The Amazon, South America
My first trip to South America was from June until September of 2016. During that time, I visited the Amazon Basin, exploring the famous Amazon River and Amazon Rainforest. As you may know, the Amazon Rainforest is the largest and most eco diverse tropical rainforest on the planet.
As a little girl I’d dreamed of this, inspired in equal parts by my mother’s encouragement that geography was fun, and from reading Eva Ibbotson’s story Journey to the River Sea. Whenever I talked about my intention to visit, friends, family and fellow travelers would all tell me how it was the “trip of a lifetime” and a “once in a lifetime” experience. So I set out to explore. In a tropical rainforest with more plants, animals and ecology than any other, spanning 9 countries and 2.1 million square miles!
Upon arrival, there are two things that hit me with immediate intensity. The colour and the humidity. The green as we flew into Leticia, Colombia, the unofficial “capital” of the Amazon, was initially masked by heavy clouds. Upon descent, however, the bright colour of the canopy stretching out in every direction as far as the eye could see was incredible if not a little surreal.
Where to Stay
Based in the Decameron Resort, my stay was not by any means typical of the living arrangements that are a reality for the vast majority of the local and indigenous people. The hotel was beautiful, secure and full of luxury conveniences that many European hotels wouldn’t have thought of. I cannot recommend the Decameron Decalodge Ticuna highly enough.
Exploring The Amazon
The Amazon is an eco tourist’s dream. Full of incredible opportunities to nurture your inner geography geek, and delight your inner thrill seeker, I was spoiled for choice of what to do at every turn.
From a boat trip to look at the rare and notoriously elusive pink dolphins, which I saw for only a second, to Isla de los Micos, an island populated by the most adorable and friendly monkeys, to a parrot reserve hidden away, there are many inspirational projects looking after and trying to preserve the indigenous wildlife.
For those looking for a little more educational trip, Mundo Amazonico in Colombia and Reserva Marasha in Peru are beautiful and relatively easily accessible nature reserves where scientists and local guides will teach you about the conservation plans and projects being actioned locally.
For quieter days, there is a free museum of indigenous culture, and talks by indigenous Shaman who tell tales of legends, religion and a pre-colonised world where the river was ruled by a Moon Goddess and a man made from the parts of the powerful beasts who roam the Rainforest, and comical to my eyes. And for the best insight, simply talk to the locals. They are friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable people, and the local artisan craftsmanship of souvenirs, trinkets and gifts is hugely impressive.
Kayaking & Hiking
If you’re into swimming or kayaking, this is a brilliant way to see untouched parts of the rainforest and rivers. I kayaked from Colombia to Peru, and it was one of the most breathtakingly beautiful and magical things I’ve ever done.
Hiking through the rainforest brings its own charms and terrors. If you don’t like creepy crawlies, you’re probably in the wrong place as you’ll find yourself covered in ants, spiders and all manner of insect friends. That being said, some of them are stunningly beautiful such as the butterflies.
Exploring by Foot
The abundance of life, sound and colour are beyond what I could have comprehended before my visit. Everything is moving and breathing and the cocktail of human, wild and jungle life combines in a stunning kaleidoscope that leaves you dazed.
Whilst the tours by boat, foot, and kayak were all incredible, some of the hidden gems I managed to find can be reached by foot from Leticia.
Minutes away from my hotel, I was able to witness hundreds of thousands of parakeets flying in formation to settle for the night. Set against a stunning sunset, it was unforgettable.
Hidden behind the wide main roads is hidden Leticia, bustling and full of the local people who work tirelessly to keep the town thriving and catering to the tourism industry. A stark contrast from the sprawling comforts of my resort, the local neighbourhoods strongly demonstrated the harsh realities of life for the town’s residents.
Life in Leticia
I met a trio of small children struggling with a 20-litre barrel of water they were taking home. The tap water is unsafe to drink, and for many running water is an unaffordable luxury. The eldest was just 6 and full of pride that he wasn’t going to let his tiny sister, or me for that matter, help him. That’s what stayed with me about the people in Leticia, life is incredibly hard, but they carry on in a way that makes all of my Westernised 1st World problems look laughably trivial.
Saying Goodbye…For Now!
As I was leaving, I was suddenly hit by the words of my friends and family back at home. That this was a “once in a lifetime” trip. I decided that wouldn’t be the case. There are still so many things that I haven’t had the chance to do there, and so many of the Amazon’s beautiful creatures that eluded me the first time.
I’ve already made a mental list of the creatures I want to look at and the histories and stories I want to hear again. I saw the Piranhas and the Spider Monkeys and so many others, but I still want to see the Jaguars and the Golden Lion Tamarins and everything else that’s humanly possible.
But until then, my journey to the River Sea has been the most wonderful experience, and one that I’m so grateful to have been able to take. I can’t recommend a visit enough.