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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

Brazilian Amazon - How to visit the rainforest

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Here you'll find all the information you need for planning how to visit the Amazon rainforest for the fist time - We have been there and it was one of the most amazing experiences of our lifes!


Novo Airão is a small town on the right bank of Negro River, an excellent base for exploring the jungle and being in close contact with the nature, culture and communities of the Amazon.


When we talk about Brazil , one of the first things that come to mind is the Amazon rainforest.


Amazon! An immense region, so beautiful and full of attractions, one of the symbols of my country, which we, Brazilians, study about at school and have heard about since we were little. Can you believe that, until then, we had never been there?


Amazon jungle. Negro River. Jungle mirrored on the river. Amazon Rainforest. Amazonas, Brazil

So in 2021 we took the opportunity to solve this big flaw in our traveling curriculum, and off we went, accompanied by uncles and cousin, to put our feet up in the Brazilian states of Amazonas and Pará.



MANAUS, the capital of Amazonas State in Brazil


Our plans were to spend 2 days in Manaus and then proceed to the immersion in the forest. But pand3mic was still, unfortunately, running rampant in the region, with Manaus the epicenter of a new wave of the vlrus and suffering with the absolute incompetence of the authorities to deal with the situation.


Two days before boarding, we were really nervous and in doubt: cancel the trip or go ahead with plans? It wasn't easy to decide, but we evaluated (or tried to evaluate) the situation with calm and decided to make some adjustments: Manaus was excluded from the itinerary, and we would go straight to our immersion in the forest: Anavilhanas National Park, in Novo Airão, Brazilian Amazonas State. Luckly the Airbnb we'd chose had availability for the extra 2 days!


On the beginning of January, 2021, we flew out of São Paulo, with all precautions requeried at the time. We arrived late at night in Manaus, slept and the next day we left early, by private transfer, towards Novo Airão.


Accommodation in Manaus:

- We stayed at the Chez Les Rois Guesthouse Hotel - simple but honest.


Other options that I researched at the time and that seemed good, downton Manaus:

- Juma Ópera (one of the best in the city – but also a bit more expensive, next to Teatro Amazonas)


As in other large Brazilian towns, there are several big chain hotels, the ones that seemed to be the best and most reasonably priced (and in whose chains we have already had good experiences):



NOVO AIRÃO – PARQUE NACIONAL DE ANAVILHANAS - ANAVILHANAS NATIONAL PARK


Novo Airão is a small town on the right bank of the Rio Negro, which currently has tourism as one of its main activities. The town has a very simple structure, and when we were there there were still restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic. So, bars and restaurants were closed (only to go service) and commerce operated with reduced opening hours.


Anavilhanas is the second largest river archipelago in the world, with more than 400 islands. The National Park was created in 1981 and covers an area of Amazon rainforest of more than 3,500 km2.


Negro River. Amazon jungle. Amazonas, Brazil. Anavilhanas National Park

With white sands beaches, rivers, forests, shade and fresh water, the Amazon, for me, is one of the most special places in Brazil. In addition to incredible experiences, immersion in the jungle ecosystem and ecological tourism provides intimate contact with nature while teaching us to respect it.


The water of Negro River – as the name suggests – is really dark, but it is clean and has a pleasant temperature. As it has an acidic pH, it does not favor the proliferation of mosquitoes – believe it or not, we have not seen any mosquitoes in this region.


Girls playing and swimming in a river. Negro River. Brazilian Amazon. Amazonas, Brazil


HOW TO GET TO THE AMAZON RAINFOREST


Manaus is connected by plane with all major Brazilian towns and cities, and is also connected by boat to other Brazilian Amazonian towns (such as Belém do Pará). By the time of this writing, there were also flights connecting Manaus to Panama City.


Major airlines carriers in Brazil are LATAM, GOL and AZUL, all of the have many flights to and from Manaus, specially connecting the city to São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília.


It takes about 2 1/2 hours by car from Manaus to Novo Airão , or 9 hours in a tradicional wooden boat (its a night trip, you must bring your hammock to sleep). We are really adventurous, but this time comfort spoke louder and we went by car.


You can also go by speed boat (aprox. 3 hours), but by the time we were there there weren't regular boats, just private trips.


Another option is to go to Novo Airão by seaplane, the trip takes about 50 minutes and it is said to be a memorable flight over the jungle and rivers (or you can just grab a seaplane for a panoramic view of the forest!)



WHERE TO STAY IN THE AMAZON RAINFOREST, AT NOVO AIRAO


In Novo Airão there is accommodation for all travelling styles, tastes and budgets.


There are amazing upper-class jungle boutique hotels, those we see in advertisements and celebrity posts on Instagram. When I quoted, the prices were obviously proportional to the five-star jungle sophistication. In short, completely out of our budget.


