How to choose an Amazon river cruise

Cruise Advice

Flowing through Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, the Amazon is over 4,000 miles long and carries more water than any other river in the world, an amazing 20% of all fresh water flowing into the world's oceans.

If someone tells you they are going to visit the Amazon basin by ship, you might understandably imagine that they are going to Brazil, where the mighty Amazon pours into the Atlantic. Many of the larger ships sail upstream to Manaus, and people selecting these itineraries may not realise that even there, 1,000 miles upstream, the river is so wide that you cannot see from bank to bank.

Confluence of the Amazon and Rio Negro at Manaus

If you have identified the Amazon river on your hit list, imagining a journey far from civilisation, close up to the rainforest and with access to the amazing biodiversity of this extraordinary region, we suggest that rather than Brazil, you should visit Peru in the hunt for tamarin monkeys, three toed sloths, pink Amazon river dolphins, macaws, anacondas, jaguars, caimans and more.

Access the Amazon basin in Peru from Lima, hopping over the Andes via Cuzco. Choose an itinerary which includes the huge Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve (the 'Mirrored Forest') which includes three river basins, the Pacaya, Samiria, and Yanayacu-Pucate, fed by streams from the Andes. This protected area teems with life, and is accessible only by water, so like the indigenous people, visitors move from place to place by river, travelling with naturalist guides to venture deep into the Amazon rainforest.

Amazon pink river dolphin

Choose when to travel according to what you want to see. Whenever you choose, it will be warm with some rainfall (this is the rainforest after all!) and the wildlife is spectacular throughout the year, with sightings of the rare pink dolphin more or less guaranteed. The high water season from December until May is slightly cooler than low water season, and during this period, the water level is about 23 feet higher. This gives beautiful scenery, and everywhere is navigable. You can go deeper into the Amazon jungle canopy, and are more likely to see monkeys, turtles and caimans. Of course the flip side is that there are fewer areas to walk, and the mosquitoes are more prevalent.

Low water season, from June until November, is hotter, and visitors are able to access the jungle trails that get flooded from December to May, accompanied by fewer mosquitoes. There are more migratory birds, and good fishing: you might even catch a piranha.

Water lily near Santarem in the Amazon rainforest

Whenever you go, you are going to enjoy an extraordinary experience, far from civilisation, meeting the local people, enjoying star filled nights, exploring tributaries and river banks on small boats, and learning all about the amazing flora and fauna of this remote area.

Edwina Lonsdale
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

More about Edwina

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