Boca da Valeria on Amazon, Brazil

Boca da Valeria is a tiny village on the Amazon River. This is your chance to experience the isolated and simplistic lifestyle of thousands of indigenous people residing along the waterways in north-central Brazil.

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1 Meeting of the Rivers in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

At the base of this lush, 400 foot hill is Boca da Valeria. The name means Mouth of Valeria. The Valeria River (blue water) is one of 1,100 tributaries flowing into the Amazon River (brown water) as the latter travels over 4,000 miles across South America into the Atlantic Ocean. The Amazon River is the second longest in the world, only surpassed by the Nile in Egypt. Yet the water discharge by the Amazon is greater than the world’s next seven biggest rivers combined.

Amazon & Valeria Rivers, State of Amazonas, Brazil
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Village of Boca da Valeria, Brazil

Boca da Valeria is charming. This population of about 75 people welcomes you to experience their humble settlement. It is typical of hundreds of villages scattered across the Amazon Rainforest. Most river communities covet their isolation. They have adopted some aspects of a Western culture such as clothing, electricity and communications. Yet they prefer to live simple, undisturbed lives as their ancestors did for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived at the start of the 16th century.

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Riverboats in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

Boca da Valeria is located about 850 miles from the ocean along the Lower Amazon River. The village is at the easternmost edge of the Amazonas state on the border of the state of Pará. All transportation is by boat. Small crafts are adequate for local navigation. Riverboats like these are used to travel to cities to purchase supplies. The closest one is Parintins about 20 miles away. Larger nearby cities are Santarém and Manaus.

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Tender into Boca da Valeria, Brazil

About a dozen cruise ships visit Boca da Valeria each year. It is arguably among the smallest port of calls in the world. After anchoring in the Amazon River, you will board a tender for a short ride and then dock in the center of the village.

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Young Girl Hugging Sloth in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

As you disembark from the tender, you will be greeted by adorable children. Many of them are dressed in ancestral attire while holding their forest pets. Their mission is simple: to pose for a photo in exchange for a dollar. This is the best bargain of your Brazilian trip. You capture a visual memory while economically helping the villagers. This little girl was hugging a juvenile, brown-throated three-toed sloth. It is the most common of the six species living in the Amazon Rainforest. If you are lucky, you will spot a wild one in a tree along the river. Sloths spend 15-18 hours a day sleeping while hanging upside-down.

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Children Tour Guides in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

Other children earn a few dollars as tour guides. One will silently approach you with their big brown eyes and engaging smile. Then he or she will silently take your hand, give you a little tug and begin proudly showing you the village. This little boy was waiting for his turn as passengers disembarked at the dock. Meanwhile, his sister displayed her orange-winged amazon parrot. 35 species of parrots reside in the Amazon Rainforest.

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Riverside Houses in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

Although it is delightful to be escorted by a child, you hardly need a tour guide to explore Boca da Valeria. The riverside dirt path stretches for only one block in either direction of the dock. Along the way are wooden houses perched on stilts. Despite their elevation, most bear stains of the last high-water mark. During the rainy season of January through May, the Amazon River can rise 30 feet or more.

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Visit a Home in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

The villagers are warm, gracious people. You sense their genuine desire to show you the essence of their life and culture. This extends to inviting you into their homes. Just watch for a hand-written sign. Then climb the rickety stairs for a unique experience. You will be amazed how such bare essentials in these weathered shacks can accommodate multiple generations.

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Enviable View from Window in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

The homes along the water’s edge in Boca da Valeria have windows but no glass. An occasional opening will have a shutter. This seems archaic. What about privacy? Isn’t this an invitation for lots of bugs? Apparently, these do not matter. What does matter is these windows let in a lot of sunlight together with a soothing breeze. They also provide amazing and enviable views of serenity.

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Church of São Paulo Façade in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

The largest building in Boca da Valeria – and its centerpiece – is Igreja de São Paulo. This Catholic church honoring Paul the Apostle was founded in 2008. The detached bell tower was in the final stages of construction over a decade later.

