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Take a trip to 'Amazon light'



“Amazon Light,” is how our Brazilian friend Flavia Figueira described our experience last August at Brazil’s Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge. And she was pretty accurate.

The 20-room, eco-friendly lodge, perched on a bluff overlooking the Rio Negro in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, provided a cushy base from which to explore the region. With its 400 pristine islands, the Anavilhanas Archipelago is the world’s largest fresh water archipelago and a Unesco World Heritage site.

Located about 125 miles northwest of the city of Manaus, it’s tucked away in a vast rainforest. You never see a car; occasionally you’ll spot a boat. Every day or so, you might see the seaplane transporting passengers to Manaus. (Yes, we did invoke the annoying, “Look boss, the plane…,” from classic TV show “Fantasy Island.”)

Yes, there were simple, but nicely appointed cottages; a lovely, open-air bar/lounge and restaurant that served fresh fruit, well-prepared fish, Brazilian rice, potato and vegetable dishes and, of course Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha.

There were also the excellent guides — most native to the region — who shepherded small groups of guests on daily outings. There was the small pool and its lovely deck, where it was a pleasure to settle in under an umbrella and dip into a good book.

Most importantly, however, there were no mosquitoes. The tannic acid of the Rio Negro keeps them away, so the worry of malaria or other tropical diseases is minimal.

With the exception of beverages, the lodge is all-inclusive — comprising 3 meals a day; 2-3 daily guided excursions and roundtrip transportation from Manaus by van. (The seaplane is extra.)

Activities generally are built around a three-night stay, which allows you to experience the basic excursions and take in the abundant animal and plant life in this unspoiled area.

Everything you do begins with a speed boat ride on the river with a driver, guide and well-stocked cooler. We found ourselves sipping beers at 11 a.m., followng a jungle hike or piranha fishing, and again at sunset after feeding the entertaining pink dolphins or visiting a village crafts center.

Highlights: Swimming in the river at sunset, taking a speed boat to watch the sun rise or after dinner to spot snakes, birds, caiman (alligators), sloths … in pitch darkness with only our guide’s spotlight to illuminate the way. Zipping around a nearby town on motorcycle taxis thrilled our 12-year-old daughter.

Yes, it was a bit “Amazon Light,” as our dear friend Flavia said, but it was a fine way to get a taste of the vast Amazon region. Depending on what time of year you go, and what country you visit, the experiences differ vastly. So do your research.

Getting there: American, Delta, Tam and Copa are among the airlines that fly to Manaus. Most stop in Atlanta, Miami, Panama, Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. Cost: Approx. $1,000.

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