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Ariau Towers, the World's Largest Forest Hotel
This time no backpack adventure, but the same awesome feeling
Antonio Carlos Rix (carlosrix)     Print Article 
Published 2007-05-28 17:33 (KST)   
Partial aerial view of Ariau Towers. (Picture offered and taken by Ribamar o Caboclo.)
©2007 Ribamar o Caboclo

As a counter point to our backpacking trip from Manaus to Parintins this time I visited the Ariau Towers facilities, in Manaus, Amazon in the middle of the forest. The Ariau began construction 21 years ago by Dr. Francisco Ritta Bernardino on palafitas up to the level of the crown of the trees, a technique very much used by the Amazon natives. In the beginning it had just four rooms. It has expanded to an amazing size, today being able to host up to 700 people.

Eight towers are surrounded by the Amazonian Rain Forest with a strategic view of its beauty, which can comfortably be appreciated from the apartments, the exuberant forest just out of your window -- all the biodiversity of the place a step away from your apartment door. The apartments. are very safe and comfortable, you feel fine even being like two or three stories high above the Rio Negro down there, the whole structure surrounded leafy centennial trees. You can't get closer to Nature with comfort than this.

Random shots.
©2007 Antonio Carlos Rix

Dr. Ritta granted me two days to get to know the place, see all the activities, follow some tourist groups, etc. I told him I would like to show OMNI readers the inner forest and some other way of enjoying it safely and nicely. Of course he was interested, and so here we are. As they allowed me to have some help -- I could name a crew -- I invited plastic artist Ana Luisa to help me. She also brought David, her 13-year old son. This way, I got a guest citizen journalist this time. I asked Ms Ana Luisa to join another group and later report to me of her and her son's experience. They went left I went right, so you may have a broadened view of the Ariau and the forest itself. This is what you actually got in the box below -- an artist and mother's point of view

A very different hotel
By my guest reporter: impression from Davi Bordin

Davi and his mother Ana going for a observation night boat trip
Antonio Carlos Rix

It salutes the guests with good service, in their arrival at the city of Manaus, and in their arrival at the Ariau itself.

Monkeys play, jumping and massing around freely, with one little fruit you can make a monkey go up on its shoulder, legs, and arms. They are accustomed to our presence becoming thus docile and funny.

Busy days of boat strolls; you only have time left to eat and to sleep. Which is good, because in the strolls you can coexist with the natural life. Intelligent guides teach about the forest as teachers in the wild.

The place is rustic and with luxury touches, that are as you never could imagine, it is as in a dream or fantasy. All the decoration is created there, the carved doors and all the constructions, everything by local artists who work very well.

The food of the hotel is good, offering varieties of typical foods.

Finally, the Ariau hotel is a unforgettable experience. When you leave you desires to come back and while there you desire to stay some more time, perhaps months.
/ translated by Carlos Rix

I was amazed first by the size of the whole thing and a bit concerned with environmental questions. But remember this place started construction 21 years ago when the concerns were different. While having lunch with Ritta -- a healthy, strongly built 72-year old man who set on the table to eat with us the most simple food of the region, the fish he loves -- he told me of the great care which is taken concerning environmental issues. "Carlos, we have special treatment for all waste. To give you an idea of how far we go, every day an employee gets a boat and goes around the premises to be sure no garbage was thrown in the water." He said "It is hard to believe, but some people do have the guts to see all this beauty and yet toss a beverage can, or paper, or cigarette butt in the water! We go there and collect it."

Dc Ritta and a friend having lunch on the deck of Barbie Tarzan House.
©2007 Antonio Carlos Rix

We arrived last Friday, May 18, at the end of the afternoon with the sun going down. I took almost 200 pictures from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. My feeling is that the combination of writing, photographing, and filming is not enough to tell what it is like, but I will try my best.

That first night we all got on a boat and went to see the alligators. I was worried more about mosquitoes, but, get this, there were no mosquitoes! Yes, the Rio Negro has such a chemical composition that mosquitoes can not live in it. There are many other bugs, but nothing as bad. The guide brought into the boat this rather small young lady, Regiane. We set off through the Igapo (Indian word for: flooded forest) to a lake very near. With a light in his hand the guide would illuminate the way and look for the gators' eyes.

Previously the guide had told us Regiane was going to catch the beast. We all laughed, but that was exactly her job, she did it! Check the photo sequence bellow!

The guides stand up front looking for gators. As soon as they spot one, Regiane jumps.
©2007 Antonio Carlos Rix

She jumped from the boat as soon as they spotted a alligator and came back with it in her hand. The guide took it, she came back into the boat for our relief and them they told us all about the caiman.

What a thrill! The next morning I saw a caiman bellow my bungalow.

Well, let me go back a bit. The Ariau staff came to pick us up at the Adrianopolis hotel where I am staying on business for two weeks. The first week was great, and having finished my work I set off for the journey to the Ariau Towers with my guests. The trip starts at Ponta Negra in the city of Manaus. The Rio Negro is now almost at its peak of flooding period. Where the "Fe em Deus"(Faith in God) is now docked is nothing like in the dry season, when you have to walk from where you see it now on the picture up to 100 meters inside in dry land to reach the dock. It is an incredible range of water volume change.