But if you want to take a look, maybe you can get promotional prices, or organize your finances to give yourself the luxury of enjoying a few days in these paradises - hope you can do that, because staying a few days in these boutique jungle hotels must certainly be spectacular. Just have a look:



Downtown there are some budget friendly accommodation options. One that seemed to be a good value for money was Pousada Bela Vista - it is located on the banks of the Rio Negro, very close to town center. Amazonia Park Suites is located a bit far from the center, but looks like a resonable budget option.


Typical wood house, Amazon jungle. Tradicional housing. Amazonas, Brazil

our Airbnb - Casa Madadá


We stayed at a spetacular AirBnb: “Casa Madadá” hosted by Amazon Best. On the outside a typical Amazonian house, on the inside a beautiful place, decorated with excellent taste, modern, well equipped, with all the amenities you could expect, and an excellent and super attentive support team. Great wi-fi.


One point in favor of accommodations in town (including our Airbnb) is that there is good celphone coverage (at the time, Claro was the only operator), in the jungle hotels there is only wi-fi .


OBS: When I researched accommodation for this trip, I quoted other jungle hotels, in even more remote locations, really in the middle of the jungle, and in these places there was no cellphone coverage and the wi-fi was via radio, working only a few hours a day in some areas of the hotel. If cell phone coverage and internet access is essential for you, pay close attention, research and talk to the hotel before booking.



WHEN TO GO TO THE AMAZON RAINFOREST


Anavilhanas National Park is open all year.


In the dry season (September to February) it is possible to enjoy the beautiful white sand beaches that emerge throughout the archipelago.


During the flood season (March to August, with peak in June-July), the beaches disappear and the highlight are the boat trips through igapós (flooded forests) – did you know they call these areas “enchanted forests”?



(1) and (2) Camaleão Beach; (3) boat ride through igapós



We were there in January, at the end of the dry season, many beaches were already submerged, but we were still able to enjoy a few of them – Camaleão beach was our favorite.


In late afternoon, after returning from the boat trips, we would go to Praia da Orla, accessible right in front of our Airbnb, and enjoy another dip in the river.

(1) and (2) Orla Beach, close to our Airbnb Casa Madadá


At first, I was a doubt – is this dark water really clean? But then I thought: “well, I came all the way here and I am not taking one dip in the river?” So I got up the courage, dived in and didn't stop anymore. Water is perfect, belive me.


In the end, I think we were lucky, as we enjoyed the best of each season.


The climate in the region is hot and humid year round, although between June and November it tends to be a little less rainy. When we went, we got showers every day, but they were really quick and at no time interfered with our tours and activities - we got rain on the boat, on the beach, walking around the city, at home, everywhere 😉


Is it hot? Yes, really hot. Is it humid? Yes, too much. Is it worse than Rio de Janeiro in the summer? No, far from it 😂😂 Seriously: get ready, it's hot, very hot, the sun is strong, but there is a nice breeze and the daily showers are a great refreshment.


Another question I'm always asked: is it worth the hassle to visit the region? This one is difficult to answer, as it depends on what each one considers to be involved, and it also depends on how much you are willing to spend. If you go by seaplane and stay in one of the boutique hotels, I guarantee it will be the trip of a lifetime. If you are just a regular traveller like us, what I can say is: the roadtrip from Manaus to Novo Airão is easy, there is accommodation in town for all styles, so you can find something with the level of comfort you want, the food is delicious, the tours are organized, the town has a simple but ok structure. In other words, we didn't have any problems during the trip.


But be in mind that we are Brazilians, Portuguese native speakers. Except in boutique hotels, don't expect people to speak English - it will probably be really difficult to comunicate in English around town. You may get around more easily if you speak Spanish, and a few basic Portuguese words are always helpful. On the other hand, people are really friendly and eager to help. With tourism being a big part of local economy, and now, with the end of pandemic restrictions, with tourists going back to town, locals will try really hard to communicate and receive all foreign tourists the best they can.



WHERE TO EAT IN NOVO AIRAO


Unfortunately, because of the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 pandemic when we were there, bars and restaurants were working only for take-out, and some were completely closed.


As we were in a really pleasant house, getting a take-out was no problem at all. In fact, it was a great option that even made us comfortable considering the pandemic was still at a worrying stage at that time.


We ordered delicious regional food from Sabor do Sul Restaurant. We tried all the main dishes on the menu: pirarucu, tambaqui, peacock bass, free-range chicken, etc etc. It's really worth a try.


Another option is Restaurante Flor do Luar, which has a floating deck on Negro River, but unfortunately it was closed due to pandemic. It looks to be a really nice place, with a great view.


