I always encourage visitors to the other-worldly volcanic Galapagos Islands or the remote high mountains of Machu Picchu to take the time to experience a totally different ecosystem and the world’s most biodiverse, the Amazon rainforest. Don’t worry about the bugs, or safety or getting there. Go! Repeatedly my clients who had such reservations rave about this unique, amazing experience. But there are creepy crawlers- so if the idea of insects makes you panic, you get a pass on this trip.

In Ecuador, there are direct 40-min flights from Quito to Puerto Francisco de Orellano, locally known at Coca. From there, board a small motorized boat for a 2-hour ride down the Napo River, glimpsing wildlife and local huts as civilization rapidly recedes behind you.

In Peru there are direct flights from Lima (2 hours) and Cusco (1 hour) to the frontier town Puerto Maldonado in the country’s southeast. From here one travels anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours down the Tambopata River to reach your lodge. Iquitos in Peru’s northeast offers another popular access point but due to the city’s size and industrial area, you have to go further down the river for the best wildlife viewing, which is impractical for visitors who have only a few days.

Some of the treats in store include: gliding down a silky smooth chocolate colored tributary through the forest canopy with a variety of monkeys overhead, visiting a clay lick early in the morning where raucous flocks of parrots, parakeets and macaws feed on the lick’s minerals, glimpsing pink dolphins gliding by, sitting on the porch of your bungalow watching a sloth high in a tree munching leaves, and from an observation tower honing your senses to experience a whole panorama of forest life thrumming around you. It’s fascinating to learn about the bounty of plants and their medicinal and culinary uses. My favorite experiences include night hikes and canoe rides that reveal a totally different range of life and usually a noisy one at that, and visits to local indigenous communities.

Rothschild Safaris can recommend lodges ranging from luxury to more rustic which include all meals and jungle excursions in the price. Another option in both Peru and Ecuador is to cruise down the river on a luxury boat making daily excursions on land.

Being a rainforest it is fairly hot and humid all year long. In Ecuador, it is drier October – May. However, wildlife tends to be more plentiful June – August. In Puerto Maldonado, it is drier May – October. In both countries your experience will vary seasonally with the changing height of the river.