THE AMAZON

The world’s richest, most magnificent rain forest is made up of elements that in themselves display incredible proportions. What’s greater than all this? The thrill of seeing it for yourself.

Covering about 6 million square kilometers, the Amazon would rank as the world’s sixth-largest country. In truth, this region includes portions of several South American countries; Brazil claims two-thirds of the Amazon.

Of Brazil’s 400-plus species of mammals, about 300 live in the Amazon region, along with an estimated 20,000 plant species, 2,000 types of fish and 30,000 different kinds of insects. One species of shrimp measures nearly two feet long, and some beetles are as long as your forearm. The pirarucu – the world’s largest scaled fish – can grow to more than 7 feet, and is native to the Amazon.

More than 150 types of edible fruits grow here. Some are well known, like cacau and Brazil nuts; others are practically unheard of outside the local populations that eat fruits with names like bacupari, sapoti and taperebá.

While nearly all animals and plants in the rest of the world have been identified and cataloged, the Amazon forest remains full of surprises that attract researchers from around the globe. Each year, new species are discovered.

The Amazon River, largest river in the world, holds one-fifth of our planet’s fresh water. It begins in the Andes mountains and gradually gains such volume that the numbers and measurements defy reason. The river and its 1,100 tributaries constitute the main force behind the gigantic fluvial system that runs along the Equator. The river drops just two centimeters (less than one inch) per linear kilometer, so it overflows and invades the forest during rainy season. When waters are high, the river system covers an area twice that of Australia. At this time, an ocean of fresh water covers the forest floor as life renews itself in the cycle of nature. The river carries so much silt that the coastline grows each year at the river mouth.

The pororoca occurs during periods of greater tidal movement: When the mighty river clashes with the Atlantic Ocean, it forms enormous waves and creates a roar that can be heard for miles.

Other rivers in this impressive ecosystem offer staggering statistics and serve a vital role in the region.

The Rio Negro hosts more than 450 species of fish, a total that equals 15 times that of species found in all of Europe’s rivers combined. Considered the world’s fourth-largest river, the Rio Negro boasts more than 1,000 kilometers that can be safely navigated by large and medium-sized boats. Decaying vegetation releases tannin that stains the water like strong, black tea, but the river remains amazingly clear. Other important rivers include the Madeira, Telles Pires, Tapajos, Guapore and Juruena. They not only support incredible biodiversity, but serve as lifelines for riverside towns linked and accessed only by river – of which there are about 20,000 navigable kilometers.

Home of the world’s largest freshwater fish

Sport fishing is still in its infancy in this region. Several favorable initiatives have been undertaken, such as the creation of areas exclusively for catch-and-release fishing. Such initiatives result from legislative action, such as the law forbidding commercial fishing in the Rio Negro, as well as from private sport-fishing operations that do not allow clients to kill fish. Other rivers, including the Telles Pires, Von de Steinen, Juruena and Guapore maintain healthy fish stocks because of difficult access. Since anglers can only get to these places by small planes, the number of fishermen remains limited, as does the ability to take back large quantities of fish. This scenario guarantees the future of sport fishing in the region.

Called the “aquatic ambassador of Brazil,” the peacock bass ranks as the most coveted game fish in the Amazon. Since everything in the Brazilian Amazon is so big, of course the world-record peacock bass was caught in these waters: the Rio Negro yielded a 27-pound speckled peacock that stands as a mark to be beaten by anglers from around the world.

Other fish complete the roster of options for visiting anglers: gigantic piraibas, a kind of catfish that can exceed 6 feet and weigh more than 300 pounds; redtail and gilded catfish than often surpass 70 pounds; tambaquis and giant trahiras. All these and more await to do battle with adventurous fishermen.

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