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Church of São Paulo Interior in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

As you might expect, the Church of São Paulo’s interior is unembellished. At the center is a plain white altar accented with a simple image of the Last Supper. There is also a small statue of Paul the Apostle holding the New Testament and a sword which is symbolic of his martyrdom. The first couple rows have leather seats while the rest of the pews are plastic chairs. Simple? Yes. Still a revered house of God for the locals? Absolutely!

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São Francisco Municipal School in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

Adjacent to the church is Escola Municipal São Francisco. Feel free to walk inside. You can be assured no students will be attending class in this one-room schoolhouse during your visit. They are given the day off when a ship is in port. Also watch for when crew members and maybe an officer approach the school steps with large sacks. Children and their parents will quickly crowd around them. The tradition of cruise lines distributing small gifts to the villagers is about to start. The bustle of excitement is contagious and lots of fun to watch.

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Best Friends Forever in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

These two young girls are obviously best friends and probably sisters. They did everything together, including smiling and giggling at the same time. They are indicative of the children you will meet at Boca da Valeria. Despite their austere culture (perhaps because of it), they all were healthy and happy. The people in this village are Caboclo Indians. The term means copper-colored skin. They are descendants of ancestors who were a mix of indigenous Brazilian and European, predominately Portuguese.

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Wooden Rowboat in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

This scene of a hand-crafted wooden rowboat tethered to a tree branch is remarkable for its simplicity. It captures the essence of life along the Amazon River as it was cherished by native Brazilians for over 5,000 years. When the Portuguese began exploring today’s Brazil in 1500, there were about 2,000 tribes. By the end of the century, the indigenous population fell by about 90%. Surprisingly, estimates suggest there are still 67 uncontacted tribes living among the rainforests of Brazil.

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Capuchin Monkey in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

Let’s introduce you to three more pets often held by Boca da Valeria children. This comfortable little guy is a capuchin monkey. There are dozens of species of capuchin monkeys living in a range from Central America to northern Argentina. Interestingly, the two major subfamilies reside on opposite sides of the Amazon River. The capuchin monkey is considered the smartest of all New World Monkeys. Other common primates in the rainforest are howler, tamarin, spider and squirrel monkeys.

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Hyacinth Macaw in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

The Amazon Basin is filled with parrots including 17 species of macaws. The biggest of all these wonderful birds is the hyacinth macaw. Also called the blue macaw, its body measures 3.3 feet long with a wingspan up to four feet. It weighs almost four pounds. They can live 50 to 60 years in the wild. This vulnerable bird’s favorite foods are seeds and nuts, especially the acrocomia aculeata nut, commonly called the macaw palm. This shell is hard to open with a hammer. Yet the hyacinth macaw’s strong beak shatters it with ease.

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Toco Toucan in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

A fascinating and colorful bird in the Amazon Rainforest is the toucan. There are over 40 species living in a range from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. The common genus is ramphastos. The most recognizable of these eight species is the toco toucan. It is also called the giant toucan because it can exceed two feet long with a seven inch tail. The prominent feature is the stunning, nine inch yellow-orange bill. This cartoon-like appendage helps the bird dispel body heat during the hot Brazilian summers.

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Elaborate Native Costume in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

This young woman proudly displays an elaborate native costume. The bright blue feathers are from hyacinth macaws. The loin cloth and headdress are adorned by feathers from other macaw species plus parrots and toucans. The accouterments consist of animal teeth, claws and nails as well as chiseled stones. The jewelry was made from forest seeds and berries. The Tupi people were best known for creating such elaborate attire. This type of apparel was reserved for rituals and celebrations plus pre and post wars. On an everyday basis, most indigenous people were naked or only donned loin cloths during the pre-Columbian era.

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Activities in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

In 99.9% of port of calls, cruise lines will offer a variety of excursions. Boca da Valeria is the rare .1%. No ship-sponsored tours are available. The primary activity is exploring the village on foot. If you dawdle, this takes less than an hour. Afterwards, you can grab a bite to eat with a beer at the only snack shack. You can wander through the forest along a primitive path. Or you can accept one of multiple solicitations for a boat tour.

