The best way to see the Amazon, a huge system of rivers and forests, is by hopping on a tourist riverboat. You'll travel in comfort, enjoying the plush interiors of these boats, which provide you with air conditioning, bathrooms and showers, and buffets of exotic fruits and other treats.
From the jumping off point of Manaus on the Rio Negro, these boats take you upstream to the joining of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes form the Amazon River. Along the river live thousands of animal species including armadillos, river dolphins, spider monkeys, boa constrictors, and jaguars, plus an extensive array of birds and hundreds of species of butterflies.
Because of the dense vegetation, however, it's not always easy to see wildlife from the boat, but you might catch a glimpse of a few creatures, especially birds. Also, the flowers along the way are beautiful and the lillipads are a real treat to see. Plus, you'll get a good view of daily life along the riverbanks.
You'll have an opportunity before you leave Manaus to reserve a spot at one of the various jungle hotels along the way. A particularly intriguing place is the Ariau Amazon Tower Hotel located 35 miles up river from Manaus on the banks of the Ariau River.
Accomodations are basic, but the units are housed on the trees, giving you extraordinary panoramic views. The lodge offers motorized cano trips with multilingual guides, jungle hikes, piranha fishing, bird watching, and alligator spotting.
Once you begin trudging into the Amazon jungle, you'll find an endless carpet of green. You'll be in a tiny portion of an area that covers more than 4 million square miles with 500,00 species of plants and animals and reaches into eight other countries.
Tips and Resources
The rainy season is December to June with high water and better wildlife viewing. From July to November is the drier season, but you can still expect rain, so bring appropriate clothing. The days are hot, but nights can be cool, so bring a sweater.