Added 3 September 2006
Before I start the trip report, I figure a trip of this magnitude deserves a little introduction, which you will find below. I have also included links to helpful resources at the bottom of this page. To go straight to the trip report, click on one of the links above or at the end of the introduction. If you're the kind who likes order, click the links from left to right. If you like chaos and confusion, click in any order you like.
And after checking out my report, if you haven't seen enough, remember to check out Chuck's web site for our trip: http://www.chucksweb.net/Trips/2006/BrazilJune06/BrazilMain.htm
Ever since visiting Costa Rica on our honeymoon, my wife Shannon and I have wanted to visit the Amazon. Five years later, we finally made it. My trip planning research revealed places worthy of a visit in addition to the Amazon, but of course the more widely we traveled, the more expensive the trip would become. Early on in the process, we decided that it would be fun (and probably cheaper) if we invited some travel with us. Our queries for travel companions were returned with many "I would love to go, but" responses, and only a few maybes, but we also got some more hopeful responses. Of those, only Chuck found himself able to take the time and spend the money to join us. Then Chuck's friend Dave also signed on to the trip. So it was that our group of four travelers was joined together.
After countless hours of research, price comparisons, and budget wrangling we ended up settling on three main regions within Brazil: The Atlantic Rainforest, the Pantanal, and Amazonia. Shannon and I would end up traveling for a total of 21 days. Chuck and Dave, unable to afford a trip that long (read, less willing to go into debt to go on a trip that long), traveled for 16 days. I should state here that Shan and I were lucky that we kept Chuck and Dave on the trip, as the price almost went out of their range. Or rather, it did go out of their range but they stuck with us anyway. My initial research on trip costs provided me with what turned out to be wildly optimistic prices. The more I searched, and the more I narrowed down what we definitely wanted to do, the higher the costs went.
After learning about and speaking with quite a number of tour companies, we ended up traveling with Focus Tours. (Also check out the Focus Conservation Fund, sort of the non-profit arm of Focus Tours. And don't forget to donate!) We ended up with them for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I probably wouldn't have found them at all had it not been for Douglas Trent, the President of Focus Tours, finding me first. He contacted me regarding the public lands cattle grazing pages I have on this web site. He happened to mention his tour company and the work he does in Brazil. Later, while almost ready to sign on the dotted line with another tour company, I remembered Douglas and started working with him on a tour.
His strong commitment to true ecologically sound tourism and to providing the benefits thereof to the local populations truly impressed us, and was an extremely important factor in our choice to use Focus Tours. They certainly weren't the cheapest way to go (far from it!), but I felt comfortable knowing that my money was going to be spent on a high quality tour with the most amount of money truly benefiting the people and places I would be visiting. Douglas hires only local guides, and portions of the tour cost go directly to conservation efforts, such as purchasing land for the Jaguar Ecological Preserve. Links to Focus Tours and the Focus Conservation Fund can be found below. All in all, I highly recommend them. My only complaint was that we all too frequently had communications issues, where our e-mails kept getting lost in transit, as well as a few times where it seemed like we'd been forgotten (whether that is the case, I don't know, nor at this point do I care). In retrospect, I should have done much more over the phone. But what's important is that our time in Brazil was spent with a top-notch company, and I can't imagine that we would have had such a phenomenal trip with anyone else. Now, let's get going on that phenomenal trip.
I have broken the trip report up by region. Follow the links below to my trip report and pictures of our three week adventure in Brazil. Each region has a little intro page of it's own with interesting information about the area.
***A word of warning, if you plan on traveling every moment of this trip with me here, be prepared for many hours of what I hope is entertainment. I like words as much as I like pictures. Enjoy the trip!
For those who want to know the gory details of the happenings between the time we left Tucson and the actual start of our tour, click on the "Pre-Tour" link below.