From Machu Picchu to Rainbow Mountain, Peru is a behemoth in the world of tourism with no shortage of natural and man-made wonders to explore. The biggest of them all is the Peruvian Amazon, it is enormous and covers over half of the land mass of Peru.
The rainforest is everything you'd imagine and more, with towering trees separated by a powerful and winding river system, all brought alive by the smell of fresh rain on the forest floor, the mysterious locals and of course, the wildlife.
We're going to help you with the basics and provide some information on the nature you may encounter, the climate in the jungle and how to stay safe on our Peru tours.
The Amazon really is a playground for all things great and small, it is home to over 16,000 animal species, with roughly three new species found each week. The plant life is plentiful with the forest containing over 80,000 plant species, all crucial in regulating global climate.
When you head into this dense forest, you will undoubtedly come across some of the animals that inhabit the area. The National Academy of Sciences claimed that any four-square-mile patch of the Amazon Rainforest can contain more than 125 species of mammals, 60 amphibian species, 100 reptiles, 150 butterflies, and more than 400 species of birds - so you're chances are pretty high of spotting something cool!
Here are some of the critters you may come across (and some you probably won't):
Monkeys - The most common species of monkey in the Amazon are howler, spider, squirrel, capuchin, tamarin and marmoset. You'll most likely notice the howler monkeys first, their calls can be heard up to three miles away.
Capybara - You'll find these cute creatures either in the water or chowing down on some plants. They're the largest rodent in the world which, unfortunately for them, makes them the preferred prey of jaguar, anaconda, caiman and even eagles.
Green Anaconda - Anacondas are the world's heaviest snakes and amongst the longest. They'll eat anything that they can overpower - but don't worry, there is little evidence to suggest that they're the 'man-eaters' we've been led to believe.
Black Caiman - Caiman are the largest predator in the Amazon ecosystem, they grow to between 5 and 20 feet and can weight up to 1000 pounds. They're reptiles and closely related to alligators and crocodiles.
The Jaguar - It is estimated that only 6000 of these majestic animals are left in the Peruvian Amazon, their last stronghold. They're the third largest cat in the world and they're excellent at hunting, climbing and swimming so keep your eyes peeled, spotting one of these big cats would be one for the ages.
Whilst there is nothing quite like being amongst the wildlife in the Amazon Rainforest, if you're looking for a few more activities to keep you busy check out our 'top 4 things to do in the Peruvian Amazon'.
The climate and when to visit
You'll have guessed that one of the main characteristics of a rainforest is the rainfall - this is no different in the Peruvian amazon with seasons quite rightly catagorised as 'rainy' and 'not-as rainy'.
This rainfall keeps the forest lush and green and there is plenty of shelter under the canopy, in fact it’s so thick that when it rains, it takes around ten minutes for the water to reach the ground. But as you're probably an adventurer like us, you'll have no problem pulling out your raincoat and enjoying yourself.
'Rainy' season runs from December until May, but despite being the wettest time of year, it is only 10% wetter than 'not-as rainy' season which covers the rest of the year. The temperature ranges from 25°c to 35°c throughout, so you're going to feel the heat whenever you decide to visit.
One thing to be aware of is high water and low water seasons. High water season coincides with rainy season (December - May) and the rivers sit around 7 meters higher than normal. This means that every river, creek and lake is navigable and boats can carry you significantly deeper into the jungle. Low water season (June - November) sees other benefits, during this time you can walk the trails that are flooded in rainy season, there are less mosquitoes and good fishing is guaranteed. Neither season is better for viewing wildlife, the opportunities are incredible year-round.
Safety in the rainforest
There is no denying the fact that anacondas, alligators and poisonous frogs (to name a few) populate the Amazon and whilst they're not sitting and waiting to make a meal of you, if you display any threatening behavior towards them, they may attack. It is important to note that mosquitoes do not play by the rules, you'll need a covering of insect repellent and lightweight long-sleeved clothing for your defense.
Guided tours are important and necessary in the Amazon, and even more so if you're an aspiring David Attenborough type. It is good practice to keep your hands to yourself, stay strictly on the track and listen to your knowledgeable guide, especially if he's wielding a weapon.
You should always be prepared for potential illness or trouble that may come your way. The amazon is no walk in the park and whilst areas of it have become a tourism hub, there are still some things you'll need to look out for:
- Only drink bottled or treated water (you can purchase purification tablets from most pharmacies)
- Make sure the food you eat is well prepared and clean
- See your doctor before you head overseas and make sure your vaccinations are up to date
- Don't stray from the track
- Be cautious when swimming, piranha attacks are rare but strong currents and waterborne diseases can be a threat
- Keep your arms and legs covered in order to avoid mosquito bites, lightweight and breathable clothing is ideal in humid conditions
- Travel with a guide - getting lost in the jungle is no fun!