Welcome to the jungle

You're as likely to find a TV remote as a remote village in today's Amazon. We found it more mod cons than mud huts.


I loved being at sea. Not having to pack and unpack made me feel settled. And the various facilities such as the swimming, shipboard entertainment, learning to dance, extensive on-board library and the fine food all made the 14 days at sea (and of course, the rest of this 35 day cruise) crossing the Atlantic to the Amazon in North Eastern Brazil, pass by quickly.

The first stop of the cruise was at the pleasant but fairly uninteresting port of Santarem that nestles on the bank of the Tapajós River, near its confluence with the Amazon River.

But things looked up when we stopped at the tiny village of Boca de Valeria the next day where our visit proved to be a superb experience.

This is where I met Maria. She was dressed in a spotless green sleeveless tee-shirt and a short linen skirt and her feet were thrust into a pair of flip-flops.

Leaning over the balcony of her house in the village she had the same welcoming smile as all the other 100 or so residents of this tiny riverside settlement on the banks of the mighty Amazon river.

"Would you like to come and visit?" she called.

It is not every day that one has the opportunity to take refreshments in a Brazilian river dweller's house, so we nodded enthusiastically and clambered up the wooden steps to the single-storey home.

Getting there

Fred Olsen Cruises have a fly-cruise to the Amazon this coming winter. Boudicca will return there on a 35-day cruise from Portsmouth in early 2013, with fares starting at £3,499. www.fredolsencruises.co.uk, Tel: 01473 742424

Like the other buildings, even the church, it was raised by stilts to protect from occasional floods and curious jungle wildlife.

Instead of dogs and cats, the children keep sloths, monkeys and young alligators as pets.

Her pride and joy were her modern kitchen appliances: a cooker running on bottled gas, a fridge, a huge freezer, and TV set.

Boca do Valera might be in the middle of nowhere, but in booming Brazil, traditionally famed for its coffee, the electricity pylons and TV masts have brought all modern conveniences to the remotest spots.

When I booked a round-trip winter cruise there, sailing from Southampton, I felt as though I was planning a voyage of exploration and packed enough jungle kit to make an old-time explorer like Stanley Livingstone feel well-equipped.

So, sailing upriver through the jungle and finding so much modernity came as quite a shock.

After the quaint, familial village life at Boca do Valera we docked the next day at the contrasting metropolis of Manaus, one of the world's greatest (and fastest-growing) cities.

This was an overnight stay which meant that we had two much needed days to explore all that the vast city, the largest in northern Brazil, has to offer.

Manaus, capital of the State of Amazonas, though an industrial centre, is a fantastic cruise destination, and a transport hub.

There are few roads hereabouts, so long-distance river buses run with the regularity of clockwork,.

Located at the very heart of the continent, also has a far from faded glamour about it. This is where to buy your emeralds, amethysts and opals at a third of the price you would pay elsewhere.

The 115-year-old pink-painted Renaissance style Opera House is probably the grandest building in South America. It is beautifully kept and still stages performances by world-famous operatic stars at very regular intervals and the Amazonas Film Festival makes an annual appearance too.

The last stop was at Parintins, a small city located on Tupinambarana island. It is mostly known for its folklore festival held each June called Boi-Bumbá, but not much else.

The Amazon river is fed by countless tributaries and is also unbelievably vast: it is wider than the English Channel at its mouth, and hundreds of miles inland it is still too wide to see across.

The only clues to the fact that you have left the South Atlantic ocean are the muddy-coloured water and the huge drifting islands of vegetation which must make the navigator's task a nightmare.

Many modern cruise liners are simply too big to risk sailing amid the shifting shapes of the Amazon, but my floating home – Fred Olsen's 28,000-ton, 850-passenger Boudicca - was ideal for the trip.

    Last updated: 11:59am, November 3 2011