Manaus is 1450 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean on the Rio (River) Negro just past its meeting point with the Amazon River. It is a city of some 1.8 million people and while it is close to the rainforest, it is quite heavily industrialized. Eco tourism along the Rio Negro is its main industry but there is also a Honda Motor plant, a Harley-Davidson plant, many chemical plants, petroleum refineries and other industries. Arriving in Manaus, one first sees the meeting point of the muddy Amazon and the dark Rio Negro. They flow side by side for some 18 kilometres before the waters of the two actually mingle. This is one of the favourite local sights (photo). There are also views of the large ships that call (photo) and then some industrial areas ( photo) before seeing the downtown skyline (photo). We docked at one of the many floating docks installed to accommodate docking no matter the level of water in the river. Many of the old colonial buildings still exist and have been renovated (photo) but some are still in a deplorable condition though still inhabited. The downtown is easily walkable and I set off to tour the Cathedral (photo), Amazonas Opera House (photos), Customs House (photo) and an old market modelled on Les Halles in Paris, before heading back to the ship for my afternoon tour. The tour was labelled Flora and Fauna. We started at Bosque da Ciencia, an open air museum that is an Amazonian Research Station whose most famous project is the species revival of the Amazonian river manatee (photo). We were given an introduction to some of the more interesting plant species of the region seeing a dried version of the largest leaf known (photo) and a Tinambuca tree which is some 600 years old (photo). We then moved on to the Military Zoo which is a rescue centre for indigenous animals. This used to be in private hands but animals kept “disappearing” so the military took it over for security. It is actually in the middle of a military training centre. We saw a jaguar (photo), black panther (photo), many monkeys (photo), quite a few birds (photo), a capivara, the world’s largest rodent (photo), snakes, turtles and other animals.
Today I took a riverboat ride down the dark waters of the Rio Negro. We saw the Meeting of the Waters again. It was explained to us that differences in density, temperature and speed between the two rivers create this phenomenon. Above Manaus, the Amazon is referred to locally as the Solimoes River and is only called the Amazon after the Solimoes and the Rio Negro flow together. We saw the huts of the Ribeirinhos (river people) on the riverbanks. Some live in stilt houses (photo) and others in houseboats (photo) which can be moved to other locations and which of course are not affected by the annual rise and fall of the river. All of the villages have electricity, an election promise of a previous government. We then went to Lake January and boarded small motorized canoes for a close-up view of the local vegetation and trees. We were lucky to see the Victoria Regia water lilies, the leaves of which can measure up to three feet across (photo). We also saw quite a few birds (photos). Lastly, we had a visit from a young boy who showed off his Cayman (photo). It rained today, not to be unexpected in the rainforest, but it was only the second day of rain that we have had so far. The roof of the boat leaked and I was completely soaked by the end of the tour. In the afternoon I toured the inside of the Opera House which was not open yesterday. We are now heading east to the Atlantic Ocean and tomorrow we are in Parintins.