Amazon Rainforest Adventures

There are certain places on this planet that seem almost like fiction. Unreachable destinations that you expect to only see in story books and documentaries.

The Amazon Rainforest in northern Brazil was one of those places for me.

So when I had the opportunity to come to Brazil, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Amazon Rainforest - Flying into Manaus Brazil

My experience began in the gateway city of Manaus, where the journey into the jungle proved to be a task unto itself…

I took a taxi from the airport down to the city’s main harbor to catch a ferry across the Amazon River.

We passed giant shipping vessels, floating homes and a really cool point where the Rio Negro converges with the Amazon River, which forms a really cool color and temperature divide in the water.

Once on the other side, the landscape changed from the urban landscape of Manaus, to a very rural waterfront trading post. I passed street vendors selling giant fish and wild fruits, before boarding an old VW wagon.

Amazon River Giant Fish

Past the small towns and giant lilly pads, we drove further away from civilization before making one last transfer into a small motorboat.

As we weaved through the flooded forest, the reality of this experience started to set in!

The Ararinha Jungle Hotel would serve as the launch pad for all my Rainforest adventures. Speaking of, a big thank you to Amazon Gero Tours for hosting me on this epic travel adventure.

Amazon Rainforest Jungle Hotel

And after dropping off my bag and meeting my guide, it was time to go explore the Wild Amazon…

By day we explored the river and trekked through the rainforest.

In the water we looked out for exotic birds, hidden lizards and even the rare pink dolphins. On land it was giant spiders, poison dart frogs and all types of monkeys.

While the rare Anaconda and Jaguar were always in the back of my mind, it was the smaller animals that you really had to be aware of.    

One day while on a trek through the jungle, our guide Kenrick, unknowingly came to close to a wasp nest and was stung on the cheek. This was right after he told us to be aware of these little bastards because they are extremely aggressive and dangerous… He told us they eat poisonous dart frogs for gosh sakes!

The craziest aspect of the trip was that I was never completely comfortable. There was a constant level of tension because of the respect Kenrick and the other guides had for their surroundings.

Amazon Rainforest Tour

The whole thing was an incredible juxtaposition, as we would go catch piranha in the shallow waters and then boat out to the middle of the river nearby to swim.

It was a dangerous and beautiful place, and my senses were heightened the entire time.

Throughout the process, Kenrick and the other guides taught me some important skills and techniques for surviving in the jungle. From making weapons and building shelter to finding the best things to eat if you’re hungry… from nuts and fruits, to one very meaty maggot!

Amazon Rainforest Food

Another side of life in the Amazon Rainforest, is the close-nit community of people who live along the river. I was expecting to see naked tribes and face-painted cannibals, but that wasn’t the case at all.

I had the opportunity to meet and interact with many local residents and despite the remote location, life here seems relatively normal, and it comes with an alluring simplicity and self-sufficiency.

Amazon Rainforest People

One morning we visited one of local farms who were in the middle of cultivating the popular Brazilian staple, Farinha or Farofa. He should us how to transform the poisonous root into an edible side-dish through a pretty intensive process of creating a powder and cooking it down.

Amazon Rainforest People

On another day we were invited to a house party with some of the off-duty guides and surrounding neighbors.

It was great to see what life was like on a Friday night with people my age in the Amazon.

And at night, when the sensible locals would turn in, we’d launch the boat again and head out to explore the darkness.

With 75% of the animals here being nocturnal, the noises and commotion at night were like nothing I’ve ever heard.

The easiest thing to spot were caimans, whose beady red eyes surfaced across the river. And apparently, if you’re fast and quiet enough, you can reach down into the water and grab one…

Amazon River Caiman Hunting

The days passed and I grew more and more addicted to this life.

So, on my final day in the Amazon Rainforest, we decided to take a small crew out to get the full effect of the jungle, and go camp out

Usually we’d return to the lodge after our late night activities, but on this night, we were at the mercy of our surroundings.

We found a flat, dry space not far from the river and worked quickly to setup camp before dark.

Amazon Rainforest Building Camp

We chopped trees for a tarp frame, cautiously gathered firewood and began cooking dinner over the fire.

As darkness and a little paranoia set in, we enjoyed dinner and drinks to the developing sounds around us.

