Embarking on a journey to the Amazon Jungle was a dream come true. As one of the largest and most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, I was eager to witness the lush green landscape and meet its inhabitants, both human and non-human. And finally, in 2021, I got the opportunity. So buckle up, eco-travellers, adventure seekers and curious minds, as I take you on a journey to this remarkable corner of our planet.
Setting the scene for the Amazon experience
The Amazon Jungle, also known as Amazon Rainforest or Amazonia, is the largest tropical rainforest in the world that spans over 6 million km² in South America, primarily in Brazil but also stretching into other countries such as Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. It is home to a staggering number of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else on the planet, as well as numerous indigenous communities.
We were chilling in a hostel in Taganga, Colombia, when we met a fellow traveller raving about his recent trip to the Amazon. He had only a contact name and number for a local guide, but he was full of praise and convinced us to give it a try. With a planned stop in San Gil for some outdoor adventures already on the itinerary, we spontaneously decided to add the Amazon Jungle to our travel plans.
It was the end of October and the next thing we knew, we were boarding a wild night bus from San Gil to Bogota, surrounded by locals dressed in their pyjamas, ready with pillows and blankets for a cosy ride. Although the bumpy mountain roads made it tough to catch some shut-eye, we eventually dozed off, only to be jolted awake by a kind woman at our stop in Bogota.
From Bogota, we took a quick and affordable flight to Leticia, the entry point to the Amazon Jungle located in the Amazonas department of Colombia, near the border with Brazil and Peru. Upon arrival in Leticia, we paid the required visitor’s fee – COP 20,000- and met our guide at the riverside the next morning.
Going Deeper into the Jungle
With limited information and a guide who spoke just a few words of English, we boarded a small wooden boat and set off on our three-day journey into the unknown. As we floated down the river, our guide entertained us with tales of the Amazon Jungle and its inhabitants, including cautionary tales about jaguars. Wait, jaguars?! The mention of one of the world’s most dangerous animals had me suddenly feeling unsure about what we were getting ourselves into. But, looking back, there was no need to worry – we survived!
After a few hours on the boat, we arrived at a camp where we were greeted by a group of fellow travellers. We all got to know each other and set out on a jungle trek, led by a young guide and accompanied by two dogs. With no defined trail, our guide hacked away at the undergrowth with a machete and picked the way forward. We spotted howler monkeys swinging from the trees and towering ceibas and despite not seeing any jaguars, we learned so much about the wonders of the jungle.
A few hours into our trek, I and another traveller got bitten by an insect, causing the affected area to swell up. I started to feel my arm going numb, and I was a bit anxious not knowing when it would stop. In that type of scenario, you only picture the worst. The guide reassured us that everything would be okay, and it was, but even a month later, my finger would sometimes double in size without warning – classic European in the Amazon Jungle!
As we progressed, we soon realized that we were in one of the gentler parts of the Amazon Jungle and most of the “dangerous“ animals were elsewhere. A mix of relief and disappointment, but still had a great time. At one point, I spotted a big bug and asked what it was. The guide simply replied that it was a venomous spider and touching it could be fatal. Needless to say, I kept my hands to myself from then on.
The Amazon Jungle can be broadly divided into three zones: the upper canopy, the understory, and the forest floor.
- The upper canopy, where we were, is the sunniest and driest part of the forest, with many bird species and insects, as well as some primates and mammals.
- The understory is more shady and humid. It is home to many plant species and is an important habitat for animals such as jaguars, monkeys, and reptiles.
- The forest floor is the darkest and wettest part of the forest.
Next, we hopped on another boat to reach our camping site for the next two days. It was set in the forest, close to the river, and let’s just say, I was feeling a bit uneasy. Sleeping in hammocks with the fear of scorpions and other animals lurking around was not the most comforting experience. But as night fell, the magic of the Amazon Jungle came alive. The sounds of exotic birds, monkeys, insects, and the rushing river created a symphony of animal calls. And then, it was silent, bringing a calming and soothing feeling.
