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10 things to do in the Amazon

Seeing a clay lick

Parrot clay licks can be found throughout the Amazon. Hundreds of parrots and macaws descend upon muddy banks each morning to peck away at the clay. This phenomenon is still unknown; however, it is thought that the mud is rich in minerals and salt as well as high PH levels which balance out the acidity of the Amazon. It’s a magical experience spending time in the hide watching this chaotic spectacle.

Gliding downstream in a dugout canoe

Flickr: Emil Kepko

An experience you’ll have at any Amazon lodge. Jump into traditional dugout canoes and glide silently along the waterways. Along the mangroves and lakes, monkeys can be spotted swinging through the trees, sloths peacefully hang from branches, iguanas bask in the sun and colourful parrots and macaws fly across the river.

Spotting pink river dolphins

A highlight for many. The mystery pink river dolphin can be found across the Amazon, particularly at the basin. They prefer the lowland fast flowing waters. They are the largest river dolphin specie in the world and are different from other dolphins in that it has a flexible neck allowing it to move in different directions. They can reach up to 3 metres in length. Like other dolphins, they are social and curious creatures and often approach the boat.

Hearing the roar of the howler monkey

There is a high concentration of howler monkeys in the Amazon. They are the loudest of all the monkey species, their cry being heard over 3 miles away. They often group at dawn or dusk and make whooping barks to let others know where their territory is. When you are staying in the Amazon, you will get used to their amazing sounds in the morning and evening.

Meet the indigenous tribes

For many, getting the opportunity to meet and learn from the indigenous tribes is the highlight of their Amazon adventure. Most Amazon lodges will take you to the local village to find out about their way of life. Learn about local medicinal plants and the wildlife. In some communities such as Kapawi or Huaorani in Ecuador, there are shamans, but stay away from the ayahuasca, it’s strong stuff!

Cruising the Amazon

For those who want to visit the Amazon in relative comfort, there are several cruises. The M/V Aqua takes guests on four-day cruises down through the Amazon stopping for wildlife spotting and hikes through the forest. Return back for some excellent cuisine and a comfortable night’s sleep in the luxurious air-conditioned rooms.

Scaling a canopy tower

If birdlife is a priority, be sure to pick a lodge that has a canopy tower. Sometimes, birdlife in the Amazon can be tricky to spot up through the thick tree line. However, up in the canopy, visitors can be up close to colourful exotic birds as well as monkeys and sloths. Some also include walkways to allow guests to move through the trees and maximise their chances of seeing wildlife. Try the Posada Amazonas whose tower stretches an impressive 25 metres high.

See the famous Amazon Theatre

The city of Manaus sits right in the heart of the Amazon. Rubber tabbing helped the city boom in the late 19th and early 20th century. So much so, a grand opera house was built here in 1896.  The theatre is quite a feat of engineering. Materials where brought in from around the world including tiles from Alsace, steel from Scotland and marble from Italy.

View the Meeting of Waters

Flickr: Rob

One of the highlights of a trip to the Brazilian Amazon is a visit to the Meeting of Waters. At the confluence between the Amazon River and the black Rio Negro, the waters meet and flow several miles downstream side by side without mixing. The phenomenon is down to the differences in speed, water density and temperature. Often the Meeting of Waters is seen en route to the lodge, but if not, it’s well worth taking a half day excursion to see this natural wonder.

Live with scientists

To get even more of an in depth look into the flora and fauna of the Amazon, consider staying at the Uakari Floating Lodge located just over 500 kilomtres from Manaus. The lodge hosts many scientists and researchers who accompany guests on tours into the jungle. Situated on the largest reserve of flooded rainforest in the world, there are over a million hectares of protected land to explore. During your stay, take jungle hikes and canoe rides to spot fresh water dolphins, alligators, monkeys, and birdlife.

To start planning your Amazon tour, call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or take a look at our suggested tours here.