The guide, Abdias, started explaining just that, and that the whole area of the Ariau Towers is completely flooded now. And that is why there was a gator bellow my bungalow. Abdias explained that they were not too worried because this flooding is normal and expected -- that is why they need elevated walkways, to avoid the water and the gators.

The palafitas are houses raised from the ground so that they will not be flooded during the rainy season. The Indians, the caboclos (Caboclo is the Brazilian word describing someone of half white and half Indian origin) and even regular Manaus citizens build their houses like this -- a set of poles with the house built on top. That is exactly how the whole of the rain forest hotel was build and the very reason why it is a world famous tourist attraction just by itself.

There are round towers with apartments in the shape of a pizza slice and some bungalows they name Tarzan Houses for obvious reasons. I stayed at the one in the picture below, very close to the tree canopy. "Hey where is my Jane?" Actually this was my only sorrow -- I wished I had my girlfriend with me and my kids also. "But this whole thing is so interesting I will enjoy it as much as possible and try to document it well enough to share with you, dear OMNI reader," I thought to myself.

The Tarzan House Jacques Cousteau where I stayed.
©2007 Antonio Carlos Rix

Everything is elevated from the ground. They told me the architect of the place is an Indian, skilled in building palafitas, who helped Ritta realize his dream. There are 9 km of elevated walkways where you may walk, cycle, or drive a golf cart. This is even made bigger when the dry season starts, because there is part of it under the water now which used just to go to the beach formed where now the water is 15 meters high.

In the main tower there are the reception area, two restaurants, and a large conference room. To see more in less time I went with a personal guide -- the nice Mr XXX -- on a tour with a golf cart. The property has a landing place for UFOs, a Pyramid for meditation, a Barbie Tarzan House, an aquarium with special fish from the region; a study area with information about the most common animals of the place, and so on. It is large.

Palafita House by the Rio Negro -- Francisco and Celina's home.
©2007 Antonio Carlos Rix

We went to see the caboclo's way of life. They have two types of houses: floating homes and riverside homes. Unfortunately the floating home people where not available. They were in Manaus marketplace to buy their supplies.

We were more lucky with the others. Mr Francisco and Ms. Celina, who have 15 kids and live by the Rio Negro on a palafita home, make a living from their orchard, craft work and fishing. I asked them if they would like to move to the city. They categorically said no. "We are rich, we live very well here, we eat well and the kids go to school. We would like to have electricity that is true, but still we prefer to live here," Mr Francisco said with a smile. They have a generator, but use it only when necessary, for fuel is expensive. It was very good to be with them -- the people of the forest know very well what they want.

Young man swims with the Boto, Amazon River Dolphin
©2007 Carlos Rix

The experience with the dolphins is unforgettable. From the hotel dock we go by boat (wherever you go is by boat or by the elevated run ways) to a floating advanced post on the opposite side of the island and saw the Amazon River Dolphins called Boto. This animal eats a lot of fish and fruits. During the rainy season is when there are more fruits and bigger fish so it can feed itself easily. There is more fruit because the water invaded the flooded areas -- the tree tops look like bushes in the pictures, but actually the trees are almost completely covered with water, sometimes totally.

The Botos came to feed from us more to play then really for food. I noticed that they go more often to some people then to others -- they do have their preferences -- and also that it is not necessarily the person that gives more fish who gets more contact. While in the water you are in their domain; they are excellent fast swimmers. If they are close to you no gator or piranha will dare to show up any closer. While swimming they touch you, sometimes you feel they touch you with their fins, other times they pinch you ever so gently with their beaks. It is awesome! When you touch them it feels like cold silk and jelly.

As I was getting to know the place with the golf cart I came to the only beach available during the flooding period in the whole place. There I met Mr. Marcos and his family, people from the city of Manaus that every so often come to enjoy the place. I could not resist but to jump from the cart and go to the water. As the water is black or very dark brown and the sand so white, the color near the edge is just great. Check out the pictures below. They were also fishing and caught very nice fish while I was there.

I met people from Russia, the U.S., and China, all of them very pleased with the experience in Brazil. Check the two brief interviews at Youtube:

Well I hope that gives you already a good picture, although not a whole one I am afraid. It is too big. Two days allowed me to get an idea of what it is all about. I hope you get to see it for yourself sometime. I would like thank all the crew members of the Ariau for their help and attention. In the photo below you can see all of them.

From left to right: Emanuella, Romero, Lima, EDI, Abdias, Jorge, Neuzimar, Andrey, Franciso, Henis

I also want to mention Mr. Ribamar and Mr. Bello who have made this article possible and Thiago the receptionist who also is not in the picture, but helped me as much as possible too.

How about making a reverse interview? I have collected a lot of material, more than 600 pictures, lots of small videos. What if you browse through all this material and then send in your questions, two or three only per person? I will select 10, 12 or 14 out of all the questions, answer them and submit to be published as a readers' interview. To see the pictures and videos go to the links below. I will wait a week before I select and answer them. This way more people have a chance to participate in the reverse interview about this Amazon Rain Forest adventure, OK?

To see the videos get any of the above video links and click on "More from this User"

To see the photos click here.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Antonio Carlos Rix

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