Just Back From… Brazil With David Nichols
Have you been before?
Yes I have, but this time I wanted to go deeper into the jungle.
If so… notable differences?
Absolutely. 3 or 4 days at a lodge close to Manaus is enough time for an enjoyable light jungle experience, but if you’re prepared to travel further away from the city there are some extra special experiences to be had: the forest is less disturbed and, with luck, you can see some great wildlife.
How did you get there?
I took the non-stop BA flight to Rio, which left London in -4c and got me to Rio in time for beer by the beach in Copacabana. It’s another 4 hours by air from Rio to Manaus, in the Amazon.
How long were you there?
I was on the Tucano boat for 6 nights (there is a 4-night option if you are short of time) and 4 nights at Uakari Floating Lodge in Mamirauá. I also spent a couple of nights in Manaus, time to explore the markets and see a concert in the Teatro Amazonas opera house.
The Tucano takes you way up the Rio Negro from Manaus, far beyond the jungle lodges – cruising the Anavilhanas Archipelago and continuing as far as the Jauperi river before returning to Manaus.
To reach Mamirauá Reserve, it’s another flight from Manaus to Tefé - the nearest town to Uakari Floating Lodge.
Which was your favourite…
The sun deck of the MY Tucano: it’s the perfect place to relax, read, spot dolphins, snooze, socialise and soak up the sheer beauty of the Rio Negro. The reflection of the stars twinkling in the still waters at night, with jungle noises all around, was unforgettable.
Miramar by Windsor, Rio de Janeiro. It’s well-managed with great staff and an excellent location, behind Copacabana beach and within easy walking distance of Ipanema. I was also very impressed by its restaurant (Sá).
Lago Mamirauá, from Uakari Floating Lodge: on the way to watch the sunset there we saw a troop of endangered red-faced white uakari monkeys, pink dolphins, black caiman and monkeys galore. There were hundreds of egrets and cormorants in the trees at the lake. With so much going on, no-one was concentrating on the sunset.
Appeals to which type of traveller?
Anyone who’s open to an adventure and not overly bothered about creature comforts: the luxury of this type of jungle trip is all in the experience. Uakari Lodge is part of a community project and the cabins are basic, but we were very well fed (and the food was great) and the overall wildlife experience was first rate. The MY Tucano is a beautiful small boat with just 9 cabins and finished with elegant solid woodwork throughout. Although cabins are compact they come with a/c and being on the river means you’re further away from the heat and humidity of the forest.
What did you pack?
I was very glad I took my own pair of 10 x 42 binoculars: they became indispensable. Take a pair each as the wildlife doesn’t wait around for people who share binoculars.
Any good food, drinks, restaurants or bars recommendations?
In Rio, I spent a Saturday afternoon bar and restaurant hopping in arty and bohemian Santa Teresa neighbourhood – on a weekend it’s a very enjoyable and alternative experience to being the beach districts.
Room for improvement?
The weather in the Amazon could have been better but I did pick one of the wettest months of the year (March) to go! There were plenty of breaks in the clouds and only once did rain stop play. The drier time to be in the Brazilian Amazon is June to November, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best time: you can go all year.
How would you sum up your trip in a sentence?
Brazil’s scale and variety is so impressive that having been there about a dozen times I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Any top tips?
The birds in the Amazon are always rewarding, but spotting mammals can be a real challenge as they have so many hiding places. For the best chances consider going to one of the remoter properties like Uakari Lodge or Cristalino Lodge, or a longer river cruise such as the MV Tucano.