Just about everyone on the planet has heard of the mighty Amazon River, a river that flows for over 4,200 miles (6,760 km) through the heart of the tropical rainforest and region that we know simply as the Amazon. It is a river that pours enough fresh water out into the Atlantic Ocean on a daily basis to supply the entire water needs of the United Kingdom for nearly two years. It is the region to go to if you are in any way interested in superlatives when it comes to statistics.
Over 60% of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil and it covers nearly half of the Brazilian territory. It is responsible for supplying over half of the planet’s oxygen and for hosting a tenth of the world’s 10 million living species and over 30 per cent of all known plant and animal species, including an estimated 1,800 species of birds, 250 different mammals and a similar diversity of animal and insect life. The river itself is home to an estimated 2,000 different types of fish. The Amazon is also home to Brazil’s highest point, the 9,888 ft (3,014 m) Pico da Neblina in the state of Roraima.
For all of that, the Amazon, one of Brazil’s most iconic destinations, still remains relatively uncharted and untouched. It is a place where new discoveries are still being made on a regular basis.
Belém, the capital of the state of Pará, is one gateway to the Amazon and is located just 60 miles (100 km) from the Atlantic Ocean. It is a good starting point from which to visit the island of Marajó, an island the size of Switzerland that is the largest island in the world to be surrounded by freshwater. As well as its lush vegetation and birdlife the island, which sits almost directly on the equator, is known for its large herds of water buffalo.
The most famous gateway to the Amazon is the city of Manaus. A city known for its opera house, it was once one of the richest cities in the world and during the rubber boom — between 1890 and 1920 — was responsible for nearly all the rubber produced in the world. Many of the trappings from that period, including the Teatro Amazonas, can still be seen and admired throughout a city that was considered at the time to be the “Paris of the jungle.”
Such is the size of the Amazon River that although it is located over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from the Atlantic, Manaus is still a regular port of call for the world’s largest cruise ships, ships that also stop along the way at Belém and Santarém. In smaller boats it is possible to cruise all the way up to Tabatinga on the Brazilian border with Peru and Colombia, and on to Iquitos in Peru, some 2,310 miles (3,700 km) from the Atlantic.
And while Manaus is just 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from Belem by river, should you chose to drive, the distance by road will be 3,330 miles (5,434 km).
The Amazon’s main folkloric festivity, the Boi-Bumbá, the Amazon’s answer to Rio’s carnival, takes place every year on last weekend of June at Parintins, an island in the middle of the Amazon River, one day’s cruise downstream from Manaus.
The city of Manaus was one of the twelve host cities for the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and hosted four of the matches in the purpose built Arena Amazonia including England x Italy and Portugal x USA.
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Christopher Pickard – Brazil the Guide – Critical Divide
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