I watched a TV documentary on the mighty Amazon and was smitten – but my wife fancied a Caribbean cruise.
Luckily, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines solved our domestic as its good ship Braemar visited both the Amazon and four Caribbean islands.
We joined Braemar – a smaller-scaled ship which reaches places larger vessels can’t – berthed in Manaus, a city on the Amazon and 900 miles from the Atlantic coast.
We set about exploring its beauty, with street entertainers mingling with locals to create a lively atmosphere. Main attractions include elegant theatre Teatro Amazonas, and the Municipal Market, dating back to 1883, where you can buy goods at bargain prices.
Our first excursion of the holiday came aboard a motorised canoe to witness first-hand the famous ‘Meeting of the Waters, where the dark waters of the Rio Negro meets the yellow of Rio Solimoes, but never mix! Put your hand in to feel the temperature and speed of both currents – it’s an uncanny experience!
We left the canoe and trekked into the jungle, a long wooden bridge brought us to a lake where we saw giant lily pads. These magnificent plants can span up to three metres wide – a white flower blooms in the centre, then changes to purple. Legend has it, a beautiful girl fell into the lake and Mother Nature turned her into a lily...
Next stop, a local persuaded me to let him place a large Giboia snake around my neck, which was a nervous experience – I was more comfortable holding a baby sloth!
Our canoe entered tiny tributaries further into the jungle where floating reeds are home to exotic birds, fish leaping out of the water and an anaconda swimming just below the surface within touching distance... not recommended!
The tranquillity of the jungle is only broken by sweet bird song, which is a gift from nature to treasure. It was an exhilarating adventure.
The next day, my excitement was high with thoughts of visiting the indigenous Tucan tribe, located at a small clearing on golden sands on the edge of the jungle.
Welcomed by the chief in full regalia, he took us to his ceremonial hut, where tribal members performed dancing and singing, accompanied by pipes and drums. We were enthralled with routines that are carried out in times of celebration. We feasted on succulent fish cooked on a low- burning fire along with tapioca and baked bread. Delicious – I had a second helping!
Braemar sailed down the Amazon to our next port of call Parintins – again we witnessed the ‘Meeting of the Waters’ – this time, the Rio Negro joined the mighty Amazon.
We were excited as we set off to watch one of the most sought-after cultural festivals in Brazil, the Boi Bumba, performed by the Satere Mawe tribe. Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines arranged a private show for its guests, where we were welcomed with local rum cocktails, delightful but with a kick!
The music featured a vibrant rhythm section with emphasis on the drum beat, creating a pulsating sound, with repetitive melodies which had the audience animated.
We were certainly enjoying life on board Braemar, with activities to suit all, including guest lectures, friendly competitions and interactive deck games. Alternatively, you could just relax under a blue sky, with only the flying fish for company. Evenings were a major highlight with imaginative, mouth-watering menus, followed by shows in the lounges and theatre, ending perfect days.
Our last port of call was Santarem, and you can’t visit Brazil without going to the beach.
We journeyed to the picturesque village of Alter do Chao on the banks of Lake Altar. In the middle of the lake is a small picture-perfect island; a canoe ferried us over, where we stepped off onto white soft sand. We sat at the edge having a cold beer listening to the aquamarine water softly lapping around our feet – paradise!
We had four days relaxing at sea before visiting four Caribbean Islands.
Our shore excursion schedule was planned to see as much of each Caribbean island as possible.
Each one has its own highlights including Grenada’s Grand Anse beach, rated one of the top ten beaches in the world, which a must-visit.
Our final stop was Barbados – its capital Georgetown is a mixture of modern architecture that intermingles with Colonial buildings built by the British. Harrisons Cave is unique, where you marvel at its underground treasure including stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls and streams.
This cruise was perfectly balanced and the innovative itinerary enhanced by excellent tours, ensuring we captured an amazing Amazon adventure and Caribbean delights, leaving us with indelible memories of the best of both worlds.
- Fred Olsen’s fly-cruise programme includes more varied itineraries, reaching more islands across the Caribbean region. Prices from £2,199. For further information, visit the website at www.fredolsencruises.com, or call 0800 0355 242.