Having spent time in the jungles of Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador I suppose I can claim some authority on the subject. I can definitely confirm that no two pieces of the rain forest are completely alike, each trip is as unique and exciting as the last! If you’re going to venture into the great unknown, the spectacular Amazon then I have a few pieces of advice.
Firstly consider what you’re trying to get out of the experience, if it’s purely animal spotting then I suggest a section of the rain forest where you will do a boat tour. Pampas trips as opposed to jungle hikes offer a much higher chance of seeing wildlife. The majority of animals live or spend their time up high in the canopies, easy to hear but hard to spot from the forest floor. However a larger concentration gather near the rivers, I’m guessing because it’s a source of water and life in general, meaning plenty of feeding opportunities! This being said you will not get close to the animals so a camera with a 30x zoom minimum is a must!
Be careful in selecting a company for these type of tours, cheaper might also mean unethical in its practices. There is not much regulation with these types of companies here in South America so if they’re offering to get you close to the animals you can bet that they’re feeding them. Not only is this potentially dangerous to the tourists (bites, diseases etc.) but can prove devastating to the wildlife. Many species of birds are rejected by the flock after human interaction, creatures like these (and monkeys) depend on social community, they struggle to survive on their own. Hunting although illegal, is largely practiced without consequence meaning the more accustomed an animal is to a human who feeds it the more likely they are to lose their fear of people and consequently hunters.
As deep as my animal obsession runs I’d also recommend trying to spend some time with the local indigenous tribes, this can be insightful and an invaluable cultural and historical lesson! Learning how these people live and trade and have done for centuries is fascinating, also a good opportunity to learn some words in one of the Quechua languages.
If you have the time the most ultimately rewarding aspect of jungle life is to volunteer at an animal rehabilitation centre or a project supporting the nature or local people living amongst the tropical forests. A word of warning would be again to investigate thoroughly beforehand, as corruption runs rife in these kind of organisations too sadly. It can be common for a rescue centre to start with noble intentions but then slowly slip into dubious activity, making decisions no longer in the best interests of the animals. These actions are easy to condemn but when you look deeper you can sometimes understand the patterns that lead to this behaviour. If the only way to afford to keep the rescue centre’s population fed and medicated properly is to bring in tourists willing to pay to volunteer. Then a motivation to attract tourists might be to have an interesting animal at the centre for example a jaguar, even if it’s ready to be released.
A good overview of the types of questions you should be asking to determine the authenticity of a project and if it’s a responsible volunteering opportunity can be found here: responsibletravel
In regards to vaccinations always consult your local doctor and web doctor online travel sites. Malaria tablets on the other hand can have nasty adverse side affects and I would really do your research as to whether they are necessary. Whether I was in the jungle near Rurrenabaque or Tena, or the mighty Pantanal (Jaguar spotting!) Malaria wasn’t present and accordingly medication deemed unnecessary.
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Sunsets and sunrises in the rainforest are pretty special. Particularly if you get to glimpse the iridescent reflections from the sky to river. Waking up to the sound of chirping insects, squawking macaws and monkeys bouncing from tree to tree above is truly unforgettable.