New Suites at Napo Wildlife Centre

AMAZON IN STYLE

You can’t beat spotting Amazon wildlife at Napo Wildlife Centre in Ecuador. This lodge is set within the Yasuni National Park. This comfortable eco-lodge has now added four panoramic suites. If you fancy the jungle with a private whirlpool on a panoramic balcony, this is your place. Not to mention a cosy living room with a glass floor above the water to spot caiman alligators passing below. From your hammock, you might spot pre-historic hoatzins, huge arapaima fish, and even giant otters on the hunt for piranhas.

After taking a half-hour flight from Quito. Napo Wildlife Centre sits by Anangu Lagoon, a couple of hours by canoe from Coca/San Francisco de Orellana. You can explore the virgin forest on guided hikes, take canoe-rides and visits to a nearby parrot clay lick. For bird-watchers, there is a watchtower. For a bit of culture visits to an indigenous kichwa community. Ecuador is one of the most accessible places to visit the Amazon and one of the most diverse. You could easily combine this with a Galapagos cruise.

French artist projects faces of Amazon tribe onto rainforest canopy

Deforestation continues to sweep through the Amazon rainforest. A 2016 project by French street artist Philippe Echaroux aimed to draw attention to the issue through art. While staying with the indigenous Suruí tribe in Brazil, Echaroux photographed the local people and projected their images up onto the rainforest canopy at night creating staggeringly beautiful images in the trees.

The idea behind the project was highlighting the deep connection between the rainforest and the people that live there. Their existence relies on the forest, so it stresses the importance of preserving the region. The work was creating in collaboration with the tribe’s chief Almir Suri Narayamoga who is also working with the Brazilian government to replant this area of the Amazon.

Late last year, Echaroux displayed his photography at the Taglialatella Gallery in Paris. Unfortunately, the exhibition is now over, but the work can still be seen on his website or Facebook page.

4caee7b4e9597cdab8a7faf8c1f59c63 Philippe-Echaroux-Amazon-Photography-2 (1) Philippe-Echaroux-Amazon-Photography-3 Philippe-Echaroux-Amazon-Photography-4 Philippe-Echaroux-Amazon-Photography-5 Philippe-Echaroux-Amazon-Photography-6 (1) Philippe-Echaroux-Amazon-Photography-6 Philippe-Echaroux-Amazon-Photography-7 Philippe-Echaroux-Amazon-Photography-8 work

Première Mondiale: du Street Art au coeur de la Forêt Amazonienne – World First Street Art in the Rainforest. from pays-imaginaire.fr on Vimeo.

Photos by Philippe Echaroux

Want to visit the Amazon rainforest? Get in touch with our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans.

This man has been living alone in the Amazon for over 20 years

Imagine that all of your friends, family and anyone you have ever known have been massacred. No other speaks your language or practices the same customs. This is the life of one man who has lived in the Amazon alone for the past 20 years.

Very little is known about him. It’s guessed that his tribe were slaughtered by cattle ranchers who cut down the rainforest close to their homes. Although some contact has been made to try and help him, he is unsurprisingly scared of outsiders. So he survives in constant fear of human encounters.

Government officials have known about the man’s existence for many years. Specialists uncontacted tribes managed to trace his hut and discovered a small garden planted with corn and manioc. Inside they discovered a deep hole, something which has been found in all of the man’s shelters leading to him being nicknamed ‘the man of the hole’.

Though intentions of those trying to contact the man were good, encounters have often been tense and ended in anger. One agent who got to close was shot with an arrow. Whenever he feels he space is being encroached upon, which was often the case with loggers and ranchers in the past, the lone man moves on, finding shelter in a new part of the rainforest.

Having lived his entire life in the forest, he has all the skills to feed and provide shelter for himself. Some experts have said the markings he leaves on trees indicate a spiritual life, perhaps helping him manage psychologically with the extreme solitude and isolation.

In more recent years, the Brazilian government has learnt from the past tragedies that occurred when contacting tribes. They have been many attempts to assimilate people into modern life and ended in communities being wiped out by disease. Today, the government takes a policy of ‘no contact’ to the last remaining communities who inhabit the rainforests.

The ‘man of the hole’ has 31 square miles of protected land that is not supposed to be encroached. It is somewhat ironic that it is state -of-the-art satellite technology that will ensure this man’s primitive way of life is no disturbed and his lands are no encroached upon.

