As we make our way downriver, I am engulfed by the life around me.  Parrots dart between trees, dolphins splash in shallow waters and fish leap into our boat. In this stillness there is life.

Small towns perched on hillocks are far apart and only accessible by water. We pull into Atalaya, Brazil, to stretch our legs and wander the local market. Flanked by the Yavari’s yellow sand banks we are guided by an eagle soaring overhead until pulling into an estuary near our Eco-lodge. We are five hours from Benjamin Constant and the Amazon crossroads with the Yavari.

Amazon people
Typical villages in Colombia’s Amazon region consist of wooden houses with palm roofs.

Eco-Lodges such as Palmari and Heliconia, both nestled along the Yavari, quickly immerse you in the Amazonian mindset.  After paddling a dugout to a nearby lagoon and baiting hooks, we catch some piranha.

Recreation along the Yavari is more than just river games and jungle walks. The lodges focus on education, teaching the visitor about Amazonian life, local traditions of nearby communities and the abundant and often threatened wildlife.

Changing with the tide

The water level of the Amazon changes constantly. In rainy season, the level can rise 15 meters, covering vast forest and turning fields into flood plains. During the dry season, the Yavari retreats, exposing kilometers of white sand and turning swampy lagoons into watering holes for sloths, tapirs and wild deer.

Visiting at the beginning of the dry season, the water has dropped four meters, causing a variation in leaf color and leaving a mark on tree trunks.  The ground soaks up the water, creating thick muddy banks.  As we leave the base of a giant Ceiba tree all I can see is abundant greenness.

After two hours trekking through mud and swinging a machete to open the path, I step into the river village of Santa Rita, Peru. The village is neat, with a manicured central field, some wooden huts overlooking the river and open kitchens with suspended pots and pans. There is an aura of peace.

A local offers me a creamy white yucca juice and invites me into her home to see a large fish the village had caught earlier that day. Taking up most of the kitchen floor, the pirarucu fish is known for its size and soft meat. It generally swims on the surface of the water making it is easy to spear from canoes.

When the sun begins to cast its golden hue over the canopy of trees, we head back to our lodge, and can hear the cooks preparing a typical Brazilian dinner of yucca farinha, beans and plantain. Another day is ending on the Yavari, but the night has yet to go into overdrive.

As the first stars sparkle above the tree line I can spot the Southern Cross. I know that I cannot stay here but I am glad to have seen and touched the wonders of this fragile corner, which must be protected by the countries which share the Amazon, beyond Leticia.