How best to see the Amazon River and Rainforest
The Amazon River is 4, 400-miles long running through a 2. 5 milliion square mile basin and collecting freshwater from eight countries (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname), on the way. The Amazon Rainforest is the largest broadleaved forest in the world and home to a massive diversity of plant, fish, bird and animal species.
The main Amazon River flows through Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador where it’s known locally as Amazonas in Spanish and Portuguese. These four countries all offer Amazon tours, cruises and hiking adventures but present different experiences and access.
Brazil is the destination that generally springs to mind when considering an Amazon trip, such as a cruise upriver from Belém on the Atlantic Coast to the jungle city of Manaus but Brazilian tours tend to be more about indigenous humans (i. e. Amazon tribal groups) than animals as Brazil’s Amazon has been slashed/burned and farmed for so long that much of the wildlife has either died or headed west into Peru and Ecuador. There’s certainly more wildlife visible in Brazil’s Pantanal than the Amazon.
A typical Amazon River tributary village.
Which country is best for Amazon wildlife?
Peru, Brazil and Ecuador are the best developed destinations currently for Amazon Rainforest wildlife-watching tours, though Colombia is an interesting wild card.
Whichever desination you choose, the wild action mainly takes place away from the main Amazon River and focuses on the slow, weed-infested tributaries where – ideally – you travel by paddle-power in order to catch sight of animals, birds and reptiles along the banks and in the trees nearby.
Jungle walks, canoe trips, piranha fishing, dolphin and monkey spotting, tarantula teasing and (baby) caiman fondling are all available within a few hours boat travel of Iquitos, though don’t expect to see masses of wildlife. Many animals, along with a large selection of deadly snakes and spiders, mostly go to work at night, so you can expect to be offered night hikes by serious Amazon guides.
How to see Amazon wildlife
Some tourists might want to nip into the neighbourhood eco-not bar for a stiffener before venturing out to explore.
Nature isn’t an Attenborough documentary – most animals and birds live in the canopy, many shun daylight, and all are predator-wary. Be patient, quiet and grateful for anything you see.
Take binoculars and field guides for the birds and don’t forget all the insects, frogs and nocturnal species.
Also don’t forget that The Amazon is not just about its wildlife: there is plenty of fascinating human culture to be discovered.