There’s plenty to see besides the England team in Manaus. Explore the Amazon’s wildlife on a jungle tour, cruise along the river tributaries or enjoy beach life Amazon style – then head back to civilisation with some opera .
The first rule of a trip to the rainforest is to book a tour from a certified tour operator. A good guide will know where to spot birds such as parrots, macaws and aquatic birds, as well as tamarins, squirrel monkeys, and perhaps a troop of howler monkeys. Try to include a night hike to spot nocturnal creatures such as tree frogs, giant crickets and potoo birds. On a budget trip, you’ll sleep in a hammock in local style dwellings, and eat simple meals such as beans or fish, rice and manioc. Bear in mind: conditions will be hot and damp, you will encounter disagreeable creatures such as stinging ants, mosquitoes (take malarial precautions) and black flies that seem to want their pound of flesh. But that aside, it will be a trip to remember.
Literally hundreds of boats, from budget to luxury, offer a range of cruise options for passengers. M/V Desafio is one of them, you can navigate narrow tributaries of the Rio Negro and Amazon River to take you deep into the forest. These quieter tributaries are home to abundant aquatic life such as river dolphins, giant otters, piranha and catfish. Among the trees, you’ll spot sloths and primates such as tamarins and squirrel monkeys, as well as birds such as herons, kingfishers, parrots, macaws, oropendolas, kiskadees and anis. Green verdant lushness descends to the river’s edge while the crowns of giant ceiba and ficus trees tower above the canopy. As time and budget allow, your cruise might include jungle walks, piranha fishing, boat rides to giant water lilies and visits to caboclo villages.
Built at the height of the rubber boom, in the late 19th century, when Manaus was a byword for luxury, the Manaus Opera House (Teatro Amazonas) gives you an inkling of that glorious past. Once slated for demolition, the newly restored gold-domed edifice is on a par with any of its European counterparts. With the wealth of the time, and high ambitions of the rubber barons, no expense was spared in its construction. Marble from Italy, ironwork from Glasgow and 198 chandeliers of Murano glass make the theatre a must-see. For the World Cup, the theatre is offering several new performances including recitals, rock concerts and art exhibitions.
Manaus sits at the confluence of two of the world’s greatest rivers. The Rio Negro – with waters the colour of black coffee – flows south into the main stream of the Amazon (or Solimões), which is like coffee with cream. At the Meeting of Waters (Encontro das Águas), the two rivers merge in swirls of curlicues, spirals and whirlpools. The waters don’t blend completely for another 6km downstream. The phenomenon is caused by differences in the speed of the currents and water properties. Freshwater dolphins are sometimes seen in the vicinity.
Like a giant Harry Potter maze on acid, the Anavilhanas Archipelago comprises about 400 islands among the labyrinthine twists and turns of the dark Negro River. About three hours’ boat or bus ride northwest of Manaus, the best way to see the area is overnight at one of several lodges, or on a live-aboard riverboat. The black waters of the Negro are less mosquito-infested than other areas, while you can expect to see abundant birdlife, including parrots, hummingbirds and owls. Birders will be keen to look for area specialities such as the white-winged potoo, pompadour cotinga and a variety of antbirds. Wildlife fans will enjoy encounters with caiman and pink dolphins and, if you are lucky, manatees.