Connecting Cultures


An Evening in the Rainforest

An extraordinary evening in the rainforest at Iguassu unfolds as two groups of people sit down together around a crackling fire…

THE BALMY NIGHT air wafts through a small clearing in Brazil’s sub-tropical rainforest at Iguassu Falls. An open fire and flaming torches illuminate the canopy of coral trees and towering palms.

Here, in this intimate leafy space, two groups of people are about to meet. First to arrive are members of the Tupi-Guarani, one of the last remaining native Indian communities. Then, removing their shoes and stepping onto the soft grass, come some ten guests of Belmond Hotel das Cataratas. An interpreter introduces them and, in the dim, flickering light, they sit together and begin to talk.

This new experience, arranged by the hotel, is a special chance for people of two different cultures to share aspects of their lives. Each evening unfurls naturally and individually as the Tupi-Guarani welcome their guests. Traditional drinks including mate tea in a gourd are passed around. Then comes the chance to enjoy delicacies such as fresh fish from the Iguassu river served with sweet potato and a dessert of mandioca root with local honey.


The Tupi-Guarani recount local legends and answer questions from the hotel guests. They explain how their ancient language has supplied words such as Iguassu (big water) and piranha (toothed fish). The forest people are curious to learn about their foreign visitors, too.

As the evening continues, the Tupi-Guarani reach for their bamboo flutes, guitar-like stringed instruments and drums. Soon the forest is echoing to their pulsing music and everyone is up on their feet. The forest dwellers teach their guests traditional moves to call down the rain and celebrate a child’s birth. Then, all too soon, they share their dance of farewell.

As guests wave goodbye and make their way back to the hotel they often ask how their visit impacts on their Brazilian hosts. Funds raised from their visit go towards projects that include building a new well, improving waste disposal and enhancing their school. A small amount also goes towards modern medicines, although the local community mainly treats ailments with natural remedies from herbs and trees. As hotel guests discover, there is much about their lives in the forest that has remained unchanged for centuries.

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