An Amazonian Jungle Adventure
Featured destinations: Brazil
Published 20 October 2016
Floating along the Amazon River, drifting further away from civilization and deeper into the tangled verdant jungle, felt much like entering a David Attenborough documentary. The only tweets surrounding us were those from the exotic birds in the trees, whose melodies coexisted with the distant echoes of the buzzing cicadas. This was the beginning of our five-day jungle trek into the Amazon.
Jungle huts by the Amazon image: Sophie Cole
Journey into the jungle
To get here we had travelled by boat, by jeep, by foot and now we were on our last leg into the jungle, travelling by canoe. Meandering through the labyrinth of waterways, ducking underneath the overhanging trees and taking in the sheer beauty of our natural surroundings, it felt like entering a whole new world (cliché as it sounds). The only noise breaking the jungle silences were harmonic tunes of exotic creatures, hidden in towering trees. The sun shining down on us, this was pretty much heaven.
Trees by the riverside image: Sophie Cole
And then we arrived, at our jungle paradise. Jungle huts planted on the shore of the river. No neighbours in sight. Our tight-knit group, guides and cooks were the only inhabitants. After having acclimatized with our new jungle home, we were back in the canoe and soaring along the Amazon River once again, this time for a spot of piranha fishing. An unusual pastime agreed, but in the Amazon piranhas are a source of income for fishermen who sell these carnivorous fish at local markets.
Caiman, Amazon River
Our first evening in the jungle was spent caiman catching. After dinner we were once again travelling along the river by canoe, this time gliding our way through the night sky. The only sources of light were the twinkling stars and the glistening moon, shining high above us. Parked up amongst jungle reeds close to the land, our guide, Shane - a super cool, modern-day Tarzan - skilfully managed to catch a caiman using just his bare hands. His technique: shine a torch into the eyes of the young caiman hypnotising the croc, raise above it like a cobra eyeing up its prey and pounce on the reptile like a wild, Amazon jaguar. A chaotic frenzy of splashes and a few moments later, the caiman was in the canoe. After some snaps (as in photographs, thankfully our limbs were spared!) the caiman was released, navigating its way back into the darkness of the Amazon night.
Sloth, Amazon River
The following day sloths were on the agenda. Or lazy monkeys, as the Amazonians like to call them. Finding a sloth in the deep river jungle proved to be quite the mission. Hidden high in the tall trees, the sloths are well camouflaged and their slow movements attract little attention from predators. Just when we were starting to lose all hope, Shane pointed high above, where a mother sloth and her baby were silently snoozing. Their claws are so long and sharp, and their grip so strong – it was a very special experience seeing these beautiful animals up close. Their movements adorably slow; when they turn their head and eventually look at you straight in the eye, it feels very special.
Swimming in the Amazon image: Sophie Cole
Swimming in the Amazon River at sunset
Having previously watched the movies Anaconda and Piranha, the thought of diving headfirst into the Amazon River seemed like the most ludicrous idea on the planet. Yet when push came to shove, looking down at the serene, peacefully flowing river with a stunning sunset unfolding before our eyes, these distant thoughts floated away and we were diving in. No one else in sight; just us, nature and the birds flying above. Pure bliss. Swimming in the Amazon River felt so natural that later into the trip, in between jungle hikes, we often found ourselves taking a quick, spontaneous dip in the surprisingly warm waters.
Amazon jungle campfire image: Sophie Cole
Sleeping in the Amazon jungle
Our night sleeping in the Amazon jungle was a magical one. Rather than our cosy jungle huts we had chosen to spend the night deeper in the jungle, sleeping in simple hammocks. On arriving at the new camp, the boys disappeared to collect firewood whilst my sister and I were on caipirinha duty. As we concocted homemade Brazilian cocktails (with a few extra glugs of cachaça) the boys roasted a chicken on the barbecue. This was true jungle living. Over dinner and a roaring campfire, Shane shared travel stories of past tours and his life growing up in his hometown, Guyana. A few caipirinhas later, we clambered into our hammocks. Lulled asleep listening to night-time jungle melodies, this felt like my happy place. Drifting in and out of the land of slumber, awakening in the night to the music of distant animals, it was surprisingly peaceful. Come morning, our alarm clock was the echoes of the howler monkeys. Their cacophony of cries reminded us we had awoken in the depths of the Amazon jungle.
Amazonian River dolphin
Swimming with pink dolphins
Our final jungle adventures included dancing with an Amazonian tribe and swimming with pink dolphins. Yes, you read right, pink dolphins really do exist. Having weaved our way out of the jungle, we made a slight detour to a desolate island where an Amazonian tribe dressed in traditional garments were awaiting our arrival. Our small group were joined with a number of others and we witnessed the authentic tribal dance on a beach. By the end of the dance we were all up on our feet, led by the proud, graceful Amazonian men who twirled us around the large beach shack. If that wasn’t the way to leave the jungle on a high, we were later taken to a small section of the river cornered off for dolphin swimming. Here wild, pink dolphins were coaxed with fish and were extremely inquisitive swimming right up to us, occasionally surfacing the water revealing a flash of baby pink. A magical end to an extraordinary adventure.Amazon sunset image: Sophie Cole
Exploring the Amazonian jungle was a mythical experience. It was the best five days of my life. From sleeping in the jungle to swimming in the Amazon River at sunset, these special memories will stick with me forever. If you are an adventurous soul or a nature lover, you are sure to fall head over heels for a journey into the Amazon, just like we did.
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