Many years ago Mamiraua was my first introduction to Brazil and I’ve been in love ever since.
Nothing I’ve done before or since has left such an impression as that journey.
Below are my original travel diary notes of my first impressions.
Tefe looks pretty relaxed after Manaus, or maybe it’s just the illusion of all the boats tied up in the afternoon sunshine. In any case we don’t really get time to find out as we’re sped away with eight others in a speedboat towards the isolated Mamiraua reserve. The hour and a half ride is amazing as we head further into the jungle. Finally you get a sense of the huge expanses of land where only a few small communities exist. It’s difficult to quite comprehend that there is no bigger town just over the horizon.
The cacophony of sounds is what hits you the first night. It may be the middle of nowhere but it sure aint silent. Hundreds of insects and frogs sing all night, while the caiman who swims lazily under the lodge occasionally startles you as he rolls directly under where you’re sleeping.
The highlight of our first day, after our walk through the forest with local guide Braga, has to be heading back to the lodge in the canoe. We get an unbelievably close view of the red-faced Uakari (which is endemic to Mamiraua) monkey, hanging off a tree right overhead. Really unusual to see one so close.
Spotting a sloth right at the top of a tree is even better- they really do move as if in slo-mo!
In the morning we take the canoe upriver to the little community of Sao Jose de Mamiraua and are shown round by Eleni and her hsuband. All the houses or built on stilts or ‘long legs’ so they don’t have to move in the flood season (while not all the local communities are flooded every year, this one is).43 people live in this small community, fishing, cropping some manioc and corn, some working on plantations further away. The one-room village school teaches 13 kids up to the 4th elementary grade, after which they have the option to go on to the school in the nearest ‘city’ of 5,000 people, Alvares, an hour away by boat.
On our night walk it’s the sound that’s the incredible thing. We don’t spot much apart from a tiny red and black striped snake, and a bullfrog, standing stock-still so as not to be seen. On the one hand I think ‘I can’t belive I’m walking through the Amazon rainforest at night’, and on the other, it seems quite natural. Strange how quickly we get accustomed to new surroundings.
And then the rains came. First though, we split into smaller groups to tackle a longer trail, about 5k. Spot loads of uakari (very beautiful if weird looking) and the most gorgeous bird, an acacari. Not quite a toucan, but a smaller relative. Black plummage, the brightest yellow and red belly and a large curved beak, striped black and white.
The afternoon turns into a bit of a washout. As we set out for the lake it starts raining and the storm intensifies the closer we get, the skies flashing with lightening. The mood darkens too, as half the group insist it’s not safe to be out on open water in the middle of an electrical storm. Maybe they’re right, but who doen’t come to the Amazon and expect to get a little wet. I’m enjoying being pelted by the warm Amazonian rain.