Travel back in time to the wild Amazon

of the Rubber Boom era

THE RUBBER PATH

About the Program

Amazonian winter on Tapajós River 

The Rubber Path Cruise is the first exclusive Eco Adventure designed for Bucket List Fly Fishing and is a total Amazonian experience. It is a result of the years Karim Abu Bakr spent in the Adventure business in the Amazon around Santarem Brazil, and his time studying and visiting places Like Fordlandia, and the history of the rubber tree. Karim had all kind of experiences there – from kayaking to Indigenous villages and sleeping in the middle of the jungle to hosting luxury cruises and being part of scientific expeditions. The goal is to make you feel like a turn of the century explorer, travelling, discovering and even eating like Barons. At the end you’ll find out the best about that place – people. We love Amazonian people, Amazonian hidden history and exaggerated stories of its inhabitants – from manioc planters, rubber tappers and fishermen to descendants of Aristocrats, American Confederates and German scientists. It’s all about being not just authentic or “not touristy”, it’s about showing you what this part of the Amazon was, what it is today and who the Amazonians are so that you can write your own story. Make sure you open up to it and enjoy every step of The Rubber Path.

Boat Trip

A boat trip on the Tapajos River is always fascinating. Tapajos is probably the most beautiful tributary of the Amazon which meets Mother of All Rivers right in front of Santarem where we depart. Santarém is the only place where you can see 5 different eco-systems within a 150 mile range. The muddy Amazon waters provide us with beautiful floodplains right at the beginning of our journey and offers the best scenery for those interested in local fauna diversity. When we sail up the Tapajos it gets totally different – red clay riverbanks are replaced by white sandy beaches, in the background we see tall, virgin rainforest and by the river we see low forests flooded by black and transparent water – “igapó”. Houses built on stilts switch to in-land villages that make their living of natural rubber handicraft, manioc flour production, all before we get to our ultimate destination – Fordlandia. Our guests will get to see a  fascinating part of the history of the Amazon across the last two centuries. The creation by Henry Ford in the middle of the Amazon rainforest still has the traces of the last breath of Brazilian Rubber Boom apart from being hidden in a beautiful part of the Tapajos River.

Season

Unlike in fishing trips, there’s more than one answer to the question “What is the best time to come?” Number one, it depends on your taste. Amazon and Tapajos rivers have an enormous gap between the dry and the wet seasons – up to 45 feet. They shape forests, villages, beaches. If you want to see enormous white sandbars of the Tapajos River and its postcard Alter-do-Chão – September through November is your moment to come. Enjoy half-flooded white sandy beaches – August is the best. Prefer canoeing to hiking – May and June are your best months. In the wet season rains only hit harder in March, while your chances to see more wildlife and enjoy all shades of green of the rainforest are much higher. So, we pick up May and June for our wet season program, when the Amazon and Tapajos Rivers are at their highest point. Our dry season version of the cruise happens in August and September. It allows us to see the beauty of Tapajos River with its hundreds of miles of white sandy beaches and, islands that pop out of floodplains and horseback riding begins replacing canoeing in some of the sites.

History behind our sites

The spirit of the Rubber Path cruise is exploration and discovery. Every place we visit has its mysteries, many of which are still veiled. Careful, you might want to stay longer.

The whole cruise is built around the most incredible part of Amazonian history – the Rubber Boom. Natural rubber comes from Hevea Brasielensis, a tree that is indigenous to the area. Latex was used by several civilizations of Central and South America dating back to 1500 BC however,  Europeans only saw the arrival of rubber from the New World over two centuries later because their focus had been on gold. The French astronomer Charles Marie de La Condamine, brought the first rubber to Europe in 1735 and in  1752, Jean de Magellan, son of the famous navigator, presented his creation to French academy of science a piece of solid latex able to rub pencil marks away from paper – the eraser. For decades, uses of natural rubber like making bottles, coating clothes and shoes were copied from indigenous cultures, but European cold would greatly affect the products. Until Charles Goodyear, almost by accident, invented vulcanization (the process of hardening rubber) in 1839. From that moment on rubber could be used to make shoes, tires, bags, belts – anything. And the only source of the raw material was South America and, particularly, Brazilian Amazon.

Some Portuguese aristocrats were long told to be insane for exploring the Amazon. It didn’t offer crazy amount of resources like Andes, had a terrible humid and hot climate, tons of dangers. Then, Amazonian resources were identified – Black pepper, cocoa, Brazil wood – all grew naturally in the Amazon and ultimately became more valuable than gold. By the time rubber drove the world crazy, the whole Amazon already had new owners known as “Rubber Barons”. Because the Rubber tree only grew naturally in this area, Brazil became a monopoly in rubber exploitation and supplies.  While rubber was available from neighboring Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, it  to get through quickly developing port of Manaus,. The Rubber Barons began enslaving rubber tappers and gaining fortunes which they spent on architecture we can still see today : Manaus Opera House, Teatro da Vitoria in Santarém, Fazenda Taperinha on Maica Lake in Santarém. The latter became a “naturalist’s paradise” and  belonged to Baron of Santarem, Miguel Antonio Pinto Guimarães.  It hosted naturalists like Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace. The Amazon was now flourishing and numerous confederate families arrived there to have “a fresh start”.

