Taken your kid up the Amazon?
January 8, 2008 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Anyone taken their kid up the Amazon?

I have the opportunity to be in Brazil next May (I live in Ireland), and was hoping to exploit it by throwing caution to the wind, taking my 12 yr old son along and pulling out all the stops by flying up to Manaus and doing a 1 week tour up the Amazon. Hell yeah! But he's arachnophobic and can really freak with bugs. Doesn't like the idea of mosquitos. He knows its gonna be a challenge, and he is sufficiently attracted by the idea of lots of cool nature to join in enthusiastically. Anybody have similar experience?
posted by fcummins to Travel & Transportation around Eugene, OR (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As long as you are with a safe and competent guide / group, I can't imagine it being any worse than backpacking or traveling somewhere in the american southwest or in an equally damp and bug infested area. The big thing to consider is that you are in Brazil and getting aid in the case of an emergency would not exactly be a helicopter lift away.

That being said, I have a friend who visited the amazon when she was 14. Besides seeing a human corpse come out of a snake, she loved the trip.
posted by mrzarquon at 3:20 PM on January 8, 2008

(well, not specifically because you are in Brazil, but in the middle of the Amazon)
posted by mrzarquon at 3:20 PM on January 8, 2008

If your kid is freaked out by bugs, this will be his worst nightmare come true.

The Amazon is NOT the Everglades--it is considerably more remote and conditions are much wilder.
posted by availablelight at 3:46 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You will need to talk to your doctor ahead of time. There are a lot of shots you'll need to get (e.g. vaccination for yellow fever), and you probably will need to take anti-malarial pills as a prophylactic the entire time you're there.

Also, take plenty of sunblock and insect repellent and bring a bottle of salt tablets. Don't drink anything except bottled water whose seal you have broken. Otherwise you're at risk of hepatitis and cholera.

Don't swim in the water. Don't even wade in it. The danger isn't piranha; that's much overblown in western mythology. The problem is parasites, such as schistosomes.

As you might have gathered by now, I think it is not a very good idea.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:47 PM on January 8, 2008

Best answer: I went to Brazil in 1994 (Porto Velho via Manaus, and I travelled to some remote village which I can't remember the name of) when was I was 15, and I went to Ecuador in 2002 when i was 23. I'm not scared of spiders or bugs, and I saw plenty of them while I was there. I went pretty deep in the jungle, however. If your son is scared of spiders and bugs, then the Amazon is the exact place I would not take him. Unless you want to do the whole "face your fear" thing. Some of the things i saw:
  • Tarantulas the size of my hand crawling on building walls, falling from rafters in buildings, and basically all over the place.
  • Mosquito swarms at dusk, and a lot of mosquitoes during the day. This really depends on how far away you are from the city, and how close you are to the river at dusk. Some areas along the river are worse than others. They aren't big Florida-style mosquitos, they're small and plentiful.
  • When walking in the jungle you have to be aware of many bugs, but most of all ants. There are ants everywhere in the ground - if you're not vigilant you can stand on a freeway of red ants and be in pain very quickly.
  • And of course all the other fun bugs. Depending on how your accommodations, check your shoes in the morning for spiders/scorpions as they like to crawl in there. Just turn them upside down and give them a few strong whacks, and then do a visual check. I haven't seen anyone stung in this manner, but I've seen a few scares with people putting their foot into a shoe with a tarantula in it.
That being said, I had an amazing experience seeing the variety of nature. I'd go back in a heartbeat, but the wife is not exactly keen on that kind of thing. Perhaps i'll go along with my dad again someday. Feel free to mefi mail me if you have further questions.
posted by escher at 3:50 PM on January 8, 2008

Best answer: Here are some pictures of spiders in the Amazon region. Here is a picture of a Goliath Bird-Eating Spider. I'm not particularly arachnophobic, but a spider that requires two hands to hold is just. too. big. Can your kid look at the pictures without freaking out?
posted by rtha at 3:58 PM on January 8, 2008

You will see bugs you haven't even imagined existed. They scared the crap out of me. That being said, though I still dislike creepy crawlies in general, traveling the Amazon was definitely proof for me that exposure reduces fear. A tiny spider on the wall here? Now that I know what else is out there - non-rainforest spiders aren't such a big deal.

