Brazil is a very large country, occupying half of South America’s area and bordered by every other South American country except Chile and Ecuador. And its eastern border meets the Atlantic Ocean.
The country’s enormous size has led to a diversity of biomes, including savannas, tropical and subtropical forests, and wetlands.
The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest, the lungs of the Earth, contains most of the world’s most untouched tropical forest.
Brazil is home to the majority of this rainforest, and around 60% of it located in the country. In order to protect the Amazon and its wildlife from ongoing deforestation, Brazil has established protected areas.
The tropical north of Brazil is where you’ll find the largest amount of Amazon Rainforest. This is across the states of Acre, Rondônia, Amazonas, Pará, Tocantins, Roraima, and Amapá.
A smaller amount of the tropical forest stretches into the central state of Matto Grosso.
The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest is the largest section of Amazonia, stretching from Tabatinga in the west to Belem in the east.
To give you an idea of size, Brazil contains 60% of the entire Amazon Rainforest, with Peru holding the second-highest amount at 16%. This means that Brazil is home to 3 million km of rainforest.
The forest is teeming with incredible tropical rainforest life, including Amazon icons like the Jaguar, Tapir, Giant Otters, and Harpy Eagles. Many species of Amazonian wildlife, like the Aracá uakari (Cacajao ayresi), are unique to Brazil.
You can visit many different Amazon Rainforest lodges or cruise the Amazon River and take professionally guided walks into surrounding forest.
And some of the Amazon base cities and towns include:
Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon rainforest, is a bustling industrial port located on the Amazon River. To avoid confusion, note that the Amazon River is known as the Rio Solimões in Brazil starting from Manaus. And this is where the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões converge before its emergence into the Atlantic Ocean just above Belem.
The Anavilhanas, also known as the Parque Nacional de Anavilhanas, is a protected area near Manaus, focused on the Amazon River and its surrounding banks. It spans across hundreds of Amazonian islands over an area of 100,000 hectares, as well as 260,000 hectares of riverside forest.
Jau National Park
Jau National Park, located in the Amazon region, is the largest national park in this region and protects tropical forest within the Rio Negro watershed. It covers the entire 1 million hectare watershed of the Jaú River and is a massive park of over 2 million hectares, providing habitat to incredible wildlife, such as Harpy Eagles, Jaguars, Mountain Lions, Giant Amazon Otters, Manatees, and many other species.
Although Santarém is not as well-known as its larger neighbors Manaus and Belem, it is another gateway to the Amazon Rainforest that provides a unique view of various lakes formed near the city.
Before European colonization, the area was inhabited by an indigenous community known as the Tapajós, from where the Rio Tapajós and the protected area accessible from the city got their names.
Santarém offers access to some stunning “Aquarium Lakes.” This is where you can see numerous tropical fish in their natural habitat.
These lakes surround Santarém due to geographical features, as well as the Tapajós River. This river emerges just west of the city and combines with the Amazon River to form its own meeting of the waters. This is a phrase more well-known in Manaus due to the merging merging of the Rio Amazonas and Rio Negro.
Floresta Nacional do Tapajós
To the southwest of Santarém, along the Rio Tapajós, lies the Floresta Nacional do Tapajós protected area. And this is where you can hike, canoe and stay for a few days to experience the Amazon and its wildlife.
This is an example of a community-governed forest that is separated into different uses, such as regeneration, sustainable harvesting (non-logging), total preservation, and logging research.
The Pantanal, the world’s largest continuous freshwater wetland, spans 54,000 square miles (140,000 km²). And it offers incredible wildlife opportunities. It’s an excellent location to spot some of tropical South America’s most sought-after species, such as Anacondas and Jaguars, which are often too elusive to spot in the rainforest. The Pantanal stretches across Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso states, as well as extending into Paraguay and Bolivia.
The Cerrado, a savanna-like environment with a humid climate and an intense dry period, is home to many interesting animals, such as Maned Wolves, Hyacinth Macaws, and a unique population of tool-using Capuchin Monkeys. Additionally, 44% of the plant life in the Cerrado is found nowhere else on Earth. After the Amazon Rainforest, the Cerrado is Brazil’s second-largest habitat.
The Atlantic Forest is a tropical forest with subtropical habitats and runs along the Atlantic coast of Brazil. It is one of the most endangered tropical forests globally, and only a small percentage of the original forest cover is still present. Businesses and NGOs are making significant efforts to restore the area. Restoration and conservation are of utmost importance. And nearly half of the animals and plants found in this forest are found nowhere else on Earth.
Cities of Interest
The main cities to base yourself for a Brazilian adventure are:
- Brasilia | Brazil’s Capital, Culture and Itiquira Falls
- Rio de Janeiro | Culture, Carnaval, Atlantic Forest gateway
- Sao Paulo | Culture, Atlantic Forest gateway
- Foz do Iguaçu | Iguaçu Falls
- Salvador | Culture, History, Gastronomy, Atlantic Forest Gateway
- Manaus | Amazon Rainforest Gateway
- Santarem | Amazon Rainforest Gateway
- Cuiaba | Pantanal Wetlands Gateway