There was a time of pandemic when travel wasn’t at its best and jungle 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 lurks around waiting to take a bite of fresh meat. An indigenous tribe proves more human than anyone would expect from a ready-to-eat-you cannibal to be.
And there is also the half-living skipper (Dwayne Johnson) who offers highly enriched thrill-ride tours to elegantly dressed 20th century tourists. He calmly transforms 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.
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!!
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, fairy-tale environment. And sounds just like my kind of jungle adventure, with lots of cultural aspects to discover.
Photo by Nayani Teixeira on Unsplash
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):
- sleep over the night in a traditional lodge or floating guest house;
- go on half-day river cruises and admire the giant water lilies and tropical fruit trees or the rare fauna such as southern two-toed sloths, pygmy marmosets, or Goeldi’s monkeys,
- try unusual wildlife activities such as going fishing for piranhas or spying on the crocodiles;
- meet indigenous tribe Dessana and learn about their customs;
- travel with speed boats and canoe and explore beautiful cascades and caves;
- learn survival techniques for the jungle adventures.
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 >)
Photo by Bruno Melo on Unsplash
Iquitos Jungle Cruise & Tours, Peru
Another option for you at exploring the Amazonian jungle is through Iquitos, a Peruvian port. This was once, the center of export of rubber from the Amazon Basin.
Prepare yourself to be dazzled by an architecture that reflects the Spanish colonial era and 19th century European architecture mixed with stilt houses or floating wooden buildings. Among all, open air markets filled with fresh, local fruits, tribal villages and jungle adventures. In conclusion, all Amazonian wonders unconnected to the country’s main road network.
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;
- luxury jungle cruises on the beautiful black cruise ship Aria with elegantly furnished bedrooms and huge windows that let you enjoy the beautiful vegetation and unique animal species, along the riverbanks;
- lower budget, but nevertheless unforgettable, wild Amazon expeditions, flexible riverboat and jungle tours while sleeping in a traditional lodge or shelter;
- a few days stay in fabulous and comfortable accommodation while enjoying activities like seeing the pink dolphins or visiting a local sugarcane distillery;
- camping in the jungle, surrounded only by the rainforest, stars and wild animals;
- Amazon expeditions in the Pacaya Samiria national reserve;
- independent outdoors activities like fishing for piranhas;
- 2-weeks long experience of living in the remote parts of the jungle, where very few tourists ever set foot, with the Amazon’s Matses indigenous tribe, learning their customs and ceremonies.
On the to-watch list
Other Travel & Adventure Movies
Jungle adventure movies have been captivating audiences for decades with their thrilling plots, exotic locations, and larger-than-life characters.
And Jungle Cruise is about everything we might have forgotten: ghoulish conquistadors (Pirates of the Caribbean), a dry-wit sense of humour (Jumanji), the thrilling jungle adventure (Indiana Jones), a never-ending search for lost civilizations and precious artefacts (Relic Hunter, King Solomon’s Mines) .
Below, we will take a look at some of the most iconic jungle adventure movies of all time. We will explore the characters, plot, and filming locations that make these movies so memorable.
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 humour 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: Raiders of the Ark is a 1981 film directed by Steven Spielberg, that debuts with a scene of the jungles of South America.
And the narrative centers around the adventures of Indiana Jones, an archaeologist, who embarks on a journey to find the Ark of the Covenant. A biblical artefact said to contain the Ten Commandments. Throughout the film, our hero travels to exotic locations around the world, including Nepal, Egypt, and Peru, while searching for clues to the Ark’s whereabouts.
The film showcases the excitement of travel, as a means for adventure and discovery of cultural heritage and history. Hence the birth of “adventure tourism“.
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. They are trying to find the old city of Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead.
Obviously, 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. While the actors were exposed to real dangers like dehydration and sandstorms while shooting.
Romancing the Stone
Romancing the Stone is a 1984 American romantic comedy that takes us on a wild ride through the lush, steamy jungles of Colombia.
In there, the adventure is as thick as the foliage and the romance is hotter than a crocodile sunbathing on a rock. The leading character, a romance novelist, is thrown into a real-life, jungle adventure as she sets out to save her kidnapped sister. The jungle is portrayed as a dangerous and mysterious place. But this does not stop our lady to have her heart stolen by a charming rogue.
In conclusion, this film… it’s one heck of a jungle adventure!
The African Queen
This one is a must-see classic in which Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn are navigating together on a steamboat down the treacherous rapids of the Ulanga River. Passing the dense, tropical rainforest of the (German occupied) East Africa during the WWII.
The film set in the jungle is packed with action and romance. While overcoming the dangers of the wilderness, they embrace its unique beauty: indigenous tribes and a vibrant life, from colourful birds to majestic elephants and everything in between.
It is quite an amazing journey through the heart of Africa. One that will leave you feeling like you’ve experienced it to the smallest details.
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 breath-taking 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 (Klaus Kinski) leads a group of Spanish soldiers and enslaved indigenous people into a dangerous expedition. A darkness-filled search for mythical riches down the Amazon River of South America (Peru). The movie, vaguely, finds its roots in a true story.
“On this river God never finished his creation.“
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
This is what I call a jungle adventure taken to another level. A digital game level!
Set in an exotic, fantasy-built environment, the jungle adventure of 4 teenagers is a race against the clock. After finding themselves drawn into the jungle world of Jumanji, while playing a magical video game, they must accomplish various tests and pass levels in order to turn back to reality.
Beware, unreal creatures on the horizon. Still, no need for safety measures, just tons of humour!
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 out 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.
Accordingly, 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.
And now, after watching the whole list of wild jungle exploration movies, how do you feel about planning your own Amazon jungle cruise?
While taking a cruise through the Amazon jungle is a truly unique and unforgettable experience, it’s important to keep in mind one thing. That traveling to the Amazon rainforest should be done responsibly. Choosing a cruise that operates sustainably, supports local communities and respects the environment is crucial to ensure the preservation of this unique and fragile ecosystem for future generations.