An item on many people’s bucket list, the 4,400-mile Amazon river offers travelers the chance to witness and explore a rich, diverse part of Earth. The river has more than 311 mammals, 30,000 plant species, 165 types of amphibians, 1,300 bird species, and 1,800 fishes and combines forests, rivers, floodplains, and savannahs. Covering more than 2,600,000 square miles, the Amazon connects to other streams and rivers in eight countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname. The Peruvian Amazon, one of the biggest parts of the river, is well-known for its unique wildlife such as rare monkeys, spectacled bears, tree frogs, snakes, caiman and jaguars.
How to Travel
There are all sorts of ways that you can explore the Peruvian Amazon. The best place to start your journey is the city of Iquitos. As the city is not accessible by road, you will either have to fly in or take a boat. Once there, you can either take the Nanay river to the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve or go by boat up to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. You can travel by a local riverboat or a luxurious yacht. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can travel independently, but you will need to have all the proper gear and know the language fairly well. Otherwise, booking a package tour is the way to go. There are many options out there based on budget, location, time, and activities, think about what you are looking to get out of the trip.
Another thing to consider is getting travel insurance before you leave. Not only is it a good idea to have it, some tours might require you to have insurance before they let you travel. This insurance will cover you in case your luggage gets lost or stolen, you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly, and/or in case of a medical emergency. Research different companies months ahead of time so you can figure out which one will work best for your needs.
When to Go
Due to the vast area that the Amazon covers, the weather on the river can be unpredictable. However, the rainy season on the river in Peru is late fall/early winter (November or December) through mid-summer (June). It is during this season that the rains cause the river to rise up and flood the low-lying forests that border it. After this occurs, most of the channels become passable. The drier season, or July to December, is when the temperature rises, the rains lessen, and nature exposes the foliage, beaches, and trails. This is also the time when the mosquito numbers go down so if you can’t stand bugs, this is the time to go.
What to Prepare For
Perhaps the first and most important thing you should take care before you leave is getting vaccinated. You do not want to bring home a serious disease while you are abroad. Getting a check-up beforehand and all the necessary shots might be a little expensive, but it is important to protect your body from all illnesses it might come in contact with. Another good thing about getting the shots before you leave is that they last around 10 years and some may even be covered by health insurance. The vaccinations include:
- Yellow Fever (REQUIRED)
- Hepatitis A and B (recommended)
- Typhoid (recommended)
- Tetanus (recommended)
- Anti-Malaria medication (optional)
- Dukoral (optional)
Another thing to prepare for has nothing to do with health and everything to do with technology. Most accommodations on the Amazon will not offer Wi-fi and if they do, the connection will be spotty and temperamental at best. Plan ahead of time to not be able to connect to the Internet or social media while you are traveling down the river. If you are worried about not being able to translate languages without Wi-fi, download language guides and pamphlets ahead of time.
What to Bring
It is imperative that you bring the proper clothes and equipment. Items that are a must are many pairs of socks and underwear, good hiking shoes, quality sunglasses, a hat (or two), a small, sturdy flashlight, refillable water bottle, wet wipes, high-factor sun protection, rainproof gear, antiseptic hand gel, something warm for the chilly nights, a decent-sized day pack, lightweight, breathable, quick-drying clothing (tan clothes with long pants and sleeves are the best as they attract the least number of insects), and of course, bug repellant. Good mosquito repellant is a must as the forest and its wet, hot climate make for a big bug population. You do not want to get bitten every five seconds while you are on the river. Spray yourself with repellant often, bring a small mosquito net, and wear long, lightweight trousers.
Make sure that you have plenty of cash on you. While it is generally safer to not have a ton of money on you at all times because it might get stolen, the reality is that credit cards usually will not be accepted at small restaurants of local markets and there are not a lot of ATMs in the small cities that you will visit. You also want to be able to tip the guides and accommodation staff in cash. It is also important to bring extra memory cards for your camera. As you will not be able to connect to Wi-fi easily, you might not be able to back up your photos as often as you would like. To avoid having to delete your beautiful photos, bring multiple storage cards to ensure that you can take as many photos of your trip as you would like.