellow tourists who are traveling to / have traveled to Brazil! My 10 year old son and I just got back from an amazing 10 day adventure in paradise, and I wanted to share my wonderful experiences with the world! My adventure was so big, that I have to break up my trip report into three sections. We flew from JFK to Rio de Janeiro, but boarded a domestic flight immediately for Foz de Iguacu. We spent 2 ½ days in Foz de Iguacu, then boarded another domestic flight for Manaus. We spent three days and three nights at the Ariau Towers hotel in the heart of the rain-forest (at least, in my mind), then one night at the Tropical Manaus. Then we flew back to Rio de Janeiro for four days and nights in a tropical wonderland.
Part 2: Manaus
Ever since my son chose Brazil for his “5th grade trip with mom” two years ago, I’ve been planning to go to the Amazon Rain Forest, because this was the main reason why my son wanted to go to Brazil. When I looked into some organized tours of Brazil, I fell in love with the descriptions of the Ariau Amazon Towers hotel, so I knew that we had to go there. (For a detailed review and photographs, please check out my review of the hotel at http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g793795-d306076-r16537958-Ariau_Amazon_Towers_Hotel-Amazon_River_State_of_Amazonas.html.)
We started our journey in Manaus by getting an airport transfer to the Tropical Manaus hotel. We got to the hotel about 2 hours before our boat was scheduled to leave, so we checked out the small zoo in the back of the hotel. (It was cute. There were some animals at the zoo that I don’t remember seeing at the Philadelphia Zoo.) Our transfer guide, Alessandro, was such a cutie! He was surprised to learn that the boy traveling with me was my son, because he thought that I was about his age (25), when I’m just a little bit older (38)! ; )
After a 2 ½ hour boat ride, we arrived at the hotel and we were so excited to check it out. We went to dinner, met our tour guide (Mike), and we went on a boat ride to go caiman hunting after dinner. What a neat way to begin the trip! It was very dark, and we had to be silent on the boat until the guide could catch a caiman and get him in the boat. The guides found the caiman by shining a bright spotlight over the water, and looking for the red reflection from the eyes. We eventually found one, and our guide had to jump in to catch it! He got the caiman in the boat, and we all took turns holding it.
The next morning, we took the boat to a native village. I enjoyed this, because my son was able to hold an anaconda and a pet sloth. We also visited a school in session, but it made me feel a bit uncomfortable…like the kids were on display for the tourists from far-away “wealthy” lands. Next, we fed and swam with the pink river dolphins! (What a treat!) In the afternoon, we went to visit one native’s house, to learn how he and his family live off the land.
On the second day, we went on a jungle hike in the morning. It was informative, yet exhausting in the hot, humid air. In the afternoon, we finally did the activity that my son was waiting for….piranha fishing. The boat took us to a flooded forest, and we were each given a bamboo rod with just a fishing line and a hook. (And some raw meat as bait.) I was very happy that my son caught one…even if it was just a little baby piranha! (The size didn’t matter…my son’s face was beaming.) At dinner, the chefs cooked the piranhas that our group caught and we ate them for dinner! (They were actually quite good. The fish had white meat, and they were very mild. Like mahi-mahi.)
The third day was a free day for us, until we took the boat ride back to Manaus. So, we just hung out at the hotel, explored the grounds (and found the mystical pyramid and UFO landing pad), and fed the wild (yet mostly tame) monkeys. We loved this hotel, because of the excursions and the family-like atmosphere. I loved waking up at sunrise and seeing the blue macaws flying around, circling the complex. It was also a nice treat to be able to meet and hang-out with other English-speaking tourists, from the USA or other countries. (Because the hotel is confined, with few places to go between excursions, it makes it very easy to strike up conversations with the other tourists in your group.)
If you like nature, and ever get the chance to get to Brazil, I think that it is definitely worth the out-of-the way trip to get to the rain forest. You can have an experience that you are likely to never forget.
(to be continued with Part 3: Rio de Janeiro)
Bye for now. Mom