Whoever says Amazon thinks of thousands of miles of greenery filled with water, extraordinary flora and animals. And let that be exactly right. Underwater, in trees and on the ground. From tarantulas to termites to monkeys. Extraordinary butterflies and dangerous insects. Jaguars and pythons. You’ll find it all in the Amazon region of Colombia. Or well find… These tropical animals are stars at making themselves invisible to humans. And actually, that’s a good thing. Fortunately, there are so many animals in the rainforest that you will always find something special. We took both a night and a day hike through the jungle and saw and heard all kind of things. In addition, you will also encounter beautiful animals along the way in the boat. In this article, imagine yourself in the Colombian Amazon and I’ll tell you where exactly you can experience this too.
The Amazon rainforest in South America
Also called the lungs of the earth. The Amazon rainforest covers a whopping 7.7 million square kilometers. Of these, 9% in Colombia and 60% in Brazil. The rest is scattered in South America across Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, Ecuador and French Guiana. As you may know, Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world after Brazil, thanks in part to the Amazon region you find here.
Through the Amazon runs one of the longest rivers in the world: the Amazon River. With a length of some 6,500 to 7,000 kilometers, it can be called impressive. And what is even more impressive is the width of the river. During the rainy season, the river is up to 40 kilometers wide in some places. That’s so wide, you can hardly imagine it.
No wonder that in and around this huge river, of which only about 180 kilometers runs through Colombia, you will find enormous natural beauty.
Nature in the Amazon adapts to the season
Amazonian animals obviously know exactly how to deal with the different water levels of the Amazon River. This applies not only to the underwater world, but also to animals above water.
Dolphins, for example, you see mostly if the water is deep enough. In the dry season, the water can be as much as 10 meters lower than in the rainy season. As a result, in lakes where there are many dolphins in the rainy season, you have to look for them elsewhere in the dry season. They seek out places where they can live best.
During the rainy season (November to April), much of the Amazon region is under water, including trees and plants. These trees and plants can survive perfectly in it. You may see more animals such as large birds and monkeys during the rainy season because you are closer to the tops of the trees. In particular, if you are sailing along the river, you will be much closer. But, there are less butterflies at this time. And mosquitoes, on the contrary, much more so.
A night hike through the rainforest
I seriously doubt the plan to walk through the dark jungle at 8 o’clock in the evening. Or actually, I’m just very nervous. Armed with tall sturdy boots, my phone and a flashlight, we set out. The guide, a boy from the Ticuna tribe, leads the way with a huge knife. And assures us that he knows exactly how to deal with the Amazon and its animals.
Under the slogan of “we’re here anyway,” we disappear into the darkness. The rainforest is not Amsterdam-dark, but really dark. Without a flashlight, you just don’t see anything. To make it even more exciting.
What animals appeared?
The three of us walk in a line into the jungle. Alex is also not at all comfortable in his boots. Just the fact that those boots have to be on for snakes and other dangerous animals makes you shiver slightly.
Although I find it terrifying, it also is pretty exciting. My adventurous self comes all the way out here in the jungle. Still, I relax only after half an hour, when we have been on the road for a while.
You have to be totally lucky to see animals in the Amazon rainforest. So you also never know what may or may not show up. We were lucky, so we saw four tarantulas (unfortunately only the baby tarantulas in the picture, the big tarantulas ran away too fast), a tree frog (extraordinary!), a huge frog on the ground, other spiders with huge legs (whose existence I did not know yet) and an insanely beautiful starry sky. Then again, that is the advantage of a night in the Amazon: here the stars are more beautiful than ever.
In the photos, you can see tarantulas, a large spider, a tree frog and a large frog, among others.
The sound of the Amazon rainforest
The rainforest is never quiet. Neither during the day nor at night. Everywhere you can hear insects, birds, frogs and I don’t know what else. The guide also knows exactly what we are hearing, which is incredibly nice. Even if you don’t see the toucan, it is still nice to hear one and know it is nearby.
Handy to know: bring earplugs if you go to the Amazon, the animals might just keep you awake.
