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Amazon

Amazon travel guide

The Amazon rainforest is a dripping, squawking, seething mass of biodiversity dominating South America. But don't let its size deter you from planning the ultimate jungle adventure

The Amazon is vast. Covering 5,500,000 sq km, the Amazon spreads into nine countries: predominantly Brazil, but also Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

The Amazon is the world’s wildest place, home to an incredible biodiversity. Within this abundant rainforest you’ll find sharp-toothed piranhas, snapping caiman, bright birds, buzzing insects, howling monkeys and – if you’re lucky – prowling jaguar.

There are also people living in this jungly domain. Many indigenous tribes still live traditional lives in the forest. Some, such as the Emberá of Brazil, are fighting to hang on to their land in the face of deforestation; others, such as the Huaorani in Ecuador, have set up acclaimed ecolodges to provide funds for their community.

So, where to start?

Brazil, containing the lion’s share of the Amazon, is the obvious first choice. Gateway city Manaus provides easy access (you can fly in); board a boat from here to dip into the fingery tributaries. The Anavilhanas islands, 64km from Manaus, is the world’s largest freshwater archipelago and a haven for birds.

In Peru you’ll find the mountainous source of the Amazon, but also wildlife-rich national parks (head to Manu National Park for a fine range of species) and curious clay-licks, where huge flocks of parrots gather to feed on the soft rock.

Ecuador’s Oriente (Amazon) region offers a range of experiences. Easily accessible ‘rainforest-lite’ trips into the fringes of the jungle are good for cash- and time-poor travellers, while luxury ecolodges deep in the forest offer the full experience, with excellent indigenous guides.

Bolivia is the Amazon’s bargain option – boats, transport and accommodation tend to be cheaper here, though there are still high-end options. For the ultimate exclusivity, trek into the wonderful Noel Kempf Mercado National Park, an elevated plateau where jaguars roam.

Colombia is the place for a real trailblazing Amazon adventure. Leticia, in southern Colombia, is a good access point: from here you can visit lily-pad dotted lakes and canoe with pink dolphins, as well as popping over the borders into Brazil and Peru.

The Amazon is many things. It’s hot, sticky and difficult to comprehend. It’s noisy and rainy and packed full of bugs. Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s challenging. Often it’s electrifying. But it will never, ever be dull.

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