March 13, 2023 – Boca dos Botos and Parantins
Seabourn Quest steamed overnight and anchored at 0730 in front of a elementary school and a small tributary leading miles inland to a lake. The current was running at 4-5 knots, so the loading platform had a wake where the vertical supports entered the water. This stop was for zodiac tours only, and six zodiacs proceeded up the narrow tributary, where the current was from the Amazon River into the lake. There was a fair amount of development, with cattle, horses, and some cultivation such as Acai palms, passion fruit, bananas, and Brazil nuts. The Brazil nut trees are protected and cannot be legally cut down.
There was abundant bird life and we could hear, but not see Howler Monkeys. Sharp eyes from our expedition leader spotted a Sloth, and then another zodiac spotted a second Sloth. After several hours we returned to the ship for the second wave of zodiac tours.
Boca dos Botos tributary
By 1200 the tours were finished and the ship weighed anchor and headed 10 NM further downstream to the small city of Paratins. The city provided two vessels used as tenders and guests went ashore for a variety of activities. The city was small, with several churches, and a convention center. Paratins sits on an island and is only accessible by air or water. Paratins is home the the annual Boi Bumba Festival, the second largest celebration in Brazil behind Rio’s Carnival. Guests were greeted dockside by local Boy Scouts. A special production of the Boi Bumba festival was held in the afternoon at the convention center. By 1730 the last tender trip arrived back at the ship and we had a caviar sail away party on the pool deck as the ship headed for the next destination.
Sculpture honoring Black African presence in the Amazon
Typical Cafe in Paratins
March 14, 2023 – Alter de Chao, Brazil
The ship approached the anchorage in pre-dawn darkness and anchored about one mile from the beach at the resort community of Alter de Chao, some 35 KM from Santarem, up the Tapajos River. After a brief delay clearing the ship, Patrick proceeded ashore with 25 other guests in 3 zodiacs for a wet landing on a white sand beach, followed by a hike through the savannah into a nature preserve, culminating in a scramble up a very steep switchback trail to the top of Serra Piroco. At the summit is a iron cross placed by local Jesuits, where mass is often celebrated. We looked for wildlife, but the hot sun kept them out of sight.
View of Alter De Chao from Serra Piroco
View of Alter De Chao from Serra Piroco
Returning to the beach area, we were able to swim in the warm waters of the Rio Tapajos before returning to the ship. The ships tenders went to the main town, also with beaches. During the dry season, people can walk from Alter de Chao to the spit where the zodiacs landed, but during the wet season, much of the spit is flooded, with the bars and restaurants partially under water. Later in the afternoon one of the ship’s tenders had a severe engine failure with a minor fire due to a piston failure. That tender will be out of service for tendering until the engine is repaired or replaced, but remains safe as a lifeboat. There are three other tenders and a total of 12 zodiacs for shore excursions as we proceed out of the Amazon River. Alter do Chao is our last port in Brazil and the Amazon River. Most of the 163 passengers booked for full Grand Voyage gathered on the bow with the crew for a photo shoot and cocktail party as the ship weighed anchor and headed past Santarem towards the mouth of the river. Later that evening the rain started, heavy at times and continued overnight.
March 15, 2023 – Cruising the Amazon
Rain and fog continued overnight, with the foghorn periodically sounding. This is a sea day, with lectures about upcoming stops filling the day. Of particular interest was the lecture on Devils Island, our next stop.
As we proceeded further downstream, with occasional heavy rain showers we took our last looks at the flooded rainforests lining the banks of the river. About 1730 the Amazon River pilots departed near the city of Macapa and after midnight Seabourn Quest approached the shallow Barre Norte, or north bar of the Amazon River.