The Amazon Basin is a natural wonder with almost mythical status among travellers – an ecosystem of unparalleled size, beauty and diversity, this destination offers the opportunity to explore rich and unique wildlife, biodiversity and a variety of indigenous cultures. The Amazon River Basin is home to the largest rainforest on Earth, the size of which covers around 40% of the South American continent and includes parts of eight South American countries. The Amazon river itself is the lifeline of Amazonia, carrying an astonishing 16 percent of all the river water in the world.
The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and its complex biodiversity constitutes the largest collection of living plants and animal species on the planet. According to scientific data the Amazon region is home to millions of insect species, thousands of trees and plants, and around 5,000 kinds of fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. The majority of the rainforest is contained within Brazil, with 65% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 14%, Bolivia with 10%, Colombia with 6%, Ecuador with 3%, with minor amounts in Venezuela and Guyana as well. Each of these countries offers several options to experience the Amazon rain forest first-hand.
With its immense diversity of natural sights and opportunities for unique tribal exploration, the Amazon enables travelers to enhance variety of activities – from hiking and kayak exploration of the rainforest to community-based tribal tourism.
Whitewater, Wilderness & Wildlife
Putting national barriers aside, experiencing the diverse beauty of the Amazon and embarking on adventurous expedition to the most remote parts of the rainforest is a life-changing experience. One of the countless possible routes you could take in your exploration is in the Peruvian Rainforest. Travelers may choose to departure from the shores of Lake Titicaca – the lake is considered by many South American cultures to be a sacred site and a location of legendary figures – to drive across the altiplano, pass over the high Andes, then drop down into the cloudforest and then the rainforest to the Rio Tambopata. Rafting along the RioTambopata river will soon leave all traces of modern civilization behind and open up an entirely new world of wilderness, pristine jungle and wildlife. This region has been called the largest uncut, unhunted, unlived in section of the Amazon remaining today by National Geographic magazine, and this trip is remote and wild, as well as challenging.
If you are a more naturalist persona, visiting the Tambopata Research Center should be on your must-see list. The TRC Amazon jungle lodge is probably one of the most remote rainforest lodges you can find in South America, and since it sits along the Tambopata River deep in the Tambopata Reserve, many who raft the Tambopata from above stop at the TRC on their way back to civilization. Due to its remote location, the area is populated with endangered wildlife and attracts many researchers and naturalists. This Amazon jungle lodge is one of the best locations for in depth exploration of the nature and wildlife of the Peruvian Amazon, and it allows visitors to visit one of the largest clay licks in the Amazon, a region that attracts hundreds to thousands of macaws and parrots every day.
Experiencing the incredible natural sights of the Amazon by kayaking through the breathtaking waterways of the Calluacocha Lake is another route you can consider for your Amazonian exploration. The Calluacocha Lake, located deep in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon is surrounded by 40,000 hectare natural wonders and diverse wildlife. Such an unique Amazon kayaking experience will enable you to explore the wildlife sanctuary and experience the amazing biodiversity firsthand by travelling across the breathtaking waterways around Calluacocha and Pañacoch.The waters of the lake will enable you to explore the very heart of the Amazon Rainforest.
Cultural Authenticity & Tribal Tourism
The world’s largest rainforest is literally bursting with life – the Amazon is not only home to diverse wildlife and ecosystems of unique beauty, but also to over 1 million indigenous people. There are over 400 tribes in the Amazon Rainforest and each one has its own territory, language and culture. Tribal exploration is probably one of the most authentic, adventurous and unique ways to experience the Amazon. Not all tribes have contact with outsiders, but some of them are very open and welcoming to travelers who are interested in experiencing their culture and way of life.
One of the tribes that has opened up for outside visitors in recent years is the Huaorani Tribe -situated in the Ecuadorian rainforest this indigenous people have been welcoming travelers for several years now and enabling them to experience the true authenticity of the Amazon. The ecolodge is situated on the banks of the Shiripuno River in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon, in one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world which forms part of the planet’s largest remaining tropical forest. The Lodge exposes visitors to an astounding range of plants and animals and provides the unique opportunity to interact with the ancient Huaorani tribe.
The Huaorani are considered to be one of the most isolated ethnic groups in the world – the tribe had no contact with the outside world until 1950s and there are still clans of this tribe that refuse any contacts with outsiders. The Huaorani Ecolodge was created as a part of a community-based tourism project and has enabled travelers to experience the tribal lifestyle of this otherwise isolated from the modern world community. A trip to the Huaorani Ecolodge allows for adventure travelers not only to experience the natural diversity of the Amazon, but also to interact with the local indigenous people and learn from their ways of life.
Another tribal exploration to be considered is the Kapawi EcoLodge and Reserve – one of the most remote, ecologically responsible and culturally sensible ecolodges in the world. The Ecolodge is located near the Peruvian border, deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon and is surrounded by nearly two million acres of pristine rainforest.
The ecolodge is a part of a community-based tribal tourism project and is run by the local tribe – the Achuar people who lived in the Ecuarodian Amazon for over a century. In the early 90’s the Kapawi Ecolodge began working in sustainable management of the resources, conservation of the natural environment and preservation of the ancestral culture of the Achuar community, on who’s territory the ecolodge is located. The Kapawi Ecolodge takes its guests to the local communities, where they get to interact with the local tribe and experience the Achuar culture first-hand.