The destination of this boat excursion was Lake Maicá — or Lago Maicá — not far from Santarém, Brazil. Lago Maicá isn’t a lake in the temperate-world sense. You can see from this map of the area around Santarém that the “Amazon River” is in fact an intricate network of waterways, “lakes,” channels, and ephemeral islands. In the wet season, the rivers expand and the low-lying land floods. Lakes wax and wane.
In this satellite view (Google Maps), while it is a little hard to discern, Lago Maicá almost connects two channels of the Amazon River. The course of our boat trip was along the smaller channel and around the edges of Lago Maicá.
A double-deck wood boat met us at the same pier where our cruise ship had docked.
Santarém sits at the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajos rivers. The waters of the Amazon River proper are the color of café-au-lait because of captured sediment upstream. On the other hand, the waters of the Tapajos River are black, caused by organic materials (trees and other plants) in its tributaries. From the dock on the Tapajos to the lake on the Amazon, we crossed the swirling meeting of these two waters.
Pink fresh-water dolphins live in these waters. Since the water is murky, we couldn’t see them beneath the surface. However, waiting a little delivered rewards. Suddenly, out of the coffee-colored water, a curious river creature breached. Just a flash of pink and mottled gray, and distinctive head silhouette. And gone. But another popped up nearby. We stood on the boat deck, staring at the river waves, waiting for the next. (They appeared and disappeared more quickly than we could focus our cameras. However, here is an image from the internet.)
Two videos from the boat:
We were just around the corner from Santarém, one of the larger towns along the Amazon. So it wasn’t surprising that there were signs of human habitation.
Perhaps a parking lot?
At one point, the boat slowed, and our guide called out, pointing to the shore. There, clinging to a branch just above the water surface, was a sloth. The guide told us that the sloths spend most of their slow-moving time high in the trees. They come down to the ground or water for only two reasons: to get a drink, and to poop.
Later we saw another, immobile at the top of a tree.
Sometimes the shoreline was a thicket of palms and tropical trees.
Other times, the vista opened to marsh, lake and open fields beyond.
We didn’t see any other wild mammals, but there were many birds.
It wouldn’t be an Amazon outing without some piranha fishing, right? Touristy yes, but fun too. A plate of raw meat, and fishing line with hook and handle for everyone. We stood around the edge of the deck, dangling the lines in the water. While there were many nibbles, and a lot of disappearing bait, none of us visitors caught any piranha. But the guide and the boat captain each did. You can see that the reputation of the piranha for their menacing munching is well-founded. All the fish caught were tossed back into the river after a few minutes.
We headed back to Santarém as the sun was falling lower in the west. The low-angle light showcased lovely clouds in the distance.