Cristalino Lodge is located deep within 11,000 hectares of private and protected Amazon Rainforest. The Lodge is accessible only by a little aluminium boat and whilst zooming up the small, fast flowing rivers on their way to feed the mighty Amazon, you truly get a feel for just how immersed in the jungle you are about to become.
One of the many highlights of Cristalino Lodge are the two soaring observation towers which rise 50 meters high to reveal a panoramic view of the amazon canopy as far as the eye can see. With such incredible structures just a kilometre from our rooms, we were clearly hoping to make a trip or two up to the summit to experience the view. When Diogo, our guide mentioned that he was wanting to take us all the way to the top in time to witness the sunrise, the excitement was palpable.
Early the next day, with headtorches firmly strapped to our heads and covered in deet, we set off for the kilometre-long hike to one of the observation towers, led by Diogo and Sebastao. As Sebastao was born and raised within the jungle, it was fair to say we all looked a little over cautious in comparison, as he strode forward through the foliage in little more than a t-shirt and shorts. Every passing tree was taken as another opportunity to teach us more about the complexity of this ecosystem from tribal life, to medicinal plants and natural insect repellent. (For those wondering, letting a swarm of ants march across your skin is apparently supposed to send mosquitos - and slightly faint hearted tourists - running for the hills!).
As we quietly stepped through the waking jungle, we listened to the croaking of sleepy frogs and the rustling of spider monkeys swinging out of bed to start their day. Beginning our climb up the tower in the dark, we slowly ascended up and up as dappled sunlight started to peek through the leaves, hinting that we were getting closer to the treetops. The journey to the top itself is an experience never to be forgotten, passing gnarled and twisted treetrunks that you could only conjure up in your imagination. The constant drapery of vines creating what looks like the perfect playground for any monkey or over energetic human.
Suddenly, the deep green of the canopy cleared away to reveal the expanse of the Amazon jungle below in every direction, hazy in the morning light. As the sun started to peak over the horizon, the eerie mist above the treetops began to lift. Within seconds the vivid birdsong began to come to life, the canopy instantly brimming with life and biodiversity. Gossiping macaws calling out to other pairs in neighbouring trees before soaring high into the sky, whilst fast flashes of brightly coloured birds can be found in any tree you rest your eyes upon. Looking around you are hit by the overwhelming privileged feeling of being able to see the majesty of the Amazon Rainforest first hand, demonstrating the importance of preserving this unique landscape, just as Cristalino Lodge has done and shall continue for ever more.