Postcards from ... Brazil

Light Managing Editor Dave Schwab recently traveled to Brazil. So we asked Dave to kick off our new postcards feature. If you would like to share photos and information from your recent travels, we’d love to share them with our readers. Just answer the questions below and send us a selection of jpeg photos to

  1. Space permitting, we’d love to share your postcard home.

Where did you go and when?

I was in Brazil Feb. 5-15, 2008, which was summertime there in the Southern Hemisphere. The first half of my trip was a boat cruise on the Rio Negro and Amazon rivers. The second half I spent in Rio de Janeiro, staying in a hotel across from the white sand beaches that seem to stretch on endlessly.

What made you decide to go there?

I learned about the rainforest in elementary school and always dreamed of going there in person.

What was the greatest thrill of the trip?

Interacting with native wildlife. On the Amazon cruise, we swam with blind, pink-eyed dolphins and fed squirrel monkeys bananas when they came down out of the trees into our boat. We also fished for piranha and went out in a canoe at night with a floodlight to find boa constrictors and caimen, a variety of long-snout crocodile. In Rio, the iconic cross on the mountaintop is a commanding site that leaves a lasting impression.

What was a disappointment, if any?

Rio was a beautiful and cultured European-style city. However, the slums there are the largest in all of South America and are pretty hard to overlook. It was disconcerting that so much poverty could exist in the midst of so much natural beauty.

What tips would you give to someone traveling there?

Listen to what everyone tells you about the pick-pocketing danger in Rio. Invest in a money belt, spend the $3 a day hotel’s charge for an in-room safe. Don’t go where you’re not supposed to go, take precautions, take only what you need to spend right away and keep it zippered up in your waistline pouch. Don’t wear any gaudy watches or jewelry - thieves are looking for “easy marks” to exploit - and you’ll do just fine and the bad guys will leave you alone.

What do you wish you had packed?

A book translating English into Portuguese.

How would you sum up the trip?

A great adventure. I really liked visiting both pristine natural areas as well as a big modern city. Brazilians are warm and accommodating. Food is good and plentiful. If you’re a big sports fan, soccer is about all you’re going to be exposed to.

Very few people speak English in Rio so communication can be difficult and frustrating. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who is a naturalist, or who desires going to a place where there are lots of contrasts.