The Amazon Rainforest is the ultimate paradise for wildlife and nature enthusiasts since it is truly unlike any other location on Earth. Whether staying in an opulent jungle lodge or exploring far into some of the Amazon’s greatest protected reserves on an Amazon river cruise, this extraordinary realm has a variety of activities for intrepid explorers from which to spot and admire its incredible assortment of flora and fauna.
So that you’ll have an even better idea of what to expect, here’s our list of the top 10 activities you can engage in while experiencing your Amazonian adventure.
1. Amazon river cruise
What better way to relax than on board a luxury river cruise vessel along the Amazon River or its tributaries? While the natural rainforest envelops you, the boutique onboard facilities couldn’t be more comfortable!
Upscale Amazon River cruises offer premium accommodations where each suite has its own private balcony, floor-to-ceiling windows, and individual air conditioning, while deluxe suites will likely have an interior whirlpool tub facing the river. Guests in a celebratory mood may enjoy a beer or cocktail on an upper observation deck, where you’re sure to find a large whirlpool tub. In fact, a cruise down this Ecuadorian river may be the perfect opportunity to celebrate those birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones that were left for “some other time” during lockdown.
The sense of freedom and relaxation go together, while delicious gourmet food consisting of local tropical fare and international staples, and beautiful al fresco dining areas make the entire experience more memorable. Guides and crew will go out of their way to provide a personalized cruise experience and ensure that every detail is seen to.
In addition to all the onboard amenities, a river cruise in the Amazon is a unique and unforgettable experience that allows you to explore this majestic region and its surrounding rainforest.
During your travel, you’ll have the opportunity to explore smaller tributaries and hidden spots aboard smaller boats or canoes. This will give you the chance to engage in various activities like guided jungle walks, birdwatching excursions, piranha fishing, and nighttime wildlife spotting. During these daily land excursions, you’ll have a chance to spot wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, river dolphins, caimans, colorful birds like toucans and macaws, and possibly even the elusive jaguar.
Amazon River cruises set out primarily in Ecuador, Brazil, and Peru, as these countries are home to the vast Amazon River basin. Your jumping-off point will be from cities like Coca in Ecuador, Manaus in Brazil, or Iquitos in Peru. From there, you will sail into the heart of the rainforest to discover one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. Your itinerary will of course differ according to the duration of your cruise and the section of the river or tributary to be explored.
2. Wildlife watching
As the Amazon teems with an incredible array of plant and animal species, rainforest wildlife watching is a truly enthralling and unforgettable experience.
The rainforest’s lush vegetation provides the perfect habitat for countless species to thrive. Traveling to this biodiversity hotspot, you can expect to encounter a vast variety of wildlife, including brilliantly colored birds and curious monkeys, and possibly the elusive jaguar or puma.
Amazonian rivers and waterways are vital lifelines for both wildlife and local communities. Taking a river safari allows you to observe animals such as capybaras, pink river dolphins, giant river otters, and a variety of birds along the riverbanks. Additionally, you might spot caimans and anacondas lurking in the waters.
What’s even more amazing is how the Amazon comes alive at night with a whole new set of creatures and sounds. Guided nighttime hikes or river excursions offer a chance to spot nocturnal animals like owls, night monkeys, bats, and other creatures with unique adaptations for life in the dark.
Remember, though, that this is a delicate and threatened ecosystem. As a responsible traveler, you can contribute to its preservation by supporting eco-friendly tourism, respecting the environment, and promoting Amazonian conservation efforts.
3. Canopy walks
An Amazonian canopy walk or treetop walkway is a thrilling eco-tourism activity that allows visitors to explore the diverse and vibrant ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest from high above the forest floor.
From a series of elevated walkways, platforms, and suspension bridges that are securely attached to the trees, travelers traverse the walkway to be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the lush green canopy stretching out in all directions. The sounds of the rainforest come alive, with bird calls, monkey chatter, and the rustling of leaves creating a symphony of natural sounds. Participants will likely spot some of the Amazon’s incredible wildlife, such as colorful birds, sloths, monkeys, and insects.
From the environmentally friendly walkway, you’re provided with this unique perspective on the rainforest’s canopy layer, which is the uppermost layer of vegetation formed by the interlocking branches and leaves of the tall trees.
The experience often begins with a guided tour led by knowledgeable local guides or naturalists who provide insights into the various plant and animal species that inhabit the treetops. They might explain the intricate relationships between the flora and fauna, highlighting the importance of preserving this unique habitat. The canopy walk is a safe and secure activity, but it does require a reasonable level of physical fitness as it involves walking and sometimes crossing suspension bridges at significant heights. However, many tours are designed to accommodate people of varying ages and fitness levels.