To visit the Amazon, call one of our specialists on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here. You can also find suggest tours of Brazil here.

9 beautiful exotic birds from Latin America

The thousands of species and sub-species of birds and the high concentration of endemics in Latin America makes it one of the best continents in the world for bird watching. Here are nine of the most spectacular:

Quetzal

Flickr: lgb06

Flickr: lgb06

These shy colourful birds are often considered one of the world’s most beautiful. Part of the trogon family of birds, they are several sub-species found throughout South and Central America. Those who are interested in birding will certainly have heard of the resplendent quetzal, found in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala (who even have the image of a quetzal on their flag). Other than the vibrant colours, the resplendent quetzal’s most prominent feature is their long tail plumes.

Lear’s macaw

Flickr: Joao Quental

Flickr: Joao Quental

Also known as the indigo macaw, this parrot is best known for its brightly colour plumage. Found through the Amazonian region of Brazil, the Lear’s macaw can reach up to 75 cms, almost a kilo in weight and can live up to 50 years.

Keel-billed toucan

This iconic bird will be the most familiar, even to those who take little interest in birding. While there are several species of toucan, the keel-billed toucan’s brightly coloured bill make it the most spectacular. Though the large bill may look cumbersome, it’s actually hollow and extremely light making it easy to collect their diet of fruit and eggs.  They are commonly found in Panama and Costa Rica.

Andean cock-of-the-rock

Found in the misty cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes, the bright orange coloured cock-of-the-rock display a very prominent fan-shaped crest. The males gather in groups to create noisy displays in the hope of attracting a female. One of the best spots to see the cock-of-the-rock is in Peru’s Manu region.

Andean condor

Watching the condors glide above and below you in the Colca Canyon is one of South America’s most amazing experiences. It’s an impressive size, with a wingspan of over 3.3 metres. This black new world vulture is a scavenger feeding on the carcasses of dead cattle or deer. Interestingly, the Andean condor is one of the world’s longest living birds reaching over 70 years.

Inca tern

The Inca tern is a seabird that lives along the Pacific coast of Latin America, primarily Peru and Chile, although it can occasionally be found in Ecuador. It’s most distinctive feature is the white moustache and red-orange coloured feet and beak. It’s one of the larger species of terns reaching around 40 cms.

Capped heron

The capped heron is found throughout the rivers, lakes and mangroves of Latin America from Bolivia to Suriname. This almost all-white heron features a black cap and blue facial features and bill. It mainly feeds on frogs, fish and insects which it captures using a slow walking technique.

Waved albatross

Also known as the Galapagos albatross, these large birds have a wingspan ranging from 2.2-2.5 metres. During mating season, usually May, the entire population of waved albatross descend upon Espanola Island in the Galapagos archipelago. Their unique courtship ritual evolves plenty of in bill-circling, sky-pointing, drunken swagger and bill-clapping. The rest of the time they spend along the coast of Peru and Ecuador and live to 45 years.

Curl-crested aracari

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Flickr: Heather Paul

One of the lesser-known toucan species, the curl-crested aracari can be found along the south-western section of the Amazon basin, the Tambopata National Reserve, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park and the Cristalino State Park. It’s one of the most colourful of the smaller toucan species and one of only three to have red feathers on the nape and shoulders.

To begin organising your birding tour of Latin America, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, send us a message here.

Here are the 10 best Amazon lodges in South America

With so many Amazon lodges, decided on which to visit can be confusing. With over 30-years’ experience in creating and planning tours to the continent, we’ve had experience in nearly all of them. Here’s the pick of the best Amazon lodges, taking into account level of comfort, experience of naturalist and local guides, itinerary, accessibility and region.

Cristalino Jungle Lodge, Alta Floresta, Brazil

lodge_hotel_amazon

Let’s start with one of the most luxurious lodges. Located in the southern Brazilian region of the Amazon, the Cristalino is located in a private natural heritage reserve adjacent to the 456,800 acre Cristalino State Park. The surrounding area is rich in over 580 species of bird, many butterfly species, capaybaras, anteaters, river otters and many varieties of monkeys.

