Manaus is the obvious place in the Brazilian Amazon to find a jungle river trip to suit most people’s needs. Although located in the heart of the world’s biggest rainforest, you have to be prepared to travel for at least a few days out of Manaus if you are serious about spotting a wide range of wildlife. The city does, however, offer a range of organized tours bringing visitors into close contact with the world’s largest tropical rainforest. Unfortunately, though, since Manaus has been a big city for a long time, the forest in the immediate vicinity is far from virgin. Over the last millennia it has been explored by Indians, missionaries, rubber gatherers, colonizing extractors, settlers, urban folk from Manaus and, more recently, quite a steady flow of eco-minded tourists.
The amount and kind of wildlife you get to see on a standard jungle tour depends mainly on how far away from Manaus you go and how long you can devote to the trip. Birds including macaws, hummingbirds, jacanas, cormorants, herons, kingfishers, hawks, chacalacas and toucans can generally be spotted – but you need luck to see hoatzins, trogons, cock-of-the-rock or blue macaws. You might see alligators, snakes, sloths, river dolphins and a few species of monkey on a three-day trip (though you can see many of these anyway at INPA or the Parque Ecólogico do Janauary). Sightings for large mammals and cats, however, are very rare, though chances are increased on expedition-type tours of six days or more to deep-forest places like the Rio Juma. On any trip, make sure to get some time in the smaller channels in a canoe, as the sound of a motor is a sure way of scaring every living thing out of sight.