Adventure in the Peruvian Amazon

Peru was my first destination when I set out to travel long-term two years ago. While there, I toyed with the idea of going to the Amazon. It seemed like it could be a cool adventure, but it scared me because it was a little too outside of what I was comfortable with, so I skipped it. I was honestly afraid that if I went, I would come face to face with a killer snake or contract a deadly parasite and die. I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s how my mind worked then.

I returned to Peru after 15 months of long-term travel. This time, I was still a bit timid but a little more open to trying new things than when I first started traveling. My friend, a Peruvian local, asked me if I wanted to go to the Amazon with her. I agreed to go with her because by this time in my journey I began to understand that experiences that stretch your comfort are often the best ones. I was also really excited to experience something that would likely be super unique and different.

Girl wearing black and white tank top, sitting on top of a wooden boat while floating down the Peruvian Amazon River. Green grass and trees in the background. The start of an Amazon Adventure.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and covers 40% of South America—stretching across 9 countries. My friend and I visited the Peruvian part of the Amazon. We flew into the city of Iquitos where we took a boat down the Amazon river to get to our lodge deep inside the jungle.

On our boat ride down the river, we could only hear the flow of the river, birds chirping and trees blowing in the wind. The air smelt like grass and flowers mixed with a fiery musk, which I loved. Everything felt so tranquil and the rest of the world, along with any worries that I had, felt distant.

As we rode down the river, our guide quietly spoke about the different wildlife that lived there. The animals that he spoke about included fish (like the Parana!), snakes (ahem, the Anaconda), and pink dolphins (yes, pink).

In addition to its interesting animals, the Amazon has a fascinating culture. The people that lived in the region close to Iquitos seemed to place less importance on comfort and more on co-existing with nature. If something can’t be produced by natural elements, then it’s rarely used.

 

Peruvian Amazon River where adventure takes place. Dark brown dirt that forms a small beach which leads to the Peruvian Amazon River. Green trees and grass shown on sides of picture.

After about two hours riding down the river in a wooden boat, we arrived at our lodge. The walls of the lodge were made of wood and the roof was made of straw. There were small holes in the walls between the bedroom and outdoors. The shower head in the bathroom fell off frequently, exposing a large hole in its place. Our lodge was hostel-style—there were four beds lined up in a row and draped with mosquito nets. Electricity only worked for three hours a day and there was no wi-fi connectivity because we were too deep in the jungle to have service. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was sufficient. 

I went to the bathroom as soon as we settled into our lodge saw a giant tarantula next to the toilet. When I think of a Tarantula, horror comes to mind. I’m usually not afraid of spiders but the tarantula is a staple symbol in many things related to horror: from Halloween decorations to scary movies. I mistakenly thought that a Tarantula bite could kill a person and was a bit freaked to be so close to one. I later learned that Tarantula’s are harmless and rarely attack. If they do attack, then their venom isn’t strong enough to kill a human. I even held one later in the day, which lasted 2 seconds before I screamed and asked my tour guide to take it off of me. I didn’t like the creepy-crawly sensation.

 

Girl on an adventure in the Peruvian Amazon. Holding a sloth monkey who has his arms around her shoulders and his eyes open. The background is the Peruvian Amazon with green grass and palm trees. The sun is shining bright.

After arriving at our lodge, we went on a daytime walk through the jungle. There was a constant sheet of mosquitos flying around us, looking for their next meal, and it got even more intense when we entered the jungle brush. The Amazon is hot—usually around 90°F—but we had to cover with clothes from head to toe because if one part of us was exposed, then the mosquitos would bite. We also had to wear thick boots so that if we stepped on something venomous, the bite would have less of a chance of piercing our skin.

On our walk, we saw adorable Sloths. Sloths have the cutest faces that look like they’re smiling all of the time. We were able to hold them and when we did, their claws dug deep into our backs. Holding one felt like cradling a baby with strong nails. We also ate grub worms (beetle larvae). The locals like to eat them straight off the tree that they grow in because they taste best when fresh. We tried some and it was a bit jarring to eat something that was alive before it entered my mouth, but they actually tasted good—like coconut flavored candy.

 


Picture of girl and man in the Peruvian Amazon. Man is holding machete and jokingly wants to kill her.

At night, my group decided to trek through the jungle again. I was nervous to go into the jungle at night because it seemed like a time when terrible things could happen. I also didn’t like the idea of not being able to see anything that could potentially be dangerous very well…but I wanted to experience as much as possible, so I joined them. As we walked through the jungle at night, we could hear the noises of mysterious animals and could barely see anything. As my heavy boots moved from puddle to puddle of murky dark water, my knees weakened in fear and I quickly regretted my decision to join the group. I told myself to just focus and walk and that it would all be over soon.

Thirty minutes into the walk, our guide yelled with intensity and pushed us away. We were next to one of the deadliest creatures in Peru—a Lancehead snake—and he was ready to attack. I should mention that I am terrified of snakes and seeing one was my number one fear when I decided to go to the Amazon. Our tour guide grabbed his machete and killed the snake in front of us with one quick swipe. A sense of calm shock took hold of me and I stood still as the scene unfolded.

After this happened, we decided to leave the brush as quickly as possible. We had a bit of distance to backtrack before we could exit. Our guide was so rattled by the incident that he got us lost. Turns out, this snake was responsible for killing our guide’s brother.  The Amazon isn’t a place that you’d want to get lost in at any time, especially not at night. After what felt like an eternity, we finally found our way back to safety. When we exited the brush and returned to our cabin, the bubble of calm shock that was protecting me shattered and I let out an enormous scream.

