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.
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.