Advice to Travellers to the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. A brief description of trip essentials and tips, a personal view based on experience.
On my first couple of trips to the rainforest I wore day and night, long-legged combat trousers, long sleeved shirts, walking boots and caps with wide brims. I was hot and sweaty and uncomfortable..
On my last trips into the forest I wore as little as possible. Combats, yes always comfy, but worn with vest tops and flip flops, unless trekking deeply into the forest when I was more careful and covered up.
Certainly long sleeved cotton tops and shirts are needed in the evenings and early mornings, to discourage mosquitoes, ditto long legged cotton trousers or skirts, but I found during the day they weren’t so essential.
It does though depend on how attractive you are to mosquitoes. Some people attract them like sticky paper.
A light rain jacket is a good buy. It often rains, sometimes daily, as in the wet season and fast boat transfers to the Amazon lodges can be quite cold, windy and wet, so a raincoat is useful. Although the sun dries you out quickly, it’s best to avoid the drenching if you can.
Hats with brims, shading from the sometimes intense sun, are indispensable: cotton caps, straw hats, sun visors…plus a good pair of sunglasses.
People on tours will be advised to wear walking boots within the forest, or will be provided with a pair of Wellingtons. Wellies are perfect to protect against snake and scorpion bites, as they protect the whole leg. Make sure the guide has checked inside the boot. I have found a tiny, but poisonous, pink frog in the toe of an old boot.
Keep all bags: rucksacks, cases, make-up bags, closed and zipped up when not in use. Spiders, snakes and various insects are inclined to crawl in if they find an open bag. Shake and check clothes that have been hung up for the same reason.
Ladies will find that make-up rarely stays put in the high humidity. A touch of moisturiser day and night is all I used and sun protection, especially on nose, when in the open as in canoes and boats.
I gave up trying to straighten or fuss with my hair within days. A good brushing and tying it back, if longish, is all you can do to look good. Frizz is impossible to contend with in the heat, so I just shrugged my shoulders and got used to it.
Hotels usually have air conditioning, which cools the room and deters mosquitoes. It is often noisy, but necessary. Hammocks in hotels usually come with mosquito nets, an essential in the forest.
Some tributaries of the Amazon have no or few mosquitoes, so it depends on where you go. I rarely used insect repellant, as I didn’t seem to attract mosquitoes, but for most people Deet is the insect repellant of choice for short trips, although recent research has shown the mosquitoes have wizened up to it, so Malaria prevention is a must in the form of medication. I found the more expensive Malaria prevention had few side effects. The least expensive, left me in a deep depression every afternoon and I had to stop taking it.
Drinkable water always comes out of plastic bottles. Don’t ever drink water from a hotel tap or Amazon river. When my water supplies became short, I boiled clear stream water, something few visiting the Amazon would have to do.
Piping hot food is generally safe, free from bugs. Avoid ice-cream and ice-cubes. Peel fruit. Avoid salads which may have been washed in contaminated water.
Remember the heat multiplies the effects of alcohol and getting tipsy will be dangerous in the forest, where you need your wits about you, so don’t do it.
Never, ever, think you can walk into the forest alone. Even locals can get lost. Always take an experienced guide.
Swimming in rivers is safe only when the guide says so. Remember there are venomous Sting-rays, Anacondas, Caiman and fish with fierce reputations to contend with. With that in mind, do not urinate in the water. A tiny fish known for travelling upstream and into urinary tracts, is one you don’t want to encourage!
Do not touch or pet, dogs or cats. They may have rabies and many have ticks. In fact, unless your guide gives you the nod, do not touch any animal, insect or frog. Many use poison as protection and can cause fevers, swellings and even death.
Take a torch. Electricity often fails at inconvenient times and is sometimes turned off in the middle of the night in lodges.
Finally prepare before you leave home with all the necessary vaccinations and ensure you have a good first aid kit, including sterile needles, painkillers, antiseptic cream and wipes, insect bite cream, plasters, bandages, sterile dressings and tummy upset powders. A first-aid kit like this, should be taken on all journeys, not just to the Amazon. I can’t remember the amount of times I have had to use the contents of my kit for myself and others on my travels.
These are my personal tips based on years of experience, but please ask your doctor for further advice, especially about vaccinations like Yellow Fever and possibly Rabies, and definitely Malaria protection. Read the advice given by travel companies and in good travel books.
And then relax……the Rainforest is a marvellous place, the experience will be one you will never forget. It will remain in your heart forever.
The photos show a frog on my T-shirt, a rather large spider on my combat trousers and the tiny pink, poisonous frog found in an old boot.