Among them, the Riker family which for 150 years owned most of the land on Maicá and Ituquí channels – our first destination when the Rubber Path Cruise sails off Santarém. The Rikers have a long story of adapting to every economic circle of the Amazon – from bringing the first water buffaloes to Santarém to Aero taxi company during the Gold Fever on Tapajos River. They even created the first artificial plantation of the Rubber Trees. Later this plantation was studied by Henry Wickham, the British explorer who arrived to Santarém shortly after the Rikers. His study based on naturally grown and planted Rubber Trees around what today is Tapajos National Forest and villages like Boim motivated him to commit an action which was the turning point in the Rubber Age history and is seen in the main stop on our tour – Fordlandia The saga of Fordlandia, built in 1928 by Ford Motors, was the result. 

Naturalists’ Paradise

Demanding birdwatchers, animal lovers or those who prefer contemplating landscapes have room on board of the Rubber Path Cruise. Here’s why.

Santarém is a special place for many reasons. Being able to see 5 eco-systems in a 100 square mile span is one of the reasons we say that. Our journey begins on Maicá Lake – an area flooded by the Amazon River. In the last two centuries Maicá attracted naturalists, archaeologists, birdwatchers from all over the world. The reason? Well, you get to see over fifty species of birds in one morning, including 3 different species of Toucans and Macaws and hordes of Hoatzins, an Amazonian bird who’s history dates back over 20 million years. There are pink and grey river dolphins, up to 6 different species of monkeys, tons of sloths… If you use a cast net you may raise up to 20 different species of fish in one cast and looking around you there will be the biggest giant water Lilly pads in the world, strangler figs, palms and a variety of trees adapted to spend 6 months a year partly or entirely covered with water. The place is stuffed with wildlife and incredible flora. Add to that an enormous chain of hills with primary forests that benefitted from Indian black soil – land fertilized by civilizations over 8,000 years ago. Around Taperinha farm you get to see iconic Amazonian trees like Brazil Nut, Ipê, Jatobá, Cumaru. Then, when we get to the Tapajos river, forests grow taller and thicker – “Terra Firme” forests are hosts of the true giants. Little inlets of the river flood the forest with “black water” and we get to do canoeing touching the canopy of the igapó forest. This extends for over 150 miles all the way from Santarém to Fordlandia. Landscapes are breathtaking – giant sandbars, lakes, crystal-clear creeks, tall forests steaming and putting together clouds. Night skies are so clear that Milky way looks unreal. Finally, back to an area closer to Santarém we visit Alter do Chão – the postcard of the region surrounded by savanna-like “capoeira” forests. From Silver Marmosets to Hershkovitz’s titi and Amazonian monkey among others.

Immerse

Indigenous cultures have been intriguing explorers for centuries and many of their mysteries are yet to be, if ever, unveiled. The Rubber Path takes you on a truly immersive journey.

When people ask, who lives in Brazilian Amazon the answer is far from simple and it is not “Indians”. The Tapajós region has attracted people from all over South America and the world for being the “sweetest” part of Brazilian Amazon. It is not as humid as deep in the jungle, clean water resources are abundant. Fish, fruit trees, rich soil and a geographic position offer shelter from the brave new world and has made the western part of the State of Pará very attractive for everyone. As a result, locals assimilated indigenous culture from numerous ethnic groups like Kayapo, Xingu and Mundurucu. A western culture touch from France, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain and United States as well as an African influence, as many runaway slaves from Northeastern Brazil settled in the Amazon forming villages called “quilombo”. That said, meet CABOCLO. Caboclo is a word that came from Tupi language word “kaa’boc” meaning a “person having copper-colored skin”. Today the word refers to any person of mixed Amerindian, African and European ancestry. Caboclo from Tapajós River region is way more complicated. The dwellers of “varzea” (lands flooded by the Amazon River) are referred to as the strongest of them. They live in houses on stilts and move around their villages in canoes for a half year. In the dry season they work hard on fertile soil that pops out as the Amazon descends. Many of them have mixed indigenous and German/Italian ancestry. So, it is not surprising to come across someone with white skin and or blue eyes. These people are brave farmers and fishermen and even today are responsible for feeding quickly growing Santarém and nearby towns. The Riverine population of the Tapajos river is different. They are men and women of forest and their livelihood relies on manioc plantations, hunting, fishing and collecting. They have a more Amer-Indian look as their ancestors were far more isolated and lived further from the riverbanks. Finally, there are indigenous tribes that could still preserve their ethnic identity. Munduruku people are an example of that and no matter how many links they have with “civilized” world, the way they look, their culture and their religion remained untouched. Along your Rubber Path you will have a close contact with most of what this culture represents – from carimbó dancing of caboclos to fire rituals of Mundurukus. You will taste their food, hike with them, fish with them, dance, weave palm leaves and cast nets. And yet, discover their role in the Rubber Boom era in the Amazon. It is a colorful experience.

