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Tourism Accessible tourism near Manaus: Swimming with botos and visiting indigenous villages are attractions

Tourists can enjoy swimming with the porpoises and appreciate the bridge over the Negro River. (Luís Henrique Oliveira/Cenarium)

Luís Henrique Oliveira – from Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – Yanomami, Tukano, Desano, Piratapuia, Tuyuka, Sateré-Mawé, Kokama. There are several ethnic groups that are part of the roots of the population that make up the Amazon. But a reality that used to seem distant, that of getting to know these people up close, has now become possible thanks to investments by tourism agencies that provide visits to indigenous villages, including food, swimming with botos, and a trip to the Meeting of the Waters. All this is just a few minutes away from the Port of Manaus, in the region of the Janauari Ecological Park.

The speedboat leaves the Port of Manaus around 8am. (Luís Henrique Oliveira/Cenarium)

Experiencing an expedition like this costs no more than R$150 per person. The first stop is the Port, in the center of the capital. The group of tourists gets ready to embark at 8am for the first attraction: swimming with the river dolphins. The stop is about 15 minutes away, on the shore to the city of Iranduba. At the spot, pink river dolphins are found swimming freely in the Negro River, attracted by food, small fish that are offered to the tourist to enter the water and register side by side with the animal. Furthermore, visitors can still buy souvenirs, mostly handicrafts produced by local residents with forest materials, such as wood, vines and seeds, at fair prices.

And all it takes is an incredible company for a Tuesday sightseeing tour to make the day unforgettable. From the spot with the botos, the group, formed by 45 people, plus the guide Francineto and two crew members, went on towards the Meeting of the Waters. In this route, the trip lasts another 15 minutes. Even with the use of mask, requested by the guide, to prevent contamination by Covid-19, it was possible to feel the smell coming from the Rio Negro and Solimões waters, which do not mix due to factors that vary from geological, climatic, thermal issues, or even the size or acidity of the rivers. To complete the picture, the green of the forest in contrast with the blue sky formed a true picture, worthy of being displayed in galleries.

After swimming with botos, the second stop is the Meeting of the Waters. (Luís Henrique Oliveira/Cenarium)

If a tour like this is already rewarding for people who live in the city of Manaus itself, for tourists from other capitals and countries the immersion, in the middle of the largest rainforest in the world, becomes even more interesting. Following the trip, around 11am, the group is taken to meet the largest fish of freshwater scales and one of the most desired in the world, the piracuru (Arapaimas-gigas), which can reach 3 meters and weigh 250 kilos. In a nursery, dozens of them are exhibited and can be fed by visitors with appropriate feed.

All the tourists, among children, adults and seniors are impressed with the serenity and size of the animal. Also on site, it is possible to pay a symbolic amount to simulate fishing for pirarucu and buy more souvenirs available in the small shop filled with handicrafts of the people of the forest.

Photojournalist Ricardo Oliveira’s record shows a fisherman carrying the fish on his back. (Ricardo Oliveira/Cenarium)

Lunch time is approaching, but before that, guide Francineto offers a little more adventure. Leaving the pirarucus nursery, the speedboat Suziane follows a suspended trail and wooden bridges installed into the forest. In the region there are dozens of sumaúmas trees, that impress by their gigantism. The most outstanding feature is not only their height, which can exceed 70 meters, but also the diameter of them, which in some cases require up to 20 people to hug it.

More adventure

Walking on the 100-meter long trail, some caiarara monkeys amuse people. Because they are very naughty, the guide asks everyone to hold on tightly to their glasses, caps and cell phones, in order to avoid them ‘stealing’ the objects in a very ‘tough’ way. Francineto jokes about the reaction of foreign tourists, who try at all times to escape from the endless chase of the animals. Jumping from branch to branch, the flock gains fruit and passes without fear of the tourists.

Monkeys stand side by side with visitors. (Luís Henrique Oliveira/Cenarium)

The tour arrives, around noon, at the observation point of the Victoria Regia. Known for their shape, they have a large circular leaf, with raised edges, which lies on the surface of the water, and can reach up to 2.5 meters in diameter and support up to 40 kilograms, if these are well distributed on its surface. Besides the leaves, its flowers, which are most frequent in March and July, can also be found. According to local residents, the flowers of the Victoria Regia are considered the largest in the Americas, a curiosity confirmed by experts in a simple search on the Internet.

Dozens of vitoria-regias can be found in the lake near the Janauarylândia Restaurant. (Luís Henrique Oliveira/ Cenarium)

Minutes later, the group is taken to the Janauarylândia Restaurant. Among the options, fish for all tastes. There is pirarucu, matrinxã, tambaqui, and jaraqui. All of them with escabeche sauce or breaded, besides side dishes such as rice, farofa, mayonnaise, vatapá, and several salad options.

Janauarylândia brings dozens of options in the menu that can be consumed at will. (Luís Henrique Oliveira/Cenarium)

Visit to the indigenous village

Continuing on our way, it’s time to leave on the Solimões River towards the Tuyuka indigenous village, one of the peoples of the Tukano linguistic family of the Northwest Amazon, native to the border between Brazil and Colombia. There, right away, we come across the ruins of an abandoned building from the rubber boom, since there is a small cluster of rubber trees where the latex was extracted.

Arrival at the Tuyuka Village. (Luís Henrique Oliveira/ Cenarium)

The marks of time, both in its stems that show the withdrawal of the sap, and in the walls of the two-story house, refer to a time when the Amazon was rich and Manaus, known as the Paris of the Tropics. According to Francineto, the construction did not withstand the phenomenon of the flooding of the rivers, which causes the ground to be taken over by water.

Another reason for the abandonment is due to the devaluation of the rubber activity, which made the residents have to leave everything behind, returning the space to the real owners of the land, the Tuyuka Indians, who welcome visitors with snakes, alligators, and sloths for those who wish to register the moment in photographs.

According to the natives, a photo holding the animal costs R$ 10, which is used to pay for fuel for rapid transport and other items. After a brief presentation, the moment of painting begins, on the faces of the visitors, with paints found in nature.

The paintings are more than an aesthetic art, they transmit the history of indigenous ancestry, to identify the members of the tribes. Thus, the drawings are made according to gender, age, function in the tribe, social groups or rituals.

Tuyuka indigenous people paint every present with paints taken from nature. (Yves Veras/Promotion)

After all the tourists have their faces painted, so that they can feel the energy of the place, the men of the tribe present musical instruments, used in various rituals, such as giving thanks for the harvesting of fruits like tucumã, açaí, bacaba, and acari. Among the instruments featured are the jurupari, which emits a striking sound, and the stick instrument. In most of the dances and rituals, men as well as women and children participate.

Indigenous people dance and play instruments for the visitors. (Luís Henrique Oliveira/Cenarium)

Finally, the contact with the natives comes to an end. The guide Francineto takes the tourists to the back of the village, where indigenous handicrafts are sold. And the count begins of all the visitors who are kindly invited back to the boat.

It is 2:30 pm. With everyone aboard the Suziane speedboat, the destination, now, is the return to the Port of Manaus. Everything with the breeze of the river and the beginning of the sunset closing the day with a golden key, showing that the direct contact with nature is priceless. The experience…

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Those who wish to buy packages for the Amazon Safari can access the site https://www.vkard.com.br/safari/.