Amazon Basin

Shutterstock/41081983/M ReelThe Amazon Basin covers a staggering 4,000,000 sq km, roughly equivalent to three quarters the size of the United States. But despite the fact that 60% of Peru is covered by this green carpet of jungle, less than 6% of its population lives here, meaning that much of Peru's rainforest is still intact. The area is home to 10,000,000 living species, including 2000 species of fish and 300 mammals. It also has over 10% of the world's 8600 bird species and, together with the adjacent Andean foothills, 4000 butterfly species. This incredible biological diversity brings with it an acute ecological fragility. The Amazon rainforest is reckoned to produce 20% of the Earth's oxygen and any fundamental change could have disastrous implications for our future on this planet.

The two major tourist areas are the northern and southern jungles. In the north the focus is the River Amazon itself, with Iquitos at the heart of life on the river. To get into the wilds, head for Peru's largest national reserve, Pacaya-Samiria. In the south the Manu Biosphere Reserve and Tambopata National Reserve are also far removed from the modern world. In fact most of Manu is off limits to tourists. Many lodges in the area are close to the river port of Puerto Maldonado.

Wildlife viewing in these two areas is quite different. Northern Peru is dominated by flood plains and vast rivers, with much of the land regularly submerged. In remote spots, there are chances of seeing manatees, giant otters and pink and grey Amazonian dolphins. Terrestrial mammals seem to be thinly distributed through the jungle. The Southern Amazon has several faster-running rivers and rapids that prevent dolphins and manatees reaching the upper sections. A huge variety of forest types and diverse habitats have led to more bird species here than anywhere else on the planet. Moreover, in protected areas such as Manu and Tambopata, some larger mammals, like tapir, giant anteaters, otters and primates, are fairly easy to spot due to lack of hunting pressure.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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