So it might be a growth experience for your son, if he's up for the challenge. The benefits might outweigh the risk.
posted by sarelicar at 4:40 PM on January 8, 2008

I took a trip on the Amazon about 5 years ago. I didn't have any kids then and I was traveling for work but it was an extraordinary adventure and I would love to do it again with my son when he's a little older. We (television crew of 4) chartered a yacht which came with a full crew including a cook, a maid, a captain and his assistants, and a guide who spoke Portuguese, English and one of the dialects that some of the native people spoke. It was shockingly inexpensive by US standards. I can't remember the name of the town where we started but we ended up a week later in Manaus. We pulled in at various spots to get off the boat, look around the villages, see little bits here and there in the jungle, and cover the story we were there to shoot.

I am not fond of snakes and we only saw a few - none of which I saw up close, or close enough to get really scared. I don't recall seeing any spiders but I know they're everywhere. But it would have been a real shame to miss this trip because of my snake phobia, and I think it would be awful if your son missed this experience. Every place in the world has its share of creepy crawlies and if you stay home because of what might happen, think of all you'll miss. And you know what .. I'm a little less fearful of those slithering beasts since facing my phobia and going where I feared to tread.

I say absolutely take him on this trip. Do your research, find a good guide and outfitter, figure out what you want to see while you're there and go. Definitely go.

Please feel free to mefi-mail me if you want me to dig out some of the details of my trip. I really hope you do this - it's an experience to share with your son that he'll carry with him for the rest of his life.
posted by Kangaroo at 4:52 PM on January 8, 2008

There are plenty of Amazon cruises, which give you the opportunity to have a well-appointed hotel room that follows you up or down the river while you visit various towns along the way. Not the backpacking experience, to be sure, but perhaps one to consider for an educational trip with a kid.

A family member's psychiatrist and his wife are still on or recently completed one of these. The river is deep enough that you can go almost all the way to the interior.
posted by dhartung at 5:19 PM on January 8, 2008

Best answer: You could start the trip by staying at the Tropical Hotel in Manaus to get used to the heat, enjoy the pool, their mini-zoo and see his reaction to insects. If he's ok with this, you could go further afield.

Presidente Figueiredo is about an hour drive from Manaus and offers quite decent accomodation, great waterfalls and caves, and lots of things to do, like giving bottled milk to manatees (peixe-boi) at the Balbina mammal rehabilitation center, and other activities.

Farther from Manaus I'd recommend going to Novo AirĂ£o, where one can swim with pink bottlenose dolphins.

There will be bugs, but unless he totally freaks out he will be fine and will love the trip.

as for mrzarquon comment's about a helicopter lift, it's quite the opposite. I've flown quite a bit in the region, it's just costly, but obviously worthwhile in an emergency.

Flying over the Anavilhanas archipelago is an unforgettable experience.

I live in Brazil and have done several amazon trips. Should you wish for specific info my contact is in my profile.
posted by ig at 5:57 PM on January 8, 2008

Go with a "luxury" type tour if you're going to do it (along the lines of dhartung's comment). You can minimize the bugs and have a nice place for him to hide out if he's freaking.

And beware the anti-malaria drug Lariam. Just my opinion, I'm not a doctor or expert of any type.... but I had a bad experience.
posted by powpow at 7:52 PM on January 8, 2008

Response by poster: No one will ever read this, as the thread is old, but I can't help it. This reply is being written from a hammock, with my son, up the amazon, and having a whale of a time. ok, we're not bivouacing (though we did get instructions from some Brazilian army types), and we have found tarantulas and loads of other things, but actually, its easy. Turns out, mosquitoes find me much tastier than him. If anyone is ever tempted to ask the same question, just, you know, do it.
posted by fcummins at 11:24 AM on May 13, 2008 [13 favorites]

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