Having returned from our stay at the incredible Anavilhanas jungle Lodge in the Amazon forest, we had a few free hours remaining to us the next morning before heading back to Manaus airport for our onward flight to Sao Paulo.
There are many worthwhile tourist attractions in Manaus, however the main sight we were really keen to see was the so-called Meeting of the Waters - the confluence of the Solimoes river (already the world's largest river by this point) with the Rio Negro, to form the almighty Amazon river.
Meeting us at our hotel after breakfast was Rodolpho, a local tour guide who proceeded to take us on a short sightseeing drive around the city of Manaus.
Rodolpho is a local born and bred, and his passion for his city and its people is evident. He is a fount of Manaus knowledge, pointing out the industries variously flourishing or foundering in the challenging economic climate of Brazil, as well as showering us with facts on his people, their passions and their concerns. It is clear throughout our Manaus attractions tour that he is keen to focus on the positives of life in Brazil and what it is to be Brazilian, and is a keen ambassador for his country and his city in particular.
We park up near the city center, and take a wander around the historic old town attractions of Manaus. We marvel at the architecture of the imposing Palacio da Justica building as well as the stunningly ornate Teatro Amazonas and its iconic mosaic dome, both attractions which were built over a century ago during the wealthy era of the city's rubber boom. The thousands of coloured tiles gleaming atop this grand theatre and opera house are laid out in a pattern resembling the Brazilian flag, and are a gorgeous sight.
Then Rodolpho leads us to a traditional Manaus Sunday street market, where we mingle with other bustling locals doing their browsing. We pick up a couple of locally made products as gifts and some snacks for ourselves, and sip on exotic fruit juices freshly squeezed on the spot.
The Meeting of Waters
Next up is the highlight of the morning tour. We take a quick drive down to the harbour where Rodolpho has organised a small private motorboat to take us the short way downriver from Manaus port to the Meeting of Waters.
These two enormous rivers come together in a remarkable way. Or, that is to say, they don't really come together at all, at least not for a good few kilometres after they first meet.
The reason for this is the stark differences in the makeup of the waters gushing down these mammoth waterways. The Solimoes river scampers along at a brisk 6 km/h, its relatively cooler and denser waters rebuffing any attempt by the slower Rio Negro to co-mingle. By contrast, the Rio Negro ambles along more languidly at a speed of around only 2 km/h, and its acidic water has a temperature a full 6 degrees warmer than that of the Solimoes at a balmy 28 degrees Celsius.
Visually the effect of this meeting of waters is striking too. The aptly named Rio Negro is a black-ish tea-like colour, due to the large amount of dissolved plant matter its water has picked up along the leisurely route through the jungle. On the other hand, the cappuccino-like colour of the Solimoes is thanks to the rich amounts of sandy sediment it has accrued on its long journey down from the Andes mountains.
The effect is that these 2 rivers run alongside each other for miles, stubbornly refusing to unite, in a marvel of nature that is visible from space.
Eventually of course, they do come together to form the lower Amazon river, the mightiest of them all. No other river on earth comes anywhere close in size, as 20% of all the freshwater on the planet is eventually emptied out into the Atlantic Ocean. For a visual idea of the sheer quantities of water on display, imagine a volume of water at least a dozen times greater than all the water plummeting over the Victoria, Iguassu and Niagara Falls combined!
The Meeting of Waters is an amazing natural phenomenon that is a wonder to see from up close. As we approach the dividing line of the 2 rivers, Rodolpho encourages us to hang over the side of the boat, our hands trailing in the water, and the effect is as striking as it is sudden, as the temperature goes from temperate to downright warm.
We cruise over the boundary a couple more times as we take a few photos, while we continue to marvel at this unique wonder of nature that was one of the attraction highlights of our visit to Manaus.
Comunidade Catalão - Visit to a floating village
Our boat cruise down the river was not over however, as Rodolpho had also organised for us to take a quick tour through the floating village of Comunidade Catalao.
Situated on the riverbanks of a small tributary just off the main Amazon river waterway is this cheerful collection of colourfully painted river dwellings. Made up of around 100 or so buildings bobbing gently on the water, this is a local community of family homes and various other structures which support their needs, including a church, school, restaurant and convenience store.
There are also quite a few fisheries, fish - particularly the large Amazon Pirarucu - being a staple of their diet as well as being one of the principal economic activities in the village.
Another is tourism, as many of the visiting tourist boats stop off to eat in the restaurant, buy some of the locally produced arts and crafts or try their own hand at fishing.
As we pass by admiring the unique houses colourfully decorated we get a wave from a bunch of friendly local children on a break from their school day. Catching just a tiny glimpse into the lives of this Amazonian community was a real privilege, and a great way to finish off our half-day tour of the Manaus tourist attractions.
Taxi, airport transfer and private tour of Manaus
Safety is a topic which comes up frequently when planning a trip to Brazil. And while we personally never had any issues and generally felt safe during our two and a half weeks visit to the country, that is partly thanks to pre-planning our travel to a somewhat larger extent that we would normally.
For us, that meant organising taxis and airport transfers in advance of our arrival, as well as communicating directly with our tour providers and any drivers we had booked, all of which gave us peace of mind.
And so when it came to our trip to Manaus and planning how were going to get around and visit the tourist sites, we came across Rodolpho and his 'Amazon Destinations' tour company, after reading his many sterling reviews from fellow tourists.
Initially, we had booked his services only for our taxi transfer from the airport into the city. The fares were very reasonable, and the communication unfailingly prompt.
Later, when we realised we would also be able to squeeze in a visit to see the local tourist sights and Manaus attractions but had very limited time, we contacted him with our requirements and our time-frame, and he put together a private tour for us that worked for our needs, again at a reasonable price.
We had Rodolpho himself as tour guide during our half-day Manaus visit, and it is hard to overstate how personable and amiable he is. His English is great, and he is an excellent source of information on all things Manaus.
Given our own experience of his reliability and enthusiasm, we are happy to add our own review of his first-rate customer service and recommend him to anyone looking for a tour guide in and around Manaus:
Feeling inspired by our 4-day visit to Manaus and the extraordinary Amazon jungle, we were dropped of on-time at the airport ready for our next internal flight and the continuation of our Brazilian adventure, having made memories that would last us a lifetime.