To get the best experience of the Amazon Rainforest, the most important considerations are the lodge or cruise you choose and the level of experience and skill of your guides.
When you experience the Amazon Rainforest from a top-rated tour, you will no doubt be impressed by how easily your guide can find animals and plants.
As an example, it a normal experience for your guide to spot and identify animals that are high in the canopy without binoculars. As you look through the binoculars and the animal comes into view, you will no doubt be impressed.
The wildlife spotted in this way are often sloths, toucans, macaws, and other colorful birds. These are animals that like to rest in and around the canopy, so keen eyesight and experience is important.
As the Amazon’s different animals feed from specific trees and live in specific areas, a good guide is essential for a great experience of the Amazon. Your guide will be recognising sounds, trees, seeds and fruit to find the best places to look for wildlife.
Where to visit in the Amazon Rainforest
Another consideration for getting the best experience of the rainforest is where in Amazonia you choose to visit.
The Amazon Rainforest covers 40% of the South American continent and crosses nine nations. The most popular countries to visit the rainforest are Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.
Peru is home to one of the most developed tourism industries in Amazonia and has the most claylicks to see colorful macaws. Ecuador also offers a very organized selection of excellent lodges and cruises. There are also a few excellent options in Brazil spread over different rainforest gateways.
National Parks & Reserves in the Amazon Rainforest
Often, the most wildlife-rich areas are inside or near areas of protected Amazon Rainforest.
The top lodges and cruises have itineraries that include these protected areas to maximize your chances of incredible wildlife spectacles.
The Tambopata National Reserve
The Tambopata National Reserve is a fantastic area of protected Amazon Rainforest located in southern Peru.
The reserve protects forest of the Tambopata and Heath Rivers. Much of this water starts in Lake Titicaca and descends the Andes traveling through Amazonia as the Tambopata River. The river passes Puerto Maldonado, which is your gateway to the reserve.
The Tambopata Reserve is connected with surrounding protected areas including Bahuaja-Sonene National Park and Madidi National Park. This creates a large area of protected tropical forest with an incredible diversity of rainforest animals.
The Ese-eja are the largest indigenous community in the region and one of the largest in the Peruvian Amazon. There are different sustainable projects set up with the community including a number of rainforest lodges, such as the community owned Posada Amazonas Lodge.
The wildlife you can find in Tambopata Reserve is nothing short of incredible. This region is home to more claylicks than anywhere else in South America. These are areas where large and colorful macaws gather at the clay in a fantastic display of sound and color.
There are also several different monkeys, hundreds of colorful birds, and even a healthy population of jaguar. For example, guests at the Tambopata Research Center have a 20% chance of spotting jaguar by the river.
The region is also home to attractive oxbow lakes, which are a draw for rainforest animals. In and around these lakes, you can often spot monkeys, lake-living birds, giant river otters, caiman and interesting fish.
To experience the Tambopata Reserve, you can choose from the following lodges:
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
As one of the largest protected areas of Amazon Rainforest in Peru, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is an incredible area to visit.
Accessed from the rainforest gateway of Iquitos, you can enjoy some incredible cruises through the Pacaya Samiria Reserve to enjoy spectacular wildlife sightings.
Spot several different monkeys, macaw parrots, toucans, colorful tanagers, fascinating reptiles, and hopefully some lesser seen animals and plants.
This is a mostly-flooded section of Amazon Rainforest located in northern Peru. Because of the reserve’s flooded nature, the region is best experienced aboard an Amazon River cruise.
The reserve is known as ‘The Forest of Mirrors’ because of the fantastic scenery. The water offers some incredible reflections of the trees and sky, which makes for some fantastic photographs.
To experience the Pacaya Samiria Reserve, you can choose from the following cruises:
The Manu National Park
Manu National Park is another large protected area in southern Peru. In addition to lowland Amazon Rainforest, the park also includes an area of cloud forest of the Andes Mountains.
Covering 1.5 million hectares, this is a very large protected area of rainforest. The park has also won records for wildlife richness.
However, guests are not actually permitted inside the national park itself. This is not much of a problem as the tropical forest of the Manu Reserved Zone and surrounding rainforest offers very similar wildlife. A particularly great area of Manu to visit along with the Reserved Zone is the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve.
The Manu region is famous for macaw claylicks to see different colorful parrots. You can also find tapir licks to spot the Amazon’s largest land mammal and beautiful lakes to see giant otters.
To experience the Manu region, you can choose the Manu Adventurer:
The Yasuni National Park
Known as the jewel in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest, the Yasuni National Park offers some incredible wildlife opportunities and beautiful views.
Yasuni National Park is a UNESCO-listed protected area containing around one million hectares of lowland Amazon Rainforest.
Enjoy some fantastic wildlife spectacles, such as several different monkeys, colorful birds, pink river dolphins and much more.
To visit Yasuni National Park, you will arrive at the gateway jungle town of Puerto Francisco de Orellana (El Coca). From here, you will travel down the Napo River which passes by the park.
