March 13, 2019, 12:44 pm
I began the last day of this Amazon tour gazing over palm trees from a small observatory in my Puerto Nariño hotel. The Amazon River peaked between the trees and the sky was a tranquil blue.
Leaving Puerto Nariño
After a quick breakfast of eggs, arepas, fresh fruit and Colombian coffee at the hotel, my guide David and I headed to Puerto Nariño’s small dock where other tourists and locals were waiting for the ferry. The boat carrying about 50 other people headed south down the Amazon River and I could see Peruvian territory to my right and Colombia land to my left. The river is very wide in these parts and it felt like we were cruising through an ocean instead of the famous river that snakes through South America.
About an hour and 30 minutes later, we arrived back to the small port in Leticia where this adventure began. A short walk away from the docks took me to a bustling market with everything from bright vegetables to knock-off purses being sold. We bought a snack at a kiosk selling traditional Colombian food such as arepas, empanadas and fresh fruit juice.
I could have spent more time exploring Leticia and possibly even returned to Parque Santander, which I checked out on Day 1, but we headed to Mundo Amazonico Ecological Park instead. It’s located about 20 minutes by car from Leticia’s port. It’s part botanical garden, part culture and nature center. We spent about three hours there as a park guide talked to us about the traditions and cultures of Amazon tribes, aquatic animals of the Amazon and various medicinal benefits of Amazonian plants. The highlight for me was learning how to shoot a bow-and-arrow. Mundo Amazonico offers a traditional Colombian lunch for an extra fee, but we skipped it so we could eat Brazilian food across the border.
Crossing into Brazil
Leticia shares a border with a Brazilian town called Tabatinga. We crossed the border by car. There were two cones and two uniformed men standing on the side of the street. The officers, plus a modest sign, were the only indications we had crossed into a new country. Even though it didn’t take much effort to make it into Brazil, I was surprised how drastically everything changed. Store signs and billboards immediately changed to Portuguese. Restaurants offered Brazilian food and Brazilian music flowed out of cars.
Tabatinga isn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing and David told me it can be dangerous at night. But it was so cool to step a toe in three countries during this Amazon trip and the food I scarfed down in the Brazilian restaurant in Tabatinga was delicious. After lunch, I bought Brazilian candy at a nearby shop. David advised me to change 20,000 COP, about 7 USD, into Brazilian reais because I would save money. He told me most of the places in Tabatinga take Colombian pesos, but I would save money if I changed some currency at a little booth at the border. The 20,000 COP, or 7 USD, was plenty of money for lunch, a drink and enough Brazilian candy to give me a sugar rush while waiting for my flight back to Bogotá.
Tips and Advice for an Amazon Tour
This Amazon tour was incredible and I am so happy I got to go. If you are planning on taking an Amazon vacation, keep these things in mind:
- You have to pay 30,000 COP, about 10 USD, at the Leticia airport after landing. It’s some kind of tourism fee.
- Bring long socks to wear with the rain boots you will borrow because the trails are very muddy.
- For the love of Oprah, don’t forget bug spray!
- People don’t really understand vegetarianism in Colombia and it’s worse in the Amazon. If you eat fish, you’re in luck as many of the main dishes are caught from the river. If you don’t eat meat or fish, bring some high-protein vegetarian or vegan snacks to supplement the salad, white rice and plantains you will be living off of.
- Don’t forget to pack pants (think sweatpants for sleeping), a long-sleeve shirt and a jacket. Most nights were chilly.
- Internet is really spotty in Leticia and was non-existent in the other destinations. Send loved ones your itinerary and let them know you will be off the grid for a few days so they don’t worry.
Visit Uncover Colombia’s Amazon tour page to see a detailed itinerary and find out how you can take the same tour.
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