We listened to music, played cards, and of course, peed close by.

We had some more drinks, made hats out of palm branch and shared stories well into the night…

Amazon Rainforest Camp Out

After a delicious camp-made breakfast with fresh fruit, eggs and coffee, it was time for me to pack up and head back to Manaus.

And although I spent a week engulfed in this incredible place… the people, the wildlife, the environment… everything still makes the Amazon seem like fiction.

The Amazon Rainforest is absolutely amazing!

Amazon River at Sunset

 

Recife Living & Porto de Galinhas Beach

Recife is the capital of the Northeastern Brazilian State of Pernambuco.

It has been called the “Venice of South America,” and also dubbed one of the most dangerous cities in Brazil.

The beach in the Boa Viagem neighborhood is said to be the most shark infested water in the world, and Recife’s carnival celebration is ranked among the best anywhere.

They say; don’t go in the water, don’t go out at night, but make sure you stay for carnival!

Recife Brazil - Shark Sign

With all these mixed reviews and emotions, I had to come to Recife and write my own story about this place.

I spent time in Recife’s historical center where I took in all the bright buildings and friendly faces.

I listened to the traditional Brazilian music like Frevo and Forró in the streets and witnessed all the preparations for this year’s carnival.

As I mention in the video, one of the main attractions during Carnival here Recife and neighboring Olinda are the Bonecos Gigantes or Giant Puppets, and I happened to follow a guy into the “Giant Puppet Embassy” to see the incredible (yet creepy) collection of celebrities, athletes and public figures.

Recife Brazil - Bonecos Gigantes Carnaval

The best experience in Recife actually came on a visit to the city’s largest Favela of Brasilia Teimosa, where a local friend invited me to an after-school program that she’s involved with.

The group is called Driblando Crack and it uses sports like soccer to help kids within the community of Brasilia Teimosa avoid drugs and trafficking.

Recife Brazil - Brasilia Teimosa

I loved hanging out with those kids all afternoon, despite the fact that they kicked my butt in futebol.

That evening I went back downtown and caught a sunset cruise tour through the wide canals and rivers around Recife’s historical center.

Recife Brazil - Historical Center Boat Tour

The next morning I was up early to go on a little adventure. I borrowed my friend’s car and set out on a day trip to Porto de Galinhas.

Porto de Galinhas outside Recife, Brazil

I was actually planning to go to Porto de Galinhas and Praia de Carneiros, but after leaving Porto de Galinhas I got lost on my way to Praia de Carneiros and didn’t arrive until well passed sunset.

Stay tuned for the bloopers reel for that full story.

Anyway, despite a slightly overcast day, Porto de Galinhas was beautiful and a great day trip from Recife.

There are so many amazing beaches in Northeastern Brazil that you could spend a year here and still not see them all.

After a great day at the beach, I made the hour and a half journey back to Recife for some good old fashion Karaoke.

Nothing beats a whole-in-the-wall bar on the wrong side of town with the right kind of people to cap off a trip.

Say what you will about Recife, but my story turned out pretty damn good. I like this place.

 

Curitiba Parks & Private Parties

Voted as one of the best places to live in Latin America, Curitiba has developed into a city that has made others green with envy.

Boasting a well-oiled transit system and more parks than 101 Dalmatians could cover, the city is as efficient as it is refreshing.

Five days in Curitiba and it lifted and shifted my perception of Brazilian cities completely.

I explored the beautiful parks, walked around the city and crashed a few local parties that shaped my Curitiba experience in a great way.

Read all about my Curitiba trip on the Visit Brasil blog, Crashing a Culinary Moment in Curitiba and Five Perfect Picnic Parks in Curitiba.

 

Curitiba Brazil Mesa ao Vivo

 

 

Jericoacoara, Kitesurfing & My Own Private Beach Bungalow

Known for its giant rolling sand dunes and stellar kitesurfing conditions, Jericoacoara or “Jeri” as it’s known, is the coolest little beach town in Northeastern Brazil.

It is a seven-hour journey from Fortaleza to Jericoacoara via public transportation (five hours in a private car), but as I mention in the video, that distance is par for the course when traveling anywhere here in Brazil.

No matter the distance, I knew I made the right decision as soon as the sun shined on my first morning on Prea Beach.

