Amazing Amazon Tour with members of Events & Adventures
An Amazon tour is not something the average American gets to experience firsthand, but visiting the rainforest is something that has always been beyond my bucket list. How awesome would it be to visit one of the most remote and spectacular places in the world? But to actually do it…um, no thank you. I wouldn’t say I’m a girly girl, but I really don’t like bugs. I mean I really Don’t. Like. Bugs. But as event manager with Events & Adventures, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel across the country and around the world with the club and its members, and I can tell you Events & Adventures does travel right. So when I saw an Amazon tour was being planned my curiosity was immediately piqued. We reserved the entire Amazon Clipper Premium boat, and Erik’s Adventures customized an eight day Amazon river trip just for us. I had to ask myself, “When was I going to get this opportunity again?”
When I told my family and friends I was going on a trip to the Amazon River they either laughed or looked at me dumbfounded—but I am so glad I did it! The Amazon Clipper was lovely. Our cabins were super clean and even had air conditioning, and the staffed visited two or three times a day to make the bed and tidy the room. Even though I brought PB&J in case the food was weird (don’t judge), the food was amazing. While we enjoyed all kinds of meat, fish, veggies and fruit from the area, the chefs prepared the meals with Western tastes in mind. Sufficed to say, I never opened the peanut butter or jelly, and I ended up giving them to the head chef before we left. I swear I’d not eaten that much the entire month before. I definitely packed on a few pounds from the yummy and seemingly never-ending food we were so graciously served during our trip.
So now that I felt assured my creature comforts were not going to be uncomfortable, I felt safe enough to check out my surroundings. That’s when it really occurred to me—I was actually on a boat in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, and it was spectacular! Did you know that every 100 km there is a different ecosystem? That means there are different species of trees and plant life, as well as different inhabitants and cultures, throughout the rainforest. We traversed the Amazon River and then explored one of its main tributaries, the Rio Negro. We took ‘canoes’ (a 16-seat long boat with an engine) every dawn and after sunset from the boat to tour smaller tributaries and explore the shorelines. We saw variety of birds, snakes, and reptiles (like gator relative the caiman) on every ride. We even had flying fish land in our canoes—usually after ricocheting off someone’s leg or chest!
I was thrilled that all my insect repellent purchases were rarely needed. A little bug spray and we were fine. Back home in Texas seemed to have more mosquitos than we encountered on our Amazon tour. During the trip, we drank bottled water and showered in filtered river water. We were advised to get some vaccines prior to the trip. The hepatitis A vaccine was a good idea, but I’d probably skip the malaria, typhoid and yellow fever vaccines if I did it again. We walked through the rainforest with a guide that carried a machete to clear the path that is covered with overgrowth in days. The naturalists showed us how the trees release rubber, milk and sap and how the native people remove the cyanide from the plant to use the fibrous root. They even showed us how to protect ourselves from a jaguar and how to build a fire in an area that is always wet.
One day we planned to visit the ‘ruins’. I was very excited because I love ancient history and super old stuff in general. Well, these ruins were from the rubber baron era of the early 1900s, so they were not quite ancient as it turns out. But the way the jungle has consumed them you’d think these ruins were at least 500 years old. Besides the ruins, there are national parks that are world heritage sites. These sites have the highest level of environmental protection in the world and are rarely visited except by scientists. Visitors on an Amazon tour must leave anything that could be hunting or fishing gear with the park rangers upon entering (which is by boat). These rangers work a month at a time since it takes eight to nine hours by speedboat just to get there. We kept these hard working rangers entertained by trying to make conversation, but they spoke no English and we spoke almost no Portuguese. So we just gave them candy!
We visited areas that are almost never encountered by humans. We couldn’t even leave our canoes in the park, it was that pristine. The sunsets over the Rio Negro (so named because the slow moving water contained so much decomposing vegetation it is almost black) were astounding. And the stars? WOW. I had no idea the southern hemisphere has different constellations. They were so bright; I wish they would have come out better in our photos. Even the occasional downpour in the rainforest was impressive. On our first night, I watched one for a few minutes from the comfort of the partially enclosed bar. It was just me and Mother Nature at four in the morning. One surprising highlight was when we met the most elusive and probably ugliest water mammal ever, the fresh water pink dolphin. There is a spot they are known to frequent because they are fed fish they don’t have to hunt. But belly rubs were out of the question—a quick touch is all they would accept. Even the amount of food and how often they are fed by humans is strictly controlled to ensure preservation.
Our Amazon tour brought us as close to a truly native people as you will ever be. Meeting a tribe and watching some of their ceremonial dances was incredible. They were a very private people, but they like to have visitors so they can share their heritage and customs. If they are accepting visitors, two white flags are hung by the river bank. If not, they hang black ones. The truly live in large huts made of the trees in the area. All the furniture is handmade too; their pots and cooking tools are made of metal. No plastic, no glass. Our naturalists translated for us and we even got to participate in one of the dances. We bought crafts and jewelry they hand make; the blow dart guns were a huge favorite. They were so friendly and the kids amazed by our clothes…and our height.
For our last travel day on the Amazon tour we had one final dawn canoe ride. We took a small tributary from the Amazon to the Rio Negro. The trees were moving—and not moving because of wind. As we got closer we could hear a chirping, squeaking sound. Suddenly, we saw lots of little faces! The canoe drivers and guides opened their sacks and started pulling out dozens of overripe bananas. A few spider monkeys make a bee line for their treats. Once the others figure out that there really is a snack and it’s safe, they make their way onto the boats, too; over, under, across, however they can get to the fingers that are offering a sweet treat. We were inundated with 30 or 40 friendly little monkeys sitting on our shoulders, laps, even heads where they were enjoying the snacks we had to offer. Naturally, when the bananas were gone the spider monkeys made their way back to the trees.
I still can’t believe I went on this trip. Going as a member instead of staff was the best decision I could’ve made! It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, one everyone should try and I’m so glad I left my comfort zone (or at least thought I was going to) to take the chance to do something this amazing, astounding, spectacular…words really can’t do it justice. If anyone ever has this opportunity, take it—with both hands! I hope Events & Adventures offers this Amazon tour again so you can take advantage of it too! The staff and members of all the clubs from around the country will make sure it’s an experience you will never forget.
~ Jacque C., Events & Adventures Dallas