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How Bad are Bugs in the Amazon?

  |   Health

The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, and while it is impossible to know exactly how many bugs and insects thrive in the region, it is estimated there are about 30 million species in the Amazon Rainforest. Every year, around 10,000 new species of insect are discovered, mostly around the Amazon River basin.  Most bugs can be found in the canopy of the Amazon and live side-by-side with the incredible plant-life of the Amazon, and have done for over 100 million years.

When choosing your Rainforest Cruise it is important to be prepared for the reality of bugs in the Amazon, but you may be pleasantly surprised that bugs aren't always in abundance, and that during certain seasons there are actually fewer bugs. In fact, many cruise passengers don't even notice the bugs, even on their walks through the jungle, thanks to some good trip preparation.  

Here are some top tips for making your Rainforest Cruise through the Amazon as bug free as possible:


Bugs On Luxury Amazon vs Comfort Amazon Cruises

Your choice of Amazon cruise vessel is important. While it is impossible to guarantee a vessel will be insect free, some riverboats may offer greater comfort levels and reduced exposure to bugs. For instance, some of the more luxurious boats are lined with all the home comforts of a five-star hotel, with fully enclosed lounges and cabins and hence are virtually bug free. Others in the comfort range are more rustic and may have open-air social areas, and while they may not have floor-to-ceiling cabin windows like some of the luxury vessels, even these will have mosquito netting on their cabin windows.


Amazon Rainforest reflections.

Amazon Rainforest reflections.


Are There More Bugs In The Wet or the Dry Season?

Given the number of insects in the Amazon region you have to expect bugs whenever you travel to the Amazon Rainforest. It's warm and stable climate is an apt breeding ground for some of the nastiest critters around, however, it's important to remember how vital every bug, even the horrible ones, are to maintaining the incredible biodiversity and plantlife in the Amazon region. If it wasn't for the bugs and insects in the Amazon the plantlife wouldn't exist – as there is very little air movement the bugs pollinate the plants and fauna. 

Birds keep the insect population stable, and while you may notice the mosquitoes at night, you may not notice them at all in the day. Depending on the weather the insect population can differ dramatically, during the wetter months there is usually an increase in the number of mosquitoes, while during the drier months of June to November there are generally fewer mosquitoes.

However, it is important to note that even in the dry months you will still need to wear insect repellent and long-sleeved tops and long pants. When trekking during the wet season, any trails that are dry will be full of mosquitoes, so you must be well-prepared during this season. 


Enjoying Stand Up Paddling boarding on the Rio Negro, Brazil. 

Enjoying Stand Up Paddling boarding on the Rio Negro, Brazil. 


Bugs On Black Water vs White Water Rivers

Believe it or not, the largest tributary of the Amazon River, the Rio Negro in Brazil, is almost bug free! The largest blackwater river in the world, the deep river moves through the Amazon Rainforest and swamps and wetlands. But despite its name, the water is actually transparent, of an acidic pH and darkly colored (hence the name) due to tannins, and it's the acidic levels that means there are very few bugs! In these regions you can wear shorts and explore these areas without worrying too much about being bitten.

In the white water regions insects and bugs are much larger and are in abundance. In parts such as the Rio Branco in Brazil you will see brightly-colored insects and bugs and a variety of flora, fauna and incredible wildlife. The white water deposits minerals in the water, which fosters the insect population and keeps them thriving in these waters. 


Did you know...  that a single square mile of Amazon Rainforest often has more than 50,000 insect species!


Protecting yourself from mosquitos


How to Protect Yourself from Bugs in the Amazon:

• Keep your skin covered as much as possible by wearing long-sleeved tops and pants when you are in the jungle and on the boat. See: What to Pack for an Amazon Tour

• Use insect repellent with a high percentage of deet (ideally 100% if you can get it).

• Reapply your insect spray in the early morning and early evening, apply it to your skin and spray it on your clothing. 

• Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, so try to wear light colors in strong fabrics.

• Wear loose-fitting clothes, as mosquitoes can bite through tight garments.

• Avoid wearing perfumes, colognes or scented body lotions.

• Wear socks that cover your ankles. 

• You may also be interested in trying some natural repelling remedies, such as Manuka Oil, vinegar and Tamanu. 


hydrocortisone cream


What to do if you do get bitten:

• If you can, you should apply an antispetic to the area that has been affected.

• If the bite is very itchy you can apply a soothing cream, such as hydrocortisone cream, or another remedy to the area to relieve the itching. Be sure to bring hydrocortisone cream with you!

• Do your best not to irritate the bite by scratching.

• Within a few days the irritation should be reduced, if not, and if the pain, itching or swelling gets worse, then you should seek advice from an expert or guide.


Malaria – what are the risks?

In some parts of the Amazon region there is a risk of contracting malaria – even if you take all of the precautions to avoid being bitten, it only takes on mosquito bite to contract the disease. You should use mosquito nets and repellents during your trip to the Amazon, but should also consult your doctor about taking anti-malaria medication to prevent contracting the disease. Depending on the region, doctors will usually prescribe a pill, normally you will have to take this a few weeks before leave, throughout your trip and continue to take the pill when you return (usually only for a few weeks). Some tablets can have side effects, so make sure you seek professional advice from your doctor before you start taking any medication. Talk to your local travel doctor for more details about the medication and what regions are affected. 


Ultimately you will be enjoying your exciting riverboat cruise through the Amazon Rainforest so much that you probably won't notice those pesky bugs! However, it is also best to take appropriate precautions to avoid any bites or infections spoiling your experience. Contact us if you have any further queries about bugs and protecting yourself while you are in the Amazon Rainforest.

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About Rainforest Cruises

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