Into the Amazing Amazon
Immense. Overwhelming. Incredibly, vibrantly alive. The Amazon Rainforest is unlike any other place in South America; unlike any other place in the world. It covers 1.4 billion acres, touches 9 countries, and contains more animal species than anywhere else on Earth. Its vastness conceals dozens of indigenous Amazonian tribes that manage to make their home in one of the world’s last untamed regions, completely untouched by the 21st century. For nature lovers, adventure seekers, and travel enthusiasts, a tour of the Amazon cannot be beat.
I last visited the Amazon in January, during its rainy season. Peru’s two main launching points for excursions into the Amazon are Iquitos (in the north) and Puerto Maldonado (in the south). I’d come from Puerto Maldonado. From town I traveled by motorized covered canoe up river to my Amazon lodge, getting my first taste of Peru’s famous forest. Although the Amazon Basin covers more than half of the county, only 5% of Peru’s population lives here.
It isn’t difficult to figure out why. The Amazon’s sheer denseness makes on-land travel difficult, if not impossible. Step a couple paces off a path and you’ll find yourself surrounded by vegetation and your path, just a few feet away, lost. This lovely lushness can also conceal many of the fascinating animals so many people come to the Amazon to see. But don't worry! This is where expert guides, lodges, and cruises come into play.
By myself I’m convinced I would have seen nothing but butterflies and plants. But thanks to a wonderful guide, during day and night excursions led by my lodge, I was able to see: squawking macaws, big-billed toucans, lurking caiman, snapping piranhas, wallowing peccaries, cuddly-looking capybaras, multiple types of monkeys, some sneaky snakes, and a couple of rodents that looked much more interesting than the common house mouse.
And when I wasn’t seeing wildlife, I was hearing it. Chirping, grunting, screeching, and howling. There was no way to forget that I was in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. And the plant life was just as interesting. My tireless guide pointed out medicinal plants, tasty hidden fruits, and various strange plants as we forged through the forest. My favorite was a massive hallow-type tree with an entire bat colony inside (a startling surprise, to say the least!).
Each night I returned to the lodge, tired but content, to enjoy a delicious meal made with native ingredients before following a candle-lit wooden platform back to my cabin. Then, I’d drift to sleep to the sounds of the jungle, eager to start it all over again in the morning.
Heading to the Amazon and have some more questions? Read our post about Planning and Packing for the Amazon.