Amazon Adventures: Best Things to See and Do in the Amazon Rainforest

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

Spanning over nine countries, the Amazon rainforest, a place almost twice the size of India is the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world. From Brazil to Guyana, Bolivia, Suriname, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, and French Guiana, it is a massive entity that is alive and flourishing. Visiting the Amazon Rainforest has been a highlight of my travels over the years. Walking through the lush greenery surrounded by nothing but the sounds of the exotic jungle brimming with life was a surreal moment for me. While there is certainly no shortage of things to see and do in the Amazon Rainforest, here are a few of our top picks for unreal, once in a lifetime adventures.

Marvel at the Colorful Fleet of Macaw Parrots

Now, before you get on my case, I know, seeing a bunch of birds doesn’t really qualify as an adventure, but trust me, seeing the Macaw parrots while they are basking by the clay licks can be a pretty exciting feet, especially when there’s a few dozen of them. The exposed parts of the river reveal a clay like particle which has loads of salts and other enzymes necessary to help the bird’s digestion. They are best seen on the Peruvian side of the Amazon near the Tambopata Research Center.

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Go Spider Hunting

When our guide knocked on our lodge’s door late at night with a flashlight in tow happily announcing that we were going for a night walk through the jungle, I thought he was kidding. Low and behold, with nothing but a single torch, we followed him to what would be the most frightful night walk I have ever been on. During this night walk, we saw almost eight different varieties of spiders ranging in size and shape. Fun fact: the Amazon Rainforest is home to the world’s largest spider, the Goliath birdeater tarantula whose legs can grow up to one foot (30cm.) and can weigh up to 6 oz. Luckily, we had no encounters with Goliath that night…but watch out, they’re out there. I mean, come on! Even it’s name sounds scary.

Join the Amazing Race, Amazon Style

Looking for an epic adventure? How does traversing through jungles and rivers across Colombia, Peru and Brazil on an Amazing Race-style challenge sound? Over the course of 8 days, you will compete against other teams as you dash towards the finish line while completing some challenges along the way. Trust me, your MacGyver skills will come in handy here. The guys over at Large Minority make the impossible, possible by flawlessly organizing this epic once in a lifetime adventure. They arrange everything from the accommodations, food, down to the crazy adventure challenges you have to complete along the way. In the Amazon Challenge, not only do you get to travel through some of the least visited parts of the Amazon from Leticia, Colombia but you also get to take on some of the popular activities like kayaking, shooting bows and arrows, and piranha fishing. You know, standard stuff. We recently completed the 10 day Philippine Sailing Challenge, and while that’s another story and adventure in itself, we can definitely vouch for the awesomeness of Large Minorities adventure holidays.

To find out more about the Amazon challenge, you can check it out here amazon-large-minority

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Sightsee on a River Boat Cruise

There is no better way to see the Amazon than on a boat. The river serves as the main highway to get anywhere in the Amazon and is an ideal way to travel. Sit back, relax, and stand in awe as you weave through the maze-like tropical forest spotting exotic animals like monkeys, sloths, and pink dolphins along the way.

Visit a Shaman

Regardless if you want to take part of the Amazon’s famous Ayahuasca ceremonies (which is an entire adventure in itself), visiting a Shaman is one of the cultural highlights of visiting the Amazon. We met a Shaman while we were deep in the jungles of Ecuador and it was one of my fondest experiences in the Amazon. It was fascinating to learn about their way of life, their culture, and beliefs. The Shaman that we met was the last of his tribe and spoke to us meaningfully about how saddened he was that his practice and culture is slowly dying. He said that the younger generation in his tribe were more inclined to take western medicine as supposed to trusting the natural provisions that the jungle provides. Get to know the origins of modern day medicine and get a glimpse into the past as the Shaman’s share their snippets of wisdom and healing.

Read: Exploring the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in Ecuador amazon shaman

Bear Grylls it Up in a Jungle Survival Course

Indulge your Bear Grylls aspirations and join a jungle survival course where you will be taught how to do one thing….survive. Conducted by qualified biologists, the guides train you to build shelter, create a raft, and how to make tools and weapons that you will use to hunt. Sorry, no catered three-course meals here! After your jungle survival course, you will come out with enough bragging rights to say “I survived in the Amazon”- literally. For these courses, you can look up the Amazon Refuge Lodge in Iquitos, Peru.

Go Nocturnal Caiman Spotting

Riding the longtail Amazonian boat and cruising around the lake and riverways is a MUST while in the Amazon. If you want to take it up a notch, try doing it in the night as you try to find Caimans. Although the caimans have much narrower bodies, they are most closely related to alligators and crocodiles. Imagine yourself silently cruising around, your boat coming to a standstill as your guides point out the caiman slithering towards you with nothing but a torch to light up the way. Both eerie and exciting, it’s definitely an experience you’re most likely never to forget. This bad boy pictured below creeped up out of nowhere and literally was right next to our boat. amazon-caiman

Fly High with a Helicopter Tour

Get a bird’s eye view of the Amazon River and jungle as you cruise along on a helicopter near Manaus. From high up, you can see the meeting of the waters, the Amazonian opera house. While this activity is quite expensive, the chance to see the Amazon from up in the air is pretty priceless.

