It had been two years since my last visit to Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel and I was more than eager to get back in the trees! Upon my arrival I was greeted by the “welcome committee”, a playful troop of woolley monkeys with the irrepressible Natalie in the lead. She immediately took to my shoulders and gave me the appearance of a Russian with one of those funny fur hats!
The staff had fun making sure the rest of the rambunctious troop did not enter the reception area and kept them distracted on the boat launch. After convincing Natalie I would be around for a few days she released the monkey grip she had on my head and let me check-in and find my suite. This time I had the pleasure of the “Suite Divina”, with a 360 degree panoramic view into the rainforest canopy! This is truly heaven, three days with only the sounds of tropical birds and monkeys howling in the distance! Good-bye phone, fax, computer! Hello! Piranha fishing!
Finding my way down Tower 5 and onto the catwalk suspended over Ariau Creek, I spotted two bright red macaws perched on a tree. Spider monkeys scurried playfully at my feet as I carefully and quickly entered the restaurant on top of Tower 4, making sure none of my little friends would slip in as well. One of the absolute delights of Ariau is the regional Amazonian cuisine served up buffet style three times a day. At breakfast, an array of tropical fruits that are not even known outside of the region are displayed beside a large selection of warm homemade Brazilian pastries, breads and soft cheeses. A delicate white manioc pancake the color and texture of lace is enjoyed lightly spread with sweet butter. Homemade jams and jellies with exotic Indian fruit names such as cupuaçu, jaca and acai add just the right touch. Then there is the Brazilian Cafezinho. Need I say more?
Lunch and dinner feature the absolutely exotic Amazonian fresh water fish, the two-meter long pirarucu and the delicious tambaqui both prepared in the regional manner. On one wall of the restaurant are displayed hand carved plaques honoring illustrious guests who have also been initiated into Ariau’s magic – Bill Gates, Isabel Allende, Jennifer Lopez, Prince Frederick of Denmark and Jimmy and Roslyn Carter among many others.
After lunch our little international group pile into a motorized canoe with Ricardo our guide and we’re off for the afternoon to explore the flooded forest. As we leave Ariau Creek and approach the Rio Negro an indescribable feeling of vastness fills me with wonder as we approach the mouth of the Anavilhanas Archipelago – the largest grouping of fresh water islands in the world. Here the river becomes an ocean at 17 miles from shore to shore. Pink dolphins leaping from the water create a magical landscape only equaled by a Peter Max painting. The sky seems to go on and on forever. We enter the flooded forest and the motor is turned off, all at once the wonder of the rainforest explodes around us as we navigate the backwaters. The primordial forest, vines, lianas, bromeliads, butterflies – this is why I came, it is all right in front of me. I have returned to the place that I love. post by Jill Siegel