One of the most unique environments on earth, the Anavilhanas Archipelago is a complex of over 400 islands in the middle of the Amazon in Brazil. Described by some as a “flooded forest”, these strait-like islands on the Rio Negro are covered by hundreds of lakes, channels and waterfalls, and in the rainy season can even be explored by sailing over the flooded roads from island to island.
If you’re planning on visiting the Amazon rainforest, you won’t want to miss the exotic flora and fauna that tenant this area: the Anavilhanas Archipelago in Brazil is guaranteed to offer something new and remarkable to see every single day, and a landscape you won’t see anywhere else.
Anavilhanas is the world’s second largest fluvial archipelago (the first is Mariuá, nearby), which describes the aquatic mosaic of floating vegetation. A “fluvial archipelago” is one that sits in the midst of a river or stream, and refers to the landmass and deposits created by the action of the water. Over hundreds of years, the landmasses were formed through the buildup of sediments and debris from the erosion of the Guyana Hills.
Due to the constant movement of the water, they are in a continuous process of change as sedimentation and erosion occur. With the different seasons, the islands appear to “move”, and look noticeably different, and offer different activities, based on the season.
These unique geological aspects and susceptibility to changing seasons lead to incredibly unique habitat. Thus, the Anavilhanas Archipelago hosts great biodiversity and distinct ecosystems that stand out amongst the already rare habitat of the Amazon rainforest. It is now considered part of the Central Amazon Conservation Complex, the largest protected area in the Amazon Basin at over 6 million hectares.
Many endangered species can be seen here, such as the harpy eagle, jaguar, pirarucu, river otters, giant armadillos, arapaima fish, manatee, black caiman, grey and pink river dolphins, and spider monkey. It’s home to a wide variety of endemic species, including the largest array of electric fish in the entire world (but don’t worry – it’s safe to swim!).
Bird watchers will love that 60% of the birds observed in the Central Amazon can be seen in this area, as well as 25 species of amphibians and 42 species of reptiles. It is also remarkable as the only place where you can see every species of alligator in the Amazon. Because of this, the Anavilhanas can only be visited through certain organizations that respect the conservationist rules focused on minimum human impact and educative visitation. If you have the opportunity to visit, take a canoe or skiff tour and glide through the “flooded forest”. The local guides are incredibly knowledgeable and know how to help you spot some of these animals.
How To Visit The Anavilhanas Archipelago
The Anavilhanas Archipelago is located between the country’s biggest Amazonian city of Manaus, and the smaller Novo Airão, in the Amazonas state in Brazil. It sits in the middle of the Rio Negro river, which meets the Amazon River just below Manaus. It can be reached in 4 hours by car from Manaus (many private transfers are available), spectacularly seen from above by floatplane, but is most conveniently visited as a stop on select Brazil Amazon river cruises.
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