6 Weird and Terrifying Creatures of the Amazon River
Dec06

6 Weird and Terrifying Creatures of the Amazon River

The unexplored waters of the mighty Amazon River provide the perfect habitat for a wealth of species. Beneath the  surface of this mysterious sediment heavy river is a murky underworld home to a few weird and terrifying creatures. The Amazon Basin is a raw and primitive place, with a unique biome. Visiting the Amazon is a coveted dream for many nature lovers, but a few of its inhabitants are enough to turn coveted dreams into freakish nightmares. These are our 6 weird and terrifying creatures of the Amazon River – there are still plenty more lurking in the shadows, but we don’t want to freak you out by listing them all in one blog post!  Vampire Fish : Saber-tooth monsters The vampire fish (also known as payara fish) is a ferocious hunter that certainly doesn’t back away from a fight. Armed with massive bottom fangs and razor sharp teeth, this evil looking fish is a common resident of the Amazon Basin.  The vampire fish swims with the current and is also a fan of tumultuous, churning waters. Rapids and waterfalls are common places for the vampire fish to congregate. This scary looking fish has a bad reputation because of its ominous teeth, but they generally aren’t predatory towards humans. Their favourite meal is the piranha ! Our advice? Just try to avoid the vampire fish. Arapaima : One of the world’s largest freshwater fish The colossal Arapaima is one of the world’s largest freshwater fish and can reach remarkable lengths of up to 2m, earning it a reputation as being one of the beasts of the Amazon Basin. Unfortunately, this fish is one of the most overfished species, making it quite rare to spot individuals over 2m. It’s easily identifiable by its red markings, strange underbite and large green and black flecked scales. The Arapaima has both dorsal and anal fins close to the tail. This fine predator feasts on crustaceans, land animals close to shore and has a unique method of bolting out of the water to attack its prey. An absolute torpedo of a fish ! Green Anaconda : Real life monsters from horror movies The green anaconda is also referred to as the common anaconda or water boa. Although non-venomous, it’s extremely dangerous. The water-loving anaconda has the ability to constrict and strangle its prey to death. It is the largest and heaviest snake in the world, and not one you want to come into contact with while in the water. Although massive in size and stature, they are graceful and stealth-like in their watery domain. Their preferred habitat includes swamps, tranquil streams and dense rain soaked forest...

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Bonito in Brazil is best. Why we love this eco-tourism town.
Oct30

Bonito in Brazil is best. Why we love this eco-tourism town.

Enchanting and alluring Bonito is a fascinating small town sitting comfortably on the edge of the Patanal, the world’s largest wetlands. Bonito is a bit off-the-beaten track in terms of accessibility – it’s not located en route to the Pantanal, and therefore requires planning to get there. Known as the eco-tourism capital, Bonito is a town that simply should not be missed. And for what reason? The town is centred around the headway of crystalline rivers teeming with colourful fish – it’s a snorkelling paradise. It’s also home to the world’s largest sinkhole that is of great ecological significance – there are 100s of nesting macaws. Of course, if that’s not enough there are lakes inside caves dripping with stalactites.    Bonito in Brazil is a water-based adventure capital, and there are so many tours on offer. Most of these tours (discussed below) start from a central meeting point and normally the transport to and from your hotel is not included. This can get expensive if you’re not staying in the town, or haven’t hired your own car. In terms of accommodation, we recommend the Zagaia eco-resort hotel located in a large park in the centre of Bonito town. The hotel was nominated as the “Best Ecotourism Destination of Brazil” and all tours to surrounding areas can be arranged while at the hotel. Not only is it the perfect place to base yourself for adventure activities, but it’s also the perfect place to unwind and spend time with your family – it really caters for all types of travellers!  Snorkelling is a highlight in Bonito. Hailed as being home to the cleanest and purest water on the continent, the Prata River certainly provides endless snorkelling opportunities.  There is a high limestone concentration in the area, which is why the waters are so clear (limestone acts as nature’s filter). And there are actually two spring-fed rivers which means the water is warm. It’s an aquatic playground beneath the surface, and the crystalline waters ensure 100% visibility of the underwater world. There is also another pristine place to snorkel, which is Lagoa Misteriosa – also known as the “mysterious lagoon” because of its sky-blue waters. This lagoon has 60m visibility and is one of the deepest “flooded” caves in Brazil – no filter needed when you take photographs!  Hiking paths will take you up into the hills overlooking the rivers, where there is a 156 m high waterfall tumbling into the Mimoso River. When you’re done exploring underground lakes and ogling over flocks pf macaws nesting; head into the town to sample local cuisine at Casa do Joao – a restaurant known for its freshwater...