4. Visiting indigenous communities
Making direct contact with an indigenous Amazonian community will give you the chance to immerse yourself in the rich culture and unique way of life of remarkable people.
Your journey begins as we venture deep into the lush and enchanting Amazon rainforest, where you’ll first notice the traditional dwellings nestled harmoniously amidst the green canopy as we approach the community. These homes are constructed from natural materials such as wood, leaves, and vines, reflecting the indigenous people’s deep connection to the land and their sustainable way of living.
Upon arrival, you will be greeted warmly by the members of the community, adorned in vibrant traditional attire that represents their distinct tribal identity. They will share their stories, customs, and knowledge with us, offering a glimpse into their ancestral heritage.
Later, we will visit the community’s gardens, where they practice sustainable agriculture and maintain a deep respect for nature’s balance. The guide will explain their agricultural techniques, including the cultivation of crops like yams, cassava, and various fruits.
During our visit, you’ll also have the opportunity to savor traditional Amazonian cuisine. Meals are often prepared using fresh, locally sourced ingredients and showcase the unique flavors of the region. Don’t miss the chance to try dishes like grilled fish, exotic fruits, and cassava-based recipes.
Throughout the tour, we are encouraged to respect the community’s customs and natural surroundings. By engaging in sustainable tourism practices and supporting local initiatives, we can help protect their way of life and the invaluable biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest.
5. Nighttime excursions
At night, the Amazon rainforest comes alive with a whole new set of animals that are more active in the darkness. From the jungle, a chorus emerges through hundreds and hundreds of sounds from every different creature imaginable, creating unique songs of the nocturnal world.
With your flashlight, you’ll be able to sight some of the animals that only come out during the evening hours. Following your guides along the path, they’ll point out unbelievable animals, ones like the pygmy owl, with its eyes wide with wonder. Then too, you’ll likely come upon night monkeys, tree frogs, bats, and other nocturnal insects and reptiles.
Your tour might include a nighttime canoe or boat ride along a major Amazon tributary or one of its smaller waterways. This will permit you to explore areas not easily accessible on foot and increase your chances of spotting wildlife like yellow-eyed caiman close to the water’s edge.
With the absence of any ounce of light pollution, you’ll also have the chance to witness an intense and stunning display of stars in the night sky. Your guides will then point out the constellations and explain their importance to indigenous communities for celestial navigation.
In short, a nighttime Amazonian tour is a thrilling and adventurous way to explore the incredible biodiversity and unique ecosystems that come to life after the sun sets in the Amazon rainforest.
6. Luxury Amazonian lodges
If your idea of an Amazon lodge conjures the image of sweaty, barebones accommodations where you fight off creepy crawlers all night, then think again.
These days, many Amazon lodges are designed to provide exclusive and even luxurious stays that offer travelers an immersive experience in which they connect with nature in comfort and explore the Amazon in style.
These lodges offer premium accommodations with well-appointed rooms, private cabins with plush bedding, modern amenities, and stunning views of the surrounding jungle.
To provide extra touches of indulgence, some luxury lodges include spa services like massages and wellness treatments, allowing guests to relax and rejuvenate amidst the wilderness. Depending on the lodge, additional facilities like swimming pools, lounges, and observation decks are available for your enjoyment.
As a guest, you can expect delicious and high-quality cuisine, often featuring a mix of local Amazonian ingredients and international flavors. Your dining experience may be communal, allowing guests to share stories of their jungle adventures.
It’s important to note that since the travel industry constantly evolves, the features and offerings of luxury Amazon lodges might change over time. Therefore, for the most up-to-date and accurate information, it’s best to research specific lodges or consult with an experienced tour operator specializing in Amazonian adventures.
7. River canoeing or kayaking
For travelers seeking an exhilarating and immersive experience that allows you to explore the world’s largest rainforest up close, Amazonian river canoeing and kayaking may be just what you’re searching for.
With its vast network of tributaries and meandering waterways, the Amazon River offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the incredible biodiversity and natural wonders of the region. On a river canoeing or kayaking expedition here, adventurers should be prepared for a sensory overload. The lush greenery, towering trees, and diverse wildlife create a mesmerizing landscape that’s a feast for the eyes, while the sounds of the rainforest’s astonishing array of wildlife, including countless species of colorful birds, and bands of Howler monkeys swinging from tree to tree, may at times be overwhelming.
