Home of the largest rainforest, a world class football team, the annual Rio Carnival and the world's sixth largest economy, Brazil is an adventurer's delight with unparallelled biodiversity and unexplored wilderness.
Named after the brazilwood, a tree that once grew plentifully along the Brazilian coast, it shares a border with every country in South America except for Ecuador and Chile, and is the only country in the world that lies on the equator while having contiguous territory outside the tropics.
Brazil has a dense and complex system of rivers, one of the world's most extensive, with eight major drainage basins. Major rivers include one of the world's largest the Amazon, the Paraná and its major tributary the Iguaçu (which includes the Iguazu Falls), the Negro, São Francisco, Xingu, Madeira and Tapajós.
Deemed one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, the Iguazo Falls originating near the city of Curitiba flows mostly through Brazil. It can be reached from the two main towns on either side of the falls: Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil, as well as from Ciudad del Este,Paraguay. The falls are shared by the Iguazú National Park (Argentina) and Iguaçu National Park (Brazil), both designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
There is a walkway along the canyon on the Brazilian side with an extension to the lower base of the Devil's Throat. There are helicopter rides offering aerial views of the falls as well. It is said that on seeing Iguazu, US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed "Poor Niagara!"
It currently has the second-greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world. Mist rises between 100 and 490 feet from Iguazu's Devil's Throat and it affords amazing views and walkways for spectacular vistas. A person can stand and be surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls at certain points. Teeming with wildlife, the national parks boast the spotted jaguars, prego monkeys, coral snakes, toucans, parrots and yellow breasted caimans.
Wet tropical forests are the most species-rich biome, and the Amazonian rainforests have unparalleled biodiversity. One in ten known species in the world lives there and it constitutes the largest collection of living plants and animal species in the world. At least 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fishes, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptiles have been scientifically classified.
In many regions, the forest has been cleared for soy bean and ranching (the most extensive non-forest use of the land) and some of the inhabitants harvest wild rubber latex and Brazil nuts. The river is the principal path of transportation for people and produce in the regions, with transport ranging from balsa rafts and dugout canoes to hand built wooden rivercraft and modern steel hulled craft.
Deforestation is a threat and environmentalists are concerned about the loss of biodiversity that will result from destruction of the forest, and about the release of the carbon which could accelerate global warming. Amazonian evergreen forests account for about 10 percent of the world's terrestrial primary productivity and 10 percent of the carbon stores in ecosystems.
The rainforest likely formed during the Eocene era. Based on archeological evidence from an
excavation at Caverna da Pedra Pintada, human inhabitants first settled in the Amazon region at least 11,200 years ago and the name Amazon is said to arise from a war Francisco de Orellana fought with a tribe of Tapuyas and other tribes from South America.