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Things to Do on an Amazon River Tour

  |   Cruise Tips

An Amazon River tour in and of itself is exhilarating. Aboard a classically crafted ship you sail into the depths of the Amazon jungle, gliding along water underneath which an entirely new world exists. Sounds of life rustle from within the lush rainforest surrounding you, and it’s impossible to forget that what lies beyond your gaze goes far beyond your wildest imagination. An Amazon River cruise brings you up close to it all, but the real adventure begins when we step off the ship. From canoeing out on a subsidiary river to fish for piranhas, to trekking through the jungle in search of larger wildlife, the Amazon is just waiting to be explored. 


Things to do on an Amazon River Tour


For Wildlife Lovers

Those with a passion for flora and fauna will find this untamed habitat a wildlife lover’s playground. With all excursions led by knowledgeable local guides, conservation and education is prioritized when bringing travelers into the Amazon. Intimate encounters will highlight each day, whether it be with a tame and cuddly mammal or larger-than-life reptile. 


Amazon Jungle Walks Clay Licks

1. Jungle Walks

Pull on your rubber boots, throw on your khaki clothing, and trade in the relaxing ambiance of your Amazon river tour for an hour or two of on-the-ground adventuring. Jungle walks are always a great introduction when beginning a cruise, as our passionate guides are eager to acquaint guests with the element they are entering. 


Learn about medicinal plants used by natives, dangerous flora to be aware of, and the different creatures that call this rainforest home. The silence of the Amazon is only broken by bird calls, twigs gently snapping until animals, and leaves crushed by our own feet- to say a jungle walk is an immersive experience is an understatement! 



Manatee Rescue Center

2. Visits to Rescue Centers

As with any precious natural environment, conservation is key. As local governments combat logging, poaching, and other threats to the Amazon, many organizations have created rescue centers for rehabilitating Amazonian animals, and many Amazon river cruises offer options to visit one (or several) of them. 


One popular attraction in Iquitos, Peru is the Manatee Rescue Center, where guests can learn about different protected species currently at the facility, and finish the tour by feeding rescued manatees. All proceeds go to conservation efforts and keep the center alive. Peru Amazon tours often make a stop at the Manatee Rescue Center, before or after their cruise itinerary. 


In addition to stage-one rehabilitation centers like the Manatee Rescue Center, many Amazon river tours will also pass second stage centers located outside of the cities, deeper within the rainforest. These are where animals are brought after returning to health at rescue centers, and begin transitioning back to life in the rainforest as a wild animal, before being fully released. 


Mammals such as monkeys and sloths roam freely, along with birds such as parrots and toucans. Because the dense rainforest can sometimes make it difficult to spot all of these animals in the wild, any visit to a rescue center like this will be a wonderful opportunity for anybody passionate about witnessing these animals in their natural habitat and learning more about efforts to protect them. 



Pink River Dolphins

3. Swimming with Pink River Dolphins

You may have heard that the Amazon is home to a special species of pink river dolphins. Yes, actually pink. In fact, these incredible pink dolphins are actually one of several species you may spot riding the waves of your Amazon river tour. A popular activity for any trip to the Amazon is swimming in the Amazon river itself with pink dolphins, something you can’t experience anywhere else. 



Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

4. Visit a National Park

The Amazon rainforest is full of national parks and designated protected areas that offer remarkable natural formations, incredible biodiversity, or both. Amazon river cruises in Peru sail through the pristine Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, home to a stunning array of birds and butterflies, and a protected collection of flora and fauna amongst the most diverse in the entire Amazon. 


In Brazil, the Anavilhanas Archipelago is a breathtaking site. This complex of over 400 unique islands in the middle of the Amazon river offers something different to explore with each season, as water levels change drastically. Similarly to Peru cruises, many Brazil Amazon cruises pass through this wonder.     


The Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is another notable national park, whose 2.5 million untouched acres of wilderness are home to varied landscapes and Amazonian tribes. 



stand up paddle boarding in the Amazon

For Adventure Sport Enthusiasts

Like with many incredible natural environments, the Amazon river and rainforest make for prime adventure sport opportunities. From the water to the depths of the jungle, active travelers will find plenty to do here. 


1. Stand-up Paddle Boarding

Stand-up paddle boarding is a great way to stay active wherever you are, but guests on certain Amazon river tours may be able to paddle board directly off of their ship! Glide along the calm waters of subsidiary rivers, and bask under the warm sun as you get your blood pumping. 


While venturing alone into the jungle certainly isn’t recommended, paddle boarding off the ship is a great way to take in the scenery with a moment alone. (Of course, bringing your friends and family along makes for a great excursion, too!). The Delfin I Amazon River cruise in Peru, offers stand-up paddle boarding during all of its itineraries. 



2. Kayaking

While we love the countless amenities found aboard river cruise ships these days, any larger boat can only get so close to certain natural features worth exploring. Kayaking is a great way to easily (and actively!) bridge the gap and explore the waters that larger ships can’t. 


Kayak through dense mangrove forests, or coast along waterways between villages as the locals do. Early morning sunrises and bird watching can be done as you sit, perched atop the water, minimally interfering with the atmosphere around you. And when you’ve explored all you can, hunker back onto the cruise ship and let it cover the bigger distances. 



