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How to Explore the Amazon in Luxury

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The Amazon rainforest is vast – spanning 8 countries in South America and covering close to 7 million square kilometres. Brazil is home to the majority of it and the rest is shared amongst Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, as well as French Guiana, which is an overseas territory of France.

On an Amazon adventure, you can expect to experience pristine wilderness, spot fascinating animals and birds and find out about their habits and behaviours. Photography lovers will be in heaven here! You will also learn about the flora, medical plants and the indigenous communities residing in this part of the world, as well as the conservation efforts that are in full force in order to protect the land, the communities and its fascinating species.

Where to visit in the Amazon

While the Amazon extends into these 9 areas in total, it’s easiest and most practical to visit from certain entry points, where you can find good jungle lodges or Amazon river cruise options.

Brazil

Home to the biggest portion of the Amazon rainforest, it is a huge reason people travel to Brazil. The most common way to enter the Brazilian Amazon is via Manaus, the capital and largest city of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. From here, you can board a motorised boat that will take you to a number of jungle lodges where 3 or 4 night stays are common.

Generally speaking, the further out of Manaus you go, the more wildlife you will see. However, for a more unique and exclusive Amazon experience, it’s best to take a flight to Alta Floresta in the Mato Grosso state, south east of Amazonas, to enjoy an ‘Amazon sanctuary’ experience at Cristalino Lodge.

Peru

Peru has three distinct Amazon entry points – Puerto Maldondo, Manu Biosphere and Iquitos.

Puerto Maldonado is the most visited, mainly because it’s easily accessible from the very frequently visited town of Cusco. Puerto Maldonado offers a good standard of jungle lodge style accommodation and experiences.

Manu Biosphere Reserve is lesser known, more difficult to get to and overall doesn’t have the same level of infrastructure as Puerto Maldonado. It does, however, offer a very ‘off the beaten track’ experience, where you’re more likely to spot wildlife as it’s quieter and less visited.

If you’re looking for luxury and exclusivity, you had better head to Iquitos in north east Peru (a short flight from Lima). Here, you’ll find beautifully designed luxury boutique cruise ships, such as the Aqua Nera or Delfin, which offer an excellent stand of accommodation, high-end chefs on board and top-notch bilingual naturalist guides – a truly exclusive way to see this amazing part of the world.

Ecuador

Not many people think of Ecuador for the Amazon, but it’s extremely accessible from Quito. Within a 30 minute flight, you’re in Coca, the main Amazonian town, from which you can embark on a 2 hour motorised boat journey, followed by 1-2 hours by canoe to get to your lodge, or you can embark on a luxury cruise.

The Ecuadorian Amazon takes up a relatively small portion of the rainforest, however, it is home to a huge number and variety of species for such a small area. This means that your chances of spotting beautiful tropical birds and other wildlife are much higher. The Ecuadorian Amazon is also home to a number of national parks and protected biosphere reserves, such as Yasuní and the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, among many others.

If you’re a wildlife lover and you are planning a trip to Galapagos Islands, I would highly recommend combining this with a trip to the Amazon rainforest for a completely distinct wildlife experience.

Where to stay In The Amazon

Cristalino Lodge, Brazil

Hidden in Brazil’s southern rainforest, Cristalino Lodge is perfect for those seeking a unique experience with few visitors and where conservation is of utmost importance.

Located within its own private reserve spanning close to 3000km, it’s located between the Pantanal and the Cerrado, home to abundant wildlife that is unique to this region. You’ll be able to spot 9 species of monkeys, giant river otters, tapir, peccaries and 600 species of birds, while staying in a very welcoming and extremely comfortable lodge.

Aqua Nera

It’s hard to beat the Aqua Nera when it comes to ultra luxury. Meticulously designed with comfort in mind, these 3, 4 and 7 night boutique cruise itineraries take you deep into the jungle to places otherwise inaccessible. Boasting top-notch chefs, expert naturalist guides and jaw-dropping cabins with floor to ceiling windows – this is a truly unique and exclusive Amazon experience.

Anakonda

The Anakonda and Manatee are Ecuador’s high-end sister river ships, built for intrepid jungle expeditions with a high level of comfort and safety at the forefront.

Offering unique cultural interactions with the local indigenous communities of the Yasuní National Park, as well as first class wildlife experiences, such as getting involved in their baby turtle conservation project, it’s an experience you won’t forget.

Must Do Amazon Experiences

Visit the Amazonian Manatee Rescue Centre

There are a number of vital ongoing conservation projects in the Amazon and one of my favourites is the efforts to protect the endangered manatees, which have long been hunted for their oil, meat and skin. The Manatee Rescue Centre has been working hard to rescue orphaned baby manatees, protect and nurture them with the aim of releasing them into the wild, as well as raising awareness amongst both the local communities and tourists. During your visit, you’ll be able to visit the centre, learn about the work that is being carried out and experience these curious creatures being released back into their natural habitat.

Kayaking on the Amazon river

There’s something special about kayaking on the Amazon river – maybe it’s the overpowering views of dense jungle and the constant sounds of birds, frogs and monkeys in the wild. There’s nothing better than to have a giant river otter (or family!) pass by you, hunting for fish or playing amongst each other. Or better yet, have a pod of pink Amazonian dolphins following you. Kayaking on the river is an adventurous way to explore the jungle and a great way to spot wildlife and birdlife, just that bit closer to the water.

Glamping in the Amazon

Not offered by all operators and certainly not for every type of traveller, but if you’re on board the Anakonda or Manatee cruise ship in Ecuador you’ll have the chance to experience something truly unique – luxury camping – right in the rainforest itself. You’ll be pampered by a private chef cooking up delicious dishes for dinner with local ingredients on the bank of the river. Waking up to the sounds of nature with an immaculately laid out breakfast with Amazonian fruits – there’s really nothing quite like it!

Top Tips for exploring the Amazon

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with the Amazon – such a vast area of thick jungle and you might find it overwhelming to know where to start. It’s important to think about what you want to get out of the trip and be realistic with yourself about how adventurous you want to be and what level of comfort you would be happy with.

Cruises, on the whole, tend to be more luxurious and more comfortable with amenities like proper windows and air conditioning in the rooms. It’s fair to say as well that with cruises, you tend to get deeper into the jungle as you can travel further. However, jungle lodges also offer their own benefits for certain types of travellers – there are usually more activities on land available to you (depending on the time of year you travel) and for some travellers, falling asleep to the sounds of the jungle with open mesh covered windows is all part of the magical experience. When thinking about your options, feel free to get in touch so we can work out together which might be the best way to visit it for you.

There is something extraordinary about being somewhere so remote and so lush, that I’m confident once you’ve explored one part of the Amazon you’ll be back for more!

About the Author

About the Author

Evie has lived in Argentina and travelled countless times throughout Central and South America; acquiring a particular love for wildlife, epic scenery and endless outdoors adventures.

SENIOR LATIN AMERICA TRAVEL DESIGNER

Evie

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