I’m going to be honest with you guys – when I went to visit the Amazon rainforest I didn’t really know what to expect at all. I’m not the kind of traveller to do a bunch of research before I set off as I kind of like to be ‘surprised’ by the places I visit, but I admit I really made a mistake when I didn’t prepare for a visit to the Amazon Rainforest trip before I went. It’s one of those places that there are just some things you can’t go without knowing.
Because the Amazon is such a remote place of the world and is so full of native wildlife, there are a lot of precautions you need to take before and during your trip, especially in terms of health and safety. Here I’ll let you know the basics of what to do to prepare to visit the Amazon, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
What time of year should you visit the Amazon Rainforest?
Which season are you going in, first? Will it be wet or dry season there? It should go without saying, but if it’s wet season, expect rain, and a lot of it (after all, it is a rain forest). Ironically, though, in dry season it scarcely rains in the Amazon rainforest – it’s just hot.
When we went there in January, it was rainy season, so while it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t too hot. The air was humid and it rained a good part of the day.
Stay safe in the amazon rainforest
Many of the townships living in the Amazon are living in extreme poverty and have very few resources. If you’re travelling there as a tourist, you could be seen as an opportunity so it is important to stay aware of your surroundings and don’t trust anyone too easily. Research the town you will be staying in before you go. Leticia in Colombia is nice and welcoming to tourists, but the neighbouring Tabatinga of Brazil and Santa Rosa of Peru are not as safe. Other popular Amazonian towns include Iquitos in Peru and Manaus in Brazil, but there are many other places extending to Bolivia and Ecuador as well. Just do some research and go to places that are marketed to tourists. Wherever you end up, my top tips for staying safe in the Amazon are:
- learn some Spanish (or Portuguese for Brazil) before you go. If you can communicate with locals and understand them you will be less likely to be targeted by opportunists. This article has some ideas of things to learn before you go.
- stay around your hotel or hostel or with your tour guide. Don’t walk around too far on your own. Even in a group with other tourists you are at risk
- keep your phone, camera, and other valuables hidden at all times if you are travelling around town
Is the Amazon still on fire?
The larger forest fires of August 2019 are mostly contained now. However, there are still fires happening in the Amazon. Most forest fires are happening in very remote areas, however. They would not reach the larger towns and cities located in the Amazon rainforest. So these fires should not affect your visit to the Amazon rainforest. However, it is important to stay aware of the volatility of the area and support conservation efforts as much as possible before your trip, as well as during and after it.
If you are worried you now have to rush to visit the Amazon Rainforest before it is all gone, don’t worry. The Amazon rainforest still spans over millions of km² . While deforestation is a huge concern for so many reasons, the Amazon won’t be disappearing any time soon.
Prepare for the Amazon’s diseases
The Amazon is full of mosquitos, especially in the rainy season. Some of the mosquitos carry infectious diseases. Of course, your best bet is to immunise yourself against these diseases completely, which you should do before you leave the country.
Ask a travel doctor which vaccinations you need before travelling – and make sure you do this at least a month in advance. I got Yellow Fever and Tetanus shots before leaving New Zealand. In reality, there are a lot of relevant shots which you can (and should) get.
There is no vaccination for malaria. It is recommended to take malaria tablets for at least two weeks before entering the Amazon and for at least four weeks after leaving. This will prevent you from picking up the disease.
Make sure you buy a strong repellent. Be sure to ask before you buy if it is effective against malaria mosquitos. Active ingredients to look for in mosquito repellent are DEET, IR3535, or Picaridin. An effective repellent will have at least one of these ingredients, but there aren’t really any that contain all of them. Spray it on your whole body before you get dressed and then spray some over top of your clothes, too, just for good measure.
Try to avoid mosquitos as much as possible. If you can use a mosquito net etc, even better. If you’re going to be spending time inside the jungle, be aware that there are huge quantities of mosquitos, especially at night time.
