The Meeting of the Waters
One of the most important sights in Manaos and its area is the Meeting of the Waters (Encontro das Águas in Portuguese), the point where the river Negro (that flows through Manaos) and the river Solimões (known to the world as Amazon river) meet, downstream from Manaus. From the Meeting of the Waters downstream, the new river is known to Brazilians as the Amazonas. The reluctancy from both rivers to join creates a beautiful natural phenomenon, two distinct streams of water flowing along for miles and miles as it can be seen on the picture I took from the plane window.
On the left, the river Negro, its dark-coffee waters due to the presence of vegetation in decay and high acidic levels. On the right, the river Solimões, its muddy waters due to the presence of Andean mountain sediments. The river Negro is warmer than the Solimões; the Solimões, in return, flows faster than the Negro.
To fully enjoy your time at the Meeting of the Waters you need to make a phenomenal effort to abstract yourself from the landscape around you: forget the tankers anchored in the middle of the river Negro, the Brazilian navy ships, the refinery, the iron and steel works, the port, the containers and the floating rubish on the river. No mean feat!
There are several ways you can reach the Meeting of the Waters:
- for those on a tight budget, take the 713 bus from the centre of Manaus to the CEASA port. There you can take a ferry crossing the river and the Meeting of the Waters. Bear in mind it is not a tourist ferry, you will cross the Meeting of the Waters but the boat will not stop there.
- the CEASA port is also the departure point for motorboats (voadeiras) that you can hire to take you to the Meeting of the Waters.
- similar boats leave from the centre of Manaus. Make sure you pay attention to the state of the boat and also to the presence of life jackets on board.
- finally, there are six-hour trips leaving from the centre of Manaus and visiting the Meeting of the Waters, first, and the Janauary Ecological Park later. They cost around R$100 and several agencies in town offer a similar package..
If you are a photographer, the higher the boat, the better the perspective on the river. A traditional two-deck boat is better than a plain motorboat.
The Janauary Ecological Park
The Janauary Ecological park is located in a small peninsula between the river Negro and the river Solimões. It is a pocket of rainforest not far from the big city. Depending on the level of the rivers, the park is accessed on the very same boat that took you to the Meeting of the Waters or on smaller boats better suited for navigation when the river is low.
Navigation towards the park will take you through some river communities, where you will be able to see the harsh living conditions they have to endure.
There are a few floating restaurants near the park -where lunch is had, a buffet of Amazon fish. During the dry season a system of elevated catwalks allows tourist to enter the jungle. During the rainy season the river is so high that covers the catwalks – small motorboats enter the jungle with the tourists instead.
On a lagoon inside the park the magnificent victórias-régias (giant lillies) await the visitor. During the dry season they don’t look their best, though.
Is the trip worth it? I couldn’t tell for sure. I didn’t regret embarking on it but to be able to enjoy it I had to detach myself physically and mentally from the rowdy crowd of tourists embarked along. If you don’t have much time in Manaus you will kill two birds with one stone: you will get to see Manaus from the river (very interesting perspective) and will visit both the Meeting of the Waters and the Janauary park where you will get a remote taste of what a true Amazon experience must be like.
If, on the other hand, you are heading to a jungle lodge, forget the Ecological Park bit and stick to the Meeting of the Waters.