Did you know than more than one million indigenous people and around 400 tribes are still living in the Amazonian Forest? And more impressively, did you know that some of them have never been contacted? It means that they have never ever been in touch with our modern civilization… Impressive, right?
1. Tourism in Amazonian tribes: a balance that yet needs to be found
Source: Conde Nast Traveller
Lots of tribes are realizing that their territory is in danger due to deforestation and also because they don’t legally own their land. Some NGOs such as Zero Deforestation are helping aborigines regain their rights and take care of this issue.
Ecotourism and community-based tourism may be a solution to develop a sustainable way of traveling that has a positive impact on the environment and helps preserve traditions. But we should absolutely avoid mass tourism, which would prevent a truly authentic experience. It’s important to find a balance before it’s too late. Brazil has started to regulate this form of tourism: to visit some indigenous communities, you need to ask for a FUNAI authorization. And it’s not easy to get.
Travelers can get enrolled in the matter by following those few guidelines:
- Be a slow traveler: take the time to discover the culture and avoid the very tourist 20 minutes show. Don’t trust travel agencies offering very short stays. Source: Joaoleitao.
- Do your research: make sure you know how your money will be useful to the community you’re visiting. You can also buy souvenirs directly from the producers, it’s better than buying them in town.
- Never ever judge: be curious but not intrusive and never mock anything. Not only may you offend your host but you’ll be spreading our own homogeneous culture and contribute to the disappearance of local customs. Source: guidelines to be a socially responsible traveler.
2. Where to start: several options depending on what you’re looking for
Source: Thing Link
The Amazonian Forest stretch on 9 countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guyana and Surinam. Therefore, it’s a must do if you’re planning a road trip in Latin America.
The Amazonian Forest is almost the same whichever entry point you decide on. If you’re a specialist on a specific topic, here are David Nichols’s recommendations. He’s currently working for Journey Latin America:
- for ornithology, prefer to go to the Peruvian side.
- for anthropology, Ecuador has a strong policy on community-based tourism.
- for wildlife, Ecuador is again a good option. For me, I believe that the Amazonian Forest is not the best place to see animals because it’s very dense. The Brazilian Pantanal or Africa seem much better.
If you want to live an authentic experience with a tribe, get ready to go deeper in the Amazonian Forest. Generally speaking, the more the tribes live in a remote area, the more their traditions are preserved and you can enjoy the wilderness. When I was in the Amazonian Forest, on the Bolivian side, I was quite disappointed by the experience because I didn’t go deep enough: the forest certainly was impressive but my accommodation, the food and the activities were too standardized.
There are different means of transportation to visit the Amazonian Forest. The density and the cost make air transportation quite difficult. But there are lots of fluvial alternatives:
- seaplane (a plane which can take off and land on water).
- canoe (a long and narrow craft, carved in a single tree trunk).
- one of the many motorboats.
3. Which is the best period?
Source: Good News Network
Since access is almost exclusively by the river, the accessibility of certain villages depends to a large extent on the water level. Between November and April, it rains quite a lot and it may be difficult to go to some remote area and do some water activities (but nothing is impossible). In October, when the river is at its lowest, you’ll have the best chances to see dolphins and caimans. On the other hand, it gets quite hot in July and in August.
As we mentioned in our guidelines to be a socially responsible traveler, if you really want to have a positive impact and avoid mass tourism, I’d suggest to go during the low season.
4. 3 must-pack things for your backpack
Source: Andrew Ly
- Rubber boots: because most paths get really muddy (sometimes up to the thighs) and rubber boots also prevent from bites. Leeches are really voracious down there.
- Repellant: mosquitos are eager to make your life hell and you’ll always be happy to have ready-to-use repellant and/or mosquito net when you’re sleeping. By the way, in some countries such as Brazil, the yellow fever vaccine is recommended. Be careful not to overuse repellant and choose one wisely: some are bad for biodiversity.
- Long sleeves and pants: to carry on with preventing bites, long clothes are a must in Amazonia. I recommend you to use antiperspirant material because the air is very moist…
5. Ayahuasca, symbol of the Amazonian tribes
Source: Revista Sabia
We can’t talk about an immersion in an Amazonian Tribe without mentioning Ayahuasca: this beverage made of creepers is traditionally drunk by shamans. Even if you don’t want to try it, you’d better know what it is because it is an important part of the aboriginal culture. It is said that Indians have been drinking it for 4000 or 5000 years.
According to Ayahuasca.com, almost all Amazonian tribes use this beverage which contains the energy of ancient spirits and allows shamans to contact them. Traditionally used to going into a trance, as a cure or as a purifying tool, Ayahuasca is a powerful hallucinogenic. Ayahuasca “makes you live your own death and your new birth in a New World (Source: Le Petit Shaman).
Be careful! As Ryan from the blog Le Sac À Dos says: some people are using the recent popularity of this beverage to make a living and are not really ethical. Make sure a real shaman will be the one to guide you into this spiritual travel of yours.
You also have to get your body ready for it. Le Petit Shaman lists all the food you are allowed to eat before and the types you should avoid eating before taking any Ayahuasca. Some people died because of this experience, so we can’t say it enough: be very careful and don’t joke about it.