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Amazon Prime Ecolodge

by Captain Mike Merritt

Amazon Prime Ecolodge, how it all started.

I named it Amazon Prime Ecolodge! This was partially a joke, then we decided, why not? After all it is a Prime location in the heart of the Amazon for an ecolodge.
I often get asked when talking to people, “How did a guy who grew up in Everglades City end up with a lodge in Brazil’s Amazon?” I like to think it was providence, God’s providence.

I remember as a boy growing up and watching TV we were only allowed to watch certain shows. My dad raised us strict and one of the things he was strict about was what we viewed on TV. He believed as most parents did at that time, we should spend most of our time outdoors.

One of the shows that we were encouraged to watch was National Geographic. I loved this show because it allowed you to view parts of the world, we knew we would never see. There were a lot of interesting places and the one place that I always dreamed of seeing was the Amazon. Of course, as a boy and even a young man I never dreamed I would actually go there. But having been raised by a dad that loved the Everglades and did his best to teach us about all its characteristics and its wildlife, he started me on this path. When I was 4 years old, he rallied the whole family which was my mom, myself, and my 2 older brothers, and bought us passage on a cargo/passenger ship bound for Australia. He purchased a small car called a Morris Minor and we put everything we owned on the roof and began traveling Australia. We lived in a tent for a year and a half. Dad worked where he could to make money and we explored Australia. We lived there for nearly 3 years. So, my desire for adventure, I have come by it honestly because of my dad. I love the remoteness of the Amazon, and I love to share it with others.

Amazon Prime Ecolodge by Captain Mike Merritt

For you to understand how this came about, I have to share some history. When I got married, Diana and I ended up getting involved in Foreign Missions at the church we attended. This started out as our way of helping to raise funds for missionaries and their families so they could continue to live in these foreign countries and spread the gospel. This led to us getting invited to travel to Nicaragua with some Pastors and we met the missionaries on site. A few years later we traveled to Liberia, Africa. I traveled there a few different times with my Pastor. One day my Pastor came to me and asked, “Hey would you be interested in traveling to Brazil with me and going to the Amazon?” I didn’t even hesitate, of course I will! He was flying there to meet up with the Missionary Bennie DeMerchant, who had been in Brazil’s Amazon for over 50 years. Pastor Bennie had flown float planes up and down the Amazon River, and all over the Rain Forest. He had 15,000 flight hours racked up in 2 float planes.

I was told that he might even be able to take us fishing while we were visiting. Now I had heard stories and even read a book that Bennie DeMerchant had written, Full Throttle. I was really excited to go spend time with this man. He loved to fish whenever he was not doing God’s work. And he incorporated fishing into his outreach. I am going to share a story that he told us while there and I believe it is in one of his books. He would fly his plane over remote villages that he wanted to reach with the gospel. He had prepared some home-made fishing flies that he tied himself. He used a fly rod to catch the peacock bass. He knew that the local villagers used nets to catch fish, but he also knew the peacock bass (locally called Tucunare) would jump over the fishermen’s nets. So, he tied a bunch of these fly ties and put them in small plastic bags with written directions inside on how to use them to catch the Tucunare. He would then, weeks later, fly back over the village and if the people waved at him, he would land the plane on the river and visit the villagers. This act of kindness opened the door to their hearts. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. As a result of this man’s labors in the Amazon he was responsible for over 2000 churches being started with 50 years of Missionary work. He was well known in the area with the local government using him to fly into remote areas when needed, often dropping medicine to remote indigenous tribes.

Amazon Prime Ecolodge by Captain Mike Merritt

There are many more stories, but if you want to read them there are 2 books he has written you can probably find online. Full Throttle and Still Flying Full Throttle Well, I flew to Manaus with my Pastor and long-time friend Pastor Daniel Kyle. Pastor Bennie DeMerchant picked us up at the airport. When we got everything loaded and were driving in his truck he asked, “Which one of you boys want to go catch a bass in the morning?” Of course, I informed him that I brought my fishing rod and would love to go. So, the next morning he and I loaded up what we needed into his float plane and took off out of Manaus. We flew over some rivers and some small creeks, over the Rain Forest and about 50 minutes of nothing but jungle and waterways. I remember being in awe of the vastness of the Rain Forest. I was absolutely amazed by this and remember thinking about how I would love just to get down there in the middle of that jungle. We landed on a small river that widened out enough for a safe landing. After we idled up the river to a small floating one room camp, we tied off the plane and got out his canoe with a 5hp mud motor and off we went.

Once we started fishing that narrow little river, I had the feeling like I belonged there. I felt right at home with the surroundings even though the sights and sounds of the jungle were completely foreign to me. Some people are star struck when they meet famous people, I was star struck at what I was experiencing in the Amazon.

We caught lots of fish and I even landed one that Bennie said was 20 lbs. We were sleeping in hammocks that night under a roof but out on a deck, I was again amazed at all the sounds of the nightlife. Birds, frogs, insects and of course the Howler Monkeys all added to the symphony of sounds. Being raised in the Everglades and learning a lot from dad about the sounds we hear at night I was full of questions about what sounds we were hearing and what they were coming from.

We fished some more the next day and then flew back to Manaus to take care of the church business we came to do. After the church conference was over, we went back to his little camp and spent 2 more days fishing. When I left Brazil the only thing, I could think about was being able to do this again. I wanted to have my own place there, somewhere in that Amazon Forest!

After this trip I returned 6 more years to Manaus, Brazil. I formed a friendship with a local guy that worked as our interpreter the 1st year. Fabio Abreu and I became very good friends and now we are business partners at Amazon Prime Ecolodge on the Urubu River.

Amazon Prime Ecolodge by Captain Mike Merritt

I am very fortunate to have formed friendships and relationships with many people in Manaus and now on the Urubu River. Our lodge is located approx. 145 miles NE of the city of Manaus. The lodge is in the heart of an area where 2 different ecosystems meet. We are on the dark waters of the Urubu River, “Vulture River,” and traveling just a few miles east we enter into the muddy water that feeds into the Amazon River. We have some really good Peacock Bass Fishing in these dark waters. There are also many other species such as Arowana, Wolf Fish, Apapa, Piranha, and even Arapaima. The water levels rise and fall an average of 50 feet each year. Our lodge is floating so access is always easy. The Prime Fishing season is during low water months when the fish have come out into the river to feed.

During high water months is the best time to come and enjoy the ecotours, as we can access so many more areas of this amazing place. The wildlife, plant life, and the sounds of the jungle, can all be experienced during high water.

Amazon Prime Ecolodge by Captain Mike Merritt

Pink River Dolphin, Sloths, Monkeys, Macaws, Toucans, Parrots, Parakeets, many birds of prey, are all things you can experience during a stay here.

It is truly an amazing experience, and my wish is to share it with as many people as possible. As I said, I believe it was providence that put me in Manaus, and on the Urubu River. So let me invite you to come see for yourself what the Amazon has to offer.

2024-05-29T13:48:37-04:00June 15, 2024|News|

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