The Amazon River begins as trickles in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Andes and flows east as it crosses Peru, skirts the southern tip of Colombia, and travels through northern Brazil before emerging into the Atlantic Ocean near the Brazilian city of Macapá. There are some different wildlife-focused and relaxing things to do on the Amazon River and we will mention our recommendations for things to do on on the river itself and its main tributaries in the northern Amazon. For a more comprehensive article on the Amazon Rainforest in general, you can take a look at 100 things to do in the Amazon Rainforest.
Watch the rainforest pass by from your luxury cruise suite
Many guests aboard the Amazon River’s top cruises mention that their favorite times were simply lying on their comfortable bed gazing out of the window and watching the incredible Amazon Rainforest pass by. For the most comfort and best service, we recommend luxury-level cruises and specifically some of the top Amazon River tours from Iquitos in northern Peru. You will be treated to some incredible wildlife, which you can often see from the comfort of the vessel. Recommended cruises include the Delfin I, Delfin II, Aria Amazon Cruise, and the more budget-friendly but larger Amazon Discovery. All of these are luxury-level cruises with suites fitted with the highest quality linens, very comfortable beds, and large windows for observing this incredible environment. To bring one of the cruises into focus, the Delfin II is small vessel with just 14 large guest suites and explores deep into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, which is an incredible protected section of Amazonia home to many fascinating animals and plants. Choose from the 4 master suites at the front of the vessel or the regular luxurious suites for a very comfortable place to watch the rainforest pass by.
Guided expeditions to see different monkeys
One of the favorite wildlife sightings in the rainforest surrounding the Amazon River, you can see many different monkeys making their way through the trees. On some of the top cruises, spot troops of howler monkeys, titi monkeys, squirrel monkeys, capuchins, marmosets, and tamarins. Your skilled guide will point out the different monkeys as they cross between the branches. Many of the monkeys are curious about travelers in their home and seem as interested in us as we are in them. The loudest and largest of the monkeys you can see are the howler monkeys, which are thought to have one of the loudest calls in the animal kingdom and they can be heard many miles through the rainforest. As the monkeys walk through the canopy, you can often see them leaping from branch to branch high above us. A fantastic area to see different monkeys on cruises is the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in northern Peru.
See pink river dolphins
Another of the favorite animals to see in the Amazon River, pink river dolphins swim around the waterways and are sometimes curious enough to approach swimming or canoeing tourists. Little is known about the dolphins themselves and we have little data on populations. The dolphins have a flexible neck and use this to look around rocks and logs at the river bottom to feed on different crustaceans, fish, and even river turtles. The local communities have many myths and legends about the dolphins and they figure prominently in local folklore. In the Pacaya Samiria Reserve, you have more chance seeing the dolphins during the wetter season when the tributaries are fullest, as during the drier months the dolphins move to the larger Amazon River itself.
Fish for piranha
Turning the tables on these famously ferocious fish, you can fish for piranha on tributaries of the Amazon River. The activity is offered on most Amazon tours for those interested and you can head out with your guide to try your luck. When you find the right area of fast-flowing water, which they seem to prefer, catching the fish themselves is reasonably straightforward. All you need to do is dangle a simple bamboo rod and line with a small amount of meat on a hook and wait for bites. When you catch one, pull it back aboard while carefully watching your fingers. You can then take your catch back to the vessel where the cruise chefs will prepare a delicious piranha meal. Making a fantastic memory, eating piranha while cruising the Amazon River is something not easily forgotten.
See giant Amazon waterlilies
One of the river’s most impressive plants, giant water lilies can stretch three meters across and can even support the weight of a small child if the weight is evenly distributed. The leaf is impressive, but even the stalk can reach 8 meters (26 feet) from the river bottom. Hidden from view, the bottoms of the leaves have spines to defend the lilies from nibbling fish. When the lilies bloom, their attractive flowers initially start as white on the night they open then change to a beautiful pink. There are certain areas throughout the Amazon Basin to find these impressive plants. You can see the lilies from the Delfin I, Delfin II, and Amazon Discovery from Iquitos in northern Peru, but also about the elegantly-styled Tucano Amazon Cruise in the Brazilian Amazon.
