Camping in the Amazon rainforest, or Amazon jungle, is the stuff dreams are made of. Right? If it’s high on your bucket list, then read on. Nobody wants their dreams to turn into nightmares. We’ll talk a bit about the magnificent forest itself, what you can expect to find on a camping trip, and why people might want to spend a night there. Then we’ll cover topics such as safety, climate, and legalities – is camping in the Amazon even allowed?
The Amazon is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, but you knew that already. Its size is just smaller than the whole of the United States. It was named as one of the natural wonders of the world in 2011, along with Iguazu Falls. Crossing nine countries in total, the majority is found in Brazil. This vast jungle spreads from Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru on the west coast of South America all the way to Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana on the east coast. Bolivia and Venezuela get a look in too!
The rainforest is the earth’s friend. Helping to reduce climate change by releasing healthy oxygen into the air and sucking out nasty carbon dioxide. But more than this, this wonderfully diverse jungle habitat is home to all sorts of plant life, fish, reptiles, and mammals. Some kind of cute, some not. More than thirty million humans including a large number of indigenous people call it home too.
Why go camping in the Amazon rainforest?
How many people do you know that can say they’ve camped in the Amazon? This is a must-do experience for anyone who loves hiking and being out in nature. Imagine trekking through the largest rainforest in the world. Explore the different species of wildlife that live there. Take a boat or a canoe along the Amazon river, not knowing where to look first. Get to swim with the pink dolphins if you’re lucky.
But the adventure doesn’t stop at night. In fact, the nighttime is an amazing time to travel through the Amazon. The wildlife comes alive after sunset, and your senses will be bombarded with sounds. Listen to the cicadas, the birds, and the monkeys, as they lay claim to their home under the vast canopy of trees. Camping in the Amazon is one of those experiences you never forget.
Should you camp alone or with a tour?
If you are an experienced camper there is no reason you can’t go camping in the Amazon rainforest alone. If you stick to areas of the Amazon near towns and cities you will find safe options for bedding down when you need to. Be aware there are some dangerous predators in the Amazon jungle, such as Jaguars so do check before heading out. Spending a night in the tent away from a designated camping area is not advised. Take enough supplies on your hikes in case you run into trouble, and make sure you have a reliable means of communication with people.
Having said that, it’s best to go on a tour or hire a guide. Local knowledge will not only keep you safe on your hiking adventure but will offer you the opportunity to learn and experience things you might not otherwise. You could stay in a special lodge in the forest, a treehouse, hammocks, or even sleep on riverboats.
There are many tours running from all the countries we mentioned above. Whether you go from Bolivia or Ecuador, or even Suriname there’ll be a good choice of local tours you can join. They will all include different outdoor activities and could last for one day or be multi-day experiences, so do your research to find the best trip for you. Make sure they have a guide qualified to spot dangerous plants and deadly wildlife.
What equipment should you take?
When planning a camping trip in the Amazon rainforest, you should bank on taking the following:
- a waterproof backpack that is comfortable to carry
- supportive, waterproof hiking boots that you have already worn in
- any medications that you need, and some extras, just in case
- basic medical aids – plasters, bandages and antiseptic
- insect repellant (mosquitoes are rife in the jungle too)
- clothing you can layer – include long legs and arms to keep the insects at bay
- swimming stuff – if you have a chance to swim with the dolphins!
- plenty of water and a sturdy container for refills
- a water purifier
- spare batteries or a battery pack for your phone
- a waterproof map
- a headtorch
- a camera with spare batteries
- if you are self camping – a good tent that keeps insects out and sleeping bag.
Those are just some of the items you shouldn’t be without in the jungle. If you are traveling on a tour they will usually have a list of essentials that you need to take.
What animals live in the Amazon rainforest?
The best way to survive a trip to the rainforest is to know what to expect. Unsurprisingly, the Amazon is home to many species of wildlife. Perhaps the most annoying is the mosquito, but go prepared and you can protect yourself against those. But what else should you look out for?
There are several species of poisonous snakes in the Amazon, including the South American Rattlesnake. They are nocturnal but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful during the day. They could hide under rocks or piles of leaves so always use a stick if you need to move objects.
The Poison Dart Frog is extremely venomous to humans. They are distinctive in appearance – with bright green, blue, or gold colors. Found near damp areas and the river, if you see one, don’t be tempted to pet it.
