Tupaiú cruise - The Week
Tupaiú cruise - The Week

Sailing down Brazil’s beautiful Tapajós river

Classic movies set in the Amazon rainforest often portray it as a perilous environment teeming with danger, disease, poisonous snakes, and biting insects. However, according to Paul Richardson in the Financial Times, a cruise along Brazil’s Tapajós river, one of the Amazon’s major tributaries, offers a contrasting experience. Far from feeling threatened, travelers on this journey encounter clear blue waters devoid of piranhas, allowing for enjoyable swimming, and the river’s acidity is inhospitable to mosquitoes. The expansive width of the river can give the impression of being at sea, and the picturesque sunrises and sunsets over the water enhance the overall experience. Soft-sand beaches and a forest exuding “dreamlike” beauty further contribute to the enchanting atmosphere.

Choosing the right vessel, such as the Tupaiú, a wooden yacht constructed in Manaus in 1987, enhances the experience with its panelled cabins and “simple comforts,” exuding an “antique charm.” Operated by the Amazon cruise company Kaiara, the Tupaiú offers five-day voyages starting from Santarém, where the clear blue waters of the Tapajós merge with the pale-brown Amazon in a visible demarcation. At Santarém’s harbor, one can observe imposing “big-bellied riverboats,” reminiscent of Mississippi steamers, enduring the sweltering heat.

Onboard the Tupaiú, the open-sided decks benefit from a refreshing breeze, providing a contrast to the heat. The cruise offers glimpses of local life, from fishermen’s canoes to barges transporting deforested soya for export to China. Kaiara’s guides candidly address the environmental crisis in the Amazon. The yacht navigates smaller rivers to reach indigenous villages, where local women lead excursions into the forest to share insights into traditional remedies. The journey includes stops at beaches for swimming, accompanied by iced caipirinhas, and dinners under the stars on remote sandbars. Night safaris by canoe add a cinematic touch, with guides using headlamps to scan the riverbank, revealing “a thousand eyes” glinting in the darkness.

Is an expert in everything South America, his passion for the region and exploring off the beaten path makes his travel writing both useful and interesting. He has written for several mainstream publications and you can read his guides on Ecuador, Peru, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon. Andre is also an accomplished photographer and has been recognized as one of the best wildlife photographers in the region, his photos have been featured in National Geographic and other journals. As a travel agent Andre specializes in curating unique experiences, crafting tailor made itineraries and helping visitors make the best of their vacation, always putting the experience first

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