The Brazilian Amazon. The very words conjure up the image of an immense network of wild vegetation, waterways and lakes. From the air, this jungle looks impenetrable, and houses a tenth of the world’s plant and animal species, with many more yet undiscovered.
Brazil has the lion’s share of this huge biome, but experiencing its Amazon comes with some caveats. The town of Manaus, the gateway to many rainforest lodges, has gradually encroached on the forest over the years. It’s caused animals to scamper off into the undergrowth to parts where visitors never set foot.
This means that, although staying at northern Amazon lodges can be a great way to get a feel for the rainforest’s ecosystem, if you’re eager to spot wildlife you’re best going to the less developed southern Amazon — specifically, to Cristalino Jungle Lodge.
If you’re in the northern Amazon, your first experience might be setting foot in Manaus: a frontier-like town, with an incongruous (but intriguing) wedding cake of an opera house. You’ll set sail from Manaus for your jungle lodge.
En route, you’ll pass two rivers, the Rio Solimões and the Rio Negro. They merge to form what we know as the Amazon River, which is 10 km (6.2 miles) wide even here, 1,600 km (994 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean.
Their meeting, however, is a little unusual: the yellow waters of the Solimões run alongside the black waters of the Negro for 6 km (4 miles) before converging. Some lodges farther away from Manaus sit right on the Rio Negro: its acidic waters attract fewer mosquitoes.
To stand a chance of seeing more species in the northern Amazon (including several monkey species), you’re best heading to a lodge around three hours from Manaus.
But, even if you stay closer, you’re quickly enveloped in the highly sensory world of the rainforest.
Days begin with the throaty calls of howler monkeys and perhaps the distant chug-chugging of a motorboat, as locals start going about their daily business. As dawn breaks, you can watch sheets of mist rising from the water. At night, you fall asleep to a thousand twangling sounds humming about your ears: the thrum of insects and cries of nocturnal creatures.
Wherever you go, the Amazon is a boon for botanists: you can boat amid giant waterlilies, and take medicinal plant walks with expert guides. They’ll tell you about the healing properties of ginger and kapok trees, among a multitude of other plants.
If your priority is seeing wildlife, you’re best heading to Cristalino Jungle Lodge, in the southern Amazon. You’ll fly to Alta Foresta rather than Manaus, a remote settlement, before journeying deeper into the forest. Cristalino owns a lot of the land it sits on and contributes to reforestation efforts.
Given the lodge’s isolation, wildlife is much more prolific. You’re likely to see four monkey species (squirrel, howler, spider and capuchin) as well as many butterflies and birds, and potentially capybara. If you travel upstream, you might see giant river otters — great hulking beasts that are over double the size of a North American river otter.
The southern Amazon combines well with a trip to Brazil’s northern Pantanal, a wetland region that’s also a wildlife heartland.
Map of the Amazon Rainforest
Places & hotels on the map
Accommodation choices for the Amazon Rainforest
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit the Amazon Rainforest. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.