Brazil is a country of many attractions and while the majority of people go to see the cities and spend time on the beaches, there are opportunities to venture further inland and see the rainforests and jungles. Within these areas there are a number of tribes who live a very basic lifestyle and seem to be untouched by the modern world. It is possible to meet some but it is not simply a question of wandering into the jungle and introducing yourself. Research and planning are required and you may still find it hard to get that introduction to the indigenous peoples.

One way of meeting the tribes is at the Kuarup. This is a festival which brings the tribes together in either July or August each year. The festival is intended to honour the dead and it is a great way to experience the cultures of the tribes through music and dance. It is not always open to outsiders as the tribal leaders are not always ready to welcome strangers, so you cannot simply turn up. If you should get an invitation then you should take advantage of it as this is an opportunity that may not come along again and the number of westerners that have been able to see this event are very few.

The Various Jungle Tribes

At the present time it is estimated that there are more than 200 different tribes in the Amazonian rainforest and each one has their own culture and heritage. The differences are demonstrated in the fact that between them they use more than 180 different languages. The size of each tribe also varies with some having as many as 3000 people and others with only one or two hundred. It is also estimated that around 50 tribes have almost no contact with the outside world and try not to have any contact. As civilisation creeps closer these tribes tend to make their way further into the jungle to live, so they will not welcome visitors at all and some will have little contact even with other tribes.

The Bororo tribe is one which has had contact with the outside world. This particular tribe speaks Portuguese and has taken on various aspects of modern culture which have been adapted to their own environment. This is in contract to the estimated 45 tribes in the Brazilian jungle which have no contact with the outside world. The Korubo tribe is still living in isolation although some members of the tribe have contacted the outside world.

Meeting the Tribes

There are guides available that can introduce you to indigenous tribes that do welcome contact with the outside world but being accepted by them can be difficult if you do not speak any of their language. There are some phrase books available for the indigenous languages and learning a few words and phrases will certainly help, although nobody will be expecting you to be fluent in any of these languages.

It is also worth noting that there are a number of tribes that will not agree to meet anyone who is being introduced to them by a commercial tour guide. Most introductions will only be accepted via somebody who has already had close contact with them previously. Some research will be needed before you arrive in Brazil if you want to spend some time with the tribes as you will need to make arrangements as far in advance as possible. Some tribes have been ruthlessly exploited in the past by commercial guides and organisations and refuse to deal with them anymore. It is often the case that representatives of the tribe will meet you but outside of their reserve.

Anyone who may have a contagious illness should avoid spending time with indigenous peoples that have very little contact with the outside world. Respiratory infections and other conditions can be easily passed on and the lack of contact with the modern world means that they may have little or no resistance to it. It is also worth remembering that if you come into contact with a tribe that has not been in contact with the outside world much they may be very fearful. The person introducing you should be able to advise you on their customs and traditions, so that you are able to behave in a way that is expected of you and you do not inadvertently offend anyone.

Tips for Travelling Into the Jungle

There are a few essentials which will help any traveller wanting to spend time in the Brazilian jungle. As a unique and challenging destination it is always better to be prepared and planning in advance can help you to do this.

  • Do not take too much – remember you need to carry everything with you. A backpack should be enough.
  • A light coat is needed when the temperature drops slightly but this should be adequate.
  • A hat and sunglasses are needed for protection from the sun and a strong sun block is recommended. There are days when the sun can be very strong.
  • Proper walking boots can help to protect the feet and ankles from bites. Snake bites are rare but they do happen and good boots are also essential if you plan on spending any length of time hiking in the jungles and rain forests.
  • Bug repellent is an essential item as there are many areas of the rain forest which are filled with mosquitoes.
  • The further away from the tourist areas you are the less likely you are to find an English speaker. Learning a few words of Portuguese will help considerably.
  • For health reasons, a Yellow Fever vaccination should be administered at least 10 days prior to entering the jungle.
  • Travelling deep into the jungle means that plastic money is not required and even when staying at one of the hotels or lodges that can be found in the jungle region, you may not be able to use credit cards, so cash is best.


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