From Miami, Anastasia Espinosa shares stories about her fascinating cultural trip with her daughter’s school to the Amazon rainforest
As part of Tatiana Sumner’s (my daughter) culmination of her Portuguese elementary education at Ada Merritt K-8, the parents, along with PIPA (Portuguese International Parent Association), organized a cultural trip to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil for the fifth graders. We were fortunate to have a parent from the area with travel industry experience and whose family owns a lodge in the Amazon, the Cirandeira Bela.
On June 12, nineteen parents and nineteen 5th graders embarked to explore the Amazon rainforest and its surroundings. First stop: Manaus, the capital of the Amazonas state, 900 miles inland from the Atlantic ocean. We stayed in the city for three days which served as a great starting point to visit some nearby waterfalls and hikes. From Manaus, you can do half-day boat tours to see the convergence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes that forms the Amazon river. Sunset tours to fish piranhas, catch Cayman (which are released back into the river), and witness beautiful sunsets with the forest as your backdrop. The energy of nature is palpable.
What the kids enjoyed the most about Manaus was the opportunity to swim with the boto rosa (pink river dolphin). Yes, be prepared to go into the river, in the wild, and experience the dolphins swimming all around you while they are fed!
In Manaus, we also had the opportunity to visit the Manaus Opera House, also known as the Amazon Theatre, a historical landmark that currently accommodates the Amazonas Philharmonic. We also visited the city’s largest marketplace, Mercado Municipal Adolfo Lisboa, where you can find beautiful baskets, handmade jewelry by local indigenous tribes, as well as homeopathic remedies.
Visiting the old city, we learned about the history of what at one time was one of the most important ports in Brazil. Unfortunately, today in Manaus, you can witness the poverty that has affected and deteriorated this region.
About 70 miles southwest of Manaus, we arrived at the Cirandeira Bela in Manacapuru. The pousada is owned by a family at the school, and we were received with much love, care, and details, such as a small necklace with a sapo protetor (the frog protector). As soon as you arrive, you feel the energy of the forest and the river that runs through the property. The property is an open space that combines nature, energy, the love the owners have put into the details, and the diversity & inclusiveness of those who work there to create a wonderful experience.
The outdoor lodge is composed of several rustic huts and three new updated bungalows with private river access. The river that runs through the property serves as the water play area with slides, waterfalls, and sunbathing areas. Beautiful guided trails and ATV rides through the property. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are homemade with typical foods which include rice, beans, farofa (yuca flour), and different types of river fish.
Day trips included a visit to a local indigenous tribe, Aldea Tururukariuka, where we learned, saw, and experienced their ways of living. The children took backpacks with school supplies to give to the local children and also had a serious soccer match.
We also had boat tours in the Rio Negro where the water was so high that we were navigating through the tree tops – and why not go for a dip? As part of giving back to the community, we visited the local orphanage Casa Esperança (House of Hope). It was a very moving experience for all of us, which inspired us to create a GoFundme to help with the expansion of their beautiful work.
As the trip came to an end and to continue with some local traditions, at the lodge, we celebrated Festa Junina, which is the festival of the harvest. We also met a Pajé (Shaman) who performed a cleansing ritual.
The whole experience was unforgettable! The energy you feel from the forest and nature around you is real, and we must do everything we can to protect the Amazon. This 10-day trip may not be for everyone, but it is one that myself and the nineteen 5th graders will never forget as we were forever impacted by the experience and the people.
Please consider donate to Casa Esperança.
*This content was originally published by Miami Shores Living