Wish I’d Jungle Cruise Like They Do It in the Movies

There was a time of pandemic when travel wasn’t at its best and cruises were starting to be deeply missed. Then, and just then, Emily Blunt, as Lily, the brave botanist, decided  to hire the most awkward skipper (played by, the one and only, Dwayne Johnson), take a crumbling steamboat and  go down the mighty Amazon in a journey of exploring its hidden depths. And heights. And I went to watch. Because cinemas were missed too.

A 20st century botanist, Dr. Lily Houghton, leaves London for an Amazonian adventure with the thought of changing the future of medicine. Her mind is set to find, at any costs, the ancient tree of Lagrimas de Cristal, whose petals have the power to heal almost any disease in the world.

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Each dream begins with a movie

Lily embarks on a journey to one of the most unexplored territories, and nothing, absolutely nothing is what it seems to be in the first place. Lush vegetation that lurks around waiting to take a bite of fresh meat, an indigenous tribe that is more human than anyone would expect from a ready-to-eat-you cannibal to be, and a half-living skipper (Dwayne Johnson) who offers highly enriched thrill-ride tours to elegantly dressed 20th century tourists transforming even the most trivial sides of nature into something worth admiring. Such as… the backside of water.

The movie scenery seems taken out of some impossible-to-forget, vintage oil canvases depicting beauty and grandeur of South American landscapes, such as The Heart of the Andes by Frederic Edwin Church.  The color scheme consists of mainly earthy tones, strong brown and green shades making the screening similar to one of the fairy lands.

Famous painting from the Amazon

Image in the FreeDomain 

But what I love most about Jungle Cruise is Emily Blunt. And I love her character even more. She is sweet and brave and never giving up in all that craziness surrounding her. Still, the movie as a whole, an attempt to recreate one of the famous Disneyland ride, doesn’t fail in reminding us either of The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, King Solomon’s Mines and even… Shrek!

Are we there yet? Not even close I would say…

Real Fun Starts Here

Amazon Jungle Cruises & Tours

After watching Lily’s Amazonian rainforest adventure, I ran to my computer and decided to see if this could be a new opportunity for some adventurous trip. And it seems it is as real as it can be!!

Amazon Jungle Cruises Toucan

Even if Disney’s movie was shot in Hawaii and studios recreating wildlife, they managed to capture the charm of the actual Amazon cruises to the smallest details of the South American scenery. Embellishing a bit its audacious side, nonetheless. The (not-so-talkative) toucan, pink dolphins, the ferocious snakes, the carnivore plants, the mesmerizing waterfalls… and the piranhas, of course, are all there waiting, in Peru and Brazil along the Amazon river. Just not as scary as on the big screens.

Manaus Jungle Cruises, Northern Brazil

Right in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, the quite modern Manaus and not a small city at all with its over 2 million population, can be accessed mainly by boat or airplane. As unconnected as it may seem due to a lack of road access, it is THE Brazilian center for embracing ethnic diversity and experiencing a profound native-kind of tourism, as well a well conserved, fairytale environment. And sounds just like my kind of jungle adventure, with lots of cultural aspects to discover.

Amazon Jungle Cruises in Manaus Brazil

Multiday jungle cruises on the Juma River or Rio Negro from Manaus are very popular and not expensive either. Manaus is, in fact,  the Brazilian gateway and a major departure point for any expeditions to the the largest tropical rain forest, the Amazonian jungle.

Seems that, in the surroundings of Manaus, adventurers have a lot of exciting things to do (click on the pink links to read about each adventure or book one):

Besides all of that, one of the main attractions in Manaus is the unexpected phenomenon of meeting of waters, in the  place where Rio Negro and Amazon River start running side by side, without too much mixing due to their different level of sedimentation, temperature and speed. More about this wonderful natural occurrence on NASA website.

Not to be missed: Manaus Botanical Garden, known as Museu da Amazônia – MUSA, a lush vegetation area exhibiting Amazonian flora, fauna & culture, plus an observation tower. Guided tours available also.

