There are numerous facts to consider when trying to determine which Amazon cruise or tour to do and now there are many options to pick from. What factors should you consider when deciding which is the best option for you?
* Would you like to get an in-depth experience or do you just need to get a “taste” in the jungle?
* How many days do you want to remain in the jungle?
* Are you only going to the jungle or are you currently considering planning to other areas? (Machu Picchu, Rio, Galapagos, etc.)
* How active would you like to be?
* Do you have specific things you should do in the jungle, that the package tour might not offer?
Some people just need to get an idea about what the jungle is like. For them, a 3 day lodge stay or cruise might suffice. Which will allow them 1 full day inside the jungle, because the 1st and last days are usually mostly for travel through the airport and back to the airport. They shouldn’t anticipate seeing much wildlife or primary jungle though because they’re just not receiving far enough away from the cities and nearby people. For instance, Manaus has about 1.5 million inhabitants, so you have to get pretty far out of the city to feel like you are in a wilderness area.
People who want to really get yourself a feel for the jungle have to stay longer. It usually takes a couple of days for people to wind down to the rhythm in the jungle and you need to get into many different ecosystems so that you stand an improved chance of seeing more species of plants and animals.
A lot of people think “Brazil” when thinking about the Amazon Basin, but it is also in Peru, Ecuador, and many other countries. You can have good experiences in those countries, so you don’t must fly all over South America to see the Amazon, unless you do have a special reason. If you want to visit Machu Picchu, then you might as well do an Amazon trip in Peru. If you want to view the Galapagos, then do an Amazon trip in Ecuador.
Don’t just rely on pretty brochures or websites. I had been told by way of a local that certain particular lodge inside the Iquitos area was probably the prettiest one there – but their guides had all been fired from other lodges. Among the cruise companies shows a variety of boats on their website, only one is now kept up for regular cruises. Another lodge looks nice on the website, however the service has deteriorated badly and the buildings have gotten run down. Another gives you great interaction with the local Indians, but those Indians also still hunt, so you won’t see much wildlife around there.
Alcoholism is an issue within the Amazon and guides aren’t immune from that problem. I remember reading many trip reports years back, where people stated that the guide they hired knew a great deal regarding the jungle, but he would get drunk at nighttime and would go following the female clients and wouldn’t bother with cooking dinner, so they needed to fend on their own. I had been recently saddened to learn that among the top guides in the Peruvian Amazon, one who was the topic of several videos about jungle survival, etc., had been fired, as he had become an alcoholic. His father had been one of the top guides, but he suffered the same fate. Good operators count on repeat business and word of mouth marketing advertising, so that they can’t manage to keep guides which will cause pr problems.
A good guide can make a big difference on the jungle trip. Should you walk into the jungle by yourself, all you will see is really a sea of green plants and a symphony of sounds. A good guide knows what all of those different plants are and what uses they have. He can tell what exactly is making those sounds, their relationship for the plants in the region and where to search for them. They have an uncanny eye for spotting seemingly invisible things. I recall an evening walk where we switched off our flashlights and were in the dark, but our guide somehow spotted a big black spider on the tree trunk. So he can turn a monotone experience into a Technicolor experience. Just like in any business, a great guide can command an improved salary compared to a trainee, so don’t expect to be with a top guide should you go on the cheapest trip you can find. (the weather requires a toll on buildings and boats, so low budget operations are probably not planning to have well-maintained facilities either. From the same token, the cheaper lodges can also be often close to the city, so they are certainly not in areas which can be as pristine or that have the maximum amount of wildlife.)
Airports at Amazon gateways including Iquitos and Manaus was once havens for scam artists. They knew that many people would arrive without any reservations and so would offer exciting trips at low prices, nevertheless they often times would not deliver the things they had promised. The governments will work hard to try and eliminate these kinds, but they can still be a difficulty for unsuspecting budget travelers.
Most travel agencies will provide some of the most highly marketed cruises or lodge stays offering the activities that they think a lot of people might like to do, but in order to camp or kayak or do anything out of the ordinary, then you will need to look elsewhere since most travel agencies tend to be more informed about mass market locations, like Las Vegas, Cancun and Disneyland compared to they tjxdwn about specialized Amazon trips. Some of the highly marketed properties are like big resorts in the jungle. If that’s what you’re interested in, then fine. However, many people want some thing intimate and authentic and less intrusive. So it’s better to contact a person who has more expertise in the kind of trip that you are interested in.