I woke up with the cool ocean breeze blowing through the open beach bungalow while waves crashing outside served as the soundtrack.

My friends over at Rancho do Peixe set me up with my own private oasis for a few nights on Preá Beach, just down from Jericoacoara, and I cherished every minute of it.

Rancho do Peixe - Prea Beach - Brazil

After a delicious breakfast, I decided to try my hand at Kite Surfing for the first time.

Because of such great wind conditions in the area, this is home to some of the most popular kitesurfing coastline in Brazil.

I fell in love with the give and take between the kite and it’s director, proving that leverage and positioning trumped strength and force.

I spent hours trying to harness the kitesurfing techniques and even spent time in the water gliding across the surface on my stomach as my instructor coached me from shore via walkie-talkie.

Kitesurfing Lessons in Jericoacoara Brazil

We wrapped it up just in time for me to get hooked on a new sport and then I caught a ride down the beach and across the sand dunes for an afternoon in Jericoacoara.

Jeri was peaceful and quiet, with a great hippie vibe to go along with the sandy streets.

There were small restaurants and tour shops everywhere, but it didn’t seem overwhelmingly touristy thanks to the visible local population.

While most visitors spend their days exploring the beautiful Jericoacoara National Park that surrounds town, everybody seems to migrate back in time to climb the giant sand dune at the edge of town to have some drinks and watch the amazing sunset over the Atlantic.

Jericoacoara Brazil

Night time in Jericoacoara brings in added layer of relaxation after long days in the sun.

With live music echoing through the streets and dim lighting provided by street vendor stalls and restaurant candles, it’s a wonderfully chill atmosphere to be a part of.

So much so that I didn’t nothing at all on my second day in town. : )

Watch the Jericoacoara Travel Deeper Brazil Episode Now on YouTube (and don’t forget to subscribe to the T2T channel for a new video every week)!

Bonito Brazil: Mother Nature’s Playground


When I asked Brazilian friends on places I should visit while traveling in southwestern Brazil, the overwhelming response was always Bonito.

The small town of just over 17,000 people is tucked away in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul and is one of the most popular Brazilian tourist destinations in the region.

Famous for its abundance of natural beauty, including wildlife, waterfalls and crystal-clear rivers, Bonito, is one of the best outdoor adventure spots I’ve ever visited.

On day one I rented a bike from town and road through the countryside to two different eco parks/public baths, Porto da Ilha and Balneário do Sol. I loved the freshwater pools that connected to small waterfalls and wildlife surrounding my every move.

No question, the zip-line into the pool at Balneário do Sol was the highlight. 

I got lucky with the Rodeo being in town, so that evening I ventured over to the Brazilian Rodeo at the Clubes de Laço (lasso club) just outside Bonito to experience a different aspect of Brazilian culture.

I couldn’t believe how similar the Brazilian rodeo culture was to ours in the States. Just a bunch of good ‘ol boys trying to have a good time. 

The next morning I drove over to Recanto Ecologico Rio da Prata (The Silver River Ecological Reserve) to snorkel the beautiful transparent water teaming with aquatic life.

As I mentioned in the video, thanks to the enormous amount of limestone in the ground around Bonito, the water passes through a natural filter that leaves the rivers to be some of the clearest and most transparent in the world.

To maintain its beauty, there is a daily limit to how many people can enter the water so you have to reserve a spot in advance. 

From there we went to Buraco das Araras (Sinkhole of the Macaws) to witness hundreds of Macaws and other exotic birds fly around the giant redrock hole in the ground.

It was a captivating moment that felt like something out of a Pixar movie. 

That night I experienced the quiet and lovely downtown Bonito and drank some locally brewed cachaca at the popular Taboa.

Needless to say, it was a great weekend in Bonito Brazil and I can’t wait to come back again soon.

There are still a ton of things to do in Bonito Brazil that I missed, like… Abismo Anhumas, Lagoa Misteriosa, Boca da Onca Waterfall, Aquario Natural, Rio do Peixe, Rio Sucuri, Gruta do Lago Azul and Parque das Cachoeiras to name a few.

Hotel provided by Aguas de Bonito

Watch this and every Travel Deeper Brazil episode @ YouTube.com/Tourist2Townie

 

Top Things to do in Bonito Brazil