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Such river expeditions typically involve multi-day journeys in which you’ll end your days at comfortable lodges positioned along the riverbanks; or, you can even sleep under the stars at campsites in the heart of the rainforest. Keep in mind, though, that the tropical climate of the Amazon is known for its frequent rain showers and high humidity throughout the year. Therefore, you’ll need to come prepared with appropriate gear, clothing, and mindset for both rain and sunshine.
Note also that it’s crucial to undertake such an expedition with experienced guides who are familiar with the region and can ensure your safety throughout the journey. And while protecting yourself, you’ll also want to minimize your impact on the delicate ecosystem. For this, it’s best to identify a responsible tour operator that emphasizes eco-friendly practices and responsible tourism. All of this makes river canoeing and kayaking in the Amazon offer an unforgettable adventure in which you’ll connect with nature, experience the wonders of the rainforest, and immerse yourself in one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth.
Whether you’re a professional wildlife photographer or ornithologist, or simply a lover of nature, birdwatching in the Amazon is a rewarding experience. While this massive region spreads across several South American countries, each nation offers unique birding opportunities due to the diverse habitats and ecosystems found within this sprawling basin.
What should be noted is that this rainforest is home to an incredibly rich diversity of birds. In the tiny Ecuadorian Amazon alone, there reside an estimated 600 bird species, with everything from vibrantly colored parrots and toucans to the majestic Harpy eagle and wise old owls. The variety of birdlife is simply astounding.
Because of the vastness and complexity of the Amazon, many birdwatchers opt to join specialized birdwatching tours run by experienced tour operators and led by local guides. These experts are knowledgeable about bird behaviors and habitats, which greatly enhances the chances of spotting the rarest and most elusive species.
Certain locations within the Amazon rainforest are known for their exceptional birdwatching opportunities. For example, the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru, Manu National Park in Peru, the Mindo area of Ecuador, and the Rio Negro region in Brazil are popular destinations for birders.
Still, birdwatching in these areas comes with its challenges. For those willing to deal with dense vegetation, heat, humidity, and insects, they’ll find that the spectacular sights and sounds make overcoming these obstacles more than worthwhile.
9. Piranha fishing
Piranha fishing is a favorite activity among travelers to the Amazon River. These red-bellied fish are often portrayed as dangerous creatures, that can strip their prey down to the bones in seconds. Fortunately, for Amazon riverboat travelers, that is just a pop culture myth, and we can assure guests that they face no significant threat from these tiny fish.
In reality, around 20 different species of piranha can be found swimming freely in the Amazon – and of those, many are omnivorous or entirely vegetarian, subsisting largely on a diet of aquatic plants supplemented with a few native seeds. This excursion typically occurs in the afternoon, from a skiff. You’ll use a traditional wooden rod and your Amazon cruise guide will provide you with bait. Bring back your catch and your cruise’s chef will be happy to grill them up for dinner – piranhas are surprisingly tasty.
10. Giving back
Sustainable tourism is important. This is especially so in an ecosystem as precious and fragile as the Amazon Rainforest, which provides a home to so many species and cultures, in addition to acting as the “lungs” for our planet.
Reputable tour operators have been working hard to develop highly-regarded sustainable tourism models that work closely with local communities in vitally important efforts aimed at rainforest preservation. These assist indigenous communities by providing them with alternative sources of income and working alongside them to protect endangered species through wildlife conservation programs.
For their part, travelers enjoy the feeling of giving back to nature when, for example, they’re invited to release a baby Charapas turtle back into the wild. By going on such an Amazon tour, people appreciate the fact that they’re helping to support local communities and to protect endangered species, since a significant part of these tour proceeds goes toward conservation projects and activities with indigenous communities, and the majority of the guides, crew members and service personnel are locals.
Conclusion: Amazonian adventures await
As we’ve said before, the word “Amazon” can conjure up fearsome images in the minds of even the most intrepid travelers. However, we’re here to say that, these days, the region is one of the most user-friendly places for adventurous travelers.
Above, we’ve outlined just a few of the many adventures you can experience in the Amazon rainforest. No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find many things to enjoy here.
Please note that conditions and offerings may change over time, so it’s essential to check with a reputable tour operator or a local travel agency for the most up-to-date information and to ensure a safe and responsible rainforest adventure. Always prioritize sustainable and eco-friendly tourism practices to protect this precious ecosystem for future generations.
Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator. Surtrek Tour Operator is a well-established firm, specializing in custom-designed luxury tours in Ecuador, the Galapagos and throughout the rest of South America.