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River Tour in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

An absolute must-do while visiting Boca da Valeria is touring the Valeria River. This is an inexpensive pleasure. Depending upon the operator, five USD will get you a 30 to 60 minute ride. The types of watercraft vary from a canoe to a canopied rowboat. They are all powered by a tiny motor. The six foot driveshaft with a propeller at the end is capable of swiveling 180 degrees. This is perfect to navigate the confined, often weed-choked backwaters.

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Riverside Community in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

As you walk around Boca da Valeria, you might sense it was designed to delight tourists. Certainly, people do not live like this today. Soon into your boat tour, you float by the first waterside community. Sure enough, the rustic wooden houses look the same. They are perched on questionable stilts. Wooden canoes are dragged up along the shoreline. There are powerlines between the houses but the electricity is supplied by a communal generator. Drinking water is stored in plastic tubs on makeshift towers. This is the chosen lifestyle of thousands of people along the Amazon River and its tributaries.

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Tranquility on Valeria River in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

For obvious reasons, tour operators initially load up their boats with two or three couples. Then they follow a standard route for a short time so they can get back for another group of tourists. Best advice is to wait until the second or third round of tours have ended. When the demand is lower, you can bargain for a smaller passenger load. Now you can select the places you want to linger and savor peaceful scenes like this one.

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Water Lilies in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

Victoria amazonica is a visual high point of the Amazon River. This is the world’s largest water lily. The huge circular leaves can span ten feet. Below the waterline is a submerged stalk reaching 23 to 26 feet long. The blooming of the lily is a fleeting, 48 hour event. On the first day, the flower is white and female. Their scent attracts beetles for pollination. After closing for the evening, it reopens the next morning as a pink bloom that is male. When the fertilization is done during the day, the flower closes, wilts and sinks below the water.

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Lakeside Houses in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

Prior to the convergence of the Valeria River into the Amazon, there are a cluster of lakes. Many of the homes you will float by are huddled along these shorelines. The location is perfect. The homes are hidden from passing traffic along the Amazon. Yet it is a short distance to navigate to the main river. The freshwater is calm and virtually free of silt. The area is small enough to provide a sense of community yet large enough to enjoy the feeling of isolation.

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Fishing in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

There are about 3,000 species of fish endemic to the Amazon River and its tributaries. About 40% are catfish or characidae. Others include sharks, stingrays, eels and the feared piranhas. These young men are carrying on the tradition of fishing with a net. Their ancestors were hunters, gatherers and fishmen. Yet the primary food source of native Brazilians has always been farming one or two gardens. An occasional family or village managed a plantation.

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Assembly of God of Amazonas in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

A surprising site on Largo da Valeria is this well-constructed church. It is associated with the Assembly of God. Since the Pentecostal church was introduced in northern Brazil in 1910, it has grown to 14 million members. The goal of Assembleias de Deus is to build 100 churches in the Amazon Basin. A key element of the movement’s doctrine is to preclude all socially detrimental activities. The rules prevent not only smoking and drinking but also forbids less obvious things such as the use of cosmetics, fashionable attire and television.

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Birdwatching in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

Avid birdwatchers are in for a unique treat when visiting the Amazon. The rainforest has over 1,500 species of birds. 250 are endemic to Brazil. Among the most graceful is the great white egret. This all-white bird measures 3.3 feet tall. Its yellow bill is adept at spearing unsuspecting fish, frogs and insects.

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Weather in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

After spending a few hours in Boca da Valeria, you will understand why locals hope for any breeze through an open window to cool them off. The temperature is hot all year. The lows are in the mid-70s°F. The highs are in the upper-80s. From September through December, it is common to reach the mid to upper 90s compounded by high relative humidity. In short, the heat index measures sweltering!

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Leaving Behind the Life in Boca da Valeria, Brazil

As your tour boat putters back toward the village, it is common to pause for reflection. Soon you will be back aboard an airconditioned cruise ship. You will shower and change clothes before having a pre-dinner cocktail and then attend a show. Two opposite worlds in one day! You have enjoyed seeing the isolate life along the Amazon River. You might also be more grateful for your way of life.

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