Uakari Floating Lodge, Tefe, Brazil

uacari_lodge_brazil

To visit the Uakari Floating Lodge you must first take a flight to Tefe, deep in the Amazon. This flooded region of the Amazon is a wildlife lovers’ dream and scientists come from all over the world to study the species. It was constructed to enable scientists and tourists to explore the millon hectare reserve with minimal impact of the environment. Fresh water dolphins, alligators, opossums and monkeys among others can all be spotted from the lodge.

Napo Wildlife Lodge, Coca, Ecuador

Napo_wildlife_centre

One of our favourite lodges in the whole Amazon, the Napo Wildlife Lodge is accessed by canoe from the jungle town of Coca. The 10 comfortable cabanas with private balconies overlooking the Napo River make an excellent base for wildlife excursions including parrot licks, canoe rides and nocturnal treks.

Anavilhanas Lodge, Manaus, Brazil

anvilhanas_lodge_brazil

Another luxury lodge, located on an archipelago of 400 islands on the Rio Negro River near to Manaus. Each island is adorned with thick rainforest and seasonal river beaches. The lodge is small with just 16 cabins, all of which are beautifully decorated with local arts and crafts. There is no shortage of wildlife including countless birds, tree-dwelling animals and aquatic life, including the pink river dolphin.

Tambopata Research Center, Manu, Peru

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The Tambopata Research Center is a comfortable 18-bedroom lodge situated by one of the world’s largest Macaw Clay licks on the uninhabited frontier of the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. It was established to aid the protection of these magnificent birds and has a long-term research project to ensure the survival of their populations.

Juma Lodge, Manaus, Brazil

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Looking for something a little more authentic? This rustic lodge was carefully planned and built from local sustainable wood and palm leaves, so you would be forgiven for thinking this was an indigenous village. Each of the 23 simple but comfortable private bungalows sit on stilts overlooking Juma Lake.

Kapawi, Coca, Ecuador

kapawi_lodge_ecuador

A community project run by the Achuar tribe, this lodge gives visitors a particularly good insight into local life. With the aim of protecting the nature reserve that surrounds the lodge, it’s an excellent spot for observing monkeys, birds, butterflies, fresh water dolphins and sloths. The lodges 20 bungalows may not be luxurious, but they are comfortable enough and made from local materials. The lodge has won a number of conservation awards.

Manu Wildlife Centre, Manu, Peru

Luxury_amazon_lodge

Manu Wildlife Centre consists of 22 double bungalows built in the style of, and using the same materials as, the local Machiguenga indigenous communities. Local wood, bamboo and palm fronds for roofing are used. It is owned by Expediciones Manu, and the Peru Verde Conservation Group, a non-profit, non-government organization involved in rainforest conservation projects.

Sani, Coca, Ecuador

Sani_Amazon_Lodge

This eco-lodge establish and operated by the indigenous Sani tribe helps protect vast swathes of the surrounding pristine rainforest. Located between the Cuyabeño Reserve and Yasuni National Park, the area is teeming with wildlife including giant armadillo, giant anteater, woolly monkey, Amazonian manatee and the magnificent harpy eagle.

Reserva Amazonica, Puerto Madonado, Peru

tour_amazon_reserva_lodge

Exotic yet accessible, Reserva Amazónica Lodge is situated in a private reserve, surrounded by a vast jungle canopy. Inspired by native Amazon design 35 private thatched roof cabañas combine natural materials with contemporary amenities. Travelling to Tambopata National Reserve offers a rare opportunity to discover a lively biodiversity of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and trees.

To start planning your tour of the Amazon, get in touch with us today.

Evoke a bygone era of travel on board the luxury Anakonda Amazon cruise

Anakonda Amazon Cruises Short video from Anakonda Amazon Cruises on Vimeo.

