The might Amazon conjures up for most the image of its rushing river, the most forceful on the planet and the second longest as well. A vast region of forest is fed by this river and its extraordinary system of tributaries, as the snows drain off the Andes and flow towards the ocean, and in this forest, a world apart exists- primordial, lush, diverse beyond understanding. Its environments, wildlife, peoples and its endless secrets have lured visitors and human inhabitants for millennia, and travelers of today still seek out the secrets and extraordinary bounty of the Amazon by river, and from lodges nestled deep within the rainforest.
The Amazon rainforest, river and tributaries is a vast and diverse area covering our planet. The Amazon river itself is truly mighty, it has the largest volume of flow of any river in the world, and a over 4000 miles long it is the second longest river in the world. Some it’s tributaries alone would the largest river on any other continent, and these systems comprise about a fifth of the South American continent and traverse many nations including Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and Peru.
The primary countries that offer travel infrastructure for travelers are Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. For small ship river cruising, Peru offers the most diverse and accessible system of tributaries and rainforest via either Iquitos or Peurto Maldonado. For Ecuador, travelers fly to Coca. For Brazil, Manaus is the gateway.
Travel in the Amazon can be year round, but what visitors see and experience during the two main season can vary depending on one major factor- the height of the water. Each year from about the mighty Amazon and its tributaries rise and slowly flood the forest surround their shores. This creates something known as the ‘varzio’ in Spanish- the flooded forest, and not only does it allow small craft easy access deep into forest habitat, typically this occurs when the trees are fruiting which attracts a multitude of wildlife species into them for ideal and often up close observation. It also creates stunning mirrored vistas of forest meeting river and sky- an unforgettable sight. In the lower water season, thin beaches form on the shores, and as vessels pass it is often possible to see wildlife quite up close.
The mighty Amazon Basin and its rivers, forests and villages offer exceptional opportunities for exploration. Keeping in mind your preferences, we help you select the perfect river expedition by small ship or jungle lodge program in your region of preference. It is very common for travelers to add short cruises or lodge programs onto other South American travel, still other travelers prefer to spend a longer time in just the Amazon itself.
Amazon Lodges in Peru
A short flight from either Cusco or Lima brings visitors to Puerto Maldonado, the unofficial Amazonian capital. From here, riverboats take travelers down the Tambopata River into the protected buffer zone adjacent to one of the most diverse and dense Amazon reserves. Here eco-lodges flourish under the stewardship of conservation organizations in cooperation with the native tribes of the Amazon. Visits to the these lodges can be undertaken as a 3, 4 or 5 day (or longer) add-on program to any of our tours or treks in Peru, an Amazon river cruise or a Galapagos Islands cruise - or as a stand-alone experience! We work with 4 of the best lodges and research centers along the Tambopata River which we have experienced first-hand. Accommodation ranges from rustic to more luxurious depending on which lodge and program chosen and daily activities included guided walks in the rainforest, observations at wildlife blinds, river and lake expeditions by small craft, canopy towers and walkways, butterfly house tours, cultural visits, and even rope and belay adventures. Dense primeval rainforests house a myriad of plant and insect species, and wildlife sightings might include lake otters, anacondas, river caymans, tapirs, several species of monkey and of course a multitude of bird species including parrots, parakeets and even toucans. And if guests are extremely lucky, the elusive jaguar might cross their path!
Amazon River Cruises in Peru
The Amazon river is so wide, that in order to experience its primary and flooded forests the best cruises explore the system of tributaries of the mighty Amazon. A short flight from Lima takes visitors into Iquitos and from here, at the Amazon River headwaters, passengers embark one of several modern and deluxe riverboats that will whisk them deep into the heart of this extraordinary region. Naturalist guides lead guests in small groups by skiff to first-hand encounters with Amazon wildlife from pink dolphins and piranha, to capuchin monkeys and three toed sloth hiding in the rainforest canopy, and hoatzin, toucans and macaws gliding seemingly effortlessly across the cloudless, cerulean sky. Itineraries shift throughout the year according to rainfall and river height, but in any season the Pacaya Samiria Reserve, or the “Mirrored Forest”, offers fertile havens for sighting Amazon mammals, birds and plants that thrive among its five million acres. Visitors have the chance to visit settlements within the reserve and will gain a firsthand understanding of life along the Amazon. In addition, park rangers introduce guests to some of the innovative conservation and sustainability projects taking place within this vast Amazon rain forest reserve.
Amazon Lodges in Ecuador
A long sliver of the Amazon can be found in Ecuador, making a convenient and enriching addition to any Galapagos or Andean adventure. Flights typically operate out of Coca, and lodge programs typically begin on fixed days of the week depending on flight schedules determined by the airlines.