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7 Animals Seen on an Amazon Cruise

  |   Amazon Facts

When you take an Amazon riverboat cruise you will get to experience South America's vast tropical landscape. Home to the largest tropical Rainforest on Earth, the Amazon Rainforest has the most vibrant and exotic wildlife in the world. 

With Rainforest Cruises you can choose a comfortable cruise package and a destination to suit you, whether it be the unspoiled Peruvian Amazon, the vast mass of the Central Amazon in Brazil, the mystical Ecuadorian Amazon, or the natural landscape of the Bolivian Amazon and the Amazon River, every part of the Amazon is a unique and exciting home to some the most diverse wildlife on the planet. 


Is it easy to see wildlife in its natural environment?

Many people travel to the Amazon Rainforest with expectations of seeing jaguars, anacondas and giant otters swimming around their boat. The truth is that the Amazon is a habitat and animals often disguise themselves for protection from predators. In order to spot wildlife, you need to be very quiet and use each of your senses. Listen to leaves rustling in the trees and you may just see a monkey. Your Amazon cruise guide will help you spot 3-toed sloths, snakes, caiman, pink river dolphins and other unique Amazonian wildlife. 


You may see colorful birds, such as Macaws flying home to roost in the evening. River dolphins can be seen in the tributaries of Pacaya Samiria during feeding time. One must remain calm, be patient, and let the jungle come to one. The experience is not only predicated on sightings of megafauna, but taking in the beauty and magic of the ecosystem itself. And what is certain is that you will see elements of the Natural World that will never be forgotten! 


Animals to Look for on an Amazon Jungle Excursion

Here are seven incredible and unique creatures you may encounter on your cruise through the mighty Amazon. What's so magical about these creatures is their spectacular existence in the Amazon region and being able to see them in their natural habitat, surrounded by the beauty of the Amazon Rainforest.  


1. Pink River Dolphin

Also known as the Amazon River Dolphin, the Pink River Dolphin is one of just three species of dolphin that live in a freshwater habitat. Found in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins, it is usually found in their largest tributaries, lakes and seasonally flooded forests. 

The species is threatened by river development projects, such as hydroelectric and irrigation schemes, which separate rivers and may lead to the species being unable to breed. They are also threatened by the human belief that they have spiritual powers (and so are sometimes hunted for their powers), they often get tangled up with fishing nets, and have been affected by pollution. 

What's so unique about these dolphins is their unusual pinky color, long snouts and big round heads, they also have flexible necks unlike other dolphins, which means they can move their heads from left to right!

The Amazon Prink River Dolphin- Inia geoffrensis 

The Amazon Prink River Dolphin- Inia geoffrensis 

Pink River Dolphin Quick Facts: 

• They are the largest river dolphin species in the world 

• They can weigh up to 350 pounds

• They are also referred to as a “boto” dolphin

• They are endangered/vulnerable 

• They are usually found in groups of 2 to 4, and sometimes on their own


2. Three-toed Sloth

The three-toed sloth is possibly the cutest animal you will ever see, as well as the slowest. Famous for being the world's slowest mammal, the three-toed sloth is so slow that algae grows on its coat, allowing it to blend in and hide from predators in its Amazon Rainforest home. You will be able to spot the three-toed spot by counting the number of toes it has, you may also see a two-toed sloth so get counting!

Found in the treetops of the Amazon Rainforest, these lazy creatures prefer to spend their days hanging by their powerful claws from a tree branch, often sleeping. If you do spot one you may think its asleep, as even when they are awake they barely move. 

During the night you may see more activity from these mammals, who tend to eat fruit, leaves and shoots during the night. If you do see them on land, you will see how clumsy they are, their back legs are so weak that they have to pull them along by digging into the earth with their claws and dragging their bodies along the ground. 

Three-Toed Sloth- Bradypus variegatus

Three-Toed Sloth- Bradypus variegatus

Three-toed Sloth Quick Facts:

• They sleep for 15-20 hours a day

• They mate and give birth while hanging in the trees

• They are great swimmers thanks to their long arms

• They have a very distinctive cry, that sounds a bit like “Ahh-eeee”

• They can turn their heads 270 degrees 


3. Squirrel Monkeys

Squirrel monkeys are the most common monkey found in the Amazon region. They usually live in groups of 10-70, but have been spotted in groups as big as 300! Tree-dwelling squirrel monkeys are mostly shy creatures, that are actually mostly silent. They do sometimes squeak, and will shriek loudly if they are danger.

Most squirrel monkeys can be spotted in the tree canopies of the Amazon Rainforest, but you may be lucky enough to see one on the ground in search of food. You can usually spot a squirrel monkey by its distinctive black lips and white ears. 

Three species of squirrel monkey are endangered, S.o. Oerstedti, S.o. Citrinellus and S. Vanzolinii, but the rest are in good condition. These tiny creatures can be as small as 25 cm (without their tails) so watch for their tails poking out of the trees!

Squirrel Monkey- Saimiri sciureus

Squirrel Monkey- Saimiri sciureus

Squirrel Monkey Quick Facts:

• Their tails can be as long as 17 inches!