Take a Swim in the Amazon River

Everyone who comes to the Amazon knows that the river is full of piranhas. You know, the man-eating fish that often grazes your nightmares? If you’re brave enough, jump in the water and go for a swim. I dare you. Kidding aside, there are some “lagoon-like” areas in the river where you can swim. We swam in one area which our guide jokingly reassured us piranhas never went to as it was too deep to find any predators. While we couldn’t tell if he was serious or not, we jumped in anyway as we couldn’t resist the claim to fame we would get by saying we swam in the Amazon River. amazon-swimming

Get Wet and Wild Whitewater Rafting

With the amount of water coming down from the Andes into the Amazon, you are spoilt for choice. You can either go on day or weeklong expeditions through the lush rainforests and cloud forests with class II-V rapids to paddle through. For an epic adventure, try taking on the Rio Apurimac which is a 4-day jungle expedition from Peru all the way to the Amazon. If you’re looking for a just a day of rafting, head on over to Baños in Ecuador to take on the rapids of the Pastaza River which is one of the main tributaries of the Amazon. We did this while we were in Ecuador and it was heaps of fun!

Marvel at the Meeting of the Waters

Located near Manaus in Northern Brazil, marvel at the meeting of the waters where the dark blackish waters of the Rio Negro mix together with the brown Amazon river, creating a stark visual comparison. The Tucano Cruise up the Rio Negro often stops by this attraction and is a great way to see this natural phenomenon.

Photo Source by: Heather Thorkelson| via Flickr Creative Commons

Go Jungle Trekking in the Amazon

Naturally, a MUST on every explorer’s list is to go jungle trekking while in the Amazon. While I’m not too crazy about all the creepy crawlies you’re bound to encounter while you are there, it is still an experience to remember. Spend your days trekking through the dense jungle, stopping to see various animals and insects along the way and spend your nights camping out under the stars as the sounds of the jungle lull you to sleep. Just watch out for Anacondas…and scorpions. Kidding (not really)! There are loads of tour operators that can organize this for you, depending on which part of the Amazon you would like to explore. If you’re looking for a more off the beaten type of experience, consider going to Leticia in the Colombian Amazon. From what I hear, exploring the Amazon from Leticia is far less touristy and a lot more authentic compared to the Brazilian side. (P.S. Leticia is also where Large Minority run the Amazon Challenge, so you’re definitely in for a treat!)

Read: Leticia and the Colombian Amazon amazon-scorpion

Search for Jaguars in the Jungle

While the chances of you seeing a Jaguar while in the Amazon is slowly narrowing due to their dwindling population and sharp senses. However, if you really want to see one, the best chances of seeing them is deep into the Amazon Rainforest lodges in Southern Peru. The Manu Wildlife Center, Heath River Wildlife Center, or the Tambopata Research Center are all good bets to see these mythical creatures as there isn’t much development going on in those areas. Sadly the population of jaguars has slowly been diminishing due to deforestation and illegal hunting. Our guide said that during his great grandfather’s time, they used to roam around the jungle, often seen battling with Caimans or Anacondas. Who would win? Well, I’ll leave that to your imagination!

Try Your Your Luck with Piranha Fishing

These razor-toothed fish have again quite a frightful reputation. Old wive’s tales of flesh-eating piranhas have haunted the Amazon visitors for years. While the ferociousness of these fish depends on what type of species, the location, and the time of the year, it is still worth being cautious around them. In various places in the Amazon,  piranha fishing is available. During the dry season, the water recedes, leaving the fish hungry. This is when they resort to attacking animals or humans. Rumors have it that in the Pantanal area of brazil, some farmers often sacrifice an animal upstream, leaving it as a distraction so they can herd the rest of their cattle safely across. amazon-piranha

Enjoy Animal Watching

Last but not least, the main highlights of the Amazon is animal watching! After all, you are in one of the world’s most diverse and densely populated area for flora and fauna. From capybaras, sloths, spider monkeys, snakes, pink amazon dolphins all the way to manatees, there are literally loads of species to see. Our advice? Go do it all. Go on nature walks, keep your eyes open when riding in boats and riverways and marvel at the fantastic amount of wildlife around you.

While there is literally about a few more hundred or so things to do and experience while in the Amazon, the ones listed above are our top picks for musts while you’re traveling around the region! While a lot of the places in the Amazon support sustainable tourism, it’s always advisable to do your research regarding the companies that you choose to tour with.

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