3. Run a Marathon

Admittedly this isn’t an activity Amazon River tours- but it’s an option! Every year a jungle marathon takes place in the middle of the Brazilian rainforest, and runners have the chance to battle the elements on a multiple-day journey to the finish line. Naturally, most competitors are eager to spend a few days unwinding afterwards, which is where cruises come in. If running a marathon in the Amazon is calling your name, plan your Amazon river cruise to start the day (and place) the marathon ends for an easy transition into the good life onboard. 



piranha fishing

4. Go Piranha Fishing

Adrenaline-junkies and calmer souls alike will surely have fishing for piranha on their Amazon bucket list, and luckily this popular activity is offered on almost every Amazon river tour. Paddle out in a small canoe to the edge of the river, where your guide will help you set up your bait and lure in one of these feisty fish. The tranquility of the wait will be shortly followed by the excitement of the catch, and seeing a piranha snapping at the end of your line is something you’ll only experience here. Bring back your catch and your cruise’s chef will be happy to grill them up for dinner! (Piranhas are surprisingly tasty). 


For those who don’t want to stop there, consider a fishing-focused Amazon cruise. Piranha are small game compared to what else lies within the Amazon, and a fishing-focused cruise will plan each day’s itinerary around the sport. Expect high-end gear, specialist guides, and many opportunities to learn about species caught here. And many like-minded souls to chat with along the journey. 



Food in the Amazon

For Foodies

If you haven’t heard about the Amazon’s regional cuisine, you can’t possibly know what you’re missing. Each of the countries within which the Amazon lies are known for their own impressive culinary contributions (Peru has even been named the best culinary destination in the world), but the rainforest itself has an entirely unique set of ingredients, cooking styles, cultures, and resulting dishes not found elsewhere. For foodies eager to expand their horizons, an Amazon cruise has got you covered. 


1. Sample Amazonian Dishes

Depending on which country you cruise in, you may find slightly different dishes, though many have similarities more tied to the region than the country. Chefs aboard your Amazon river cruise will offer a mix of local and international dishes- and we recommend you foodies go for the local offerings. And no- it won’t all be piranhas and bugs (although both can be enjoyed in the region... More on that in a bit). 


Fresh ceviches are popular in Ecuador and Peru, with an Amazonian spin on the classic coastal dish. Raw fish straight from the river is marinated in a mixure of citrus and spices, served with a side of plantain chips and salad. In general, you’ll find many refreshing fish dishes here- the Amazon has some of the best in the world. 


Another classic is juane, a mixture of rice and meat rolled into banana leaves typically found in Peru. Many Amazonian dishes are steamed or cooked in banana leaves, which helps trap delicious flavors inside. 



2. Visit Local Markets

Whether it be on a stop to a larger Amazonian city, or on your own extension before your Amazon river cruise begins, local markets in the rainforest are a great way to take in the flavors and ingredients being used, and see exactly what locals are buying. Your guide will be able to point out the exotic items only found here, and help you sample different ones. 


Popular superfruit acai is found here in the Amazon, though the local way of drinking it within the rainforest is as a juice, not a smoothie. Markets often sell acai, so you can drink up and replenish for all of the adventurous activities back on board the cruise! 



Amazon Suri

3. Test Your Limits

Whether it be aboard the cruise ship or during a day excursion in a local market, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to test your limits and experience foods only found in the Amazon. Piranha soup is popular in Brazil, though if anybody on your cruise is able to hook one on the trip, you can eat them right after onboard (there’s always something to catching it yourself, isn’t there?). 


Another adventurous treat is suri, most commonly found in Peru. This grub-like insect is grilled and sold on skewers in Amazonian markets, and a surprisingly popular one amongst the guests who are brave enough to try it. High in protein and low in fat, suri may just be the next Amazonian superfood we’re all told to chase after. 




For Those Seeking New Perspectives

1. Walk the Canopy Bridges

A huge amount of Amazonian life takes place in the treetop canopies of the forest, although this area is often challenging to reach. Luckily, a few areas in Peru have designed canopy walkway systems, which enable travelers to explore amongst the trees and take in dramatic views- with little effort required. Children and adults alike will enjoy walking on these bridges between observation platforms, suspended 25 meters in the air, for an entirely new perspective on the Amazon rainforest. 



Local Community Visit

2. Visit a Local Community

While so much talk of the Amazon is about the flora and fauna, the rainforest is also home to a wealth of diverse Amazonian tribes, many living as they always have (some even remain wholly uncontacted by outsiders). Some communities have decided to share their culture with visitors to the Amazon, and invite groups from cruises to visit them and learn about their lifestyle. For any traveler hungry to learn, this is an unforgettable experience. 


Additionally, it enables tribes to continue their traditional way of life while also earning a living, a delicate balance that responsible guides are working to preserve. 



Whether you plan to run a marathon, share a meal with a local tribe, eat bugs, or fish for piranha, there’s no mistaking that an Amazon river tour will offer more than enough to keep you busy. If you identify as a foodie, an adventure seeker, a cultural learner, all of the above, or anything in between, one thing is for sure- it’s waiting for you in the Amazon. To book an Amazon River tour, please Contact Us, or call 1-888-215-3555

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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.
We had a wonderful time. We were all impressed with the efficiency and organization of the trip from start to finish.
— Jeanette Johannson & Family, USA