Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Without a doubt the best tour I was on during my two week trip to the Amazon. While Gil’ mastery of the rainforest wildlife goes without question, what makes the tour so special is his the way he interweaves the presentation of the Amazon’s rich wildlife with an equally rich history of the region, his family and of course himself. On day 1, we set off to explore the National Park along the Tapajós River. On the way, Gil told us the remarkable story of how his family first came to Brazil, as well as his own fascinating upbringing in Santarém. Once we got there, we explored the jungle that Gil knows inside-out from his childhood. Although this part of the tour want the most diverse in terms of wildlife (maybe a few monkeys, but not much more), the scenery of the vastness of the Amazon was truly breathtaking. To top it off, Gil has prepared a camping-style lunch for us in the forest. Just as we were about to eat, however, it started to rain and we were forced to retreat. Our plan to camp in the rainforest had to be cancelled but Gil was king enough to let us stay in hammocks back at his place in Alter do Chão. On day 2, after a quick visit to the local fish-market to see the river-dolphins, Gil hired a boat for us to go right into the rainforest/wetland area. This is where Ornithologist Gil’s vast knowledge really made all the difference. As we moved through the vast river network, Gil would direct out attention to all manner of wildlife, and we were able to thoroughly appreciate the richness of the Amazon ecosystem. As a further treat, Gil’s cousin had prepared a delightful fish-stew for us which we enjoyed on the boat al-fresco before we returned back in town. Throughout the 2 days, our conversations were filled with wit, humour, history and a deep love for this endangered but still deeply fascinating region. The tour is quite intense, there is no doubt that you will be rewarded by a far greater intellectual awareness of the region than the common tour. One final point for those coming to see the Amazon from abroad. Gil’s English is truly excellent, so English speakers should not worry about this point. Indeed, Gil is one of the best English speakers that I have met in Brazil. I consider my Portuguese not bad, but I am truly put to shame when compared with Gil’s English. A testament to his curiosity and commitment to learning.

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