For a preview of the rainforest, it’s worth exploring Manaus’s tropical parks. The Bosque da Ciência (Rua Otávio Cabral, Petrópolis, tel. 92/3643-3293, 9 a.m.–noon and 2–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun., R$2) is a surviving chunk of jungle maintained by the Instituto Nacional da Pesquisa da Amazônia (INPA), a research center where you can inspect Amazonian flora and fauna ranging from rare orchids and caimans to giant otters and the extremely rare and odd-looking peixe-bois (manatees). Aside from walking paths, there is a suspended tree trekking trail that allows you to inspect the forest canopy up close. To get here, take the 519 bus from Praça da Matriz, which stops right in front of the entrance.
Operated by CIGS, a jungle survival unit of the Brazilian army, the Parque Zoológico do CIGS (Estrada da Ponta Negra, São Jorge, tel. 92/3625-1966, www.cigs.com.br, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.–Sun., R$3) houses a diverse array of Amazonian animals rescued by military men during their training exercises in the forest. Beyond the more common caimans, monkeys, and macaws, you’ll also run into black and spotted jaguars and a snake pit full of anacondas. It’s hard not to feel torn by the animals’ living conditions, which (mirroring Brazilian realities) range from spacious and well-equipped outdoor environments to prison-like cages. To get here, take the 120 bus from Praça da Matriz.
Parque do Mindú (Av. Perimetral, tel. 92/3236-7702, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun.) is Manaus’s largest patch of greenery. It contains four native ecosystems laced with walking trails and suspended tree-trekking walkways. The park’s most famous inhabitant is the almost extinct sauím-de-manaus, a micro monkey known for its two-toned pelt (white and caramel), large pointy ears, and rapid shimmying up and down trees that has earned it the nickname macaquinho elevador (elevator monkey). To get here, take the 423 or 433 bus from Praça da Matriz.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition