Amazon rainforest vacations

The Amazon guarantees memorable encounters – like when your torchlight illuminates the glinting eye of a caiman hidden in the darkness, or when the early morning air thrums with the beating wings of macaws arriving to feed on the riverbanks.

“Or when you have to jump out the way because there’s a herd of 150 peccaries running right at you,” adds Kathy Jarvis, owner of our Amazon vacation partner Andean Trails, as she recalls her first experience of the Amazon rainforest. “It’s so different there; you need such a different mental state to the one we live in in the UK.”

Nothing really prepares you for visiting the Amazon rainforest. Seeing photos or watching a documentary doesn’t impact you or hit your senses in the same way. “But once you’ve seen the Amazon… it knocks you back; it’s simply amazing,” says Kathy.
It’s for this reason that she urges travelers to go and why, despite not being a fan of the heat and humidity, she took her family on an Amazon rainforest vacation. “You have a sense of the size, the immensity, the value of the wildlife, the people who live there. Once you’ve experienced all that, you gain an appreciation for what it really is, and of why it definitely needs protecting.”
It’s difficult to ignore the threats facing the Amazon. On some tours you’ll visit protected landscapes that won’t exist in the future – they’ve already been earmarked for logging to make way for soy crops that feed the beef found in our supermarkets. But you’ll also visit conservation areas and ecolodges that work in collaboration with local communities – some of which are proving that responsible tourism can be more profitable in the long-term than any other use of rainforest land.
“I think it’s very difficult to protect something that’s an abstract notion,” says Kathy. Travelers gain a very important appreciation of what’s at stake, while money from your tour goes directly into the hands of local communities and conservation projects that are working to protect and regenerate the rainforest. “Although it has some environmental impact with flights, tourism is realistically the only way of protecting the rainforest.”

Where can I go to visit the Amazon rainforest?

The world’s largest rainforest lies within the Amazon River drainage basin, covering roughly 40 percent of the South American continent – an area about the size of the contiguous United States. Eight countries fall within its border, but the best areas of rainforest to visit can be found in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

Getting into the rainforest – especially to stay at the ecolodges – involves some quite complicated journeys by road, river and air. Take, for example, the Tambopata Research Centre, which involves a two-hour flight from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, followed by six hours in a motorised canoe traveling south on the Amazon River.

“It’s all part of the trip,” says Kathy Jarvis. “When you’re on the river boat, you see masses and it’s a great experience; it’s not like you’re sitting on a bus. But it is a long way.”
Lots of lodges and hotels in the Amazon are more accessible, like the ones just outside Manaus in Brazil, but you won’t see the same variety of wildlife. For the chance to see big mammals, you have to go much deeper, away from any main settlements and into areas that are more protected, such as the wildlife reserves.
Even here there’s a large element of luck involved with wildlife sighting – it’s important to remember that just because the Amazon is home to a huge array of species, it doesn’t mean they will be all around you in abundance. Kathy always recommends that people stay as long as they possibly can and try to relax and enjoy the scenery. Most Amazon lodges offer evening and early morning walks, which she says are some of the best times to see things.
“In Chalalan, Bolivia, we saw huge herds of peccaries, wild pigs and toucans,” says Kathy. “I’ve been really lucky to see a jaguar, but only right up at the Tambopata Research Centre.”

Our top Rainforest Vacation

Brazil small group tour, wildlife and culture

Brazil small group tour, wildlife and culture

Amazonian wildlife, colonial cities and mountain landscapes

From £4199 to £4399 20 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2021: 21 Nov
2022: 7 Aug, 20 Nov
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Rainforest or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Cultural tours

Approximately 400 different tribes live within the Amazon rainforest, each with their own cultures and traditions that are fully connected to the rainforest. Share a chichi drink made from yuca and have your dreams interpreted by members of the 500-year-old Kichwa Anangu community that lives in Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. Or have a go at blowpipe hunting and traditional face painting with the Achuar indigenous nation of Peru.

Ecolodges

Staying in a truly sustainable ecolodge is the best way to experience the Amazon rainforest. Not only do they have a minimal impact on the animals and environment around them – they also contribute to local conservation projects and support indigenous communities. Stay at a floating lodge amidst the flooded forest of the Mamiraua Reserve in Brazil, look for spider monkeys from the 50m-high canopy of the Cristalino Lodge in Southern Brazil, or stay in the only lodge within the boundaries of Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park, which is built using traditional Achuar techniques.

River cruises

River cruises typically last between five and seven days, during which they explore the many tributaries and hidden communities along the mighty Amazon River. Most depart from Manaus in Northern Brazil, where you wave goodbye to massive cruise ships and head inland along much narrower waterways. Comfortable custom-built boats are designed for these less-visited corners of the rainforest, which you will explore with regular shore excursions led by knowledgeable local guides.

Wildlife

When it comes to how much wildlife you’ll see, it really depends on how far into the rainforest you go and for how long. Small group tours that spend two or three nights in the forest will usually take a day or two to travel to remote ecolodges where there is an abundance of monkeys and birdlife. From here, guides from local communities will lead you trekking through the jungle, sometimes at night, with the hope of finding peccaries, giant river otters, harpy eagles or – perhaps – a jaguar.
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Jan Fidler] [Amazon rainforest: mark goble] [Eco lodges: Ivan Mlinaric] [Amazonian man: Enqrique Amigo] [Wildlife: Steve Wilson]