The Amazon is the second longest river in the world after Nile, and its basin, which is also a marvel in itself, spans across eight countries. These include Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname, apart from the little overseas territory of France, viz., French Guiana. The Amazon rainforest, also known as the Amazon Jungle, covers most of the area occupied by the Amazon Basin in South America, and is undeniably the largest forest on our planet. It is a dense, moist, broadleaved jungle that supports such an unparalleled and varied ecosystem and offers such countless possibilities that at times, it almost seems like a fantastical dream―a folkloric region that boasts of near mythical inhabitants and happenings. But what really holds an element of mystique is the river itself; the majestic Amazon keeps on displaying its power and might from time to time.
Welcome to the Jungle!
The Amazon rainforest, as mentioned before, is the region of countless possibilities. It has so much to offer to the adventure-seekers that there comes a point when the forest expanse just starts seeming endless; you might stumble upon something new and exciting with every single step that you may take in Amazon’s wilderness. And this is precisely what makes the rainforest one of the most sought-after destinations of adventure enthusiasts―whether it is individual/group adventure or family fun, the Amazon Jungle is a treasure trove of ample opportunities for everyone.
Best Time to Travel
◆ In general, the Amazon rainforest experiences rainy season between November (or December) to about June.
◆ This is the time when the water level in the Amazon river rises, and the low-lying areas along its banks tend to get flooded. But owing to the risen water levels, many of the smaller channels along the basin actually become accessible at this time.
◆ This is best time for river cruising/kayaking adventures.
◆ On the other hand, between the months of July to December, the forest experiences dry season.
◆ This is the time when the water levels start receding with the rise in temperature. As the water recedes, a number of submerged beaches and trails get uncovered, thus, adding more exciting possibilities for adventures.
◆ For people who wish to indulge in activities such as fishing, hiking, and watching wildlife and birds, the dry season is the best time to travel.
Basic Factors to Consider
◆ The very first factor to take into consideration while planning a trip to the Amazon rainforest is whether you want to hire a tour operator or travel on your own.
◆ While traveling independently is possible, it often comes with its own set of complications. However, if you have a lot of time at your disposal, this option might suit you.
◆ If you opt to travel on your own, you will need to conduct thorough and adequate research, and make all your bookings―transport and accommodations―well in advance, and confirm them again before embarking on your journey.
◆ On the other hand, if you have limited time at your disposal and/or are planning your Amazon adventure for the first time, it is recommended that you hire a reputed tour operator who can take care of all the details of your trip and help you manage your budget.
◆ Independent travelers, even those who have been to the Amazon rainforest before, need to note that in most cases, you will feel the need to hire local tour operators, who will be able to help you with inland transfers and other basic facilities such as food and drink.
◆ The most important thing to consider is that you will need to have a local guide with you, especially if you intend to visit certain remote areas in the forest. A local guide who is well-versed with Spanish as well as the indigenous language of the region may be provided to you by your local tour operator.
◆ It should also be remembered that the Amazon region is prone to torrential rains that occur in the region almost every day. Owing to this, problems such as delayed flights and people missing the connecting flights are quite common there.
◆ Therefore, while booking your tickets, ensure that you do not miss out on this point. See to it that there is enough interval of time between the two flights you are going to take.
◆ Independent travelers must keep in mind that booking online will give them plenty of opportunities to avail discounted offers and other benefits, especially if they are booking well ahead. So, look for them and compare prices before making the final payment.
◆ Apart from the ones mentioned above, the most important factor to be considered is your overall budget. If you choose to go on a lavish, luxury trip to the Amazon rainforest, it would mean traveling by domestic flights/private cars, staying in upscale lodges/camps, eating grand lunches and dinners, and enjoying state-of-the-art facilities. However, such a trip will perhaps cut you off from the local culture and keep you from enjoying the reality of life in the Amazon.
◆ Budget travel to the region will mean that you will probably get very basic amenities like windowless chalets, public transport, and mediocre lunches and dinners.
◆ The best way to balance your budget in the Amazon region is to choose a good package deal that will include―apart from lodging―food, excursions, and other necessary facilities.
The Easiest Routes
◆ The Amazon rainforest can be best accessed through four countries, viz., Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.
◆ If you wish to get into the rainforest from Brazil, the easiest and fastest route is from Manaus―the largest city of the Amazonas state in northern part of the country. You will find a good number of tour operators in Manaus, catering to all kinds of budgets.
◆ From Peru, the easiest way to access the Amazon rainforest is via the city of Iquitos in the Loreto Region of the country. Almost all the excursions to the Peruvian Amazon start from Iquitos. However, it should be noted that Iquitos can only be accessed from the rest of the country by air and water.
◆ The Ecuadorian Amazon can be accessed by means of flights and buses from various places in the country. The easiest option is to charter a small plane from the Ecuadorian capital city, Quito, or from Guayaquil, the country’s largest city. You can land on one of the regional airports on the edge of the Ecuadorian Amazon, such as that of Shell Mera. Road travel to the Ecuadorian Amazon is possible―the most common route is from Baños in central Ecuador to Puyo on the western edge of the Ecuadorian Amazon. However, it should be noted that the road journeys in this region may be dangerous owing to its rainy weather and hazards posed by landslides.
◆ The major hub for excursions into the Colombian Amazon is the country’s southernmost city, Leticia. It is surrounded by numerous paths that lead right into the Amazon rainforest, and one can take a bus or rent a car from the city. Several river cruises to the jungle can also be booked from Leticia, which take tourists to seemingly forbidden places of the Colombian Amazon, thus, making them a unique experience.
Duration of Stay
◆ Irrespective of the country through which you opt to enter the Amazon, a week is generally regarded as a good amount of time to spend in the region and enjoy it satisfactorily.
◆ Out of the week’s seven days, a maximum of two to three days are usually required for travel and transfers. This leaves out four to five days for indulging in activities and excursions, which tend to be just enough.
◆ Those who have a longer duration of time at their disposal can explore different regions of the Amazon, rather than sticking to one particular area. This will not only enable them to discover more of Amazon, but will also increase their opportunities to indulge in various adventures.
What to Expect
◆ There are a few common activities which virtually every visitor to the Amazon indulges in. These include hiking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, bird watching, camping in the wilderness at night, and fishing. Most of these activities are often included in the tour; however, confirming the same is always a good idea.
◆ If you enter from the Brazilian side, you get a very typical, textbook-type glimpse of the Amazon rainforest, but only at the surface level. If you are interested in wildlife, Brazilian Amazon may be disappointing for you. There has been large-scale deforestation in the area of late, owing to which the wildlife therein has been dwindling. However, you can indulge in adventures such as river cruising, kayaking, sport fishing, and tree climbing.
◆ Brazilian Amazon is known for the various indigenous communities that reside there, and travelers to the region get enough opportunities to visit them and interact with them.
◆ If wildlife interests you more, opt to enter the jungle either from Peru or from Ecuador. There are great spots in these areas for bird watchers and lepidopterists, and of course for wild animals like jaguars, spectacled bears, and rare species of monkeys.
◆ Those wanting to experience the best of both worlds should choose to travel from the Colombian side. Colombian Amazon boasts of both, indigenous settlements as well as great flora and fauna.
So, what are you waiting for? Head to the Amazon rainforest and experience the adventure of your lifetime. Only remember to respect the sanctity of the jungle and the privacy of the species in there. Moreover, as far as possible, avoid going in the wilderness without a local guide. Lastly, travel as light as possible, but remember to carry all the essentials including insect repellents, sunscreens, and antiseptic hand gels.