Most people don’t know this, but Ecuadorian Amazon region is the one of the easiest and accessible to reach. A forty-five-minute flight from the capital Quito brings you to the steamy port town of Coca. From where several excellent lodges are just a canoe ride away.  However, one of the most immerseive ways to see the Amazon is by boat. Nothing quite evokes that feeling of a bygone era of travel that cruising through the Amazon and on board the Anakonda you can do it in serious luxury.

The Anakonda is the only luxury ship cruising the waterways of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Built for comfortable adventure cruising, the suites are equipped with modern facilities and panoramic windows from which guests can enjoy extraordinary views of the sunrise and sunset.  Other features on board include an observation deck, outdoor Jacuzzi, al fresco lounge and an excellent dining room offering fine cuisine and a variety of wine.

You won’t be spending all your time on board – much of the time will be spent on land exploring the rainforest. Venture out on dug-out canoes through the flooded forest and smaller tributaries, hike the trails, and meet and interact with the region’s 15 local communities. For keen birdwatchers there are over 500 species to discover. Guests can also enjoy close encounters with tapirs, macaws, giant ottters, sloths, monkeys, piranhas and of course, anacondas which inspired the name of the boat.

To book the Anakonda, or any tour of the Amazon, get in touch with us today.

Adventure To The Cristalino Jungle Lodge

David Horwell

Having spent a week in the biggest city in South America, São Paulo, I took a flight to Alta Floresta one of the least populated places in the World. Here in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state, part of the Amazon, is home to cattle ranchers and folk living on the edge of the civilized world. The temperature on arrival was 37°C. I was shocked at the few pockets of trees left as we flew low over what was once primary rain forest. From the plane I saw plumes of smoke from the burning vegetation. The high temperatures are the result of land unprotected by trees, (the current drought over much of Brazil also exacerbated by deforestation).

Cristalino River

Happily not all is doom and gloom, after an hour in a car on a bumpy dirt road we came to the river Telespires, deeply verdant forest was evident all around. I took a boat up river to the Cristalino river that flows through a private reserve 7,000 hectares of protected forest. This is thanks to the dream of Vitória Da Riva Carvalho and her husband who came here when Alta Floresta was just a frontier hamlet 25 years ago.

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She had a vision of creating a way of making a living by protecting the natural environment and in 1992 Cristalino Lodge was born. Vitória’s first priority was to stop the forest being destroyed, and then achieve a sustainable income derived from tourism. They created the first private natural reserve in Mato Grosso in 1997 and two years later the Cristalino Ecological Foundation with both tourism, education and scientific research as key activities. The reserve is now bigger than the size of Manhattan island.

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Only accessible by boat the lodge is surrounded by tropical forest making it a true jungle haven, Amazon and ringed kingfishers showed-off as I was paddled in. Once settled into my smart bungalow and refreshed with a tropical juice, it was off into the forest with my guide Fito. The reserve is known for rich diversity of birds and butterflies – more than 550 bird species and at least 2,000 butterfly species – but also for its varied jungle of primary rainforest and aquatic habitats.

Butterfly

Fito showed me the extensive trail system and a clean river perfect for canoeing and swimming. The tannin-rich black-water means mosquitoes are few. The eco-friendly bungalows follow sustainable practices, built on already disturbed land using local materials, ventilated screens instead of air-conditioning. Solar power is used for much of the energy. Waste water is biologically treated with permaculture.

Cristalino

The gardens are planted with native plants. Tour groups are kept to a maximum of 8 per guide. Despite the eco-credentials comfort is not sacrificed. The cuisine is traditional Brazilian fare cooked in a wood stove, dinners are lit by candles and plenty of organic fruit and vegetables, much grown in their own organic garden. The inside and ‘al fresco’ showers were powerful and among the best I’ve had in all Brazil. Cristalino ticks all the boxes.

Cristalino

At dawn Fito took me to one of the two 50m towers that soar above the forest canopy. The sight of the mists evaporating over the carpet of green will stay with me forever. We scanned for the elusive harpy eagle but made do with scarlet macaws, white-bellied parrots, laughing falcon, white-throated toucans, chestnut wood-peckers, hook-billed kites to name but a few.

canopy tower

On the way we stopped at trees covered in spikes and saw one of the few remaining giant Brazil nut trees.

