Travelling to the Amazon rainforest solo (😱) at the age of 23
Updated: Mar 22, 2021
In the New year of 2019 entering 2020, I published a question on my Instagram social media page: “If you died right now, would you be satisfied with the life you have lived so far?”
With a “Yes” or “No” answer response, most people responded “No.”
Why do we so often wait and miss out on life opportunities? If COVID has taught us anything, it is that there is no “right time” to have everything prepared to lead the life you want to live, and that life itself is a blessing. We put off our dreams and desires, waiting for “a better day,” by the time we have blinked twice life has taken over.
In July 2018 I had just graduated from university, I managed to secure my first undergrad job and I was renting a room in a house located in the perfect neighbourhood. Shortly after my graduation, I gave that all up to pursue a trip I had only ever dreamt about. I was about to travel to the Amazon rainforest alone.
I was terrified, of course, to travel to one of the most remote locations in the world, on the other side of the world, heaving with a Russian roulette of the world's most dangerous animals alone.
As you can probably tell by now, I have never been one to just fit in with the crowd (😜). I knew I had to adopt nothing less than a survival mindset to get through this, as I would have absolutely no contact with the outside world throughout my stay and would have to adapt to extreme conditions swiftly. I adopted a “now or never” mindset, I could either go and pursue my dreams or dream about it.
I flew from Heathrow airport to Sao Paulo, and from there to the state of Manaus.
I had chosen Gero Tours to guide me through the Amazon after seeing rave reviews about them on Tripadvisor. The staff at Gero Tours picked me up from my hotel, we drove through the Ceasa market
and port to take a speed boat through the "Meeting of the Waters" (the junction of the two rivers Amazon and Negro River) to arrive at Careiro Village.
We then took the 319 Br, a branch of the TransAmazonica road to the Arara River, and hopped on a wooden boat to reach the Mamori basin where our lodges were located.
After enjoying one of the freshest and well-prepared breakfasts (cooked by a native chef & included in my tour package) I prepared for what would be my first day exploring the rainforest.
As soon as we entered the rainforest, a welcoming committee of mosquitos swarmed towards us to greet us. Oh yes, heavy mosquito repellent is not only a necessity, it is a must.
Throughout the trek, our amazing guide educated us on the properties of medical plants and survival techniques we would need in the Amazon.
The guide showed us how to recognize a tarantula habitat and pulled one from out of the ground
which was unexpectedly calm and collected, exhibiting a demeanor that was the complete opposite to my reaction of freaking out.
On the other side, we hopped into a wooden boat. As the boat drove through the waters, I realised that the location we were driving to looked a little different from the clear waters we had experienced earlier.
The engine stopped in a particularly murky spot. Before I could hypothesize a reason why we travelled here, I was given a wooden stick with a string attached and a piece of meat on the end.
The surface of the pitch-black waters appeared to be very stagnant and unassuming, there was no visual evidence (from what I could see) of marine life. The guide told me to put my stick into the water, out of nowhere a swarm of piranhas surrounded the bait, jabbing it at the speed of light.
Startled, I pulled the fishing rod out of the water, with a piranha attached, mid-air the piranha literally did a somersault and dived back into the water. Considering how easy this was, my second attempt took a lot longer. Eventually, I caught one!
After retrieving my fish and feeling very chuffed, I sat down and turned back to see the struggles of the other tourists.
As I turned my head back to the front of the boat, a piranhas eyes and mine locked.
The piranha leaped out of the fishing bucket at the nose of the boat and darted towards me to get its revenge. I saw my life flash before my eyes for a critter that was not even a 10th of my size ;'-)
I lunged back, only catching my breath and stabilizing my movements quick enough to prevent the whole boat from capsizing.
People were pi**ed.
After we had all made a catch, the guide drove us to another location, along the way we passed one of the Amazon's most famous residents, the pink dolphin! The boat paused for a while to allow us to enjoy the scenery. The driver turned to us with a smirk on his face and asked whether we wanted to jump.
This could have been a joke, however leading with my heart, I jumped into the black river.
As you will be able to tell from the video, as soon as I entered the waters my brain woke up to remind me of the Piranhas, Bull sharks, Anacondas, Caimans, Boas, Eels, Vipes Arapaimas, and that weird pink dolphin thing, that call this river home.
My body panicked. After 5 attempts of trying to climb onto the boat and slipping into the water repeatedly, I finally succeeded. This was such a liberating moment now that I think back to it.
Upon returning to the base, we had our piranhas fried and frittered for dinner. Later this evening we were taken back out for a nocturnal tour of alligator spotting
The best part of the trip was truly reserved until the end. I was woken up at 5 am before sunrise. Exhausted from the excitement and adrenaline, I threw on whatever piece of clothing was nearest to me to see what all the hype was about. Our guide drove us to a location where we witnessed a scene that looked like something out of a Jurassic park movie.
This specific moment really defined my journey. I felt a sense of peace that I have never felt before, an indescribable mental and physical peace that left us all in awe. It could really only ever be experienced. I left the site thinking to myself that if the kingdom of heaven real this is is, this must be it. Silenced, captivated, and enthralled our guide led us like sheep to the next location: A Native Caboclos area.
We were shown how to use the Achiote plants as face paint.
The natives spoke to us about native practices, their local history, and day-to-day life in the Amazon rainforest. This was a really humble and grounding moment.
I truly felt like I wanted to stay!
For the final part of our trip, we canoed through the tangled and aged flooded creeks of igarapé and igapó to arrive at one of the most mesmerizing locations I have ever witnessed in my life.
The white snow-like material is actually cotton!
The trip involved me coming face to face with the purest forms of nature and learning how to adapt myself to the environment. It involved me having to fish for piranhas for dinner, having to be constantly aware of my surroundings for my survival, and sleeping in the jungle alone. However, the knowledge I developed of who I am and what I can achieve alone are lessons that are irreplaceable, and have profoundly contributed to the confidence in my growth and direction today. Thanks to the amazing Amaon Gero Tour team, I always felt safe and well guided throughout my stay. I highly recommend booking with them. I plan to re-visit the Amazon when borders open for a much longer stay and to really immerse myself into the environment to become one with nature again. In the Amazon rainforest, with a roulette of the world’s most dangerous animals, I found my kingdom of heaven.
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