I accompanied a friend in her mid 50’s who had a contract to write two books on the Amazon around Manaus.
I am a 60+ artist who wanted to capture what remained of relatively untouched Amazonia. We chose Tupana Lodge because it seemed to offer an authentic Amazonian experience with comfortable rooms and great Brazilian food. We also chose Tupana because it offered a chance to experience still virgin rain-forest and a chance to understand and even become part of the culture, albeit for a relatively short period of time. We were not seeking entertaining “indian” dances around a campfire nor glitzy shows or caged animals in a zoo nor a menu that could have been prepared in Boston, Seattle, Chicago or Houston. What we experienced was even better than we had anticipated and we knew we had made exactly the RIGHT decision to stay at Tupana. I must also say that we did not choose Tupana because we were on a tight budget, although it is relatively less expensive than many other lodges. We chose it because it offered what many do not, a chance to experience the rhythms and beauty of the rainforest up close and personal with people who are citizens of the area. We spent several days later in our trip in air-conditioned splendor in Manaus which was comfortable, but the hotel could have been a themed environment anywhere in the world. Tupana offered us a chance to become part of life in the Amazon in a very real sense. Let me elaborate:
After our two van rides and two boat rides from our Bed and Breakfast ( Chez les Rois in Manaus – which should be a MUST for anyone who enjoys Tupana) we arrived at the lodge. After climbing a series of steps broken by a few well-place landings ( this is not a trip for someone who has trouble climbing steps since the lodge sits well-above the river and even more-so during dry season) we were escorted to our comfortable room which overlooked the river ( a tributary of the Solimoes River which is part of the Amazonian water shed.) Even though we arrived on one of the hottest days of the year and there was only electricity during part of the day and night, we never felt overly hot and never uncomfortable. A breeze blows from the river and always seems to be enough to cool you while sitting on the porch in chairs or lying in the hammock or while sleeping in our very comfortable beds inside.
After putting our bags inside we were met by Cochita the resident (rescued) monkey who wanders freely around the grounds, but flees into the jungle if she is threatened with a bath. We also met Romeo the tapir, another animal rescued after its mother had been killed by hunters. A wonderful dog, whose name I can’t remember and a flock of chickens are the other permanent animals on the grounds. But, monkeys abound in trees surrounding the lodge area and flocks of parrots and toucans fly from nearby tree to nearby tree during the day.
The food is wonderful, varied and plentiful at each meal. We had no idea what to expect so packed a few emergency supplies in case we felt hungry, but they never were touched except between plane flights in and out of country. We were introduced to many Brazilian/Amazonian dishes we had never known existed and each was exceptionally good and there was always food left over on the buffet after we finished our meal.
The large lodge itself holds both the restaurant and a sitting area with comfortable couches and chairs and a reception area/bar in one corner. There are only four rooms with porches and a river view and a similar number of other rooms that face the jungle ( and a small patch of grass for soccer/futebol playing.) Two cabins on stilts sit a short ways back from the lodge overlooking a tributary of the river in wet season and a deep, verdant gully during the dry season. These are reached by a wooden walkway that forms a porch for the lodge and an overlook towards the river in the other direction.
Even though the information we received before arriving indicated scheduled hikes et al, we learned that everything was pretty much up to any schedule with which we felt comfortable other than needing to get up early if you wanted to catch the astounding sunrise from a boat a short-way up-river. Of course, morning hikes were preferable since the hottest part of the day should be set aside for relaxation. Nigel was assigned to us as a guide and we felt so fortunate for that choice. We felt a friendship developing as we got to know him, but his knowledge of the environment was a real bonus. His knowledge was gained at the side of his grandmother who was Tucana Indian who was steeped in historical Tucana medical practices.
This was an area of interest to both of us, so we felt extremely pleased that we were hiking with a “self-referencing native-medicinal” guide who happened to also be a great companion just by himself. We never realized how important all senses are to determining just what variety of plant or tree one is looking at. Not only is sight important, but feel, touch and taste all come into play when assessing the exact variety of foliage in hand. Nigel is also an unbelievable capable fisherman using just a length of nylon line on its roll with a hook and some meat attached to the end. We had slightly more sophisticated poles, – a tree branch with nylon line attached and either fish or chicken for bait. We ate one of the bass NIgel caught for lunch the day we were leaving and it was delicious! We fished, had less good luck, but it didn’t matter. We watched the animal life along the river, enjoyed the put-put-put of a school boat (straight out of The African Queen) and another filled with a family spilling out over its gunnels which traversed the river at sunset and marveled at the varied foliage and changes evident on the river between wet and dry seasons including the topography.
And, there truly are few- if any- mosquitoes in the area. I saw or heard, perhaps, three in total for our 3 days at Tupana. This includes when we hiked into the jungle away from the river for several hours each time.
Finally, I cannot say enough about the owners – Walter and Conceicao. We had a mishap as we were on the road heading back towards Manaus that was no fault of anyone at Tupana. Because of Walter’s strength of character, gentleness and humanity we felt that no matter how abruptly our travels ended , we had met a person we will always think of with great affection and respect. He spent many days with us easing our return to the US even though he had many other responsibilities and should have been tending to his own condition. He is one of those rare people who can measure up a situation, take charge without disrupting what needs to be done by others, thinks clearly and in depth about all details, can still smile when under duress and has an inner strength, calmness and gentleness that you rarely find in one person.
Tupana and everyone there – visitor and employee alike – are in great hands with Walter ( and Conceicao.). What he set out to accomplish at Tupana 4 years ago ( offering an authentic Amazonian experience for those interested in the environment and culture of the Amazon region) has been a great success so far. We feel so fortunate to have been able to experience this in our life-time.