The Amazon rainforest covers more than one billion acres across nine different countries of South America. Naturalists calculate that half of the entire planet’s plant, animal and insect species live in the Amazon. It would take decades to explore every part of the Amazon basin, and even then it would be impossible to see everything. But if you select your ecotourism vacation carefully, you'll be sure to see plenty!
The forests of the Amazon basin form a seemingly endless green canopy. Beyond the canopy, the tallest trees can grow as high as 60 meters (200 feet), soaring upwards to compete for light. Because so little sunlight gets through the dense canopy, in primary forest very little plant life is seen close to the ground. Instead, on the forest floor you’re more likely to see fungi, decomposing leaves that have fallen from above to form a thick biomass, and enormous, twisted tree roots covered with mosses. And then, when you look up, above eye level you may see colorful flowers that include many species of orchids and Heliconia, upon which species of hummingbird and many different butterflies feed.
Together with its trees, water is the great feature of the Amazon rainforest. The mighty Amazon River itself is fed by a network of tributaries which are themselves major rivers. And as you explore the forests in the company of your guide, you’ll come across many lakes and fast flowing streams, all of which attract wildlife, particularly during the dry season.
Of course, the Amazon is filled with animal life, but time and patience are needed by those hoping to observe and even photograph elusive major fauna. The services of an experienced and knowledgeable guide familiar with the places wildlife can be seen are essential to the success of any ecotourism experience.
Look up as you walk forest trails and you’ll see many species of birds, ranging in size from the tiniest hummingbird to the harpy eagle, the largest raptor found anywhere in the rainforests of Central and South America, and one of the Amazon’s apex predators. Colorful macaws and parrots can also be seen, racing across the skies on their way to mass gatherings at clay licks.
Insects are as much a part of the rainforest as trees. Around 90% of all the animals that live in the Amazon are insects. On a guided trail walk excursion in the rainforest, it is possible to spot hundreds of different kinds of ants, beetles and spiders, as well as multicolored butterflies.
Brightly-colored tree frogs are everywhere, some of which are poisonous. And as you explore water sources as part of your fully-escorted eco-lodge vacation package, you may be lucky enough to spot giant otters, side-necked turtles, electric eels and even the carnivorous piranha fish.
And of course, animals are not alone in the Amazon basin. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that at least thirty million people live in the tropical forests of South America. Most of those people live in towns and cities dotted across the Amazon basin. But small groups of indigenous peoples also continue to live in untouched areas of forest, many choosing to remain uncontacted and to retain their ancient ways of life.
At our own Tambopata Ecolodge, close to Peru’s borders with Brazil and Bolivia, for the past 30 years we have been working to establish our conservation model based on sustainable ecotourism, while inviting travelers to visit us, see what we have achieved over the past three decades, and enjoy the countless splendors of the Amazon basin.