Posted 22 November, 2016
Spanning over 6,438 kilometers or 4,000 miles across the entire continent of South America, housing 10% of the world’s known biodiversity and producing 20% of the worlds earth oxygen; the Amazon Rainforest is quite literally the ‘Lung of our Planet’.
Beginning with just a trickle high up in the Peruvian Andes, the mighty Amazon River begins to gather speed with every single droplet. Slowly it morphs into a raging torrent as it carves its way past Machu Picchu, continuing for hundreds of miles across the rest of South America before reaching the Atlantic Ocean where it merges with the sea.
Amidst the dense jungle canopies, the endless maze of tributaries and the countless species lie unchartered territories where man has never set foot. Tribes live in these remote destinations where many still remain undiscovered, living off the jungle with no contact from the outside world. The intrigue and mysticism of this unknown world adds to its appeal and the adventure that lies within, drawing us from corners all over the world. The number of activities and excursions that you can experience when venturing into the jungle can almost be as overwhelming as its sheer scale. To make things a little easier, we have handpicked some of the most exciting, memorable and must-do jungle adventures.
1. Piranha Fishing
Hollywood didn’t do sharks any favors in the public eye and the same goes for piranhas unfortunately. Depicted as man-eating monsters, there is no denying that they pack a bite, but let us not forget that we are the ones entering their territory!
The hype around this ferocious little creature adds to the exhilaration and adventure going fishing for them in the middle of the Amazon River. The fundamentals of fishing for piranha are far more rudimentary than you may think. All you need is a long wooden stick, a piece of fishing line, some raw meat and of course some gnarly teethed piranhas. Once stationed above a school of piranhas, drop your bait in the water and wiggle it around. You will know once one bites as they will nip away with surprising force. One useful tip is that when you pull the little fishy out of the water, watch where you drop it into the boat. Any unfortunate family member, who happens to be nearby, will most likely jump straight over to the other side of your flimsy wooden canoe. When floating above hundreds of razor sharp teeth, the last you want is to capsize into the water with them!
2. Swimming with Pink Dolphins
Inquisitive, playful and adorable, pink dolphins are intelligent creatures native to the Amazon River in Peru. Sadly, the continued decimation of their natural habitat is causing numbers to decline in some areas. The disregard for nature and insatiable appetite for extracting gold from the goldmines leads to mercury leaks in the river poisoning many dolphins. Thankfully global campaigns and tourism is helping raise awareness about the environmental problem, and teaching us how to respect and interact with these creatures in a sustainable manner.
In the dry season (June to December), the dolphins tend to be confined to the tributaries, but when the amazon swells and the rain pours (January to May) they venture into new territories to explore and hunt the flooded jungles and grasslands. They are notably famous for their peculiar shape with a small bump instead of a dorsal fin, extended beaks, massive flippers and of course their pinkish colored skin. The unusual color comes from the blood flow close to the surface of their skin, although this diminishes, as they grow older. Best observed up close, there is no need to be shy or afraid when swimming with them, as the dolphins are surprisingly boisterous and friendly and will often paddle by to say hello and see who has come to play with them today.
3. Night Spotting for Caimans
As day turns to night and the bright yellow sun sets over the horizon, the Amazon transforms itself into a whole new ecosystem of animals, insects and nocturnal creatures that emerge from their daytime slumber. An orchestra of high-pitched birds and insects is offset against the low and deep grunts of mammals that lurk deep within the confines of the canopy. For this reason, a night walk or excursion on a boat is compulsory to fully maximize your jungle adventure and see the amazon rainforest from a different perspective.
Caimans are nocturnal creatures that average between one and two meters in length and come out to feed and hunt at night. The best way to see them in their natural habitat is by hopping on board a skiff or a canoe and paddling stealthily through the starlit waters with a bright flashlight. The coloring in their eyes reflects the white light, and before too long you will see tiny red dots appear on the riverbanks. Caimans! If you are lucky upon getting close, your guide will have quick hands and be able to grab one gently for a closer look, before letting the little nipper go to resume his night duties.
4. Kayaking at Lake Sandoval
Lake Sandoval is one of the most attractive lakes and picturesque jungle settings in the Tambopata National Reserve, if not the entire Peruvian Amazon. Located about two hours down the Madre de Dios River from Puerto Maldonado, access to the wildlife mecca is by a 3.5 kilometer or 2.2 mile trail through secondary rainforest where you will experience the rich amazon flora and fauna.
After a short trek you will arrive at the horseshoe shape lake, where the pristine waters appear like a mirror reflecting the towering palms and Brazil nut trees. The refuge of the tree canopy provides a habitat for a rich variety of wildlife including parrots, macaws, monkeys, black caimans, tortoises, butterflies and if you are the lucky the giant otter. Just before the sun sets, paddle out across the tranquil waters in a kayak, and explore the splendor and magnificence of the idyllic landscapes and natural wonders. Ideal for families or kids, this adventure is a brilliant way to explore at your own leisure, with nothing but raw nature at your fingertips.
5. Float & Soak in Iquitos
As the world’s largest city that cannot be reached by road or car, Iquitos is surrounded by water on one side and thick amazon rainforest on the other, with the only access by air. Often referred to as the “Gateway to the Jungle”, the city is hot, humid and alive with the buzz of three wheeled tuk-tuks and motorbikes as they hurtle through the streets.
Most tourists that arrive are destined for exotic river cruises and jungle excursions to explore the hidden jewels of the surrounding rich rainforests, its impressive biodiversity and enter an unknown territory. Those with a little time to play should visit the floating “Al Frio y al Fuego” restaurant in the mouth of the Rio Itaya which provides an excellent way to get in the Amazonian spirit and sample some of the city’s best river fish and local cuisine. We recommend the popular local Doncella or Paiche dishes and the grill is another excellent choice with an abundance of options to choose from.