Tambopata Rainforest Jaguar

With so many excellent lodges and cruises in the Amazon Rainforest, picking a tour can be complicated. Many people pick a country first, which may mean missing an ideal tour in another area, search for tours on the Amazon River, limiting their experience of the southern Amazon Rainforest, or search around the most well known protected areas in Amazonia e.g. Manu National Park and miss out on equally diverse and beautiful protected areas where they could spend more time.

The best ways to experience the Amazon Rainforest are to choose from an Amazon Rainforest Lodge or a Rainforest River Cruise. This decision for some people is very easy as a cruise seems more restrictive yet more comfortable and a lodge seems to provide more adventure and a higher probability of wildlife sightings. But is this true?

Many of the Amazon River Cruises are expedition cruises. On these cruises you leave the main vessel to explore otherwise inaccessible areas of the rainforest on forest walks, kayaking tours and skiff expeditions scouting for animals and plants with your highly trained naturalist guide – This means chances to see exceptional wildlife on a lodge vs. a cruise can be more or less equal.

We will focus this article on three of the Amazon’s best river cruises and four of the rainforest’s best lodges spread between Peru and Brazil. These two countries contain the largest amount of the Amazon Rainforest and the more developed tourism industry. But first, let’s go over some of the real differences between an Amazon Cruise and a Rainforest Lodge.

Advantages of an Amazon Rainforest Cruise over a lodge

Cruises have the advantage of visiting many different areas spaced far apart in the Amazon so you can experience a much larger range and diversity of habitats.

Whether it is the air conditioning, fine linen, gourmet cuisine or the mosquito-free rooms of a luxury cruise, cruises can be more comfortable than a lodge. Cruises allow you to experience the rainforest from the comfort of a more contained hotel-like environment.

Delfin I Observation Deck, Iquitos, Peru

As the river changes direction through the rainforest, new cruise itineraries can be designed giving a fresh perspective of the rainforest.

Summary of Cruise Advantages
Cruises allow you to enjoy the rainforest from the comfort of a contained environment. Of a day you explore the forest, but then return to the comfort of the vessel.

Advantages of an Amazon Rainforest Lodge over a cruise

Lodges are often carefully positioned after years of research to make sure they are in the best areas for wildlife. The guides at lodges also spend years searching the best areas for wildlife around the lodge and know where to go to maximise your chances of seeing specific groups of animals.

Lodges allow deeper expeditions of reserves where you can get further into the Amazon Rainforest and allow you to take your time exploring.

Poison Dart Frog at Tahuayo Lodge, Iquitos, Peru

Lodges often have established research associations with universities, which can benefit rainforest tourists. For example, the Tahuayo Lodge has a 1000 acre primate research center for studying rainforest life. This means the wildlife is more accustomed to people watching their behaviour and will therefore be less likely to run as soon as they detect your presence and are more likely to carry on as usual letting you witness natural behaviour.

Lodges are quieter as a generator to power batteries etc is often only used rarely, which will mean you are more likely to enjoy the uninterrupted sounds of the Amazon providing a more immersive experience of the rainforest.

Lodges often have interesting ways to experience the rainforest, such as the Tahuayo Lodge‘s longest canopy zipline in the Amazon, or the Cristalino Lodge’s tallest Amazonian canopy tower.

Cristalino Lodge

Lodges allow more flexibility with itineraries and some provide private guides. This would allow you to customize the tour to your interests.

Lodges can provide more time to get to know rainforest communities to see how they live their day to day lives, making crafts and living off the surrounding jungle.

Because of the fuel costs, lodges are often much less expensive than cruises and offer a more economical experience.

Summary of Lodge Advantages
Lodges provide a more intimate, economical and immersive tour of the Amazon Rainforest which can maximise your experience of the jungle and allow for more adventure.

Examples of excellent Amazon Rainforest Lodges

To start this selection, I will mention one of the Amazon Rainforest’s first adventure travel companies, the Tahuayo Lodge. The lodge is still ranked at the top of the list for rainforest lodges near Iquitos, Peru, and one of the top rainforest lodges in the entire Amazon. The lodge has the Amazon’s longest canopy zipline, provides private guides and a custom itinerary to explore the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve protected area. From the lodge, you will also have access to their Amazon Research Center and its 1000 acre primate research grid.

The Tahuayo Lodge

The Tahuayo Lodge

Iquitos, Peru, Amazon Rainforest, South America
Price per person from $
You are assigned a private guide and custom itinerary as standard to explore the wildlife filled Tahuayo Reserve. More info

Now we have the Tambopata Research Center accessed from Puerto Maldonado, Peru, which is another deep Amazon Rainforest lodge where you have the best chances of some rarer wildlife sightings. The Tambopata Research Center is located very close to one of the largest Macaw Clay Licks in Amazonia where you can see hundreds of large and brightly colored parrots feeding from nutrient rich clay.

Tambopata Research Center

Tambopata Research Center

Puerto Maldonado, Amazon Rainforest, Peru, South America
Price per person from $
The Tambopata Research Center is a deep Amazon lodge located near one of the largest known clay lick More info

Now we have another lodge hailed by birders the world over, the Cristalino Lodge from Alta Floresta, Brazil. The lodge has the largest canopy tower in Amazonia for exceptional views over the rainforest and comfortable accommodation.

Cristalino Lodge

Cristalino Lodge

Alta Floresta, Brazil, Amazon Rainforest, South America
Nestled in its own private reserve, the Cristalino Jungle Lodge is situated in the southern Brazilia More info

Finally for lodges, we are listing the Sandoval Lake Lodge for those wanting a shorter and more economical experience in the Amazon Rainforest, possibly to tag onto a Machu Pichu tour to make the most of your time in South America. The Sandoval Lake Lodge is perfectly positioned inside the highly diverse Tambopata National Reserve to offer outstanding wildlife viewing close to the town of Puerto Maldonado.

Sandoval Lake Lodge

Sandoval Lake Lodge

Puerto Maldonado, Amazon Rainforest, Peru, South America
Price per person from $
Sandoval Lake Lodge is located in the Tambopata National Reserve on the bank of the glistening Sando More info

Examples of excellent Amazon Rainforest Cruises

The Tucano Amazon Cruise is a tour from Manaus in Brazil, which takes you down the Rio Negro and deep into the Amazon Rainforest. You will visit areas hard to access by other vessels to enjoy forest walks, kayaking and skiff expeditions.

Next we move far west once again into Peru to find the Delfin I Amazon Luxury Cruise. With only 4 large spacious suites, space aboard this floating luxury boutique hotel is at a premium, and combined with some of the best wildlife sightings in the Amazon, rooms get quickly booked up.

The Delfin I

The Delfin I

Price per person from $
Offering an on-board experience second to none, the Delfin I Luxury Cruise begins in Iquitos, Peru More info

Offering the same standard of luxury but without the oversized suites, the Delfin II cruises the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in style. With the finest luxurious bedding, organic bathroom products and outstanding service, a Delfin II Cruise is not to be missed if you desire a little more comfort on the Amazon.

Delfin II

The Delfin II

9 / 10
Price per person from $
The Delfin II Luxury Amazon Cruise begins near Iquitos from the small town of Nauta. You will be tra More info

Ash - Author & Travel AdvisorAbout the Author: Ash Card is a frequent visitor to the Amazon and has a passion for helping visitors get the best experiences from tropical destinations. Ash is a contributor to both TourTheTropics.com and ThinkJungle.com writing about tropical destinations, rainforests and wildlife. Feel free to contact Ash for tour help in the Amazon. When not helping tourists with tours and info, Ash can be found salsa-ing the night away or posing near waterfalls.
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