Experiencing the Thrills of the Amazon Jungle
The next two days were filled with adventures. We went piranha fishing, with 10 of us crammed into a wooden boat that bounced and swayed with each movement. I was surprised by the sheer number of piranhas eager to snatch our bait. At first, they were slippery and clever, but kept our rods moving and after a while, we finally hooked one! We pulled, thrilled by our catch and our guide took hold of the fish to show us its razor-sharp teeth. Apparently, as long as you don’t have any blood on you, you’re safe from the piranhas – but let’s just say I’ll stick to keeping my feet on the boat.
We also visited a monkey sanctuary, a true paradise for animal lovers. There were so many species of monkeys and even a giant anaconda! The massive specimen, known to be one of the largest snakes in the world, had just been fed, so didn’t show much interest in us as it only eats once every few weeks. It was an impressive sight, nonetheless.
The monkeys, on the other hand, were full of energy and mischievousness, constantly jumping and trying to get into our backpacks. Despite their small size, they were incredibly smart and it was hard to keep anything away from them. We spent hours walking and playing with the monkeys, it was like interacting with playful children.
One evening, we went on a caiman hunt. On the same unstable wooden boat in the dark…The guide managed to catch a baby caiman, which was released right away after a quick photo of course, but we didn’t come close to seeing the adults. Instead, we were surrounded by their yellow eyes in the dark, a truly humbling and intimidating experience that was enough for most of us.
On the last day, we went to see the famous pink dolphins on the Amazon River and even took a swim. How we all ended up in that dark river, surrounded by unknown creatures, is beyond me, but I guess the beers we had helped ease the nerves.
We finished the day with a walk in the forest and learned about the diverse trees and plants. The Amazon Jungle is like a one-stop shop for all your needs. Sadly, despite its ecological significance, the Amazon is facing threats from human activities such as deforestation, agriculture, and resource extraction. According to Brazil’s National Space and Research Institute, from July 2021 to August 2022, 11.568 km² was destroyed, the equivalent of 1.6 million soccer fields.
Overall, my journey through the Amazon was a great experience. Every day brought new excitement, and we even crossed into Brazil and Peru all on the same day, showcasing just how vast and diverse this region is. However, if I were to do it again, I would opt for a deeper dive into the Amazon Jungle and perhaps even have the chance to connect with local tribes in a more authentic and unscripted manner.
The options for exploring the Amazon Jungle are numerous, whether you choose a guided tour or something more off the beaten path. Just make sure to listen to the advice of the locals, who know the area best. As for venturing out on your own, let’s just say our guide shared a story about a tourist who attempted to meet a remote cannibal tribe and never returned. It’s best to leave some mysteries untouched and to allow these remote tribes to live peacefully, undisturbed.
Wrapping up this incredible adventure
The Amazon is a must-visit destination for any traveller seeking a unique and adventurous experience in Colombia. With its vast rivers and ecosystems, the Amazon Jungle offers a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of our planet. You’ll cruise down the world’s longest river, cross into three different countries in a single day, and encounter exotic species you’ve never seen before.
This journey through the Amazon Jungle truly highlights the diversity and beauty of our world, and it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. So, if you’re ready for an adventure, don’t wait any longer. Pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure, because the Amazon is waiting for you.
Travel Tips for your Amazon Jungle experience
- Getting to Leticia can only be done by air as there are no road connections. The easiest way is to catch one of the two daily flights from Bogota, which only take 1 hour.
- The Amazon can be visited all year round, but the best time to go depends on what you’re looking for. For example, the wet season, roughly from January to June, offers easy boat access to different parts of the Amazon Jungle, but you may see fewer animals as they retreat to drier forests.
- When packing for your trip, make sure to bring essentials like mosquito repellent, light clothing and long sleeves and pants, a flashlight or headlamp, a waterproof bag, and of course, your camera to capture all your memories.
- When interacting with local communities, always show respect and ask for permission before taking photos.
With these tips in mind, you’re all set for an adventure in the Amazon Jungle. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any more questions or tips to share with others looking to follow in your footsteps. And check out our other blog articles for more travel inspiration.