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A bucket list trip to the Amazon

Cristalino Lodge: A Bucket List Trip to Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest

By Ali Webb April 21, 2024

Our destination was Cristalino Lodge, an eco-lodge in central Brazil that would offer an opportunity for us to explore vibrant and pristine ecosystems. 

On this particular trip, two experienced travelers didn’t pay enough attention, and we were soon on an epic journey that included airplanes, vans, and boats to get to our destination. But, finally, we arrived, deep in the Amazon rainforest, for what we realized was a too-short visit.

Cristalino Lodge: Our Destination

Cristalino Lodge is situated in the heart of the Cristalino Private Natural Heritage Reserve, a vast expanse of protected land that is home to an incredible array of animals, birds, and plants. The lodge’s expert guides are passionate about the rainforest and help create a truly immersive experience. We hired a private guide who tailored our trip to our individual needs, which included early morning outings for me and afternoon adventures for both of us.

Sustainable Luxury in Harmony with Nature

The lodge is nestled in the forest, utilizing solar power and adhering to responsible tourism principles. Breakfast offers a wonderful array of set plates as well as an opportunity to choose a hot entrée, sitting outside on the open-air terrace. Before each meal, we picked our lunch and dinner items from locally sourced ingredients. 

Chef Fábio Vieira presented a typically Brazilian menu, blending the flavors of the Amazon into each menu item. From the first ‘welcome’ turkey and cucumber sandwich to the last excellent cup of rich, dark Brazilian coffee on the deck, the food at the lodge complemented the relaxed atmosphere.The bar served juice or anything else you want: We loved the caipirinha drink.

River Expeditions and Hikes

Our favorite excursions on the trip were the river expeditions. Our guide navigated the winding waterways of the Amazon, and we craned our necks to spot colorful birds, strained our eyes to see the eyes of elusive crocodiles, and watched troops of monkeys high up in the trees. Seven different types of monkeys screeched and swung through the trees. We saw capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys along the river and near the lodge. And so many different species of birds! Experts in the Cristalino and Alta Floresta area have registered 595 bird species, comprising about 50 percent of all birds in the Amazon.  Colorful macaws and noisy flocks of parrots were the easiest for novice birdwatchers to spot.Another amazing spot on one of our river trips was where the two rivers cross—the ‘white coffee’ water of the River Teles Pires and the ‘black coffee’ water of the River Cristalino. 

Our favorite river expedition was a 40-minute boat ride upriver to a forest trail, where we did a short hike. The forest is filled with Brazil nut trees, including a huge tree that is thought to be about 1,000 years old. It takes six people holding hands around the base to give it a hug. By the way, fresh Brazil nuts are out of this world! 

On one of our afternoon walks, we saw the largest mammal in South America, the Brazilian tapir, which strangely resembles a giant rat. Canoeing was another great way to see the river, gliding solo and silently through the water, surrounded by the forest. 

Pre-Dawn Climb 

One morning, getting up before dawn, I pulled on gloves and put one wet, slippery foot in front of the other, climbing to the top of one of the nearby observation towers to see the dawn break over the rainforest.  The metal structure was 164 feet tall, made of galvanized steel, and swayed slightly as I climbed. Unfortunately, the cloud cover prevented me from seeing any sunrise, but seeing the rainforest from above the canopy was amazing. 

I did see the ‘rivers’ of the air—condensation from the trees going upward as mist—which flow from the ocean to the Andes.

Conservation and Community Engagement

Cristalino Lodge is actively involved in local conservation efforts and community engagement. The lodge supports various research projects focused on the region’s flora and fauna, contributing to the understanding and protection of the Amazon’s delicate ecosystem. Additionally, it works closely with nearby communities, supporting sustainable livelihoods and providing opportunities for cultural exchange.

A Journey to Remember

From exploring the pristine wilderness on guided walks and boat trips to experiencing the luxury and comfort of the lodge, every part of a visit to the Cristalino Lodge is designed to create memories. 

Being at the lodge offered us a unique opportunity to connect with nature, to leave a positive impact, and to create lasting memories in the heart of the Amazon. 

All photo credits: Ali Webb, except for Pinterest photo (Cristalino Lodge)  

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