I can’t be everywhere to discover new things to do with my kids, no matter how much I wish I could. I’ve asked a few friends to jump in with what they love to do in their cities. Patricia from OurWholeVillage.com is sharing about her passion for traveling via an Amazon cruise with her kids.
Nothing brings me as much joy and happiness than traveling with my kids around the globe, viewing the world through their eyes, exploring different cultures and building incredible memories.
But let’s be honest, as fun and exciting as traveling is, it is not always easy to plan a trip that is rewarding for the entire family. Finding that balance between children-focused activities and fun stuff for the adults is tricky. More often than not, one side has to sacrifice. The result? Cranky kids or adults needing a vacation after the vacation.
Making family travel smooth, yet fun and exciting for everyone is a top priority at Our Whole Village and one of the main reasons we founded the company in the first place. We are firm believers that spending quality time with your kids is the best gift you can ever give them. And we are always in search of that perfect family experience.
Having visited more than 40 countries myself, nine of which were with my 3-year-old and 5-year-old, our favorite so far, and quite possibly the best experience your family could ever have, is (drumroll, please): a cruise in the Amazon.
The Rio Negro
In this case, I am talking about the Brazilian Amazon, more specifically the Rio Negro or “Black River.” The Rio Negro is the largest tributary of the Amazon River and the largest blackwater river in the world. Its sources are located in Colombia, where it is called Guainía. It flows along the border of Colombia and Venezuela to Brazil, where it meets the Rio Solimões to form the Amazon River south of Manaus.
The dark waters of this majestic river resemble tea or coffee and are a result of chemicals released by decaying vegetation. It’s inhospitable for mosquitoes, making the Rio Negro perfect for a family expedition.
While there are many jungle hotels in the area for different budgets and tastes, nothing compares to the experience of exploring the region by boat. The spontaneity and cultural immersion the cruise provides is unparalleled, truly enabling families to experience the vastitude and richness of the forest and its inhabitants.
The adventure started in Manaus, Brazil with a 5 hour 20 minute direct flight from Miami.
After a day or two in Manaus, we drove to Novo Airão, on the Rio Negro, where we and three other families embarked on the Jacaré-Açu, a regional-style boat, entirely crafted in wood. The boat was spacious and comfortable and the kids fell in love immediately. They felt like true explorers.
Surrounded by the magnificent Anavilhanas archipelago, the second largest fluvial archipelago in the world, we started our journey deeper into the Amazon toward the Xixuau Reserve, on the border of Waimiri-Atroari indian territory, on the Jauaperi River.
The next 7 days were packed with adventures and unforgettable experiences, from hikes in the jungle, fishing for piranhas and spotting caymans to celebrating carnaval at a local school, visiting amazing waterfalls and learning about the turtle conservation project in the area.
The Perfect Experience
Why is this such a great trip for families?
Contact with nature. Kids have a strong connection with animals and nature. Being surrounded by this magnificent forest, spotting colorful macaws, toucans, pink river dolphins, monkeys, river otters and so many other creatures was pure joy for them. They still talk about all the animals they have seen and it is the one place we have visited to which they ask to go back.
For the adults, it was a chance to reconnect with nature, our family and ourselves. Away from busy routines, e-mails and phones, we all felt more present in the moment and aware of everything around us. You know all the buzz around mindfulness and meditation and all the benefits they bring? Well, it was that – without the effort.
Cultural immersion. The river communities are open and friendly. If you show curiosity (and the kids always do), the locals will gladly show you how they make flour, canoes, handicrafts and more.
Since these communities are only reachable by boat, fewer tourists get there, making the visit an authentic journey into a different way of life and a great learning opportunity for the entire family.
While the kids were mesmerized by the differences, they were also very attentive to the similarities between them and the local kids. “They like popcorn and chocolate cake like I do! And soccer! And this little girl also has a Minnie Mouse t-shirt!”. What an amazing life lesson.
Fun for the entire family. There was something for everyone. We could read a book or sunbathe while the kids played freely, enjoy a paddle board or swim, choose to go fishing for piranhas or relax on the boat. There were plenty of activities for the kids, the parents and the family as a whole.
River beaches. Yep, that’s right. The No. 1 “must have” for families on vacation was there, too. And these beaches are unlike anything you have ever seen before. They are incredible and safe if you listen to your guide. There’s something magical about a beach in the middle of a huge river, surrounded by the rain forest.
Swimming in the river was definitely one the trip’s highlights for all the kids aboard the Jacaré-Açu. And I swear those waters have healing powers.
Patricia Monahan is the mother of Sofia (5) and Julia (3). Passionate about traveling and learning about other cultures, she founded Our Whole Village to help families connect with the world, its people and cultures. For more information on the Amazon cruise and other itineraries visit www.ourwholevillage.com or email her at [email protected]