The Amazon rainforest is a region unto itself, covering 5.5 million square kilometres in nine countries, including Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. It’s the largest and most biodiverse territory of rainforest on earth, and is home to over 5000 different species of bird, fish, mammal and amphibian. Many biologists believe there are far more creatures hiding in the jungle, desperately hoping not to be discovered.
Welcome to the jungle: but which part?
Brazil claims top prize in having the largest chunk of the Amazon within its borders and is often the first port of call for travellers wanting some time in the jungle. However, other parts of the rainforest offer an equally memorable experience. Puerto Maldonado, a two-hour flight from Lima followed by a 45-minute canoe trip, is a terrific option for travellers keen to venture into Peru’s wildly different ecosystem after, say, a couple of weeks exploring Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and the Nazca Lines. On the other hand, Ecuador’s Coca, a 45-minute flight from Quito followed by a two-hour transfer, is ideal for adventurers planning some time in the Galapagos. Wildlife in both areas is quite similar, with travellers likely to see monkeys, toucans, capybaras and sloths.
A birdwatcher's paradise
The rainforest sings with the chorus of over 2000 species of bird; brightly coloured macaws amble lazily along branches, as hundreds of parakeets congregate at the world’s largest clay lick along the river and hummingbirds flit from one enormous tropical flower to the next. At our Amazon lodge outside Peru’s Puerto Maldonado, spot toucans and parrots from treetop height on a 30-metre-high canopy tower and suspended walkways, or trek into the jungle with our expert guides to get even closer to the feathery action.
Wild, wild world
The Amazon is home to some of the most diverse wildlife on the planet. While it’s rare to see a jaguar stalking through the undergrowth or an anaconda gliding alongside your river canoe, visitors should keep their eyes peeled for giant river otters, sloths, capybaras and monkeys. Naturalist guides know just where to look to spot jungle creatures and are on hand to show you exactly where they are. Covered, sturdy shoes and thick hiking socks are essential, along with light, cotton clothing and tropical-strength insect repellent.
Obviously there aren’t a whole lot of roads in the Amazon (something we can be very thankful for!), so most travel in the forest is done either on foot or by canoe. Some of the forest trails are overgrown and can get muddy during the rainy season, so sturdy shoes and a reasonable level of fitness is required. Motors are banned in some parts of the river, so crew row passengers in dugout canoes. Taking part in an evening canoe trip is a great way to see the glowing eyes of caiman lurking in the water, or monkeys swinging from branches overhead.
A little bit of luxury
Fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle at one of our newest feature stays in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, Posada Amazonas. The elevated open rooms, built using local materials such as wood, bamboo and palm leaf, overlook the forest, giving guests a unique vista of their surrounds (including the occasional glimpse of a howler monkey or toucan). Did we mention the open rooms? Net-enclosed beds keep any creepy crawlies out of your pyjamas come nightfall!