• They have a 1:17 brain mass to body mass ratio – the largest, proportionally, of all primates (humans have a 1:35 ratio)

• They use their tail as a balancing pole not for climbing

• Snakes are one of their predators 

• They are omnivores and mostly eat fruits and insects 


4. Black Caiman

The infamous black caiman is the largest predator in the Amazon basin. Known for their black, scaly skin, the black caiman is usually found in the slow-moving rivers and lakes in the Amazon region, as well as in the floodplains of the Amazon Rainforest. 

This giant predator mostly hunts at night, its black body is perfectly camouflaged in the dark of the night's sky and the black of the water. It mostly preys on catfish, piranha, birds, turtles, and capybaras and has big eyes, a narrow snout, and therefore excellent sight and hearing abilities. Large black caimans have been known to kill tapirs, anacondas, jaguars and pumas, and even humans! 

There are plenty of black caimans in the Amazon region, and so they are considered at a “low risk” of extinction, with an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 black caimans in the wild. 

Black Caiman- Melanosuchus niger

Black Caiman- Melanosuchus niger

Black Caiman Quick Facts:

• They can measure up to 20 feet long!

• They can live for up to 80 years

• They use their teeth to grab, and try to swallow their prey after drowning it

• Tales are told in the Amazon about black caimans predation on humans, although tales are often poorly documented


5. Blue and Gold Macaw

The blue and gold macaw is a type of parrot, scientifically known as the Ara ararauna. You won't miss these beautifully-bright feathered creatures, with their blue wings and tail and yellow or gold belly. They also often have a green forehead, a white face and a black beak.

Found across the Amazon Rainforest region, the blue and gold macaw usually live in flocks of up to 100 birds. They mostly feed on fruits, seeds, nuts, leaves and flowers and use their strong beaks to prise open nut shells.  

Famous for their ability to mimic human speech, macaws can copy sounds they hear and repeat sounds, but don't exactly talk. They are very loud birds and you can often hear them screeching in the jungle. Their daily ritual usually involves flying in pairs to their feeding ground and returning to their roosting trees at sunset, a good time to watch them flying. 

Blue and Gold Macaw- Ara ararauna

Blue and Gold Macaw- Ara ararauna

Macaw Quick Facts 

• They can measure up to 3 feet long

• They can have a wingspan of up to 4 feet wide

• Scientists think they mate for life

• Some foods are poisonous to them, including chocolate, avocado and cherries

• They help forest growth by dropping seeds on the ground 

• They can live up to 80 years old

• They can use their incredibly powerful beak as a third leg!


6. Red-Bellied Piranha

While red-bellied piranhas have a reputation as being fearsome predators, the sharp-toothed fish are most likely to feast on other fish, insects, invertebrates and even plants. 

Schools of piranhas can, however, strip flesh from the bones of their prey, including large fish, in minutes, known as a “feeding frenzy”. Although, this usually only occurs when the fish are near starvation, mostly these creatures scavenge for any food they can find in the waters of the Amazon.

Its characteristic red belly, where it gets his name, is hidden by the rest of its body, which is often grey with speckled sliver flecks covering its scales. The red-bellied piranha is usually found in the white water rivers of the Amazon and in the flooded forests, particularly in the Brazilian Amazon.

Red-Bellied Piranha- Pygocentrus nattereri

Red-Bellied Piranha- Pygocentrus nattereri

Red-Bellied Piranha Quick Facts

• They can grow to up to 13 inches

• Breeding season usually takes place in the wet season over a period of two months

• They are known for their aggressive behaviour

• They have triangular-shaped teeth

• They can communicate through low-frequency harmonic sounds 


7. Blue Morpho Butterfly

It's easy to spot the bright Blue Morpho butterfly flap its wings in the canopies of the Amazon Rainforest. Although, it is mostly the males that are bright blue, while some females are not blue at all. 

One of 80 butterfly species found in the Amazon Rainforest, the Blue Morpho butterfly flies quickly between the trees and is most active when the sun is out. The eyes of the Blue Morpho butterflies are highly sensitive to UV light and allows males to see each other from great distances. They are mostly active during the day, and when they sleep at night their hide their blue color by folding their wings in to protect themselves from predators. 

The Blue Morpho butterfly is classed as an endangered species, and so, for this reason, you should get to the Amazon quickly to spot this beautiful, rare butterfly before it's too late!

Blue Morpho Butterfly- Morpho peleides

Blue Morpho Butterfly- Morpho peleides

Blue Morpho Butterfly Quick Facts

• They can measure up to six inches long

• The Blue Morpho butterfly is one of the largest butterflies in the Rainforest

• The bright blue color of the males is to intimidate rivals

• They mostly drink sap and fruit juices instead of food

• They taste with their legs and smell with their antennae


To catch sight of some of these beautiful creatures book up your luxurious and exciting Amazon River Cruise, and explore the lush setting of the one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet. Contact us for more information about booking and choosing your Amazon destination.

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About Rainforest Cruises

Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises and tours, providing you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Panama. As South American travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.


Geri Daniel loved her vacation with Rainforest Cruises.
We had an absolutely fabulous time on the cruise. Thank you again for the trip of a lifetime.
— Geri Daniel, Austin, TX
The Johannson family encounter a sloth on their rainforest cruise.
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