There are many things to consider when trying to choose which Amazon cruise or tour to do and now there are many options to pick from. What factors should you consider when deciding which is the best option for you?
* Do you wish to receive an in-depth experience or can you just need to get a “taste” of the jungle?
* The number of days do you want to be in the jungle?
* Are you currently only going to the jungle or are you considering going to other areas? (Machu Picchu, Rio, Galapagos, etc.)
* How active would you like to be?
* Do you have specific things you wish to do in the jungle, which a package tour might not offer?
Some people just need to get an idea as to what the jungle is like. To them, a 3 day lodge stay or cruise might suffice. That will enable them 1 full day inside the jungle, considering that the 1st and last days are typically mostly for travel through the airport and back towards the airport. They shouldn’t intend on seeing much wildlife or primary jungle though because they’re just not receiving far enough away from the cities and nearby people. For example, Manaus has about 1.5 million inhabitants, so you need to get pretty far away from the city to feel like you happen to be in a wilderness area.
People who would like to really get a feel for the jungle must stay longer. It usually takes a couple of days for people to wind down for the rhythm in the jungle and you have to get into a variety of ecosystems so that you stand a better chance of seeing more varieties of animals and plants.
Many people think “Brazil” when taking into consideration the Amazon Basin, yet it is also in Peru, Ecuador, and lots of other countries. You can have good experiences in those countries, so that you don’t need to fly all over South America to find out the Amazon, unless you do have a special reason. In order to head to Machu Picchu, then you might as well do an Amazon trip in Peru. If you want to view the Galapagos, then do an Amazon trip in Ecuador.
Don’t just rely on pretty brochures or websites. I was told by a local that a person particular lodge within the Iquitos area was most likely the prettiest one there – however guides had all been fired using their company lodges. One of the cruise companies shows a number of boats on their website, only the initial one is now kept up for regular cruises. Another lodge looks nice on the website, nevertheless the service has deteriorated badly and the buildings have gotten run down. Another gives you great interaction with the local Indians, but those Indians also still hunt, so you won’t see much wildlife around there.
Alcoholism is a problem in the Amazon and guides aren’t immune from that problem. I recall reading many trip reports years back, in which the people said that the guide they hired knew a great deal about the jungle, but he would get drunk at night and would go following the female clients and wouldn’t bother with cooking dinner, so they needed to fend by themselves. I was recently saddened to understand that one of the top guides inside the Peruvian Amazon, person who was the main topic of several videos about jungle survival, etc., have been fired, as he had become an alcoholic. His father had also been one of many top guides, but he suffered the same fate. Good operators count on repeat business and word of mouth advertising, therefore they can’t manage to keep guides that will cause public relations problems.
A good guide can make a big difference on a jungle trip. Should you walk into the jungle alone, all you will observe is actually a sea of green plants as well as a symphony of sounds. An excellent guide knows what all of those different plants are and what uses they have. He can tell what exactly is making those sounds, their relationship to the plants in the region and where to find them. They have an uncanny eye for spotting seemingly invisible things. I remember a night walk where we switched off our flashlights and were at night, but our guide somehow spotted a big black spider on a tree trunk. So he can turn a monotone experience right into a Technicolor experience. Just like in any business, a good guide can command a much better salary than a trainee, so don’t expect to be with a top guide if you go on the cheapest trip you can find. (the climate takes a toll on buildings and boats, so low budget operations are most likely not planning to have well-maintained facilities either. Through the same token, the cheaper lodges will also be often close towards the city, so they are certainly not in areas which can be as pristine or that have just as much wildlife.)
Airports at Amazon gateways including Iquitos and Manaus was once havens for scam artists. They knew that numerous people would arrive with no reservations therefore would offer exciting trips at low prices, but of course they often would not deliver what they had promised. The governments are working hard to try and eliminate these types, but they can still be an issue for unsuspecting budget travelers.
Most travel agencies will offer you many of the most highly marketed cruises or lodge stays offering the activities they think most people want to do, but if you wish to camp or kayak or do just about anything uncommon, then you will have to look elsewhere since the majority of travel agencies are more informed about mass market locations, such as Vegas, Cancun and Disneyland compared to what they tjxdwn about specialized Amazon trips. A few of the highly marketed properties are like big resorts within the jungle. If that’s what you’re considering, then fine. However, many people want some thing intimate and authentic and fewer intrusive. So it’s better to contact somebody who has more experience with the sort of trip that you are interested in.