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5 secrets about Brazil that you should know before you go
Oct20

5 secrets about Brazil that you should know before you go

Scintillating Brazil is a popular country to visit because of its lively atmosphere, exceptional game viewing, pristine coastline and all round sunny disposition. There are the well-known regions within beautiful Brazil that hold great appeal for most people. These areas include Rio, the Amazon, the Pantanal and the coast. Many of you might have scoured the shelves for books about Brazil, or armchair travelled your way through the top destinations in each region. But it should be known that there are a few pockets of paradise that aren’t well-documented. Perhaps they detract from the major areas (that are worth visiting), or perhaps people just don’t know about them. But one thing’s for certain, the deeper you dig, the more you realise just what a remarkable country Brazil actually is. We’ve only listed 5 secrets about Brazil that you should know about before you go, but there are plenty more unique things in this sizzling country – you just have to dig a little deeper. The Amazon has beaches You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Amazon is only a jungle-laden, heavily rain forested region with the mighty Amazon River at its epicentre. Truth is, it’s more than just a jungle paradise home to caymen, capybaras, poison dart frogs and piranhas. It’s actually a fantastic beach destination! And the beaches are slightly different to the turquoise salty oceans lapping on the shores of sugar-white sand. One of the most remarkable river beach towns is the alluring Alter do Chão, one of the Amazon’s jungle beaches. Surrounded by impenetrable forests of green trees, and flanked by soft river sand, Alter do Chão is possibly to most chilled place to hang out. It’s paradise. There’s also the Green Lagoon region that makes for a perfect place to paddle board and hike the surrounds. Along the river coast there are also a number of little beach bars with a few locals strumming guitars to the vibe of the Amazonian sunset. Ilha do Amor, an island surrounded by pristine beaches located in front of the town. The island only appears for 6 months of the year when the water levels are right. Life in the Amazon isn’t just about chasing the predators and critters of the jungle! Wait – there’s more. You’ll be pleased to know that Alter do Chão is not the only beach destination in the Amazon. There are other freshwater beaches in the area, which include the busy Ponta de Negra beach in Manaus, and the laid-back picturesque jungle vibe beach of Praia da Tope. We do recommend that you visit at least one of the Amazon’s beaches, preferably in the...

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Rio’s Tijuca National Park: Explore the World’s Largest Urban Forest
Sep24

Rio’s Tijuca National Park: Explore the World’s Largest Urban Forest

Established in 1961, the sprawling Tijuca National Park is – arguably – the world’s largest urban forest. Some might argue that Johannesburg in South Africa is home to the world’s largest man-made wooded area, but it’s actually Rio de Janeiro that takes the title. Granted, Johannesburg is one of the largest forests, but we’re handing the baton to Brazil. The Tijuca Forest carpets 3,953 hectares of reclaimed land that was previously cleared for coal and coffee production. Tijuca is now home to a mosaic of trails, cascading waterfalls, wildlife, viewpoints and famous landmarks (most notably the art deco Christ the Redeemer statue). History of the Tijuca National Park The initial reforestation project on the outskirts of the city actually started in 1861, when water sources became scarce. It was quickly realised that the production of coal and coffee was depleting the city’s water supply. Industry cleared and wiped out the natural rainforest, and the city suffered to consequences. And so the reforestation process began with the replanting of over 100, 000 trees after the arduous task of expropriating land in the interest of the public. The task was long and drawn-out, but much needed. In 1961 the urban rainforest was declared a national park, and has since become a much-visited destination in Rio de Janeiro. General tourist info about Tijuca National Park This urban rainforest inside city limits is an absolute gem to explore, and there are plenty of activities and monuments to visit within the park. The Tijuca Peak and Corcovado mountain where  Christ Redeemer statue is located are two major attractions which should not be missed. Visitors would need, on average, 2 days to explore the park. The park is open from 8am to 18:00, so we recommend you set aside a couple of days for exploration purposes – just bear in mind that summer is the rainy season, so you’ll need to check the weather prior to planning your activities. During the peak season and carnival time it’s recommended that you get an early start to your sightseeing. Things to do in Tijuca National Park There are many different ways to explore the Tijuca National Park, with varying routes. Its many roads allow visiting on foot, bicycle, car and even busses. The fitness fanatics should hike up to the Tijuca Peak. You can either drive right up to the start of the trail, or walk from the park entrance. From the entrance it’s about 5.5 km to the top, with a 2km uphill from the start of the actual trail where the carpark is located. It’s a safe and rewarding trail, offering up exquisite panoramic views...

