Chapter 6 Family Friendly Amazon
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The Brazilian Amazon teems with attractions and activities for younger visitors, and there’s no need to let commonly-held preconceptions about the region deter you from planning a family trip to the jungle. Fears about uncomfortable accommodations, a sticky climate, swarms of mosquitoes and biting creatures rarely match the reality – it’s just a matter of knowing where to go and where avoid.

The Amazon offers plenty for kids to get excited about at any time of year. Canoeing through the flooded jungle is a highlight of the rainy season, while in dry season virgin beaches spring up alongside the clear, calm rivers, and swimming opportunities abound.

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Children will get to see how Amazon communities live in the jungle, and while visitors are unlikely to spot dangerous wild animals, they’ll have a good chance of sighting pink dolphins, as well as countless colorful tropical birds and butterflies.

Fishing and paddling in dugout canoes are popular activities for older children, while adventurous teenagers can trek through the jungle and get clued up about jungle survival: learning which plants are edible and which are poisonous, how to identify birds and spot caiman at night, all make for an enthralling and educational experience.

Visitors young and old alike will enjoy tucking into bowls of piranha soup, feasting on colourful tropical fruit – many of which are unheard of outside Brazil – and learning about the jungle’s many animal inhabitants.

Arguably the best regions for children are the mosquito-free Negro and Tapajos rivers (see pages xx and xx). The clear waters here are good for swimming, and the lack of biting insects is a major boon. Murkier waters can attract too many mozzies for comfort. While there is no ‘wrong’ time for accessible family visits the Amazon, younger children are sure to appreciate the beaches that emerge in the dry season when sand castle-making, splashing in the clear, clean waters (a world away from the sadly polluted city beaches of famous beach destinations such as Rio de Janeiro) are real child-pleasers.

For older children and teenagers, paddle-boarding, kayaking and piranha fishing are all popular activities, and those traveling aboard a private yacht can get a real buzz from jumping off the vessel’s decks, with their varying heights, into the river below.

Indeed, while there are a growing number of high-end jungle lodges in the Brazilian Amazon, families may find that making their base aboard a private yacht is the most appealing and practical way to see the Brazilian Amazon. Young children can take naps in their own bedrooms when needed, and there’s always an opportunity to rustle up a snack for fussy eaters in the boat’s kitchen.

Keeping healthy

Families visiting the Brazilian Amazon should be sure to have yellow fever injections before setting off, and to ask their family doctor about any specific precautions that their children should take. Be sure to bring all medicines that may be necessary – including diarrhea tablets, ibuprofen/paracetamol etc, from home, as there will rarely be a pharmacy at close hand on your trip.

Choose mosquito-free areas, where there is no malaria. Check medical advice on anti-malarials as they may come with significant side effects.

The most common health hazard in the Brazilian Amazon is sun-stroke – it is hugely important to protect kids from the intensely strong equatorial sun. Heat rashes and skin allergies due to the high temperatures and humidity are also common among children, so be sure to bring any creams and ointments your doctor recommends. Tropical strength insect repellent is advisable, although those with a very high DEET content may not be suitable for young children.

Food and drink

With its brightly-colored, unusually-shaped fruits and vegetables and plentiful freshwater fish, the Amazonian diet is not only healthy but is also likely to appeal to adventurous eaters looking to rack up culinary experiences that will impress friends back home. For those with more conservative tastes, most upscale lodges – and all yachts – can put together a dish to suit even the fussiest child. If your child has dietary restrictions it is wise to advise the company you are traveling with beforehand, in order for the necessary culinary arrangements to be made.

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