The Amazon. It’s one of those places that evokes many different images and feelings for people. Yes, it can be scorching hot, drippingly humid, and have scary biting things. But it also provides amazing opportunities for adventure and exploration in pure, simple nature. For me, while I was not always comfortable, I loved it. My sister, not so much. It didn’t help that she’s one of those people who gets bitten by every single mosquito in the area no matter what she does. But if you think the Amazon is a place for you, here are 10 things you can do while there.
Admire Unique Flora and Fauna
The Amazon has many strange or unique plants and animals. One that we saw was the Victoria Amazonica, the giant water lily. They grow up to 2.5m across and can apparently support the weight of a small child! The white flowers they produce only last 48 hours so we were lucky to see some. Another unique thing we saw was the rather strange Hoatzin bird. Its face is blue with maroon eyes and it sports a spiky crest on top of its head. It’s a bird that makes you see the long ago connection to dinosaurs. Its babies even has claws that allow them to climb trees until their wings fully develop!
Even if you’re not a birder, more than likely you’ll enjoy the wide variety of birds that make their home in the Amazon region. Big and small, they are everywhere. Some are brightly coloured like macaws. Others may take you a minute to see when your guide points it out to you in the foliage. You may even get lucky and stumble across a nest with eggs or chicks!
Cruise the Waterways
If you love water, you’ll definitely enjoy roaming the waterways of the Amazon in a little motorboat. You feel like an intrepid explorer when your guide takes you through hidden branches off the river, deep into the trees and mangroves. Generally, it is in these waterways where you’ll find birds and animals – or at least hear them!
Fish for Piranha
Fishing for these infamous fish only requires a stick, some string with a hook, and small pieces of raw meat. Once baited, toss the hook into the water, disturb the water with the stick (piranha are attracted to movement), and it won’t be long until you feel nibbles on your line. You’ll spend a lot of time jerking the rod up into the air because you swear you have something on your hook – most of the time, you won’t. And many of those times, your bait will be gone! Fish in the Amazon are fast suckers. I caught probably four piranhas but every time I pulled up my string, the idiot fish (or smart) hadn’t bit down hard enough onto the bait so they always went flying through the air! I did end up catching a different kind of fish eventually, but we tossed it back as it was pretty small. If you do catch good sized fish, including piranha, you can take them back to your lodge for dinner!
Look for Animals in Their Natural Habitat
For most people, coming to the Amazon is an opportunity to see all sorts of animals. Of course, most of us want to see a jaguar – but that really is not likely at all (the closest I got was an unfortunate jaguar paw at the Belen Market). While there are tons of other animals to see, it really does depend on the time of year you go. For example, we went in May – the water levels were pretty high so we didn’t see any land animals like anteaters or capybara. But we did see many sloths, monkeys, snakes, microbats, and Northern Caiman Lizards.
Night Time Caiman Hunting
Yes, hunting for caiman. At night. You do this via boat. Your guide will stand at the front of the boat and shine a light at the passing scenery. Somehow he manages to pick out which glowing eyes are caiman and he’ll half throw himself off the boat to try and catch it. Ours didn’t have much luck that evening but he did eventually catch a small caiman. After showing us the proper way to hold it, we all got a chance to get a picture with the poor little guy.
Take a walk in the rainforest with a guide and they can tell you what plants can do what. It’s pretty neat to learn about plants that have medicinal properties. It’s also pretty entertaining to see what scariness Mother Nature comes up with – some of these plants can seriously hurt you! At the same time though, some are pretty fun – take a swing on some liana!
Swim with Dolphins
Most lodges will advertise this activity. It’s technically true, but in reality, not so much. Essentially you’ll cruise up and down the Amazon River searching for dolphins. We were able to see both grey and pink ones (the former are pretty cute, but the latter really are kind of ugly). It is remarkably difficult to get a photo, much less a good one, of the dolphins as they mockingly dive away from you. When it is time to swim, it’s pretty much guaranteed that no dolphin will be around. At the same time, though, the Amazon’s waters are brown so who knows what is under there with you….
Visit a Village
This is an opportunity to visit an Amazonian village – you can wander around, meet people, and buy handicrafts. Emphasis on the latter. I didn’t particularly enjoy it as I always find these types of things more like a human zoo. But other people find it an opportunity for cultural exchange…I don’t see it, especially since you’re only there for such a short period of time, but to each her own!
Watch a Beautiful Sunset
There are amazing sunsets along the rivers of the Amazon region. Take a boat ride out to where you have a wide open view and watch as the glorious fireball slowly descends – well, not so slowly – sunsets happen fast here so make sure you’re in your spot at the right time to see it properly!