The Amazon Rainforest - Worth the Hype?
Here's an account of a typical day in the world’s oldest and largest rainforest
To get to the remotest parts of the Amazon, it can take up to two days of travel – a day by road and one by river. At the end of the day, though, is the experience worth it?
I’ll share my experience of being out there in the world’s largest rainforest. For the record, it was totally worth it for me!
Read here about our journey to get to Manu National Park in the Peruvian Amazon – only 1500 visitors are allowed here every year. This ensures that this remote ecosystem is relatively free from tourism pressure.
The experience revolves around spending your days in the boat, enjoying the river safari, and evenings in lodges, eating fresh food, resting, and sometimes going out for hikes in the forest after sunset!
Let me chronicle a typical day in the Amazon. Mornings start early here - wake up in your lodge around 4.30, when it’s still dark. Dress and walk to the river bank, which would typically be about 150 meters away. Climb down to the boat using the steps installed, settle into the boat for the day ahead. Even if you travel during the ‘dry’ season, remember this is a rainforest – always expect some rain! Your boat will typically be equipped with a tarp, which you can use to cover yourself up in case it starts raining while you’re on the river. After sailing for some time, you will have the packed breakfast while exchanging notes on the sounds of the forest you heard during the night.
Onward! Now you’re settled into the boat and are marvelling at the primeval ecosystem all around you. Caimans chilling on the banks, and sending a chill down your spine when they look at you, toucans and macaws of many varieties flying overhead, different species of monkeys going about their business, maybe a three-toed sloth, taking its own sweet time to climb a tree, and if you’re truly blessed, maybe a jaguar on the banks of the river.
At noon, the boat is anchored near the bank and lunch at noon is served by the crew on the boat itself. The chef on board typically wakes up earlier and prepares food for the boat in the morning, ensuring that you have tasty fare throughout the day.
If you need to take a leak, the only way to do it is to stop the boat at the bank, walk until you find a bit of cover, and do your business…of course when you come back to the boat, and notice that there was a caiman lying perfectly still on the same bank, a mere 150 meters from where you did what you did, well…it’s a Wild Story!
At some point during the day, probably after you’ve been fortified with lunch, your guide may stop the boat and take you walking inside the forest. Walking in the Amazon is an experience no one can forget. You’ll see huge trees, thousands of years old some with symbiotic creepers, staying alive and keeping the host alive, and some with parasitic creepers, staying alive at the cost of the host. The undergrowth is sparse, because the canopy is too thick for sunlight to filter through to the forest floor. The forest floor has many, many kinds of mushrooms, 99% of which are toxic for humans. Don’t forget the birds and animals. You’re likely to see a dozen species of monkeys if you look closely. There’s a pattern to them – one monkey takes a path through the trees, jumping off of a specific branch onto the next tree, and the entire troop copies this exact path, with no deviations.
There is death in life and life in death in this place.
Walking behind your guide on certain paths is all good, until you come across a cute looking hand crafted object on the forest floor. You’re puzzled and delighted by this sudden discovery until your guide tells you to back away slowly, and that its time to go back to the boat. More puzzled than ever, the mystery weighs on you. Until, that is, the guide tells you that that cute looking craft is actually a handmade warning signal left by one of the indigenous tribes of the area, what he calls ‘naked people’. The warning is simple – “we’re in the area, so don’t proceed beyond this point unless you want to be shot at with arrows!” Not so cute anymore, eh?
So you’re back in the boat for more river safari, and head back to your lodge towards the evening, when it’s still light. Take a bit of rest, because if your guide is as enthusiastic as ours was, you would be called out pretty much immediately because he spotted a toucan nearby! Rest for some time, have dinner, and see if you’d like to go out for an after-dark walk in the Amazon – spot tarantulas and many thousands of spiders whose eyes shine like jewels on the forest floor in the night.
Come back, sleep, and repeat for a few days in different lodges as you move deeper into the park.
So you tell me – worth the hype?