The famous Amazon rainforest and jungle is a bucket list item for many people. An adventurer’s paradise, the biggest eco-system in the world conjures images of Spanish conquistadors traipsing through the lush greenery in khaki uniform, a matching helmet and large black boots. While the pith helmet might have gone out of fashion, the lure of this ancient jungle and it’s awaiting secrets will always be on trend.
Now, grab your black boots, don your best David Attenborough accent, and join us on the journey of a lifetime. An Amazon Jungle Adventure.
History & Geography
The Amazon Jungle is the largest rainforest in the world, biggest than the next two largest combined. At almost 7 million square kilometres, this jungle covers 40% of the South American continent. The rainforest is estimated to have over 390 billion individual trees and 10% of the world’s known species live in harmony among its branches. It truly is a beautiful part of our world, and definitely worth exploring.
How to Get There
The Amazon Jungle sprawls across the heart of South America, covering 9 countries on the continent. You can enter the jungle from Brazil, which is the most popular route, or you can access through Peru. Flights to the cities that act as jumping off points can be expensive, as airlines have a monopoly on the flights to this area. Flights in all of South America can be very expensive for this same reason. In Brazil, the most popular launching point is Manaus and in Peru, the best Amazon launching points are Manu and Puerto Maldonado.
You must book a tour as navigating the jungle is too remote and dangerous to be done without a local guide. Start with a 2 to 3-hour boat ride down the river, where you will first catch a glimpse of the unique wildlife and stunning greenery. Connect with the native wildlife of the region and truly immerse you in life beneath the canopy.
Accommodation will vary. Most lodges will have a series of wooden buildings, all connected by wooden walkways. There will also be an area for relaxing, with hammocks and deck chairs overlooking the river. The view of the sun setting over the river in the Amazon Jungle is breathtaking, you’ll want to enjoy your down time watching these glorious colors change. There will also be a large dining area, where long tables are set up for everyone to enjoy their meals.
Lodging across the Amazon is usually very basic, usually in wooden huts with thatched roofing. You may not have electricity, great time to fully disconnect from the world for a few days. Nothing says ‘disconnect’ like carrying candles around to light your path. You may also not have any hot water – however the humidity will have you sweating all the way to your cold shower. As per most of South America, flushing capabilities on most toilets aren’t strong, so don’t expect to flush toilet paper. And mosquito nets over the beds are a must. All windows and ceilings will be covered in green mesh to keep insects and animals out.
Food in the Amazon
The food in the Amazon is surprisingly good – very hearty meals, considering the trek the food makes from the nearest town. The food is generally meat – beef, pork or lamb – served with salads, rice, fries, beans and a range of delicious sauces. The Amazonian Peruvians will attempt to incorporate bananas into every meal, so be prepared. Options include a banana mash, fried banana chips, caramelised banana and deep fried bananas. Deserts are also on offer and will always include their precious fruit. Many fruit juices re on offer, many from exotic fruits that you’ve never heard of. If you leave the lodge for a day trek, they will also provide lunch. Usually, this consists of fried rice, wrapped in banana leaves. It’s very tasty and biodegradable, an element that most lodges pride themselves on. And if you haven’t tried delightfully tangy Pisco Sour in Peru, you’re missing out!
Amazon Jungle Activities
You will have the opportunity to participate in day time trekking through the jungle. This is a wonderful opportunity to see the rainforest in all its glory – a full and lush canopy overhead guides your way. You will see a range of wildlife, all co-existing and thriving in this eco system. You will find insects, frogs, snakes, exotic plant life, unique birds, and, if you’re lucky, Squirrel Monkeys. Your guide will likely have a few monkey calls up his/her sleeve. You could be surrounded by the furry creatures, all leaping from tree to tree and peering down at you with curiosity, and annoyance at the disturbance.
Night Boat Trip
The night time boat trip is a real highlight. Escape the sweltering heat and get the wind in your hair as you careen down the river, gazing at the jungle that surrounds it. The guide stands at the front of the boat, with an incredibly strong flash light, scanning the banks of the river for wildlife. You might get lucky, and see Cayman Crocodiles, Jaguars, Night Herons, Capybara (the largest rodent in the world) and Owls. The Caymans are the most likely, and you’ll be in awe as they slide down the muddy banks into the water, right in front of you. Sharing the river with these creatures is equal parts mesmerising and terrifying.
Canoe Trip on the Lake
If you’re planning an adventure into the Peruvian Amazon, prepare for a trip to Lake Sachavacayoc, a 3-hour trudge through the jungle, you’ll be spat out at this incredible lake, surrounded by lush rainforest. You’ll then take a small canoe out onto the lake, in search of the colorful Macaw birds, a range of fish, Giant Lake Otters, colorful butterflies, dragonflies, Black Cayman Crocodiles and, most notoriously, the Anaconda snake. The infamous snake thrives in the grass/reed area of the lake, and can often be found on this grass, sun-baking. Look for flattened grass and you’ll find these gigantic creatures, that can grow to over 10 meters. The lake is peaceful and serene and will be a beautiful introduction to exotic Amazonian nature.
You may also try your hand at Piranha fishing! It’s only catch and release (it’s a preserved National Park), but you’ll love casting pieces of beef into the lake to see if you can catch one of these dangerous fish. Please keep all hands and feet inside the boat at all times!
Most find bird watching to be a boring and tiresome hobby – that is until you see the incredible birds of the Amazon Jungle. These aren’t your average Finches, these are some of the most unique and rare birds in the world. Any tour to the Amazon will include some bird watching, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see Macaws, Toucans, Parakeets and many varieties of Owls and Herron. Their colours are simply breathtaking, and if you get lucky enough to capture a photo of one mid-flight, you’ll see the true breadth of their colour range. These birds are peaceful, elegant and well worth your time.
Initially, the prospect of trudging off into the wild and untamed Amazon Jungle at night would seem daunting. However, with a trusted guide (and some massive gum boots) you can feel confident that nothing tragic will happen. This is until your guide informs you that on the hike you might see Tarantulas! Most lodges will have everything you need for the night hike all ready to go – torches, gum boots and clothing. You will normally depart from your lodge and trudge through the thick jungle in search of its secrets.
On the journey, there is the chance to see spiders, snakes, sloths, frogs and many other insects. The guide leads the way, as you traipse through the lush rainforest, and soon, you’ll forget all about the imminent danger and enjoy the true peace that comes with nature immersion. When the guide asks you to turn off your torch and listen to the jungle “speaking to you”, you will truly fall in love with this magnificent eco system.
Soccer with the Locals
If you’re feeling up to it after a long day of exploring the jungle, the locals in Peru and Brazil are crazy about their soccer. The guides, and the workers at the lodges, will often gather in the afternoon for a friendly (or, not so friendly) match. Why not join in the festivities!? Get your heart racing in the afternoon humidity and learn about the world sport that has taken South America by storm.
Well, you’re now officially a jungle explorer! You’re going to love every second of this nature immersion.
Author: Michelle Hyde
Images Captured by: Ben Fehervary