Xixuau is an Amazon experience like no other. 30 hours by boat from the tourist lodges of Manaus, far from the nearest road, shop or mobile phone mast, 22 families live in simple wooden huts on the banks of the Xixuau river. I stayed in a maloca: a round, thatched wooden house in the style of the neighbouring Waimiri-Atroari indigenous community, and felt incredibly welcomed by everyone.
Each day my guide asked what I'd like to do; as it was high water season we generally went out in a canoe, paddling through the magical flooded rainforest, 8m above the forest floor. We followed the distant roar of howler monkeys until we found them, the whole forest reverberating around us. Pink dolphins swam between the tree trunks and toucans flew overhead. Trekking through the spectacular forest I learned how they harvest rubber and brazil nuts, and saw the signs of tapirs, armadillos and jaguar.
Food was always good and wholesome, with fruit for breakfast and fresh fish, rice and salad for lunch - I even caught my own piranha!
This is an absolutely wonderful experience for adventurous travellers: there is a wooden bathroom next to the maloca with basic loo and shower, and a generator lights Xixuau in the evening. But the community is in the rainforest, and the rainforest is in the community - and in the maloca! (Fortunately with the exception of mosquitos, which aren't keen on the 'black water' of the Rio Negro tributaries.) This means that without even leaving Xixuau I got to see a sloth, rescued from a flooded tree, eagles, butterlies, caymen and tiny orphaned monkeys adopted by local families.
The best thing is that the ecotourism business is truly owned by Xixuau: they have decided for themselves how to use the proceeds, including on food for all the families, investment in a tiny school, boats and a health post. This is sustainable, community-owned ecotourism at its best.