People have learned to cope with a waterborne existence for months at a time, getting around in dugout canoes. Those fortunate enough to own a few chickens, ducks or even a goat herd their livestock onto a raft tethered to their house, where the animals eat, sleep and wait for the water to subside.
As we arrived at each village, a handful of people came to the river’s edge to greet our launch. Some offered seed and shell necklaces, woven baskets and other handicrafts for sale.
Encountering the basic existence of the Amazonian Indians put a human face on facts and figures about the extent, and impact, of deforestation. This is of concern because Amazonian plant life produces one-third of the earth’s oxygen.
Multinational timber and mining firms have been ravaging the jungle for years. Soybean and other farming is clearing increasing acreage. It’s estimated that an area of forest the size of Switzerland disappears every year, which means that 85% will be gone by the middle of this century.
Awareness of the impact of deforestation has prompted increased conservation steps. Brazil’s government is protecting more land in parks and reserves, and has made large tracts of forest off-limits for development, logging and clearing for agriculture.
Conservation is taught in schools, and promoted at home. More people are learning that fruit, nuts, wild game and other resources from the forest provide an endless source of income over a longer period than clearing the land for other uses.
Even with damage that has been done, vast areas of the Amazonian jungle remain to be experienced. That can mean peering at animals in the treetops from a river boat, tramping through the jungle thicket and interacting with village dwellers like Railson.
If You Go to the Amazon
The January to May rainy season brings heavy but usually brief downpours. That is when rivers rise dramatically, and plants and trees fruit and flower, attracting animals to the water’s edge. The high water enables boats to reach areas inaccessible at other times of year.
During the dry season, roughly June to December, rivers run shallow, and white sand beaches – excellent for a refreshing swim – appear. Animal-watching is good near pools of water where wildlife congregates, and birds gather to feed upon migratory fish that lay their eggs.
The M/Y Tucano on which I sailed accommodates up to 18 passengers in air conditioned staterooms that are compact but quite comfortable. The buffet meals are excellent, featuring local produce, fish and other fare. Crew members are extremely pleasant and helpful, and the guides are eager to share their vast knowledge of the Amazon.
For more information, call Latin American Escapes at 800-510-5999 or log onto latinamericanescapes.com.
Author Bio: After gallivanting throughout the United States and to more than 75 other countries around the world, and writing about what he sees, does and learns, Victor Block retains the travel bug. He firmly believes that travel is the best possible education, and claims he still has a lot to learn. He loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won a number of writing awards.