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The “Marvellous City” of Rio de Janeiro
Sep15

The “Marvellous City” of Rio de Janeiro

Riveting Rio de Janeiro is fondly referred to as Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City) because of its vibrant city life, colourful atmosphere, shimmering beaches and verdant urban rainforests. Rio is more than just a destination famed for the carnival, it’s a city that offers a mix of beachside, jungle-style, inner city living. This chic yet sometimes gritty city is one of the most sought after destinations to visit. Rio is a fantastic year-round holiday destination, offering moderate to hot temperatures. Picture the beats of Bossa Nova, dancing the night away Samba style, hiking the mosaic of paths in the rainforest and sunny days sipping caipirinhas on sugar-white beaches.  This marvellous city has plenty to offer its visitors in terms of activities. It is also home to iconic landmarks and historical places of interest. Possibly one of the most fascinating areas in Rio de Janeiro is the Tijuca Forest National Park, a rainforest home to a wealth of trails and paths ideal for hiking and biking. This was the world’s first reforestation project that started way back in 1861, and 100 years later it was declared a national park. The park is actually home to the looming and all encompassing Christ the Redeemer statue that hovers over the city below. Do head to the park for rainforest adventures and sightseeing of world-renown landmarks.  The two main beaches in Rio that outline the city are the world-renown Copacabana and Ipanema beaches; framed by the spectacular Sugarloaf Mountain. Copacabana is one of Rio’s liveliest neighbourhoods, and the 4 km beach curves around the bay. There’s a hive of activity on the beach and the promenade comes alive with festive behaviour right into the night. Soccer, dancing and drinks kiosks dotted across the lively beach area make Copacabana a sought-after area in Rio.  Guarding over the Copacabana beach is the grand old lady of Copacabana, the Copacabana hotel – a place frequented by celebrities from years gone by. It’s classic and proud, and the perfect place for an evening sundowner.  A sun seeker’s paradise and adventure lover’s dream is the island of Ilha Grande, covered by Atlantic forest and signature tropical island palm-lined stretches of beaches. This is the place for snorkelling and discovering an exceptional underwater world with clear visibility. It’s considered to be one of the most picturesque islands in Brazil, but not that many tourists know about this little haven of beauty. There are walks and hikes on the island, and it’s quite possible to actually walk all the way around the island. Lopes Mendes is a popular beach for surfing and swimming, and the perfect place to kick back and relax....

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Tropical Island Paradise : Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro
Sep13

Tropical Island Paradise : Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro

Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most spectacular tropical island destinations in the world – in our opinion. Sitting comfortably off the bustling coast of Rio, this emerald eden is the definition of jungle and beach paradise. Ilha Grande is a sun seeker’s utopia and adventure lover’s dream, and offers a wealth of water-based activities from snorkelling to kayaking, surfing and diving. The lush Atlantic forest criss-crossing over the island is home to a network of trails and paths, each worthy of exploring. A mere 45 minute sea crossing from the mainland, Ilha, makes it a perfectly accessible destination for a day trip from riveting Rio.  Because this rugged and picturesque island is largely uninhabited, accommodation is scarce. As a matter of fact, there aren’t even cars or banks on the island – it really is untouched and remote. The main village on paradise is called Vila do Abraão; situated just above a cove. This is the main centre where you will find plenty of visitor information to book your tours. The island’s wild terrain and remoteness, means that it’s not a destination overrun with 5 star resorts. Here you’ll find rather humble accommodation options in the form of guest houses and “pousadas”, which are intimate boutique hotels. We suggest you head to Aratinga Inn, a jungle hideaway offering incredible accommodation and expert first-hand travel advice. The team will even advise their guests on restaurant selections (a firm favourite are two restaurants, Dom Mario and Lua e Mar) in the area. It is certainly worth staying at least one night on this Robinson Crusoe style island for an idyllic ecotourism escape, just so that you have enough time to get involved in the below activities. Explore the beaches and rugged trails of Ilha Grande Abraão beach stretches on for miles and offers breathtaking views of the endless turquoise ocean. This beach is ideal for casual strolls and beach relaxation. When you’re done with easy beach walks, spend the afternoon sampling traditional cocktails at the ever-famous Cafe do Mar. Avid hikers are encouraged to tackle the easy-to-walk Abraão circuit which meanders past ancient ruins and natural pools. The Witches’ Waterfall is a mesmerising curtain of water cascading into blue pools, and can easily be added onto the Abraão circuit for fitness fanatics seeking a more challenging route. For extreme hikers there’s always the Pico do Papagaio, the second highest peak on the island. It’s a hard and challenging walk, but the panoramic views at the top are completely worth the straining slog. Another easy-ish hike is to the Two Rivers, which offers exquisite natural views...

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Finding Your Pace in Brazil’s Pantanal
Sep08

Finding Your Pace in Brazil’s Pantanal

The Pantanal is one of the world’s most fascinating wildlife-rich, waterlogged regions. Located in Brazil and parts of Paraguay and Bolivia, the unspoiled Pantanal is a major drawcard for wildlife enthusiasts from across the globe. An extensive mosaic of swamps, rivers and marshlands sprawl across an enormous alluvial floodplain. Brazil’s Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland system. It’s home to the highest population of jaguar in the world.  Jaguar  aren’t the only species to spot while in the Pantanal. The Pantanal ecosystem is also thought to be home to 1000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian species and 480 reptile species. Included in this count are the iconic Pantanal species to spot, which include : the giant river otter, hyacinth macaw, marsh deer, yellow anaconda and green iguanas. There are ample activities on offer in the Pantanal, each offering a unique way of exploring the scenic wildlife-rich landscape. Finding your pace in Brazil’s Pantanal is easy – choose to indulge in an array of adventure-packed guided tours, kick-back at your eco-lodge while looking out for rare hyacinth macaws, or simply enjoy a relaxing boat trip down one of the tributaries in the network of rivers. We’ve scoured the area for the best activities in the pristine Pantanal, so that you can find a pace of life that suits your holiday style. Bird watching trails in the Pantanal There is normally a criss-cross of trails surrounding the lodges in the area, offering guests the opportunity to explore a variety of eco-systems. Savannah, wetlands and woodlands provide the perfect habitat for a wealth of birdlife. The carefully and clearly marked hiking/walking trails are often in loops. Guests can arrange tailor-made birding tours, which tend to produce the most rewarding sightings from November – March. The swampy plains in the area lead to sightings of Maguari stork, southern screamer and heron – to name but a few. Find a lodge with birdwatching trails and set walking tours, you’ll find there are plenty available. Horse riding in the Pantanal Horse riding in the Pantanal is a fantastic way to see the region. The terrain is quite tricky to navigate on foot, so being up high on horseback offers a good vantage point where hidden, marshy corners of the Pantanal can easily be explored. This is the largest continuous wetland in the world, best explored on horseback during the intermediate season, which is from April-June. This is the period of time when water settles into the lakes and the surrounds become quite dry. Because access to water is concentrated in certain areas, it draws in a plethora of animals seeking out available...

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