River Cruising Is One Of The Hottest Travel Trends Out There... And It’s One Of The Best Ways To See The Amazon
Forget about piling your rucksack onto your back and sweating as you trek through the jungle. Today there is an altogether easier way to come face to face with some of the most unique animals on the planet: River cruising. It’s certainly easier on the legs, and let’s face it – it really gets you into the very heart of all the wildlife action.
Stretching across some nine countries – Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana – the Amazon encompasses an incredible 1.4 billion acres of dense forest and is home to half of the earth’s remaining tropical forests.
This clearly makes the area an important refuge for endangered species, and it is said that 10 per cent of the world’s known species can be found in the Amazon. This staggering diversity places the region at the very top of the bucket list of wildlife-lovers from around the globe – as it provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience to get up close and personal with some of the planet’s most precious inhabitants.
Amazon river dolphins, which are also known as pink river dolphins or ‘boto’, are found throughout much of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela. According to the legend, the boto turn from man to dolphin and back again – changing their shape at will.
Among the five species of river dolphins, pink dolphins are considered the most intelligent, with brain capacities 40 per cent larger than that of humans! These friendly and social creatures have been living for centuries in the Amazon and its tributaries, but the accelerated destruction of the Amazon Basin is threatening them.
Pink river dolphins are classified as vulnerable in certain areas due to the dams that have fragmented the population. The rise in the levels of mercury has also caused and increased number of deaths among pink dolphins.
When it comes to taking it easy, the sloth could win some major awards. It is so sedentary that algae actually grow on its furry coat! Quite cleverly though, this greenish tint that is useful as camouflage in the rainforest.
These incredibly cute creatures spend some 15 to 20 hours sleeping every day, and even when they are awake, they are mostly motionless. They get a little livelier at night, when they eat leaves, shoots and fruit.
They also have an advantage that few other mammals possess: They have extra neck vertebrae that allows them to turn their heads some 270 degrees.
If you are very, very, VERY lucky, you may spot a black jaguar.
Heartbreakingly, there are only 600 black jaguars left in the wild. At the top of the food chain, the jaguar’s role is to keep a balance in the ecosystem – it regulates the population sizes of species such as capybara and caiman, thus ensuring the delicate balance of the natural habitat.
The black jaguar has a killing technique that is unique among the big cats. It has a very powerful bite and actually pierces the skull of its prey. In the case of reptilian prey like turtles, the jaguar's extraordinarily powerful jaws can crush the shell.
On a lighter note, this incredible big cat is oddly enough fond of water. It likes to swim – not just to pursue prey, but to play too.
Yes, whereas it’s easy to be blown away by all the incredible wildlife-viewing opportunities on an Amazon river cruise, it’s important to remember the people of the region. Almost 70 tribes are known to live in the forest, and it is still believed that there are still un-contacted tribes out there.
Many river cruises provide the opportunity for travellers to visit the less-isolated communities along the Amazon Basin. So head ashore to see unique shamanic ceremonies or visit a local market.