There are some excellent lodges and cruises to choose for Yasuni National Parks visits. For a luxury-class and community-owned lodge positioned inside the park, we recommend the Napo Wildlife Center.
To experience the Yasuni National Park region, you can choose from the following lodges. The Sacha Lodge is in a private reserve by the Yasuni National Park and Napo Wildlife Center is positioned inside Yasuni National Park itself:
The Anavilhanas Reserve
As part of the largest protected area in the Amazon, the Anavilhanas Reserve is a section of the UNESCO listed Central Amazon Ecological Corridor.
The region is home to all the iconic animals of Amazonia. This particular section is mostly famous for hundreds of river islands made by the constant movement of the Amazon River.
Wildlife to see on cruises include pink river dolphins, colorful macaws, caiman crocodilians and different monkeys.
To explore the region, we recommend the Tucano Amazon Cruise, which departs from Manaus, Brazil. Aboard the Tucano, enjoy guided expeditions through the rainforest to find fascinating animals and plants.
To experience the central Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, you can choose the Tucano Expedition cruise:
The Cristalino Reserve
One of the most species-rich sections of Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, the Cristalino Reserve is an excellent example of Amazon.
Located near the gateway town of Alta Floresta, this is a fantastic place to experience the rainforest.
The Cristalino Reserve is at the meeting point of the Amazon and the Pantanal, which is itself a wildlife-rich environment. This means the region has a very high diversity of animals and plants, including many species not found elsewhere in Amazonia.
Enjoy guided tours of the reserve to find several different monkeys, colorful birds, fascinating reptiles, and hopefully some lesser seen Amazonian life.
This reserve also backs on to a giant area of other protected areas. When taken together, this protected area mosaic covers over 2 million hectares of Amazon Rainforest.
To visit the Cristalino Reserve, you can enjoy a stay at the recommended Cristalino Lodge, which offers a luxury experience of the Amazon Rainforest in very comfortable suites.
To experience the Cristalino Reserve, you can choose the Cristalino Lodge:
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is another fantastic protected area near Iquitos in northern Peru.
Backing on to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve mentioned above, the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve contains a fantastic assemblage of animals and plants.
The reserve in as an especially great area to see several different monkeys and birds. Head into the rainforest with your skilled guide to find howler monkeys, saki monkeys, titi monkeys, tamarins and pygmy marmosets.
For birds, over 600 species have been found in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo including cotingas, tanagers, macaws, herons, hoatzins, toucans and more.
To visit the reserve, you can stay at the Tahuayo Lodge, which offers private guides, custom itineraries and two different lodges including the Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center. Explore the forest on guided walks, canoe experiences and boating around the reserve.
To experience the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve, you can choose the Tahuayo Lodge:
The rainforest gateways are often villages or towns located near areas to experience the Amazon Rainforest. These are usually ports of Amazon tributaries where you will travel on the river to your rainforest lodge or board your Amazon River cruise.
The best gateways you choose depend on whether you would like a rainforest lodge or a rainforest river cruise experience. It also depends on how long you are planning to visit the rainforest and where else you plan on visiting.
We will also provide the recommended tours, lodges and cruises for having the best experience of the Amazon Rainforest.
If you’re interested in an Amazon River cruise, you will need to visit a port of the Amazon. These include El Coca in Ecuador, Iquitos in Peru and Manaus in Brazil.
Here are some recommended ports of the Amazon to enjoy a cruise with our recommended Amazon River cruises.
El Coca in Ecuador
El Coca provides a gateway to visit Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest including the fantastic Yasuni National Park.
Iquitos in Peru
Iquitos is a port city of the Amazon River in northern Peru to visit the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
Manaus in Brazil
Manaus provides a great gateway to experience the Central Amazon Ecological Corridor and Anavilhanas Reserve.
For rainforest lodges, which gateway you visit really depends on what you would like from the experience.
The recommended rainforest lodges offer some of the best guides in the Amazon Rainforest, comfortable accommodation, good food, and are located in areas with abundant wildlife.
However, some lodges provide better experiences for short stays or beffer chances of seeing specific animals.
For example, if you would like to see pink river dolphins, you may wish to enjoy a lodge from Iquitos in Peru.
If you would like to see macaw parrots and higher chances of seeing jaguar, you may prefer a lodge from Puerto Maldonado in Peru.
If you would like to prioritise luxury combined with abundant wildlife, you may like to choose El Coca in Ecuador, Alta Floresta in Brazil, Iquitos in Peru or Puerto Maldonado in Peru.
El Coca in Ecuador
From El Coca, you can enjoy rainforest lodges inside and near the fantastic Yasuni National Park in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest.
Alta Floresta in Brazil
Alta Floresta is a fantastic gateway to visit the rainforest of southern Brazil, which is one of the most well studied areas of Brazilian rainforest.
Iquitos in Peru
Iquitos in northern Peru provides a fantastic experience for deep rainforest lodges, such as visiting the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
Puerto Maldonado in Peru
Puerto Maldonado is a great rainforest gateway to visit Tambopata National Reserve. This is an especially great base town for short 2 and 3-day tours and deep rainforest lodges to see macaw claylicks.