Are you ready for an adventure? If so, consider the Amazon River, a place of natural grandeur and complexity. Be prepared to respect the indigenous people with their unique customs, traditions, and knowledge of Amazon life, and for amazing wildlife and plants you will find in this precious ecosystem. Did you know that the rainforest here is often referred to as the “lungs of the earth”?
The Amazon River itself stretches over 4000 miles across the continent of South America, from the foothills of the Andes to its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean, disgorging more fresh water there than the next seven largest rivers on earth combined. It is also the second longest river on earth after the Nile. Surrounded on both sides grows the rainforest made up of sixteen thousand different species totalling over 390 billion trees in total.
You don’t want to explore this place on your own. Experienced guides are a must; a river cruise is a recommended option. Not only will knowledgeable guides keep you from harm but they will introduce you respectfully and safely to local communities, and the flora and fauna.
Here are eight examples of wildlife to watch for on your travels:
Look up, way up to the treetops. Toucans, with their vibrant plumage and oversized, colorful beaks, must be the iconic bird of South America. They are frugivores, meaning they have a diet of fruit, and their unique bills help them gather their precious diet.
Also found up in the treetops, quite possibly swinging from branch to branch, will be the howler monkeys. They live up to their name with a distinct call establishing territory and communicating with each other and other groups of monkeys.
Another creature living high in the canopy of the rain forest is the sloth. They eat leaves of the trees where they live. Sloths are slow-moving, calm creatures.
Pink River Dolphins
While cruising the river, watch for these mammals also know as boto or Amazon River dolphins. They are the largest freshwater dolphins in the world. And yes, they are pinkish due to the accumulation of blood vessels close to their skin. The intensity of color may vary depending on the dolphin’s mood.
Pink River Dolphin
Up to now all the wildlife on this list have been fairly harmless to you. Be wary of the remaining ones on this list.
Jaguars are big, powerful cats with beautiful golden coats covered in darker “rosettes”. They are one of the larger predators of this jungle. Predators are good at hiding and stealthy movements in order to catch their prey unawares, hence you may not encounter one. If you catch a glimpse of one, consider it a lucky break – depending on how close you are of course!
Snakes (Various Sorts)
There are many species of snakes in the rainforest. Most are harmless (no venom) and feed on smaller animals. There are a few to watch out for, one being the green anaconda which is the largest snake on earth at up to 30 feet (9 m.) long and 550 pounds (249.5 kg). It is not venomous but uses its large body to coil and crush prey which can include larger animals such as the jaguar. The South American bushmaster, South American rattlesnake, and common lancehead are three of the venomous kind of predators that might cross your path.
A Small Green Anaconda
Poison Dart Frogs
Just as its name suggests, the venom of these amphibians is highly toxic and was used to tip the blow darts which the indigenous people used as weapons to hunt. These frogs are tiny but very colorful – a warning to predators they are not appetizing.
There are up to sixty species of these fish identified so far but contrary to their bad reputation, don’t expect to be eaten by hordes of these fish. They are flesh eating but usually dine on small creatures such as frogs, worms, shellfish (and plants), and do not typically attack humans. Occasionally you may receive a painful nip, but if you decide to swim in the Amazon, there are many more creatures to fear than the piranha (eg. big ones like crocodiles and invisible ones like bacteria).
A Colorful Poison Dart Frog
Piranhas Are a Food Source
Bucket List Journey
Experienced guides can minimize any risks or troubles that may arise touring this area, enhance your knowledge of the wildlife and plant life, and introduce you to the local peoples. The pluses of this type of travel far outweighs any negatives. This is an area of the world that deserves your attention if you love adventure and nature, but it also demands respect for its ecosystem.
Book a river cruise of the Amazon, especially one that tours the upper reaches in Peru. Then you can add on – since you are in the area – the Galapagos and/or Peru (a truly diverse country) with Machu Picchu. Some cruise lines will enter the mouth of the river from the Atlantic for a short distance, but this may not get you close enough to the rainforests. Alternative to a cruise, book a tour with an experienced adventure company. Your real travel expert will help you decide which is the best travel method for you and make all the arrangements.