Life in the city can be stressful. Why not spend a week of mind off at one of the last and isolated places in the world?

Amazonas, the largest state of Brazil, situated in the northwestern part of the country, has 98% of its territory covered by the Amazon Rain Forest, the largest rainforest in the world and one of great ecological significance. Therefore, for ecotourism lovers, this Brazilian state is a must. The fast-growing ecotourism industry has attracted more and more visitors to the region.

But the state is a rich cultural spot as well. Manaus, the capital, has a beautiful architecture, with constructions built with fine material inherited from Europe during the Amazon rubber boom, period that caused large expansion of European colonization in the area, attracting immigrant workers, generating wealth, causing cultural and social transformations, and, inevitably, disrupting indigenous societies.

Despite its size, Amazonas is one of the most thinly populated Brazilian states. With only 2.23 residents per square kilometer, it has the second lowest population density of any Brazilian state, ranking behind only Roraima (which is also in the North). There’s more: Manaus, can be reached only by air or boat (cars must enter via Roraima). Given this scenario, one can imagine the challenges that must be met in order to provide quality public services to the most isolated population group.

The local cuisine is another high point. it is very rich and varied and can be found in many Amazon cities. You may try tapioquinha, a glutinous pancake made from manioc starch, usually buttered and filled with tucumã palm fruit and farmer’s cheese. Or tacacá, an Amazon local soup. Or pamonha, made from green corn and coconut milk boiled in corn husks. Or bolo de macaxeira, a tasty but heavy glutinous translucent oily cake made from manioc. Or sugar cane juice, a favorite drink among locals. The region is also known for its exotic fruits like creamy white capuaçú and iron-rich açaí.

MUST SEE

Manaus

Manaus is known as “Paris dos Trópicos” (Paris of the Tropics), due to its intense modernization during the rubber cycle. It stands out as the main metropolis of the region and is the natural entrance to the forest. Boats are the main means of transportation to the jungle hotels, that allow visitors to see the “Encontro das Águas” (water clash) of the Rio Negro and Solimões, to dive with pink dolphins in Anavilhanas and visit seaside resorts such as the Praia da Lua. Tours in large rivers or narrow creeks also provide contact with coastal communities, and provide the opportunity to meet the Indian influence in its core.

Ecotourism

In Amazonas, the exuberance of the tropical rain forest, associated with hot and humid climate, are responsible for the largest biodiversity on Earth. It is estimated that the Amazon Region shelters about 2,5 million species of insects, thousands of species of plants, approximately 2 thousand species of fishes, about 950 species of birds and some 200 species of mammals. It rains a lot from December to May, embellishing the city’s waterfalls. For the rest of the year, when there is less rain, fluvial beaches are formed on the Negro River. The state also inhabits the second longest river in the world, the Amazon River. It begins in southern Peru and crosses nearly the entire Northern region of Brazil before entering the Atlantic Ocean.

The ecological tourism is the great attraction of the tours through the Amazon. The most sought-after tours include the Reserve of Mamirauá and Humaitá, where the greatest attraction is the sport fishing in Roosevelt River. The tours include boat rides, overnight at forest lodges and forest hikes. Most of the tours has a specialized guide.

Amazon Animals in Danger

Ecotourism in the Amazon is great for the local economy, but when it is done with conscience and respect for the wild life. A recent study made by the international charity organizations World Animal Protection revealed that animals are snatched from the wild, often illegally, and used by irresponsible tour operators who cruelly exploit and injure wildlife to entertain and provide harmful photo opportunities for tourists.

In public view and behind the scenes, investigators uncovered evidence of cruelty being inflicted on wild animals, including:

• Sloths captured from the wild, tied to trees with rope, not surviving longer than six months
• Birds such as toucans with severe abscesses on their feet
• Green anacondas wounded and dehydrated
• Caiman crocodiles restrained with rubber bands around their jaws
• An ocelot (a type of wild cat) kept in a small barren cage
• A manatee held in a tiny tank in the forecourt of a local hotel
• A giant anteater, manhandled and beaten by its owner

“The wildlife selfie craze is a worldwide phenomenon fueled by tourists, many of whom are unaware of the abhorrent conditions and terrible treatment wild animals may endure to provide that special souvenir photo”, said Steve McIvor, CEO at World Animal Protection.

To tackle the issue, World Animal Protection is calling on relevant governments to enforce laws protecting wild animals, and ensure that travel companies and individuals who are exploiting wild animals for tourism in the Amazon abide by the existing laws.

The organization is also launching a Wildlife Selfie Code for tourists to learn how to take a photo with wild animals without fueling the cruel wildlife entertainment industry.

Thus, if you are planning to do ecotourism in the Amazon, look for guides and tour operators with good credentials and take your selfie, but always respecting the wild life.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, www.visitbrasil.gov