The vast majority of people visit the rainforest either by taking an Amazon Cruise or by staying in one of the many Amazon jungle lodges, which provide quality, hotel-style comfort, great food, professional guides, and fascinating excursions into the forest itself.
Choosing the right option for your own Amazon tour will depend on your interests, budget and preferred style of travel. As a general rule of thumb, Amazon cruises are perfect for travelers looking for a more relaxed and luxurious experience and those on higher budgets. Lodges range from ultra high end to highly affordable and family friendly. Both types of trip include plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with the forest on excursions ranging from night canoeing, to piranha fishing, to caiman and wildlife spotting.
Likewise, choosing which part of the forest to visit will depend on what you’re looking to experience and discover during your trip, as well as how much time you have to spend: the longer you have, the further you will be able to get into the jungle and away from civilization. The farther in you get, the more wildlife you are likely to see.
If you have a specific interest, such as bird watching, you may want to opt for a lodge that specializes in this. For example, the Tambopata Research Center in Peru is a comfortable place to stay that will teach you loads about the local wildlife and, in particular, take you to the nearby clay lick where you will see an abundance of macaws. About a third of all the species of birds in the world make their home in the Amazon rainforest as do more than one half of the world’s plants, animals and insects. It influences life all over the world, being responsible for more than 20% of the earth’s oxygen as well.
For Amazon cruises, you can depart from Iquitos in Peru or Manaus in Brazil. Both of these are also great places to experience the unique atmosphere of jungle cities, where the main access routes are by river, and daily life is heavily influenced by the surrounding jungle, giving the cities a profoundly “frontier” feel.
From Iquitos, you can cruise into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, the only way to reach this protected area, the largest natural protected area in Peru. These cruises can range from luxury to extremely rustic, so you will want to be very clear about what is being offered. You will have the opportunity along the way to make expeditions into the forest to see its abundant wildlife including multiple species of monkey, sloth and the famous pink river dolphins. Visits to native villages are also often part of the activities offered.
Cruises from Manaus are similar to those from Iquitos, allowing you to get farther into the rainforest, take hikes to see wildlife and visit local communities. You can even choose to cruise all the way from Iquitos to Manaus. It is even possible to cruise the entire length of the Amazon River if you have several weeks in which to do it.
Although the forest is still home to many un-contacted and protected native tribes, there are a number of places where native people are well accustomed to contact from the outside world and welcome visitors into their villages, where you can learn about the indigenous way of life. Many jungle lodges and river cruises offer this opportunity, some of the most popular (and ethically regulated) are the Yagua village, located near Peru’s Ceiba Tops Lodge, or the native villages near the Amazon Eco Park Jungle Lodge in Brazil.