Brazil Amazon tours start and finish in Manaus, the largest city in the Amazonas, or the city of Santarem, located off the Amazon River. The Amazon Rainforest is synonymous with Brazil and not surprisingly, we have a fine selection of Brazil Amazon tours to take you there, aboard classically-designed riverboats. 60% of the Amazon Rainforest is to be found within the borders of Brazil, making it an ideal destination for an Amazon River cruise. View our Amazon riverboats below.
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The Beauty of Brazil
Protecting the Brazilian Amazon is crucial to preserving the ethnological and biological integrity of the whole Amazon jungle. Arguably, no other place is more critical for human survival than the Amazon Rainforest. Almost the size of the continental United States, the Amazon Basin harbors the largest remaining tropical forest on our planet, and, within that harbors nearly one-third of the planet's biodiversity; discharges one-fourth of the planet's freshwater; and plays a key role in global carbon cycles and climate. Moreover, their are numerous indigenous cultures and languages within the rainforest, some of which are still 'uncontacted', that hold centuries of medicinal and botanical wisdom.
Luckily, you can comfortably tour this area by expedition riverboat. Manaus is the starting point for most Amazon cruises in Brazil. Itineraries range from 2 to 10 days in length, taking in such highlights as the Lago Janauari Ecological Park, the Anavilhanas Archipelago, the Jaú National Park, and the famous Meeting of the Waters. Further downstream is the city of Santarem, which is another tourist hub on the Amazon River, with cruise itineraries beginning and ending here.
Manaus is the capital and largest city of the state of Amazonas, in Brazil, situated at the confluence of the rivers Negro and Solimões, 1,936 kilometers (1,203 miles) from the federal capital, Brasília, and serves as a port for the entire region. It is the largest metropolitan area in Northern Brazil, being home to over two million inhabitants, and the eighth largest city in Brazil.
Manaus has quite a history. It was a small river village during the 1600's, populated mainly by indigenous tribes. Around 1669, because of its strategic presence on two major rivers, Portugal established a small fort in the town. Manaus grew steadily, increasing in importance as a port and, in 1850, it was named the capital of the Amazonas state.
Toward the end of the 19th century, as with Iquitos in Peru, fortune smiled on Manaus. Rubber trees grow throughout the region and with the introduction of rubber vulcanization for use in the growing automobile industry, the city prospered with the so called Rubber Boom, along with the rubber barons who settled there. Much of the significant infrastructure in the town was built by wealthy families who tried to convert the town into the Paris of the tropics. The most obvious vestige of this period is the Renaissance-style opera house in the center of the city.
Recently, Manaus has again emerged as an important commercial center. It continues to be the main port serving the Amazon region; it is also a duty-free zone and the center for travel, including our rainforest cruises, into the Amazon. As such, the Porto Flutuante (floating docks), an ingenious structure that rises and falls with the greatly fluctuating river level, are a fantastic sight; riverboats of all colors, shapes and sizes are a hive of activity, with some river dwellers travelling up to five days just to buy supplies there.
If you are heading to Manaus to board one of our Amazon riverboat cruises, good news! Manaus is the most readily-accessible city in the Amazon. Most European travelers arrive in Manaus via connecting flights from São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. There are also direct flights from Miami and Atlanta, ideal for North American visitors. For those already in Brazil there are countless domestic flights arriving from most of the largest cities.
Founded in 2000, the core area of the Central Amazon Ecological Corridor is the World Heritage listed Central Amazon Biosphere Reserve. The reserve was formed by joining several smaller protected areas together, including Jau National Park, Mamirauá Reserve, Amanã Reserve, and the Anavilhanas Reserve to protect 20,859,987 ha of very diverse habitat.
The Central Amazon Ecological Corridor covers the most pristine habitat in the Amazon Jungle, the watershed of the Rio Negro. The Brazilian Institute for the Environment (IBAMA) joined the smaller reserves together to offer more protection for the flora and fauna, but also for scientific research. The area is a constantly changing mosaic of habitats, and it enables researchers to study the large scale effects of habitat change on surrounding biodiversity.
The area of the corridor towards the lower Rio Negro is called the Anavilhanas Ecological Reserve. The reserve contains flooded forest, high forest, sandy soil shrub land, and also flooded shrub land. Here you can find a rich diversity of wildlife, including a high number of animals that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.
Animals of the Anavilhanas Reserve
The reserve protects the habitat of some of the most iconic species in all of Amazonia, including the threatened Amazon Manatee, jaguar; the world’s largest freshwater fish, the pirarucu; harpy eagles, giant river otters, caiman, black spider monkeys, and giant armadillos. The reserve also contains pink river dolphins, river otters, macaw parrots, toucans, among many others.
For bird watchers, 60% of the birds observed in the Central Amazon have been seen in this section of the Reserve. Records indicate there are around 25 species of amphibians and 42 species of reptiles, which is a comparatively small number for the Amazon. This is thought to be due to the flooded habitat, but black caiman and the South American river turtle are abundant.
There is a high diversity of wildlife found in the reserve and of the Amazon’s 53 scientific families, only 13 were not found in the Anavilhanas
Santarém, known as the 'Pearl of the Tapajós', is a city in the state of Pará located at the confluence of the Tapajós and the Amazon River. It is named after the Portuguese city, and was once home to the indigenous Tapajós - after which the river is named - who controlled a large, agricultural chiefdom that flourished before the arrival of Europeans.
The city has some 350,000 inhabitants and is an important regional market center in Lower Amazonia, located midway between the larger cities of Belém and Manaus, with an economy based on agriculture (especially soy), cattle-farming and mining. Tourism is another important activity in the region, with daily flights to Manaus and Belem; and the comfort class cruise ship the Amazon Dream operates out of here.
Like Manaus, Santarem features a fascinating 'meeting of the waters' whereby the Amazon River's milky-colored water, carrying sediment from the Andes in the East, runs side by side with the water of the Tapajós River, which is warmer and deep-blue in color, without mixing.
Half an hour's drive away is the village of Alter do Chão, located on the Tapajós River. The town is located at the entrance to a huge lagoon, Lago Verde, home to a myriad of animals explorable by canoe or stand-up paddle board. It is best known for its nearby picturesque white-sand island, known as Ilha do Amor (the Island of Love), which is especially striking in low water season from August to December.
Other eco-tourism highlights within striking distance of Santarem are the Maica Lake, a natural refuge connected to a host of other lakes and channels, rich in Amazonian flora and fauna and an important nursery for hundreds of species, as well as the Tapajoara Reserve and Tapajos National Park, home to a number of vibrant indigenous, riverside communities.
The Amazon Dream
The Amazon Dream is an exceptional, and yet traditional, Brazilian riverboat affording passengers the chance to follow in the footsteps of some of the great Amazonian explorers, while enjoying all the comfort and hospitality they could ask for. This is the only riverboat that departs from Santarem.