The Amazon Basin is host to an ecosystem that is unmatchable in its biological diversity but also among the most endangered on the planet due to human activity. For travelers seeking to see and inhabit this unique environment while also contributing to its preservation, ecotourism is an increasingly accessible option. Below we highlight the top destinations for Amazon tours and Amazon lodges that place an emphasis on conservation and sustainability, perfect for your travel to South America.
Brazil: Anavilhanas Archipelago & Jaú National Park
Located about 70 km north of Manaus – the city which serves as the point of departure for most Brazil Amazon tours – Anavilhanas is the largest freshwater archipelago in the world and the site of a national reserve. During the rainy season, water levels rise and submerge most of archipelago, which is comprised of 100,000 hectares and over 400 islands, giving it the appearance of a floating forest interspersed with canals. The Anavilhanas archipelago is inhabited by multiple species of birds, butterflies, monkeys, snakes, as well as caimans, pink dolphins, and manatees that have adapted to the seasonal rise and fall of water levels.
The nearby Jau National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest forest reserve in South America and covers 23,000 square km. Access to the park is restricted, but travelers lucky enough to enter will have a chance to see unique plant and bird species that some scientists believe to be directly descended from the Pleistocene era (the last ice age).
Peru: Puerto Maldonado & Tambopata National Reserve
With over half of its territory comprised of Amazon rainforest, Peru is unsurprisingly a growing destination for Amazon travel in South America. The 3 main sites for ecotourism include Puerto Maldonado, Iquitos, and Manu, all of which are in close proximity to important national reserves. Among these, Puerto Maldonado stands out for its incredible biodiversity as well as its accessibility combined with increasing options for sustainable tourism.
Located downriver from Puerto Maldonado, the Tampopata-Candomo Reserve was created in the late 1970s specifically to preserve the zone for scientific study and sustainable tourism. This part of the Amazon is unique in that its hilly topography creates various microclimates such as cloud forests, humid forests, and subtropical rainforests, resulting in an astounding array of flora and fauna, including 165 species of trees, 1,000 species of butterflies, and 750 species of birds. A typical Puerto Maldonado Amazon tour will include canopy tours on walkways overlooking the rainforest and an excursion to Sandoval Lake, where travelers can observe macaws, caimans, turtles, giant otters, common kingfishers, and countless other species.
Ecuador: Yasuni National Park
Ecuador boasts some of the most recently developed and exciting prospects for Amazon travel. Yasuní National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on 2.5 million acres in northeast Ecuador, has been identified by scientists as the area with the most biodiversity on the planet, holding world records for documented numbers of plant and animal species, including tree, amphibian, and bat species.
The Napo Wildlife Center, an Ecuador Amazon lodge, typifies the Amazon tour experience. Located with Yasuni National Park and managed by the Kichwa de Añangu community, travelers have an opportunity to explore rivers and the nearby Añangucocha lagoon, visit parrot clay licks, zipline through canopy towers, taste regional food specialties, and learn centuries-old medicinal techniques from the healers and shamans in the community.
Accommodation options for Amazon tours in Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador include Amazon cruises or jungle lodges. Either option provides opportunities for exploring the river and rainforest on daily excursions. To start planning your own unique South America vacation in the incredible Amazon, contact one of our expert travel advisers at Latin America For Less.