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The Amazon River

  |   Amazon Facts

Starting high in the Peruvian Andes, the Amazon River courses through six different countries before emptying out into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil. Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil all play host to part of this mighty waterway, which runs for around 4,000 miles through South America.


The Amazon River


About the Amazon River


There is no doubt that the Amazon River is one of the most iconic rivers in the world, yet so much is still unknown about it. Indeed, even the total length of the river is still debated, with some believing it is far longer than previously thought. Experts believe that it is actually far longer than the Nile, making it the longest river in the world. Scientists still have not decided on a final answer as to how long the river really is, but all you need to know is that it is really, really big. Currently the theory is that the Amazon river is 4,345 miles or 6,992 km in length. But, the debate around the river’s length alone is not enough to make this river so interesting. So, what else makes the Amazon River so alluring that millions of people from all over the world come to see it every year?


It might not be the longest but it is definitely the largest river in the world


The Amazon River dumps 55 million gallons of water into the Atlantic Ocean every second. That equates to around 83 Olympic sized swimming pools every second. The river’s basin covers around 40% of South America – a basin is an area of land that drains its water into a river. The basin is four times bigger than that of the Congo, the world’s other huge drainage system – just to give you an idea of size. It is estimated that 20% of the world’s water is carried off by the Amazon River. That’s a fifth of all the water on the earth’s surface!


Amazon River


The Amazon River is surrounded by wildlife


It would be impossible to name every single species that dwells in the Amazon Rainforest. So far, 2,500 different species of fish have been found in the Amazon River, but scientists have stated that this is only a percentage of how many animals are in that river. So many species are yet to be identified and this adds to the mystery of the great river. Will an unsuspecting visitor be the first person in history to lay eyes on a brand new species that has never been discovered?


What’s more likely is that travelers along the river will spot some of the wildlife that has already been discovered, such as piranhas, giant catfish, giant otters, capybaras and pink dolphins. These make for some excellent photos if you are quick enough to snap a shot of one of the creatures when they momentarily come to the surface of the water.


Amazon River Cruising


Perhaps the most fearsome of all of the Amazon River dwellers are the bull sharks. These fierce predators are able to acclimatize to a range of different levels of salt in the water and there is a thriving population of them swimming in the river. Of course, the bull sharks can’t hurt you from your boat, so you can admire them in safety without worrying about one nibbling your leg. You might also want to keep a look out for the equally awe-inspiring black caiman. Much scarier than an alligator, for whom they are often mistaken, this toothy creature dominates the water and is truly incredible to witness in real life.


But, the fish in the Amazon River are more than just good photo ops. They provide a critical source of protein to a number of rainforest tribes that live on its banks. Thus, it is evident the role the Amazon River plays in every day life for the people who live in the jungle. It is the lifeblood for thousands of people.


Cruising Amazon River


Cruising the Amazon River is the best way to see the Amazon Rainforest


The Amazon Rainforest is often thought of as an impenetrable part of the world and while there are certainly parts that are virtually unreachable, the river provides far more access than any road could hope to. An Amazon River cruise can take you right into the very heart of the jungle. From there, the boat need only pull up to the banks for travelers to be able to disembark and seek out an adventure under the leafy canopy. In addition to unparalleled access, the serenity of the river allows travelers to completely disconnect from the outside world.


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The Amazon River has played an important role throughout history


Historians believe that the Amazon Basin has been occupied for at least 10,000 years. These people lived in tribes within the jungle, using the river as their source of water and food. They lived relatively undisturbed by the outside world until the European explorers entered South America in the 1500s. It then became an important trade route for the European conquerors. However, the Amazonian tribes did not sit back quietly while the Spanish and Portuguese took their land. There are reports of numerous attacks, including one by a group of female warriors, named Thelcamiabas, who were likened to the Amazons from Greek mythology. It was these powerful women that gave the Amazon River its name.


Amazon Rainforest


Products from the Amazon can be found all over the world


The water from the Amazon River has been used for millennia to hydrate the soil of the Amazon Rainforest and thanks to its fertility, thousands of different plants are able to grow and flourish. These plants, in turn, provide 20% of the world’s oxygen, making the rainforest essentially one gigantic pair of lungs. Did you know that a quarter of all western pharmaceuticals contain some kind of rainforest ingredient? Even more impressive than that is the fact that 80% of the world’s food finds its origins in the Amazon Rainforest. This shows you just how important the Amazon is and how far-reaching its impact is.


Whilst you journey along the Amazon River try and sample as many different local foods as possible. Around 3,000 different fruits grow in the Amazon, the vast majority of which you will never even have heard of as only 200 of them are consumed in the West. Open your mind and be willing to try everything this part of the world has to offer. You never know, you might discover your new favorite fruit in the depths of the jungle.


River Amazon


The Amazon River is full of surprises


It is believed that the Amazon River originally flowed in the opposite direction to its flow today. This was discovered after scientists found sediment in the river that was upstream from where it originated. They concluded that this was only possible if the river originally flowed from east to west. The direction of the river then changed when the Andes Mountains formed around 100 millions years ago and forced the river to flow the other way. Another interesting fact about the Amazon River is that there is no bridge that spans its width at any point on the river. The only way to get from one side of the Amazon River to the other is by taking a boat and floating across.


One of the most curious points in the Amazon River is where the sandy water of the Amazon River meets the black water of the aptly named Rio Negro. There is no sight that quite compares to the stark contrast of the two waters meeting, forming a distinct line in the middle of the river. The river then runs for miles with these two blocks of colors until they eventually blend together and form a single colored river.


Finally, if you’re looking for fun facts to shock your friends with next time you’re at a dinner party, here is one that is guaranteed to make their jaws drop.  Geologists believe that there is a river that runs underneath the entire length of the Amazon River at a staggering depth of 4km. It is unlikely any of us will be cruising along it any time soon but it is fascinating to know that this secret underground river exists. It is also believed to be hundreds of times wider than the Amazon River itself. This river is unofficially known as the Rio Hamza (Hamza River) named after Valiya Mannathal Hamza, the scientist who is credited with its discovery. This natural phenomenon is an unusual example of twin rivers flowing together at different levels of the Earth’s crust. Nature is pretty cool right?


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You can learn all about the Amazon River yourself


If reading about the Amazon River has given you a thirst to learn more and the Amazon and South America in general then you are certainly not alone. While there is plenty that can be learnt from researching the region online, nothing compares to experiencing the Amazon in the flesh. Jungle tours and river cruises are the perfect way to get up close and personal with the mighty Amazon and to learn more about it. Normally tour guides have an in-depth, expert knowledge of the rainforest, including the wildlife and plants that can be found within it. They are always ready to answer any questions you might have about the things you see, hear, smell and taste during your trip.


There’s no time like the present to start planning your dream vacation to the Amazon Rainforest to see the magnificent Amazon River for yourself. For more information about the Amazon River or booking an Amazon River cruise, please contact us or call 1-888-215-3555.

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.