Exploring the mighty Amazon

Travelwise

The mighty Amazon River, the greatest river in South America, is the largest river by discharge volume of water in the world. It begins in the Andes Mountains of Peru and flows west to east through seven South American countries: Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Most researchers believe that it is at least 4,000 miles long; however, no definitive measure is available because no one is entirely sure where the Amazon begins and ends due to the remote areas where it flows.

The Amazon is well known for a number of reasons. It becomes “mighty” in part due to the many tributaries that feed it as it courses through the vast area of the rainforest known as the Amazon Basin, located in northern South America. The climate of the basin is generally hot and humid; however, in some areas, the winter months (June–September) can bring cold snaps fueled by Antarctic winds traveling along the adjacent mountain range. The average annual temperature is around 25 – 28 degrees Celsius with no distinction between summer and winter seasons.

The Amazon Basin formerly flowed west to the Pacific Ocean until the Andes formed, causing the basin to flow eastward toward the Atlantic Ocean. It is gloriously fruitful and green because it gets so much rain, averaging an annual rainfall of 12 feet, which means you can expect at least some rain about 200 of the 365 days a year.

About 2,500 fish species have been found within the Amazon system but many more remain unidentified. This is more than any other river basin on Earth. Among the more important commercial species are the pirarucu, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, and the various giant catfish.

The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s richest and most varied biological reservoir, containing several million species of insects, plants, birds and other forms of life, many still unrecorded by science. The luxuriant vegetation encompasses a wide variety of trees, including many species of myrtle, laurel, palm and acacia, as well as rosewood, Brazil nut and the rubber tree. Excellent timber is furnished by the mahogany and the Amazonian cedar. Major wildlife includes jaguar, manatee, tapir, red deer, capybara and many other types of rodents and several kinds of monkeys.

As for human lifestyle along the Amazon, there are scattered settlements inland, but most of the population lives in a few larger cities on the banks of the Amazon and other major rivers. In many of these regions, the forest has been cleared for soya bean plantations and cattle ranches. Fishing provides additional food year-round. The river is the principal path of transportation for people and produce in the regions, with transport ranging from balsa rafts and dugout canoes to hand-built wooden river craft and modern steel hulled craft. The people live in thatched houses shaped like beehives as well as apartment-like houses called “Maloca” with a steeply slanting roof.

The most widely spoken language in the Amazon region is Portuguese followed closely by Spanish. There are also hundreds of native languages still spoken in the Amazon, mostly spoken by only a handful of people and thus are critically endangered.

Exploring the mighty Amazon is best done by an expedition cruise with a team of local naturalists’ guides accompanying you along the voyage. You will even find a certified photo instructor trained to help with your camera and how best to capture images of the rainforest and its inhabitants as you explore the wilderness on daily excursions by skiff, kayak and hikes on dry land. It is an adventure to behold!

Talk to your local travel advisor who will guide you in all of your decisions and assist you from the beginning to the end in making your travel dreams come true.

About Nancy B. Alligood, CTC 14 Articles
Nancy B. Alligood, CTC is general manager/owner of Warwick Travel Service, Inc.and can be reached at 757-599-3011 or at n_alligood@warwicktravel.com.

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