Whilst preparing for a recent trip to the Brazilian, Peruivan and Colombian Amazon Rainforest I had a few ideas and expectations of what the Amazon was going to be like, I did research online to see if these expectations were true. I was unable to find a source which told me information about the Amazon and what to expect, so I went on my journey with my ideas and expectations of what I believed the Amazon to be like. All of these expectations turned out to be false.
The media and society presents us with certain expectations of places and ideas of what to expect, many of these are false, written and influenced by people who have never actually experienced these places.
As a result of this I have created a list of the expectations I believed were true of the Amazon before I undertook my trip and the actual reality of the Amazon Rainforest.
1. The Amazon Rainforest is located in Brazil
High School Geography lessons taught me that the Amazon Rainforest was in Brazil. This is true but the Amazon isn’t only in Brazil, whilst Brazil is home to the majority of the Rainforest, 10% of the Amazon is in Colombia, 13% is in Peru and a small percentage in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Whilst flying from Leticia, a town on the Amazon River in Colombia to Bogota, a 2 hour flight, over 1 hour of the flight was over Rainforest. Colombia’s 10% of the Amazon covers a large area of the bottom of Colombia, showing how varst the Amazon is as a whole.
2. The Amazon is dense Rainforest
Whilst there is parts of the Rainforest which is dense and unexplored, there is a large number of towns and communities on the river fronts, with large cleared areas. These cleared areas provide perfect locations for homes, schools, airports, football pitches and other buildings. The vast majority of the Amazon is unexplored, meaning they may be communities out there yet to be explored, animals yet to be discovered and societies with no idea of the outside world.
3. The Amazon is full of dangerous animals and mosquitos
The Amazon isn’t full of dangerous creatures, I went there expecting to see a whole range of dangerous wildlife and I didn’t, I saw an anaconda which I only saw because someone caught it to show us, a monkey which was someone’s pet and the closest thing I saw to a jaguar was the skins of one hug on someone’s wall. I’m not saying there isn’t dangerous animals in the Amazon, if your lucky you might see one on your trip but don’t expect to be chased by Jaguars or bitten by a snake. The animals are the same as every other animal around the world, you mess with them and they will mess with you, but leave them alone and you won’t even know they are there.
4. If you fall in the Amazon River you will get eaten by Pirañas
We have all seen the movies, explorers in the Amazon in a boat going down the river, suddenly someone falls in the water, instantly a thousand Pirañas come and eat the body with no chance of escaping. What if I told you the majority of Pirañas are normal fish swimming at the bottom of the river, yes they have sharp teeth, yes if you catch one on a fishing line it will get angry and try and bit you but no way would a Piraña instantly bite your finger off if you put your hand in the water. Pirañas are also really really small fish, they taste pretty good too. I’m not saying you should swim in the Amazon River because there is definitely Crocodiles and other fish who will bite you, but there are parts of the river which you can swim in and I did. I also caught a Piraña whilst fishing in the same piece of river.
5. The Amazon River is the backbone of the Rainforest
The Amazon River does run through the Rainforest but it is one of the lesser utilised rivers due to its varst width meaning big currents and large waves, making it almost impossible for small boats with little engines to use the river. There are many many more smaller rivers which break away from the Amazon River which are heavily utilised for transporting good and people around the area. These rivers are smaller in width and sheltered more from the wind. Communities are located on these river fronts and in some places there’s even floating houses, shops, a boat mechanic and petrol stations floating on the water.
6. No one lives in the Amazon and those adventurous few who do live in hammocks in the jungle
The Amazon is home to many families, indigenous communities and just general people, there are major cities in the Amazon; Leticia (Colombia), Benjamin Constant (Brazil), Tabatinga (Brazil), Manaus (Brazil) and many more. A large number of people live in these large towns and first looking in you wouldn’t even realise they were in the Amazon. There are also a large number of communities along the stretch of rivers, utilising the rivers for fishing in order to make a living. Some of these communities are fairly large with 50 or so families calling it home, many communities have schools, shops, hospitals and some even have military bases. These communities are well established many generations have lived and grown up there, with wood houses, openings for crops and some even have electricity and running water. I stayed in a community without electricity or running water but they had a generator and tv, to which in turn brought them knowledge of the outside world. Communities have learnt to adapt to their environment, I went to a town in Peru which was entirely build on stilts, with a walk way in the middle connecting each house, shop and school. This was a result of the regular flooding from the river and heavy rainfall, showing how communities have adapted to the environment and struggles they face.
7. The mosquitos are deadly
Yes there are mosquitos in the Amazon but not as many as you many first expect, in the deep rainforest there are definitely a lot of mosquitos but in cleared areas, around the water and in communities you don’t real notice them. At night there are more but nothing more than a typical high heat environment. Some places have worse mosquitos than others and yes occasionally some do carry harmful diseases. Mosquitoes shouldn’t be a excuse not to visit the Amazon, with the right repellent they won’t even bother you.
8. You should wear long pants and long sleeve shirts all the time
Again long pants and long sleeve shirts are only necessary when trekking through the jungle, when in communities, towns or on the waterfront, these are not necessary. The weather in the Amazon is very hot and very humid and you would sweat more than you could drink if you wore long pants and long sleeve shirts 24/7. The Amazon is so humid that nothing drys, clothes will stay damp and not dry even when hanging in the sunshine.
9. You need to be fit and active to go to the Amazon
This is untrue, anyone who is willing can visit the Amazon, there’s nothing adventurous or difficult about it. Obviously tours vary by company but many tours are suited to normal people and everyone should go, search for a tour with the things you want to do, do you want to sleep in the jungle? Do you want a hotel style room each night? Research tours and find the one which suits you best, there are a large number of tours, you will be able to find one which suits your needs. On my tour there was an elderly gentleman and a 5 year old child. There’s nothing dangerous or daring about the tour and guides are very knowledgable and experienced.
10. You need to have special equipment
Many think going to the Amazon requires specialist clothes, equipment and items in order to stay safe, this is incorrect. In fact all you really need is rain boots, long sleeve shirts, long pants (linen), shorts and tank top for around the communities, tennis shoes, flip flops, long pj pants, toiletries and mosquitos repellent. Nothing specialist there, the one specialist thing is would advise taking is a small medical supply kit, as there are no pharmacies once you leave Leticia.
I hope these 10 myths busted have given you a better idea of what to expect in the Amazon Rainforest.