The Amazon Rainforest is a wildlife mecca and features heavily in travellers’ lists of places to visit. The rainforest combines with the savannah, floodplains and rivers is home to a striking diversity of plants, fish, birds, mammals and amphibians. Having been there, I can vouch for its magnificence and assure you that this intense nature experience will be unparalleled.
For many, the idea of trying to get to the Rainforest is daunting enough to put them off. I’m here to make your planning a little easier by following these three steps.
The Amazon itself stretches into 9 South American nations with the majority of the 2,600,000 square mile rainforest basin being encompassed by Brazil. Putting it bluntly, it is enormous! So where oh where do you stay when you enter the rainforest?
Step 1 – Brazil, Ecuador or Peru?
When you think of the Amazon Rainforest, immediately you think of Brazil. Manaus, Brazil is the Amazon’s largest city and for many the gateway to the jungle. It is home to a major port and with it comes access to a variety of cruises. However, if you are travelling here to be immersed in wildlife then you are better off entering the rainforest further north to Peru or Ecuador where there has been lesser deforestation and the bounties of the Amazon are visible in every direction.
Choose your country and fly in.
Step 2 – I’ve arrived in my country of choice, now how do I get into the Amazon?
Although there are many ways to get into the rainforest, to avoid complications or getting stranded, it is best to go with the more major routes.
In Brazil, head to Manaus. If you have limited time then you can do a day tour along the river and take in some of the local culture from the communities living along the river’s edge. Otherwise you can chose to stay in a variety of accommodation from luxury to basic for a few nights to a few weeks. You can book your accommodation and transfers separately, but you will inevitably want to take part in local excursions and so booking a package trip is more often than not the best option.
A popular option from Manaus is a multi-day cruise on a riverboat. There are a number of operators which incorporate the Amazon via Manaus into larger cruises from the UK and Europe. Alternatively, there are smaller riverboat cruises available. If you are swayed towards a cruise upstream to spot pink dolphins and try piranha fishing then have a look at the options before you leave to ensure a place.
In Peru, there are two main cities which provide access to the rainforest, Iquitos and Cusco. You can fly directly into Iquitos which is then just a boat ride into the Amazon. Many visitors head to Peru’s National Reserves the Pacaya Simiria or Allpahuayo Mishana.
I took a flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado and then made my way to the Tambopata Reserve by car and foot. Peru’s reserves are becoming increasingly popular for their outstanding wildlife, kayaking and hiking options.
In Colombia, the Parque Nacional Amacayacu can be accessed by riverboat via Leticia. Homestays with Amazon locals are also a popular choice from Leticia. Although not an obvious option for those visiting the Amazon, lower visitor numbers mean spottings of monkeys, river dolphins and freshwater turtles more likely. It will also be slightly cheaper. If you are considering heading into the rainforest from Columbia, then ensure that you do so via an organised tour.
Step 3 – Where do I stay?
It’s hard to believe how many accommodation options are available in the Amazon. There are luxury lodges which are hidden from the river border, basic huts with no electricity and the more popular eco-lodges providing a good balance of safety and amenities.
If you are booking onto an organised tour then the accommodation you will be provided will have been sourced specifically for the price and timeframe you are planning to stay. If you are looking to book independently, a simple “where to stay in the Amazon” search will bring up a surprising number of options, some of which can assist you with arrange trips whilst you are staying with them and transfers from the nearby city you plan to travel from.
Voila! You are ready to explore.
Most experiences of the Amazon include; hiking into the jungle, cruising along rivers spotting wildlife in the overhanging trees, fascinating night walks, cruises at dusk in search of caiman, kayaking with pink dolphins, climbing to tree top viewing points for breath-taking vistas, fishing and tasting local cuisine.
Whatever you decide to do during the day, you will be waking to the sound of birds and falling asleep to the patter of monkeys running across your roof.
Top tip – you will need a Yellow Fever vaccination if you are planning to travel to the Amazon basin and take plenty of high strength mosquito repellent!