Address: Av. Margarita, 6305 – Cidade de Deus, Manaus – AM, 69099-415, Brazil (Google location >)

Things to do In Manaus Botanical Garden

Photo by Bruno Melo on Unsplash

Iquitos Jungle Tours, Peru

Another option for exploring the Amazonian jungle is through Iquitos, a Peruvian port, once, the center of export of rubber from the Amazon Basin. An architecture that reflects the Spanish colonial era and 19th century European architecture mixed with stilt houses or floating wooden buildings, open air markets filled with fresh, local fruits, tribal villages and jungle adventures – all Amazonian wonders unconnected to the country’s main road network.

Iquitos tribal people
Wasp748, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Iquitos is far from being a rich city, but it is indeed a vibrant destination for the ones who linger for the Amazonian river boat cruises and wildlife adventures.

What I found very interesting for Iquitos, is that ecotourism is at its best and the area offers something for every budget:

  • city tours, especially to the famous Bethlehem market and the floating houses of Belen neighborhood;
Amazonian Jungle Iquitos jungle cruises stilt houses
Photo by Deb Dowd on Unsplash

On the to-watch list

Other Travel & Adventure Movies

Jungle Cruise is about everything we might have forgotten: ghoulish conquistadors (Pirates of the Caribbean), a dry-wit sense of humor (Shrek), the thrilling jungle adventure (Indiana Jones), a never-ending search for lost civilizations and precious artefacts (Relic Hunter, King Solomon’s Mines) . Even if not all movies on the list below have a jungle river boat ride, they do have a striking piece of Jungle Cruise: either the humor or the thrill, either the adrenaline or the element of surprise. Enjoy! 🙂

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

18th century, Port Royal, Jamaica. Another Disney park attraction that turns into a movie. The center piece? A ghostly pirate ship surrounded by mystery and curse. When the moonlight shines, its crew, led by the despicable Captain Barbossa, become undead skeletons. A punishment that can only end by blood sacrifice and finding last piece of the puzzle: a medallion.

Lured by the medallion and desperate to break the curse, Barbossa kidnaps its accidental owner, Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley). The blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) is set to save her, while  the legendary pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) does everything to get once-his Black Pearl pirate ship back.

Indiana Jones & Raiders of the Ark

Indiana Jones

The Mummy

Jungle Cruise tried to capture the spark of The Mummy by following a similar storyline. Evie (Rachel Weisz), a librarian, and her brother, Jonathan (John Hannah), together with their guide, the adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) , embark on a quest to unlock an ancient secret: finding the old city of Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead.

Treasure hunters, a curse and a 3000-year-old revived mummy make an outstanding blend of adventure, comedy, terror and romance worth watching. Even if the action is set in Thebes, Egypt, the movie was filmed in Morocco, Sahara desert and the actors were exposed to real dangers like dehydration and sandstorms while shooting.

Romancing the Stone

Romancing the stone

The African Queen

African queen

Aguirre, The Wrath Of God

Jungle Cruise revives the image of the ruthless conquistador Don Lope de Aguirre, in a ghoulish setting.

The 1972 movie speaks another breathtaking story though: the one of a mad and completely twisted search of the legendary city of gold, El Dorado in the merciless Amazonian rainforest. The 16th century, Aguirre, played by Klaus Kinski, leads a group of Spanish soldiers and enslaved indigenous people into a dangerous and darkness-filled expedition for mythical riches down the Amazon River of South America / Peru no matter the obstacles . The movie, vaguely, finds its roots in a true story.

On this river God never finished his creation.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle


Relic Hunter

I can’t even imagine Tia Carrere ever getting old. Or being someone else than the fearless Sydney Fox, my favorite, overly-adventurous historian and convinced globe-trotter. Relic hunter is that movie I was watching as a teenager never missing not even one mission of Dr. Fox tracking some ancient, mysterious artefacts in the most unexpected places of the Earth.

The movie feeds many of the different parts of a spectator’s soul: the search for supernatural, the thirst for adventure, the spirit of justice, the unanswered questions about lost civilizations, and the lust for exotic destinations.

King Solomon's Mines

The ’50s screening is one of the most entertaining and fun adventures into the wild African Jungle.  Starring Deborah Kerr, the flaming redhead, and Stewart Granger, as the great white hunter, it is a lovely vintage movie in which the characters test the limits of a savage territory in search for the diamond-filled King Solomon’s mines.

The scenes were filmed in Equatorial Africa. And besides exploration and classical fall-in-love story, it features actual landscapes and details of its inhabitants, the Giant Watussi tribe lifestyle and customs.

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