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The Amazon rainforest may well be one of the most fascinating places on the entire planet. With more than one third of all the animal and plant species in the world living there, its unparalleled biodiversity has been a source of enticement for many a scientist and adventurer throughout all time.

While some of us may never have the opportunity to explore the Amazon, author Gare Thompson has made it possible for us to enjoy a virtual exploration with his AMAZON JOURNEY: CRUISING THE RAIN FOREST  (ISBN: 0-7922-5951-3), another wonderful book from National Geographic Science Chapters.

Gare asks readers to imagine that their cruise begins in city of Belém, Brazil , where the Amazon pours into the sea. With more than 1,000 other rivers flowing into it, the Amazon is not only the second largest river in the world but also the one that spills the most water into the Atlantic Ocean. Not surprisingly, the Amazon contains more varieties of fish than any other river on earth. Hence, everything from catfish to flesh-eating piranhas is sold (and eaten) in the Belém’s markets. 

From Belém  readers board the large cruise ship that will take them up the great river. While they cruise, author Gare explains that the pink dolphins in the water used to be grey but turned pinkish as they aged. What a sight they are! And walking on the water as if weightless—or miraculous—are small lizards called basilisks. Along the banks there are colorful macaws in the trees and gorgeous blue butterflies called morphos. There are also jaguars, sloths, squirrel monkeys, iguanas, snakes, scorpions… Bugs are everywhere and everything is always damp, if not outright wet. This is, after all, the rainforest. It is a different world, and the Amazon is the highway that cuts through it.

Gare takes readers to the port of Manaus, which, a century ago, was crucial to the rubber trade and one of the richest cities in the Americas. Today it is a tourist town and most of the inhabitants work not on rubber plantations but in hotels and restaurants. Thereafter readers travel to Iquitos, Peru, where they must depart the comfortable cruise ship and settle into canoes in order to get close enough to the river banks to see the towns and villages along the way. A stop at one village feels like stepping out of a time machine. People there hunt for food with blowguns, shooting darts that are tipped with poisons from a vine. The men use poison, instead of poles, for fishing too. They simply pour it into the river, and when the fish have been sufficiently stunned, they go in and collect what they need to survive. 

The source of the Amazon is high in the Andes Mountains and it is not possible to reach it by boat. But when the journey begun in AMAZON JOURNEY: CRUISING THE RAIN FOREST ends, the reader is provided with a list of additional books and websites that offer more information about the Amazon. With winter around the corner, now is a great time to take up the study of the Amazon. Whether one chooses to focus on the rich history, the various cultures, or the plant and animal life, carving an educational path through the rainforest is sure to be a thrill.


AMAZON JOURNEY: CRUISING THE RAIN FOREST is reviewed by Joan Schweighardt, the author of GUDRUN’S TAPESTRY and other novels. Over the years Joan has counted among her closest friends Zelma, Cleo, and Speedy-Clark (all felines) and Heidi, Barnaby, Dirty Ben, Auggie Doggie and Smart Sartre (all canines). Currently Joan counts herself lucky to share her life and home with Nikki, a Belgian Shepherd who survived a near-death experience almost two years ago. Having been nursed back to life with drops of water from a turkey-baster and thereafter minuscule pieces of prime rib, Nikki is now the most spoiled 14-year-old dog on the planet.

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