Spot iconic toucans and macaws
While on tour scouting the trees and sky, you will see many colorful and interesting birds and the favorites are often the toucans and large, colorful macaws. It’s fantastic to spot a flock of macaws flying over you as you navigate the Amazon River and its tributaries. While scouting the waterways and lakes, you may even see toucans dueling in the branches. Your rainforest guide will point out the different birds and let you know when the macaws are flying overhead. As often the birds are high in the trees, we recommend a powerful zoom for the best photos and try to bring a pair of binoculars so you don’t miss any action happening high in the canopy.
Night-spot for black caiman
The Amazon Rainforest’s version of alligators and crocodiles, caiman live throughout Amazonia and there are a few different species. The most common are the spectacled caiman, which replaced the larger and more dominant black caiman during the times of caiman hunting when the reptiles were hunted as trophies and for their skins. However, since their protection, the larger black caiman are returning to their dominant positions in the Amazon’s tributaries and lakes. They make a fantastic wildlife sighting at night where you will head out with your professional guide to spotlight for these intimidating reptiles. Although much less aggressive, black caiman can reach the same size as large crocodiles and an adult is spectacular to see. When you head out on night excursions on Amazon River cruises, the forest comes alive with a different set of animals and as well as the caiman crocodilians, you can see different frogs, potoos, night monkeys, and other reptiles.
Enjoy Amazonian inspired cuisine
With so many different species of plants, there are a variety of fruits and flavors to try in the Amazon Rainforest. With some of the best cuisine on the river, luxury Amazon tours provide a way to sample the different rainforest flavors. Enjoy delicious foods from local Amazon delicacies, such as ‘juane’, a dish made from chicken and rice wrapped in banana leaves, Peruvian classics including ceviche or lomo saltado, and international favorites. Accompanied by fine wines, you will be treated to exceptional and personalized service. Although many of the sauces and glazes may have an Amazonian flare, it’s the desserts and juices where you can really taste the Amazonian influence. Enjoy different sorbets, ice creams, or cakes flavored with various fruits, such as the small and tart camu camu berries that grow wild in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Camu camu have been hailed as a super fruit for their high concentration of Vitamin C and make a fantastic flavoring or juice.
See many different mammals, frogs and reptiles
The guides employed on the Amazon’s top tours are incredibly skilled and can spot sloths high in the trees, which are often difficult to see with a pair of binoculars. They will then teach you a little about each animal e.g. teaching how to tell if its male or female and a bit about the behavior. Enjoy spotting a range of wildlife, including different mammals like the sloths already mentioned, one of the most common large mammals, but also the different monkeys, coatis, agoutis, and tamandua anteaters as they hang their head from treeholes. You may also catch sight of capybara, which are the world’s largest rodent and are about the size of a medium-sized dog, and even neotropical or highly social giant river otters. Aside from the diversity of mammals you will find, the reptiles are also fantastic to encounter, such as the caiman already mentioned, but also the caiman lizards hanging on the branches, iguanas climbing the trees, emerald tree boas and other snakes, and the different turtles dotting the waterways. There are also some great places to find poison dart frogs to take fantastic photos of these bright and colorful amphibians. Although you can see different poison dart frogs in the Pacaya Samiria, a great lodge to find these famous frogs is the Tahuayo Lodge in the adjacent Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
Enjoy a relaxing massage after your excursion
What better way to relax after your expedition than to enjoy a relaxing or therapeutic massage surrounded by Amazon Rainforest on a tributary of the Amazon River. Head out with your expert nature guide in the morning and early afternoon and return back to the vessel for a massage before dinner. Massages are offered on many different cruises vessels and recommendations include the Delfin I Amazon Cruise, the Delfin II, and the Amazon Discovery Cruise. These are also luxury-class cruises on the Amazon River with the Delfin I as the epitome of Amazon cruises with only 4 oversized suites, the Delfin II as its sister ship with smaller suites but equal levels of luxury, and the larger Amazon Discovery, which offers one of the most affordable luxury cruises on the Amazon. If you would prefer a lodge with a spa near the Amazon River, we recommend La Selva Lodge in Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park, which ranked as a top luxury lodge on our list of the top 10 luxury Amazon tours.