One evening we got sandwiches at Saloon Ajuricaba, but usually the dishes we ordered for lunch were enough to feed us dinner as well 😊


In town there is a microbrewery, Sarapó Cervejas Amazônicas, we took the opportunity to try the local beer too (they had delivery service)! Thats one thing I love to do when travelling: trying not just the local food, but also the local beer. 🍻



TOURS AND ACTIVITIES TO VISIT THE AMAZON RAINFOREST


The days spent there had a well-defined routine: waking up, having breakfast (the house staff brought us fresh bread daily and prepared a delicious breakfast), boat ride, lunch, then we would go out for a stroll in the village and an ice-cream, stopping at the beach on our way back, dinner and then some time, on the hammock or on the balcony, to just enjoying life. Not bad at all.


There is a lot to see and do in Novo Airão. At any time of the year it is possible to appreciate the rich flora and fauna of the Amazon, take boat trips, hike in the jungle, swim in the waters of the Rio Negro, interact with dolphins at the Dolphins Floating Deck, get to know traditional riverside communities and the crafts of Novo Airão and, in dry season, enjoy the paradisiacal beaches on the banks of the Rio Negro that I've talked about so much.


Dolphins Floating Deck was right in front of our Airbnb, but it was closed due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions – we were really upset not being able to see the river dolphins feeding and take those beautiful pictures with the animals.


The Amazonian river dolphins are the largest freshwater dolphins in the world, reaching 2.5 meters and weighing 200 kg!


It turned out that the river dolphins, conditioned to go about 8 times a day to that area to be fed, were still around. So, just connect the dots: river dolphins around there, floating deck in front of our Airbnb, beach in front of our Airbnb = we had the river dolphins company while we enjoyed the beach, with total exclusivity: just us and the dolphins.


Negro River. Anavilhanas National Park. Amazonas, Brazil

The other tours are all done by boat, and you can choose which one you prefer (or do all of them as we did): just a contemplative tour through the river and igapós; tour with a light hike through the jungle to see giant trees - samaúma; tours with a hike deep into the jungle, such as the trail to the Madadá Caves, or to the ruins of Velho Airão, or even an expedition by boat to Jaú National Park (we didn't have time to do that one).


Velho Airão ("Old Airão") an old village that was abandoned by the residents in the 1950s, legend has it that due to an ant plague, but probably due to the decline of the rubber cycle in the region.


In any of these tours (you can find other options here), one of the most interesting things is to appreciate the vegetation, its diversity, shapes, the thousands of shades of green, the interaction of the vegetation with the water and, with the help of the experienced guides, you can spot many animals.


(1) and (2) Sandwich Rocks, on the beggining of Madada Grotto trail


One day we went to Pedra do Sanduiche (Sandwich Rocks), an ancient rock formation, which really resembles a sandwich of stones, it looks like the rockes were placed by hand one on top of the other. From there, a beautiful trail through the jungle begins, leading to Grutas do Madadá (Madadá Grotto), which are two sets of sandstone formations that are about 700 million years old. We were in a group of 4 adults and 3 kids (ages 7 to 10) and it took us 1 1/2 hour each way of the hike.


On our way back, we stopped at Camaleão beach for a well-deserved bath.


pictures taken along Gruta do Madadá trail


Next day we went on a boat ride along the igapós, on another day we sailed through the islands and stopped at the beaches of Meio, Folharal and Paraná da Onça, another day we sailed around there, I don't know exactly where, but all the igapós, channels, islands and islets we passed by were stunning.


Amazon jungle. Negro River. Forest mirrored in a river. Amazonas, Brazil


If we had one more day around there, we would have taken a boat trip again, because there are so many igapós, so many islands, so many channels, each one even much more beautiful than the last.


We also made a night spotting tour, in which we saw many animals: sloth, alligator, snakes, several birds, fishes jumped into our boat, in short, it was an adventure!


You can also go on a boat tour to visit tradicional communities along the river; due to pandemic restrictions, it wasn't possible to visit these communities when we were there.


Our boatmen were Ceará, Zezão and Euler, all organized by Cilene, from the Associação dos Barqueiros de Novo Airão (boatmen association of Novo Airão).


AFTER ALL THESE TIPS AND INFORMATION, here's our link to BOOKING.COM- you won't spend a penny making your reservations through this link and it helps us keep this site up and running! Click here and have a good trip!!


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Guide to visiting Amazon Jungle - have you ever dreamed about visiting the Amazon? Brazilian Amazon


AFTER ALL THESE TIPS AND INFORMATION, here's our link to BOOKING.COM- you won't spend a penny making your reservations through this link and it helps us keep this site up and running! Click here and have a good trip!!

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