The Amazon River is the world’s largest by volume, starting in Peru and flowing some 4,000 miles east through Ecuador and Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean. The surrounding rain forests are among the world's most diverse ecosystems, home to thousands of plant and animal species. There are two main sections, the Upper and Lower Amazon, navigable by medium and small river cruises.
The Amazon in Numbers
Only statistics can convey the sheer size of Amazonia, the largest tropical rainforest in the world. The Amazon ecosystem contains one-tenth of the earth’s vegetation and animal species, and one-fifth of its fresh water. Its plant life produces one-third of the world’s oxygen, which is why the devastating deforestation that is underway has such a major impact.
Statistics also help to put into perspective the size of the massive river for which the area is named. At 4,000 miles in length, the Amazon is the second longest river in the world after the Nile, but in other respects it ranks first. This massive waterway provides life to the largest rainforest in the world, and supports over 10 million plants, animals, and insects. This staggering number makes the Amazon the most biodiverse region in the world.
It is the widest river, in many places up to seven miles across even 1,000 miles inland. The Amazon has a flow of water 12 times that of the Mississippi. It has more than 1,000 tributaries, 17 of which themselves are over 1,000 miles long.
Wildlife in the Amazon
15,000 species make Amazonia their home. Many of the larger mammals have retreated from the river banks to less accessible remnants of undisturbed forest. While it’s extremely unlikely these days that you will spot a jaguar, and rare to see tapir, or giant anaconda, this doesn't mean you won't see other rare and fascinating animals.
There are still plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife in their natural habitat. Giant river otter, three-toed sloth, and porcupine are among mammals that may reveal themselves to sharp-eyed travelers. Rare pink dolphins are also commonplace in the Amazon, so you will also have the chance to see these marine mammals up close.
Amazon River Photography Tips
For capturing the many colors and creeds of the Amazon, knowing a tip or two will take your travel photographs from ordinary to extraordinary. But beware - the river is unforgivingly large and deep - keep your camera firmly attached around your neck to avoid dropping it in the depths!
1. Use Manual Focus - The Amazon river and rainforest are beautiful, however, they exhibit many of the same colors and shades. To make your subject pop, use a manual focus setting (or on a phone, try a “portrait mode” that will fade the background. This will give more depth to your image.
2. Bring a Lens Cloth - The Amazon is a rainforest and therefore it will be damp (whether you travel in the dry or wet season). In case you’re going for the fogged lens look (which you might be!) it’s always a good idea to give your lens a good wipe down before shooting.
3. Use Different Angles - This becomes increasingly important for wildlife photography, when getting the shot may require a position worthy of any contortionist. But using different angles can reveal an entirely different kind of picture, and keeps you attuned to your surroundings.
4. Bring a long lens - If you’re shooting with a DSLR, you’ll definitely want a long or zoom lens with you. The wildlife will not come to you, so you have to go to them, and even then your sightings may be very far away (another reason to go with a guide on nature hikes and walk through the Amazon - their eyes will see things you’d pass right by!). A 100-400mm lens is recommended, and you can even get extenders to add on top, giving you amazing long distance range.
5. Pay attention to shutter speed - making use of your manual settings is going to take your Amazon photographs to the next level. One that is often forgotten about is shutter speed. Remember that oftentimes you will be in a fast moving boat, and / or attempting to photograph fast moving wildlife. Increasing your shutter speed can help!
6. Don’t be afraid of your flash - It can seem counterintuitive to have your flash ready in broad daylight, but remember that when you’re walking on the forest floor, the canopy cover is quite thick. It will be dark, so your flash can become your best friend. If you hate the look of photographs with flash, consider widening your aperture to let more light in.