Day 5: Civilian Sightseeing
On the final day of our trip to Manaus, the Navy showed us the natural beauty Manaus has to offer. After another early morning breakfast, we went on board another ship. Rather than a naval hospital ship delivering medicine and medical care to remote riverine villages, this boat brought us to some of the popular tourist attractions along the Amazon river. Right at the first stop, only about half an hour up the river from Manaus, we were able to do what many people have on their bucket lists: Swimming with pink river dolphins. After initial hesitation due to the impressive size of the dolphins, we entered the water and quickly noticed the friendly curiosity of the river mammals towards us. Hoping to nick one or two fish treats of us, the dolphins came very close and inspected our legs and life vests. It seemed like they were just as curious about us as we were about them. The half hour we could spent with the dolphins certainly passed too quickly!
The next stop we made fulfilled probably one of the most widely spread stereotypes many Westerners have about the Amazon. We visited an indigenous Amazonian tribe and participated in a traditional dance. The first thing we noticed was the colourful dress of the tribe. People with blue feathers in their hair, colourful face paint and green jewellery played rhythmic drums and flutes while asking us to dance with them. Immediately after, we were asked to buy handcrafted souvenirs, all payable with credit card. This visit certainly made us question potential risks and consequences of indigenous peoples as a tourist attraction. To what extent the dance and dress we observed are part of the…’s own traditions and to what extent they aim to fulfil a Western imagination of the ‘exotic Indian’ was not clear to us after a visit of only one hour. Either way, however, we were welcomed in a very friendly way by the locals and enjoyed the music and dance they performed for us.
At our final stop, we had the opportunity to see some of the most common animals found in the Amazon region. Monkeys, sloths, large scales and caimans were only some of the animals we could get to know from close. The attempt to feed the monkeys with some of our bananas revealed they were one step ahead of us. While we were looking for our bananas to feed to the monkeys, they had already taken all bananas out of our bags without being noticed and rushed off, probably laughing at our surprised faces. After this unsuccessful attempt to feed the monkeys, we had more luck feeding large Amazonian fish bred at a local fish farm. They were starring at us from just below the surface and suddenly jumped out of the water to catch the small fish we offered them on the fishing pole. A few times, they almost pulled the pole out of our hands. Overall, a great and relaxing end to our week in Manaus!