Google's international surveyors travel with 360-degree cameras, to collect panoramic images along Negro River in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon Basin, in this handout picture taken August 17, 2011 and released to Reuters August 18, 2011. – Reuters Photo

SAN FRANCISCO: Google’s free online map service on Wednesday began letting people explore portions of the Amazon Basin from the comfort of their homes.

Pictures taken along the Rio Negro in Brazil last year using “street view” strikes and cameras have been woven into Google Maps, allowing users to virtually venture on waterways and trails and in even villages.

“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,” Google Street View Amazon project lead Karin Tuxen-Bettman said in a blog post.

“Enjoy a hike along an Amazon forest trail and see where Brazil nuts are harvested,” she continued. “You can even see a forest critter if you look hard enough.” Map images included scenes from Tumbira, the largest community in the Rio Negro Reserve, and other communities along the river.

“We hope this Street View collection provides access to this special corner of the planet that many of us otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to experience,” Tuxen-Bettman said.

“We’re thrilled to help everyone from researchers and scientists to armchair explorers around the world learn more about the Amazon and better understand how local communities there are working to preserve this unique environment for future generations.”

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