Years ago, when I was wild and free, I took a trip through the Orinoco delta, deep in the tropical forests of Venezuela. It was just me (ok, and an ex-boyfriend), the driver of the boat and a guide. We slept in hammocks under mosquito nets, I bathed in the Orinoco river (and later saw a jaguar crossing), I ate a living worm (Marcelo still doesn’t believe me), and I drank quite a few caipirinhas (now you know it all!). I spoked about it for years, still to this date: 3 days that had a lifetime in-print on me.
Times have changed and I am dreaming of the day I will take my children to the Uakari Floating Lodge in the Mamiraua Reserve, deep in the Brazilian Amazon. Uakari is a role model in eco-tourism and sustainable development. This is not a trip to take with the little ones! This is the experience of a lifetime, to share with a teenager and give her or him another perspective on the world we live in.
I recently got a chance to chat with Gustavo Pereira Pinto, the operational manager at Pousada Uakari. This is what he explained to me:
Funded by the Brazilian government, Mamiraua joins the forces of the local community and of a research team based on site. The lodge is made of comfortable floating bungalows which rise and fall 12 meters per year with the changes in the water level. You can’t beat that for adapting to the environment. The rooftop of the cottages is made of recycled bottles, you eat mostly local produce. All the energy is solar-powered. And all the activities are linked to the stunning surroundings and the local communities. This is a dream place for anyone who has always wanted to experience the Amazon forest.
I guarantee that even the most screen-glued teenager will happily unplug there. The lodge organises lots of fascinating activities daily:
– Great hikes in the dry season, not too long (average 3h on flat terrain), they are amazing for wildlife viewing. Some of them were used by the researchers in their studies about the eco-system. The dry season is August to April.
– The lodge is amazing to visit all year long. From May to July when the Reserve gets flooded due to the snow melting in the Andes, it’s all about paddle canoe trails. At that time of the year, you can even get to the top of the trees because the water rises so much.
– There are regular photography courses, a hit with teenagers. Here are a few fun challenges that they run:
1. To get a good shot of the red-faced white Uakari monkey. This primates is very shy and moves quickly through the treatops.
2. To be quick enough to capture the Arapaima in the air. This fish that can measure up to 3 meters (118′) and 200 kilos (440lb!) jumps out of the water to breathe using its modified swim bladder. (and learn a lot by the same token!)
3. To overcome the vagaries of the light. This close to the Equator the sun rises and sets very quickly..
– Learning from the researchers is another whole learning curve for the curious minds. There are two research stations nearby and the lodge encourages interactions between guests and the engineers who make presentations at night of the study fields, usually about the animals.
– Spending a day in the life of a local community to learn about the history and habits of the indigenous populations.
– Spending a night in a treetop house in the jungle! Wouhou! Imagine the feeling of sleeping in the middle of the Amazon tropical forest! Can’t beat that for stories to share back at school.
TIPS: The floating bungalows are well appointed and very comfortable for a family (children from 12 years old). To get there, you fly into the international airport of Manaus (the largest in the Amazon), and then it’s an hour flight to the city of Tefe with daily flights from Azul Airlines. And then, you are picked up by boat to arrive at the lodge. Or you could take the 12-hour fast boat from Manaus to Tefe.
If any of you ever goes, will you please tell me all about it?
Ps: remember the Story of the Indian geek deep in the Amazon forest?