Wet and Dry Season in the Amazon Rainforest
Which season should a traveler choose when planning an Amazon River cruise? Rainforest Cruises examines the characteristics of both wet and dry Amazon Cruise seasons below:
The Amazon is known for two seasons, the flooded and the dry season. Both offer rich rewards, fabulous sights, amazing opportunities to view plant and animal life, hot weather and some rainy days.
The Amazon basin is rich, lush, and green because it receives an abundance of rain (12ft / 4m a year on average). In a typical year, that adds up to 200 rainy days, which means that there will be days of heavy rain even in the dry season.
Two key points to remember as you choose between the Amazon in flooded season or in dry season: there will be guaranteed rain whichever season you choose, and you will see spectacular wildlife and plant life, whether you go in wet or dry season.
Cruising the Amazon in the Flooded Season:
Our Flooded Season runs from December through April - summer and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. It is our cooler and wet season, but keep in mind that we get only a little more than half (60%) of our total rainfall during the flooded season, and it is hot in the Amazon any time of year. During the flooded season the average temperature is 86 degrees Fahrenheit, 12 degrees cooler than in the dry season.
What is important to note is that much of the increase in water levels during the 'wet' season is a result of rain in the Andean highlands running off into the tributaries of the Amazon River, rather than a large increase in rainfall in Amazonia.
There are great benefits to traveling at this time of year. Perhaps most important, the rivers and streams are about 23 feet (7 meters) higher, meaning that every river, creek and lake is navigable. You will get to explore more of the waterways of Amazonia, and will have access to plant life and wildlife areas that you might miss during the dry season.
Also, that extra 23 feet puts travelers much closer to the jungle canopy, where monkeys play and our beautiful Amazon birds like to roost. In fact, you are very likely to see many more mammals, both monkeys and others, during the flooded season. During the high-water season many riverine plants fruit and flower, making observation of birds and monkeys along the rivers edge a bit easier as they feast upon the abundance of tropical fruits and blooms.
Increased navigability by water has the flip side that areas to walk and hike are limited at this time, and if we do find usable hiking trails, there will be more mosquitoes than in the dry season. Fishing is more limited during these months too, but you still have close to a 50% chance to get out your rod and reel and make a catch.
Cruising the Amazon in the Dry Season:
The Dry Season in Amazonia coincides with our winter in the Southern Hemisphere (from June to December). This is the warmer season, with temperature averaging about 98 degrees Fahrenheit, and, despite its name, the dry season still gets some heavy rains.
A key difference is that trails and jungle paths that are flooded from December to May are now easily accessible, allowing groups to explore deep in the jungle by foot (accompanied by fewer mosquitoes than during the flooded season).
The flip side of that, however, is that water levels are about 23 feet lower from June to November, which means that many of the creeks and lakes that we visit during the flooded season are inaccessible.
Lower water levels, however, can be a bonus in other ways. During these months it is much easier to spot snakes and lizards, and fishing is much easier - you'll do well not to catch a piranha! And while the lower river levels mean that you are farther from the birds that roost in the jungle canopy, you will have the chance to see dozens of species of migratory birds in flight, something you would completely miss during the flooded season.
The dry season is a time when the waters are at their shallowest, but with its charms. In the low water, fish concentrate in the shallows by the millions to spawn. During this period, fish attract every type of tropical fishing bird including storks and spoonbills. The Amazon's crocodilian, Caiman, are also much in evidence as they nest in the dry season, taking advantage of the abundance of fish.
Weather in Iquitos, Peru
Summer in Iquitos (November - May) is rainy and humid. In May, the Amazon river that surrounds Iquitos reaches it’s highest point. Winter in Iquitos offers a different climate, sunny days and nice weather, with an average of 90 F (32 C). Iquitos regularly has microclimates, meaning, rain can be present in one area of the city, and sunshine in another. Lastly, Iquitos suffers from a phenomenon called “urban heat island.” It’s where heat has difficulty dissipating into the night hours, since the urban climate of Iquitos, is hotter than the natural climate of the Amazon jungle. Read Weather in Iquitos- What to Expect in the Peruvian Jungle, for more information.
Weather in Manaus, Brazil
Manaus is located close to the Amazon River Basin and the Amazon Rainforest, so has a primarily wet tropical climate or equatorial climate, also known as a tropical monsoon climate. It is surrounded by water, and has a beautiful harbour, making it a perfect place to catch your Amazon cruise. While it has two seasons, as mentioned above, aside from the rain the temperature fluctuates very little. Manaus' main river, the Rio Negro, is the largest blackwater river in the world, as well as being the largest tributary of the Amazon, and can flood when there is a lot of rain in the region.
Interestingly, Manaus doesn't get as hot as other parts of Brazil, like Rio for instance that can reach 40°C, Manaus never gets much over 33°C. Manaus receives a lot more rain that the Eastern section of the Amazon, so be prepared for rain even if you are travelling in the dry season. In Manaus, you need to be prepared for all eventualities, so be sure to pack appropriate light and breathable clothing as well as waterproof garmets. Read Weather in Manaus- What to expect in the Brazilian Amazon for more information.
The Bottom Line
If seeing our glorious flooded forest and getting close-up views of birds and mammals (and enjoying a slightly cooler temperature) sounds attractive, then the flooded season might be the best choice. (Remember: despite its name it only gets about 10% more rain than falls in the dry season).
If jungle hikes, seeing exotic migratory birds perch on trees as they pass through Amazonia, still having the chance to see monkeys and other mammals, and going on great fishing expeditions top your list, you might be happier choosing the hotter, less rainy, dry season.
Perhaps the best solution of all: choose a trip at a time that fits in with your schedule, and we are sure that you will like it so much that you will want to return to experience the other season in the Amazon as well.
Get in touch with Rainforest Cruises in order to plan your tour of the Amazon in either the wet or dry season! Contact Us