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Jungle & River Excursions
Though Belém, Santarém, and other communities are great places for jungle and river excursions, they don't have nearly the selection or number of visitors that Manaus has. The most common excursion is a half- or full-day tourist-boat trip that travels 15 km (9 mi) east of Manaus to the point where the coffee-color water of the Río Negro flows beside and gradually joins the coffee-with-cream-color water of the Rio Solimões. According to Brazilians, this is where the Amazon River begins. The waters flow alongside one another for 6 km (4 mi) before merging. Many of these Meeting-of-the-Waters treks include motorboat side trips along narrow streams or through bayous. Some also stop at the Parque Ecológico do Janauary, where you can see birds and a lake filled with the world's largest water lily, the vitória régia.
Nighttime boat trips into the forest explore flooded woodlands and narrow waterways. Some stop for trail hikes. Some companies take you by canoe on a caiman "hunt," where caimans are caught and released. Trips to the Rio Negro's upper reaches, where wildlife is a little wilder, are also offered. Such trips usually stop at river settlements to visit with local families. They may include jungle treks, fishing (they supply the gear and boat), and a trip to Anavilhanas, the world's largest freshwater archipelago. It contains some 400 islands with amazing Amazon flora, birds, and monkeys. To arrange any of these excursions, contact an area tour operator.
Toxic Bug Sprays
DEET (diethyl toluamide), the active ingredient in some of the strongest insect repellents, is capable of peeling paint off a tin can, and it's equally capable of repelling blood-thirsty Amazonian mosquitoes. The less-toxic bug repellents are generally ineffective. Most health professionals agree that the benefits of avoiding malaria- and dengue-carrying mosquitoes outweigh the risks of using chemical repellents. Picaridin-based repellents are equally effective and may have a lower toxicity.
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