The Amazon is more than the largest river in the world; it is a vast rainforest, rich in species of plants, animals, and indigenous peoples. A cruise on the Amazon explores the heart of the rainforest ecosystem, and there are several ways to do it. For a lot of people, the choice comes down to Peru (pictured) or Brazil. Both offer similar cruise experiences – wildlife viewing, village visits, piranha fishing, and naturalist-led rainforest walks. Here’s a little more info to help you decide.
Peru contains the second largest territory of Amazon rainforest after Brazil. Amazon cruises here begin and end in Iquitos, a large city inaccessible by road. The only way here, other than by river, is to fly.
A Peruvian Amazon cruise explores the upper tributaries that feed into and become the Amazon River. Here the rivers are narrower, and the regions more remote. Wildlife viewing directly from the riverboat tends to be more rewarding.
The Brazilian Amazon cruise experience starts at Manaus and heads up river, deeper in to the Amazon rainforest. The river is generally wider in Brazil, meaning you are cruising further from the shore. Local villagers in Brazil’s Amazon are more accustomed to visitors, and villages are somewhat more developed.
The Brazilian Amazon boasts the infamous “meeting of the waters” – where the “black” tanin-laden Rio Negro meets the “white” sandy Solimoes River, and they flow together side by side.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Expect heat and humidity, and rain, any time of year, and any time of day in the Amazon regions of both Peru and Brazil. It is quite possible to depart on an outing under clear blue sunny skies, and then encounter a dramatic downpour only 20 minutes later. Plan accordingly.
Expect to head out off the boat in skiffs – these smaller open-air excursion boats have no cover or protection from the elements of sun, wind, rain or flying insects. Mosquito-repellent is a must. A hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are essential, as well as a lightweight waterproof outer layer.
Expect an incredible assortment of colorful wildlife – blue morpho butterflies, scarlet macaws, pink river dolphins, caimans, sloths, and spider monkeys to name a few. While it’s all there, expect to search long and hard for wildlife, and when it is spotted, you’ll more than likely need a very far-reaching zoom on your camera to get a good photo. Binoculars are highly recommended.
WHERE TO STAY
Amazon River cruise options range from more rustic expedition style, to luxury boats with gourmet dining and hot tubs on deck. Either way, you will still venture out in smaller skiffs to discover wildlife, walk in the jungle, and meet the local people of the Amazon. In Brazil, Manaus is the starting point for Amazon cruises heading up river. In Peru, Iquitos is the hub. There are jungle lodges outside of both hubs that provide an entirely different experience of the Amazon.