What to Wear in the Amazon Rainforest
Whatever the weather, your best bet is to cover up. You never know which creatures are lurking around in the Amazon rainforest (not to mention the mosquitos), so wear long sleeved shirts or jackets and pants. For wet season, bring a jacket. Case in point: when we were trekking in the rainforest, we got caught in a huge rainstorm. I was the only one in my group who actually had a rain jacket with me (because it was so humid, some people didn’t even think of it). The rivers started to rise and we ended up trekking through waist-deep water in torrential rain. The moral of the story: bring a jacket if you’re going to be in the Amazon during wet season.
My recommended outfit for wet season in the Amazon:
The images are examples of what you need. By clicking on the images you can buy them directly from Amazon (the online store this time, not the rainforest!)
- Long sleeved shirt
- Long, loose pants or rain pants
- Thin waterproof jacket with a hood
Instead of getting those two separately, you could also get this matching pant-and-jacket rain outfitwhich is not only affordable but super cute!
- Gumboots will be provided by your tour operator when you venture into the jungle. If you’re walking around town, simple sneakers or boots should suffice.
For dry season, it is a pretty similar deal. Wear loose, cool clothing that covers up everything.
Planning your Exploring in the Amazon
I love discovering things independently as much as the next person (as you can see in my post on how to travel like a local). But when in the Amazon rainforest, do not go exploring by yourself. Seriously, just don’t. The Amazon is too dense and it is way too easy to get lost there and never be found. Plus, it’s way more fun exploring it with someone who actually knows the ins and outs of the rainforest and can point out which plants might kill you and where to spot the wildlife. Remember, safety first, always!
How to Prepare for the Amazon rainforest activities
My recommendation is not to prepare for the Amazon trip too much by planning too much in advance. Whichever Amazonian town you visit will have its own unique attractions, culturally, in the jungle and on the river. Research the town you will be staying in to see what activities are available and what you’d like to do there. It’s almost impossible to book everything in advance there, so don’t worry too much about that.
For Leticia, Colombia, I recommend Selvaventura tour company, who offer a number of activities, including jungle treks, indigenous village tours, river cruises and more. Our guide was so funny and informative, and had so many stories. The Amazon rainforest was like his backyard.
I don’t really recommend travelling from one town to another, but if you’re thinking of doing that, this is how to take a fast boat in the Amazon (Colombia to Peru).
Top recommendations for things to do in the Amazon rainforest:
It’s no normal bush walk when you go trekking in the Amazon. Everything seems more enhanced in a way – the colours brighter, the flowers bigger. The mere knowing how gigantic everything is, how immense makes it feel so surreal. And the odd snake sliding past or frog watching you isn’t something I’m entirely used to, either.
Spend some time with the indigenous people
We were lucky enough to visit a ‘maloca’ – indigenous name for community hall – while we were in Amazon. As I mention in my post about why you should learn the language of the country you visit, we got to experiment with their substances and hear the ‘abuelo’ (chief) speak about their way of life and the dozens of things they use the maloca for. There are opportunities to camp overnight in some indigenous villages, where you get more of a chance to try their food, learn their dances, and see how they educate their children, play music and look after the elderly. Because they have so many traditions and live so differently to us, it is a worthwhile experience which I would highly recommend.
Speed boat on the river
I’ve talked about “fast boat” in my post about how to get from Leticia, Colombia to Iquitos, Peru by fast boat. In that article, you will see why it is not my recommended activity. But I do recommend hopping in a daytime, open air boat on the Amazon river and being taken around to explore nearby settlements.
Packing List to visit the Amazon Rainforest
Pro tip: pack light! There are not many vehicles in the Amazon rainforest so avoid having a huge luggage as much as possible. Try to pack a smallish backpack filled with only the essentials.
Essentials – do you have all of these?
- Mosquito repellent (2 or 3 bottles)
- A few pairs of light, long pants
- Light rainproof jacket
- A few long-sleeve shirts
- Insect shield jacket
Spontaneous travel is really great, but if you are thinking of visiting the Amazon, make sure you do the necessary research beforehand. It’s really the way to make sure you have the best time and enjoy it as much as possible!
Have you been to visit the Amazon rainforest or are you thinking of going? How do you/did you prepare for the Amazon rainforest? I would love to see your comments!~
If you’re planning to visit the Amazon Rainforest, pin this so you don’t lose the article!
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