We’ve mentioned mosquitos – the smallest yet deadliest killers of humans – but you also need to look out for ants. Bullet Ants have a sting that is said to inflict the same kind of pain as a gunshot wound, hence the name. They can grow to over one inch in length so try and avoid these bad boys.
Brazilian Wandering Spider
You really want to avoid these too. One of the most venomous spiders in the world, they are found throughout the rainforest. These spiders are nocturnal but you still don’t want to disturb one during the day. You will need to get the antivenom quickly if you are unlucky enough to get bitten.
What’s in the river?!
Just piranhas, and electric eels. It’s rare that humans are attacked by these slippery foes, but it’s not impossible. Go into the river only after taking advice from a local guide. Oh, you’ll find Jaguars in the river too.
This water-loving cat lives in the Amazon rainforest. There are thought to be around ten thousand Jaguars in the forest. Although they don’t tend to attack humans, if you see one, give it a wide berth. And if you wear a certain aftershave, it’s best to leave it at home.
What is the best time of year for camping in the Amazon rainforest?
The best time of the year to visit the Amazon is undoubtedly the dry season. This varies ever so slightly depending on which country you are in, but in general, the dry season is between July and November. Not that this means it doesn’t rain during this time, because it does. You shouldn’t get the torrential downpours that can last for days during the wet season though. They can be hard to cope with and dangerous too, causing mudslides.
Of course, the dry season is naturally warmer than the wet season. Temperatures can reach into the nineties during the day, making hiking very uncomfortable, so make sure you have plenty of water.
Survival tips for your camping trip
If the worst should happen while camping in the Amazon rainforest, and you find yourself lost, you need to know what to do. Nature is a wonderful thing but can also be cruel. If you are prepared for the worst before your visit, then you won’t waste precious time working out what to do if you run into trouble. Let’s go through some basic survival tips.
First of all, stay calm. Sounds simple when you are sitting there reading this right? But out in the jungle, it may be hard to keep your cool. Stay calm so you can work out the best course of action. If you only just got lost see if you can backtrack. Look out for signs such as broken branches or footprints to work out where you came from. If you just got separated from your group, try shouting for a little while, giving them a chance to find you. It can be very disorientating out there. If you have a phone or radio then use them but also conserve their power so don’t continually try them.
Climb a tree
The dense jungle canopy can make it very dark on the floor. If it’s safe to do so, you could try climbing a tree to try and get a better viewpoint from up high.
Take it slowly and carefully
Don’t rush. It may be your natural instinct, but you can’t rush through the dense jungle anyway. Conserving your energy should be your main concern, and make sure your skin and feet are protected.
You’ll need to keep a steady supply of water going to avoid dehydration. Don’t drink from stagnant pools, it’s always best to drink from fast-flowing water, and use a purifier if you have one. Finding the river and then following it should eventually lead you to some form of civilization. If you don’t know where the river is, heading downhill is a good start.
Leave a trail
If you can leave a trail you can help a rescue team find you. Leave notes, or tie pieces of ribbon to branches. Rip up a cloth or clothing item you won’t need to make ribbons.
Sleep at night
Travel during the day and before it gets dark find somewhere safe to spend the night. Make a shelter using any materials in the area. As much as you might want to keep going you won’t have any idea of the direction, you won’t notice obstacles in your way, and more predators come out at night too. If you can, light a fire to keep animals away.
Read how one man believed monkeys helped him to survive when he was separated from his tour group.
Why is the Amazon rainforest so dangerous?
The Amazon jungle isn’t really so dangerous. If you go prepared and with respect for the environment you’ll have a fabulous experience. It’s true that there are some dangerous animals and the climate can be a challenge, not to mention the risk of getting lost if you go on your own. Knowing what to expect, not venturing too deep into the forest, and planning for the worst are the best things you can do.
How cold does the Amazon rainforest get at night?
Generally, the Amazon sees hot, humid days and cool nights. If you ever found yourself stranded in the jungle there, it’s unlikely you would freeze. Average nighttime temperatures don’t tend to drop below 70°F.
Is it legal to camp in the Amazon rainforest?
Yes, it’s legal to camp in the Amazon. Is it wise to do so without a camping tour? Probably not. If you decide to camp here, you’re more likely to run into trouble with the wildlife than the law.