Brazil nut tree

After lunch and a siesta we took a canoe ride to observe the birds of the river: Cocoi heron, green ibis, anhingas (snake-bird), neotropic cormorants, white-banded swallows, great jacamar plus bats sleeping under a branch and white-whiskered spider monkeys playing in the trees.

caiman

We made many sorties at dawn and dusk when creatures are most active, catching up on sleep after lunch. We surprised many a caiman alligator sunning itself on the banks of the river, and river turtles on rocks and branches poking up through the water. I was surprised to see large mammals like deer, which show the forest is healthy.

Peccaries

The biggest shock was when Fito signalled for us to go up to a hide, rather like a kid’s tree-house, and minutes later a troop of white-lipped peccaries surrounded us. First a dozen or so of these noisy grunting boars arrived and wallowed in the mud. Soon there must have been over a hundred or so including families with babies. For a good half an hour we watched these pungent smelly pigs cavort, and then the leader made an eerie clicking sound and they disappeared just as quickly as they had arrived.

Tapir

On my return to the lodge I had picked up a souvenir, a tick, but the attentive staff gave me special tweezers to remove the offending parasite. Just when I thought I’d had the last mammalian encounter on the afternoon’s boat ride, our boatman turned the canoe round and we were face to face with a tapir having a refreshing soak at the river’s edge.

Cristalino

My final exploration was on a hill made of ancient granite that poked up above the forest, it felt like Conan Doyle’s Lost World with strange multi-coloured trees, and parts are so steep a rope is provided as a hand rail. The hiker is rewarded with a great view from a natural vantage point. It was a special finale to a wonderful few days far from the madding crowd. Spider monkeys came to see me off; I never did see the harpy though so that’s a good reason to go back one day.

David Horwell

All photos © David Horwell. Please do not use without the express consent of Select Latin America.

18 bird species you won’t find anywhere but the Galapagos

Galapagos is a bird-watchers paradise. From the misty slopes of the Andes, the tropical coast, mighty Amazon and Galapagos archipelago there are over 1,663 recorded species of bird, 44 of which are endemic. Here’s a list of just 18 of those endemic to the Galapagos.

1. Galapagos Penguin
Spheniscus mendiculus

Galapagos PenguinCharles Pence/Flickr

2. Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata

Waved Albatross Steven Bedard/Flickr

3. Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia

Dark-rumped PetrelVince Smith/Flickr

4. Flightless Cormorant Phalacrocorax harrisi

flightess cormorantBrian Gratwicke/Flickr

5. Lava Heron Butorides sundevalli

Lava heronDerek Keats/Flickr

6. Lava Gull Leucophaeus fuliginosus

lava gull 2alh1/Flickr

7. Swallow-tailed Gull Creagrus furcatus

Swallow Tailed Gullputneymark/Flickr

8. Galapagos Dove Zenaida galapagoensis

Galapagos DoveAnne Dirkse/Flickr

9. Galapagos Flycatcher Myiarchus magnirostris

Galapagos FlycatcherKathy Drouin/Flickr

10. Hood Mockingbird Nesomimus macdonaldi

Hood MockingbirdAnne Haase/Flickr

11. Large Ground Finch Geospiza magnirostris

Large Ground FinchA.Davey/Flickr

12. Medium Ground Finch Geospiza fortis

Medium Ground Finchputneymark/Flickr

13. Small Ground Finch Geospiza fuliginosa

Small Ground Finchputneymark/Flickr

14. Common Cactus Finch Geospiza scandens

Common Cactus FinchBen Tavener/Flickr

15. Large Cactus Finch Geospiza conirostris

Large Cactus Ground Finchputneymark/Flickr

16. Small Tree-Finch Camarhynchus parvulus

Small Ground FinchMike Comber/Flickr

17. Galapagos Hawk Buteo galapagoensis

Galapagos HawkPaul Krawczuk/Flickr

18. Galapagos Mockingbird Nesomimus parvulus

Galapagos Mockingbirdputneymark/Flickr

To begin your bird watching tour of Ecuador, get in touch with us.

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