Monkey on top of girl, who is in a boat and riding down the Peruvian Amazon river.

We tried to get some sleep, but it was impossible. Animal noises amplify in the Amazon at night and I was very aware of the wildlife that surrounded us. We could hear animals slithering, crawling, and clawing around our cabin all night long.

The next day, we woke at 3 AM so that we could see the sunrise over the Amazon river. We then boarded a boat and rowed down the river while it was pitch black. We stopped to view hundreds of glow worms that sat on lily pads and glowed a bright green light. It was a magical sight to see. 

We stopped in the center of the river to watch the sunrise. It was incredible to see the jungle slowly shift from night to day and to hear birds chirping to signal the new day. After the sun rose, we jumped into the river and swam around in an area that our guide deemed “safe” to swim in. I was skeptical of what was lying underneath the pitch-black water but decided to turn my worries off and just enjoy.

After our dip in the river, we rode our boat some more and stopped in front of a family of monkeys that were sitting on a tree. The guide enticed the monkeys with bananas and they jumped into our boat to join us for the ride. They stayed with us for about twenty minutes.

Man on a boat while floating down the Peruvian Amazon River while the sun is setting. Sky is blue, orange, yellow and red. The man is on an adventure in the Peruvian amazon.

After a day of Amazon exploration by boat, we stopped in the center of the river to watch the sunset in the same way that we watched it rise. As we sat and watched the sunset, we saw about five pink dolphins jumping up and down in the river. We heard that there were pink dolphins in the Amazon before our trip and were hoping to catch a glimpseso we were really happy to see them.

As our second day in the Amazon came to a close, we rode back to our lodge and collapsed into hammocks that were hanging in front of it when we arrived. While lying in the hammocks, we re-capped the incredible two days that we had. I have never before in my life been exposed to so many different and wonderful things. My experience in the Amazon was scary because it was different, but it was, without a doubt, one of the best experiences of my life.

 

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Heather

    This is beautiful! I spent 3 weeks in Peru last year and had planned to return this year to see the Amazon – your description of all the animals and wildlife reminds me of so many places in the world I’ve stayed and shared rooms with all kinds of creatures. Great read!

    1. Jess

      It’s great that you were able to spend three weeks in Peru last year! I live here for half of the year now and love it. The Amazon is definitely a really cool place, I hope that you’re able to re-schedule your trip once COVID-19 settles down!

  2. Travelling Tam

    Aw this looks incredible. I did this in Peru and also a pampas trip in Bolivia which I think was the most incredible trip of my life. It was fun ny how different the Amazon was in two different countries. I loved cruising on the wooden boat at night and watching the sunset and the nocturnal wildlife come alive. Good times. I cant wait ti go back to Peru one day!

    1. Jess

      I would LOVE to go to pampas! I’ve only experienced the Amazon in Peru and I actually assumed that it was the same in every country. Cruising on a wooden boat and watching the sunset/sunrise was so absolutely incredible for me too, I agree!

  3. Amber

    This trip looks and sounds incredible. I had to do a double take when I saw the photo of you holding the sloth and arm in arm with a monkey like the best of friends :’)

    1. Jess

      Thank you!! Haha the sloth was ADORABLEE!

  4. Karen

    I’ve enjoyed the mountains of Peru but not much time in the Amazon yet so was interested in all you did. That sloth photo can melt you.

    1. Jess

      Thanks, the mountains in Peru are great … so is the Amazon! I highly recommend it if you ever go back to Peru. Yes, sloths are adorable creatures.

  5. Shany

    WOW! What an amazing experience. Peru is one of my top bucket list destinations, it seems like there’s so much to do there. Thank you for sharing your amazing experience!

    1. Jess

      There’s definitely a ton to do in the Amazon! I’d love to go back and see more.

  6. Diane Evans

    This sounds like an amazing adventure! I can completely understand where it seemed a little intimidating at first, it would for me as well. But it sure sounds like it was worth it. LOVE the photos!

    1. Jess

      It was very intimidating but so worth it. Thanks for the kind comment!

  7. I LOVE that you visited the Amazon! It’s been on my bucket list for some time. Also, it’s so inspiring that you overcame your fear of visiting. Some of those thoughts go through my head too. It seems like you had a beautiful experience, thanks for sharing!

    1. Jess

      Thanks, I was definitely afraid, and to be honest, I’d probably be afraid to go back again (but really want to go back, anyway!). I appreciate the comment! 🙂

  8. Jessica Pascoe

    This is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember – my last experience visiting Peru was to do the Machu Pichu trail so this is something completely different – looks like a real adventure!

    1. Jess

      That’s cool that you were able to do Machu Pichu. One thing that I really like about Peru is that you can do so many different types of things.

  9. Kiara

    This trip looks and sounds amazing! Especially that it was you expanding your experience with a local friend. I loved that you got to interact with the animals while there.

    1. Jess

      Thanks for the comment, yes, it was incredible!

  10. I love the Peruvian Amazon and also vividly remember cuddling sloths, monkeys, and pink river dolphins. I was back in the Amazon in February but unfortunately not in an area with such amazing wildlife.

    1. Jess

      That’s great that you were able to see so much cool wildlife, too! There are definitely a few different areas of the Amazon, as you say…and some don’t have as great of a wildlife scene as others.

  11. Krista

    This looks amazing. I have always wanted to travel to Peru!

    1. Jess

      Thanks for the comment, it was incredible. I hope that you’re able to travel to Peru some day too. 🙂

  12. Smith Mitchell

    Your photos are gorgeous! I’m impressed, this is a wonderful place! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jess

      Thanks so much for the kind words!

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