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Google brings Brazil's Amazon forest to Street View

Imagine hiking through the Amazon looking for monkeys and tropical birds from thousands of miles away. Now users can do this using Google Maps' Street View feature.

Amazon River as seen through Google's new Street View project.

Most people don't ever get the chance to float down the Amazon River or walk through the surrounding forest and visit local communities. And for those who do, many parts of the area can't be visited because they are under the Brazilian government's protection with restricted public access.

Now, Google is making it possible for armchair explorers to experience the Amazon through its Google Maps' Street View feature. The Web giant announced today, on World Forest Day, that all of the images it has collected over the past several months of the Amazon's Rio Negro Reserve are now available.

"Take a virtual boat ride down the main section of the Rio Negro, and float up into the smaller tributaries where the forest is flooded," project lead for Google Street View in the Amazon Karin Tuxen-Bettman wrote in a statement. "Stroll along the paths of Tumbira, the largest community in the Reserve... Enjoy a hike through along an Amazon forest trail and see where Brazil nuts are harvested."

The project got started a year ago when the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation partnered with Google and invited the tech company to visit the area. A handful of the company's employees traveled to the Amazon basin and began collecting ground-level images of the rivers, forest, and communities in the Rio Negro Reserve.

Strapping the Google Street View trike onto a boat and using a tripod camera with a fisheye lens, they captured both the natural landscape and the local jungle communities. In total, more than 50,000 still photos were taken and then stitched together to create 360-degree panoramic views.

Over the past couple of years, Google has enhanced its Street View feature taking users everywhere from walks around Stonehenge in England to skiing down Whistler's slopes in Canada to exploring centuries-old Japanese caves. Google has also partnered on a project that lets users explore the depths of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with Google Earth.

Referring to the Amazon project, Tuxen-Bettman said "For many outdoor enthusiasts, travelers, and environmentalists, this creates an opportunity to experience the wonders of the Amazon, which will be accessible in a way they'd previously only dreamed about."