After two hours of walking, we arrive back at Casa Gregorio. It was scary, but also I was so glad I went on the trip. How beautiful nature is, day and night. An unforgettable experience!
A day hike through the Amazon region in Colombia
The next day we got in the boat early to go across the river to a place in the Amazon to hike for about 2 to 3 hours. Again with boots, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Not only useful against the sun, but especially against any snakes and other insects you don’t want a bite from.
Where do you go into the Amazon?
Casa Gregorio considers a few things very important:
- Disturb nature and animals as little as possible;
- That their visitors get a good picture of the Amazon region.
Therefore, they set out with guides from the Ticuna tribe who know the rainforest like the back of their hand, and know exactly where to walk, how to walk and what we see and hear in the Amazon. In addition, they have multiple spots they take travelers to, one time walking through spot A and another time through spot B. This way they prevent too much walking over a spot, what affects nature.
So there is also no way you can go on a hike like this by yourself. There are no trails and your sense of direction completely fails.
The boat is moored in a place where there is nothing, not even a mooring. It seems completely random. There are no other travelers either. As if there were four of us in the world.
Extraordinary trees, plants and animals in the Amazon region
The Amazon region is truly enormous. You just feel small when you walk there. And you see all kinds of things. Several trees full of spines, unusual fruits falling from the trees, flowers you never saw before and many lianas, some even bigger than a tree. In addition, there are an enormous number of species of mushrooms, you will see tracks of jaguars, among others (the guide immediately recognizes them), and you will encounter such large and wide trees, you can hardly imagine. Also look up and you will discover many termite “pockets” on the tree.
Don’t focus on seeing large animals such as monkeys, snakes and toucans. You have to be lucky to see those, and often visitors are not so lucky. Instead, focus on the “little” things the jungle has to offer.
The diversity of plant species in the Amazon is the highest in the world. The rainforest is home to some 100 million insect species, hundreds of thousands of plant species and nearly 2,000 species of birds and mammals. So plenty to explore. Enjoy!
There are an enormous number of butterflies in the rainforest. If you are in the boat you will see many butterflies on the banks (especially in the dry season, from April to November). But even while walking through the jungle you will come across beautiful and especially special butterflies. For example, look at the butterfly below that looks exactly like a leaf, even the legs are just like a small branch. Never before have I seen this butterfly. What is also special is that these butterflies feed on the salt from sweat, among other things, so they can just come and sit on you. You can also spot red, yellow blue and huge butterflies. Wonderful!
Dolphins and piranhas in the Amazon River Colombia
A huge number of animals live in the Amazon River, but perhaps the two most interesting are dolphins and piranhas.
Dolphins in the rainforest
Pretty special to see dolphins in the middle of the rainforest. You will find the gray and pink river dolphins here. The pink is unique in the Amazon and therefore very special. The pink dolphin is the longest river dolphin in existence and has a different appearance than the gray dolphin.
As with all animals, you have to be lucky to spot dolphins. You’ll see them particularly in front of the beautiful indigenous village of Puerto Nariño and nearby in lakes. You can also spot them already at the entrance of the tributary through Amacayacu National Park.
We saw the gray dolphin several times, which was really beautiful. Even one that jumped a meter (or more?) into the air. I don’t have a picture of that, but I do have a video. You can view these in my pinned story ‘Amazonas’ on my Instagram account. With the pink dolphin we unfortunately had no luck, we did not see it.
Piranhas are carnivorous freshwater fish found in the rivers of South America. These fish are known for their sharp teeth and aggressiveness, which we all learn in movies that feature piranhas. In reality, things are a bit more nuanced and piranhas mainly eat other fish and fruit that end up in the water.
There is a lot of swimming in the Amazon River. By locals, but also by tourists. Piranhas do not usually attack humans. Only when they are extremely hungry due to less food being available during the dry season at low tide, for example. It is also not recommended to swim if you have wounds that are bleeding or have just bled.
Piranha is also a fish often on the menu in the Amazon. They are caught fresh and in the evening a piranha is on your plate. We too went fishing. Jose caught a piranha that was served during dinner (see photo below). I am a vegetarian, but he said it is a particularly delicious fish.
