Manaus is the Amazon’s largest city, an incongruous pocket of urbanity in the middle of the jungle, a major port for ocean vessels that’s 1500km from the ocean.
The rainforest has a population density half that of Mongolia’s, but the journey there invariably begins in (or passes through) this bustling city. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little out of whack.
The city itself has some genuinely rewarding sights, including a leafy zoo with as many animals out of the cages as in them, and a beach-and-museum combo that gets you out of the city center. Discover Brazilian Amazon Rain Forest.
Places to Visit
Take a trip along the river,… Manaus sits at the confluence of two of the world’s greatest rivers. The Rio Negro – with waters the color of black coffee – flows south into the main stream of the Amazon (or Solimões), which is like coffee with cream. At the Meeting of Waters (Encontro das Águas), the two rivers merge in swirls of curlicues, spirals and whirlpools. The waters don’t blend completely for another 6km downstream. The phenomenon is caused by differences in the speed of the currents and water properties. Freshwater dolphins are sometimes seen in the vicinity.
Into the Jungle
The first rule of a trip to the rainforest is to book a tour from a certified tour operator. A good guide will know where to spot birds such as parrots, macaws and aquatic birds, as well as tamarins, squirrel monkeys, and perhaps a troop of howler monkeys. Try to include a night hike to spot nocturnal creatures such as tree frogs, giant crickets and potoo birds. On a budget trip, you’ll sleep in a hammock in local style dwellings, and eat simple meals such as beans or fish, rice and manioc. Bear in mind: conditions will be hot and damp, you will encounter disagreeable creatures such as stinging ants, mosquitoes (take malarial precautions) and black flies that seem to want their pound of flesh. With that aside, it will be a trip to remember.
Opera in the Amazon
Built at the height of the rubber boom, in the late 19th century, when Manaus was a byword for luxury, the Manaus Opera House (Teatro Amazonas) gives you an inkling of that glorious past. Once slated for demolition, the newly restored gold-domed edifice is on a par with any of its European counterparts. With the wealth of the time, and high ambitions of the rubber barons, no expense was spared in its construction. Marble from Italy, ironwork from Glasgow and 198 chandeliers of Murano glass make the theatre a must-see. For the World Cup, the theatre is offering several new performances including recitals, rock concerts and art exhibitions.