The boat

The “Fabico” is our home away from home for the journey. The boat is 20 meters long and 4 meters wide, built of steel, aluminum and wood in a traditional shape used in the Amazon. One of the highlights is the open-air top deck, perfect for birdwatching and viewing the landscape, as well as our evening cocktail meetings. Fabico has a total of 5 cabins: 2 suites, 1 cabin with a bunk bed and a single bed and 2 cabins with bunk beds. All of the cabins have A/C and direct access to dining and recreation areas. Although the boat capacity is 12 passengers, we are working with groups of up to 8 people to guarantee comfort, service quality and a personal approach in the work of our guide and the team. Our support speedboat is used for our floodplain exploration and transfers to and from villages. The crew is made of 6 people: your bilingual host, the captain, navigating officer, waiter/bartender, the chef and his assistant. All the crew members have a Brazilian Navy certificate and an incredible knowledge of life on the river – we will not get lost and definitely won’t starve.

The food – “Cozinha Paraense”

Meals on board are a gastronomic experience. The cuisine of the Brazilian Amazon, particularly of the state of Pará is not widely known but is getting more and more exposure as the finest in Brazil. The combination of the best local fresh fish and Amazonian seasoning makes it unique. In Santarém we have access to ingredients you might’ve never heard before and we make sure to please the most demanding palate with a menu specially developed for The Rubber Path Cruise by the chefs Ricardo Branches and Saulo Jennings. Just for you to have an idea, we will be tasting Arapaima bacon, Duck in Tucupi (Manioc juice), Arapaima with Brazil Nut Milk sauce, shrimp with bananas, crispy Tambaqui Ribs and tiger catfish with coconut milk. These are only examples. Desserts combine internationally known presentations with Amazonian flavors coming from seasonal tropical fruits. Cocktails and appetizers are also typically Amazonian. Apart from that, you’ll be able to delight in simplicity of village cookouts. You will carry Amazonian flavors for the rest of your lives.

Rain Forest Expansion

Bucket List Fly Fishing has a number of environmental and social programs in different locations but we can’t avoid highlighting that The Rubber Path takes you to the very Jungle Preserve where Rain Forest Expansion started. Not only part of the profits from this cruise goes to help preserving and expanding forest preserves in Tapajós region, but we also take our Care & Share supplies to a number of villages. The whole concept of community-based tourism is widely applied in this program, benefitting over a dozen villages in many aspects. You will have a chance to visit Zero Impact Brazil – a facility in Santarém that is transforming a logging business into craft from Dying, Dead and Down trees. Check out our Care & Share section of the online store to see how you could contribute to this cause.

Trip Description

Our inauguration cruise will happen on May 5th (Wed), 2021. That means, the boat will leave Santarém on May 5th at 5:00 (local time). You will want to get to Santarém before 3:00. Our program has you arriving to Santarém a day earlier and includes dinner and a night in the hotel. We understand there are several flights that arrive to Santarém and we are responsible for all the transfers either the group arrives together or separately. Also, if for any reason you don’t get to Santarém on time, we arrange the transfer with a water taxi to the boat. We still highly suggest arriving to Santarém a day or two earlier. You can get more info on the flights to Santarém in our trip planner. [DOWNLOAD TRIP PLANNER]

Included

  • Reception at Santarem Airport
  • All Necessary ground transfers in Santarem
  • Ground and boat transfers to get aboard 
  • 7 nights Accommodations aboard 
  • All meals and beverages (including alcohol)
  • Guided river and land tours on days 1-9 
  • All village fees for tours including in the Tapajos National Forest

Not Included

  • International Airfare
  • Any hotel stays before Day 1 or after Day 9
  • Travel Insurance
  • Tips and Gratuities to Camp staff and guides
  • Anything not mentioned in inclusions
  •  $4900 (per person)
  • CONTACT US ON SALES FOR SEPTEMBER 2021 PILOT TRIPS
  • dbl occupancy
  • 6 1/2 days cruising
  • 7 nights lodging

Season January – February

A day on The Rubber Path

Days aboard are shaped by two main factors – the climate and distance to the next destination. If you ever heard the word siesta you know that most of our activities will happen early in the morning, at sunset and in the evening. We are almost at the equator. Birdwatching and wildlife observation are best at dawn and at sunset (as well as light conditions for photography), while hot late mornings and afternoons are perfect for swimming, sailing and getting ready for evening programs. Here’s an example of what a typical day would look like:

6:00 AM – breakfast on board

6:30 AM – boat tour

10:30 AM – meeting the mother boat, back on board

11:30 AM – briefing and cocktails

12:00 AM – lunch aboard

14:00-16:00 – Navigation/siesta time

17:00 – boat/land tour

19:00 – briefing and cocktails on board

20:00 – dinner on board

21:30 – (optional) evening ride for nocturnal wildlife observation

Every part of the program is obviously optional, we always stay close enough to the mother boat for those who might need to return. Although we have an ambitious goal to show you maximum of the Amazon in a few days, we still remember you’re on vacation (unless you’re a documentary team) and we will always let you know when we don’t want you worn out. Every day has at least 2 tours and every day we move the boat to a new destination. Tour and navigation times are approximate as things like wildlife observation and village visits can take longer or shorter and we always consider people with mobility issues.

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