The Amazon rainforest is not a zoo
“Seriously? I knew that all along, didn’t I?” you must be thinking sarcastically right now. Still, I think this is important to mention. In fact, there are tourists who are incredibly disappointed after a jungle walk because they did not see huge snakes, jaguars, crocodiles, toucans and other large jungle animals. They hear this so often at Casa Gregorio that they emphasize it extra when booking to avoid disappointment.
It sounds super logical, but when you go to the Amazon it’s best to get into the boat without expectations and with a huge open mind. The Amazon is not a zoo. The animals are not there to be photographed, but live their own lives and preferably without people around them. After all, they are wild animals for a reason. It makes sense that in places where there are more people, animals prefer not to be around. They can hide themselves like the best. Therefore, animals like jaguars and crocodiles have left for quieter areas in the Amazon, and the chances of seeing one are very slim. Animals you do hear, and that too is a lot of fun.
Be grateful for the little things
The Amazon region has an awful lot to offer. In fact, in addition to jaguars, snakes, monkeys and crocodiles, there are many other unusual animals in the jungle. Think poisonous insects with spines you’ve never seen before, trees with spines, unusual butterflies, huge spiders you didn’t know existed, tiny exotic birds, thousands of species of frogs and what about the underwater world? You will also come across flowers that will make your eyes water and just the sight of that huge rainforest is just the sight of that huge rainforest. You are in one of the most biodiverse places in the world, enjoying everything around you.
Be grateful for everything you see in the Amazon. It’s all special. A jaguar is really not necessary to make this trip super valuable. There are so many species of plants, trees and insects that you’ll be amazed from.
Treat nature responsibly
While we are on the subject, I can immediately add that there are places that are better to avoid. Just as riding an elephant is really not okay (anymore), neither is going to an island where monkeys are kept to make tourists happy. Also called the Monkey Island or Isla de los Micos. Please stay away from that. There are other ways to see monkeys, responsible ways. One of them is simply being lucky as you walk through the jungle. Another is a visit to monkey sanctuary Maikuchiga in the Amazon.
How do you arrange a hike through the Amazon in Colombia?
As I indicated earlier, it is totally unwise to walk through the jungle by yourself. Always go with a guide. We arranged this at Casa Gregorio, where we stayed. The Dutch Heike and her husband Jose know exactly how to show travelers the best of the jungle. No need to bring your own boots, they have them for you.
5 Tips for hiking the Colombian Amazon
Will you also be hiking through the rainforest? Then don’t forget this:
- Boots. Not only to protect you from snakes, spiders and other animals, but also to walk through the mud. Especially in the rainy season, it is impossible to go through the jungle in sports shoes or hiking boots. Boots are really necessary. You don’t need to bring these yourself when staying at Casa Gregorio.
- Long clothing. You can also go in a t-shirt, but to protect yourself, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt are highly recommended. It’s hot, but it’s hot without it, too, so it doesn’t really matter. Choose quick-drying hiking pants that are comfortable and a cotton shirt, for example.
- Sufficient water. The combination of heat and very high humidity makes you not only thirsty but also need to drink enough to keep your fluid levels at a somewhat healthy level. Bring a refillable water bottle so you don’t have to throw away plastic. I myself use the Dopper drinking bottle.
- A flashlight. You need this when you go into the jungle at night, without it you can’t see anything. The light from your phone is not enough. We bought those handy lights for on your head at the Decathlon. Although in the Amazon it’s better to hold it in your hand, otherwise all the flying insects will come at your head….
- An open mindset. You read it earlier in this article: you can be quickly disappointed by the lack of animals you see. Therefore, go into the rainforest with an open mind and few expectations and enjoy the little things of life.
In addition, don’t forget your sunscreen, anti-mosquito spray or cream and a cap or hat against the sun. In this mini guide Amazon you’ll read more about what to take with you.
What particular nature hike amazed you?
Click here to learn more about traveling to the Amazon in Colombia!
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