1. When is the best time to visit the Amazon in Peru?
The Amazon River in Peru has basically has two seasons, a high water season (December-May) and a low water season (June-November). Traveling to Peru in either season offers rich rewards, fabulous sites, amazing opportunities to view plant and animal life, and hot weather with some rainy days here and there.
Two key points to remember, as you choose which season to visit Peru for your Amazon river cruise:
- There will be some rain whichever season you choose, and you will see spectacular wildlife and plant life whether you go in either season.
- The Amazon basin is as rich and lush and green as it is because of the abundance of rain (12 feet a year on average). In a typical year, the Amazon River rainforest has 200 rainy days, which means that there will be days of heavy rain even in the low water season.
The High Water Season, December-May
Peru's rainy season runs from December through May--summer and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. This is the “relatively” cooler and wetter season when the Amazon region receives a little more than half (60%) of its total rainfall. During the high water season the average temperature is 86 degrees Fahrenheit, 12 degrees cooler than in the low water season.
There are great benefits to taking an Amazon cruise in Peru at this time of year: Perhaps most important, the Amazon Basin's rivers and streams are about 23 feet higher than they are during the low water season, and every river, creek and lake is navigable. Thus, you are able to explore more of the waterways of Amazonia by skiff and will have access to areas with more plant life and wildlife than during the low water season.
The flooded waterways put travelers much closer to the Amazon jungle canopy, where monkeys play and the beautiful Amazon birds like to roost. In fact, you are very likely to see many more mammals, both monkeys and others, during the high water season.
Enhanced navigation by water has a flip side, however, areas to walk and hike are sometimes limited at this time. If navigable hiking trails are found, there will be more mosquitoes than in the low water season.
Fishing in the Amazon River is more limited during these months too, but you still have close to a 50:50 chance to get out your rod and reel and make a catch.
The Low Water Season, June-November
Although technically it's winter in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the warmer season on the Amazon River, with temperature averaging about 98 degrees Fahrenheit, and, despite its name, the low water season still exhibits some heavy rains.
Benefits to choosing Low Water season for your Amazon River cruise:
- Trails and jungle paths that are flooded from December to May are now easily accessible, allowing you to explore deep in the jungle by foot, and accompanied by fewer mosquitoes than during the flooded season.
- Fishing is 100 percent guaranteed . . . you even stand a fair chance to catch a piranha. And while you are farther below the birds that roost in the Amazon jungle canopy, you will have the chance to see dozens of species of migratory birds in flight, something you would completely miss during the high water season.
- The flip side of this is that water levels on the Amazon River and its tributaries are much lower, which means that many of the creeks and lakes that are accessible during the rainy season are inaccessible.
The Bottom Line: The Best Times to Visit Peru's Amazon
If seeing the glorious high watered forest and getting close-up looks at lots of birds and mammals (and enjoying a slightly cooler temperature) sounds attractive, then the December to May season might be your best choice. (Remember: Despite being the “rainy” season, the Amazon only gets about 10% more rain than falls in the low water season.)
If jungle hikes, seeing exotic migratory birds perch on trees as they pass through Amazonia, still having the chance to see monkeys and other mammals, and going on great fishing expeditions top your list, you might be happier choosing the warmer, low water season.
Perhaps the best solution of all is to choose one season this year… and the other in the future! Regardless, whichever season you choose, your luxury cruise down Peru's Amazon will be an unforgettable experience.
2. What is a typical day like?
Each Amazon cruise includes many optional 2 to 3-hour excursions into Amazonia on remote tributaries where you spot monkeys and birds along a jungle trail, visit a local village, go fishing on one of Amazonia's beautiful lakes, and much more. The M/V Aqua and the M/V Aria are equipped with three and four auxiliary aluminum skiffs respectively that take you along the waterways, or ferry you to the landing point for onshore excursions. Each of our excursions is led by a trained and knowledgeable naturalist guide who is fluent in English and/or French. You have plenty of time to explore, listen to your guide's explanation, and photograph the abundant wildlife.
Most days your excursions start after your sumptuous breakfast. After 2-3 hours you return to refreshing cold towels, a delicious lunch, and a few hours to relax. The afternoon excursions usually start at 3:00 or 4:00 PM, to get away from the midday sun and heat, and when the birds and animals start to become active again. Return to the yacht with plenty of time to wash up before dinner. There will always be an evening lecture and description of the next day's activities.
If there are days when you choose not to go onshore for an exciting jungle expedition, you can stay onboard -- lie back on a lounge chair, breathe in the Amazon air, soak up the sun, read a good book, watch the ever-changing view, and simply experience total relaxation in the heart of the Amazon jungle.
3. What wildlife am I likely to see in the rainforest?
Your Amazon cruise aboard the M/V Aqua or the M/V Aria takes you into the Pacaya Samiria Reserve (Reserva Nacional Pacaya Samiria), located deep within the Amazon rainforest at the headwaters of the Amazon River basin. Pacaya Samiria is one of Peru's most well preserved havens for Amazon wildlife, plants and birding. Since it is only accessible by water, you will become one of only a handful of seasoned travelers ever to have reached this remote, remarkably beautiful destination on the Amazon River.
The Pacaya Samiria Reserve spans more than five million acres, twice the size of Yellowstone Park, rich with wildlife and aquatic life. In winter, when the river is high, you can explore the small inlets and various winding river systems that make up the Reserve's flooded jungle. In summer, the river recedes and beautiful sandy river beaches form.
Only about 30,000 people live on the vast tract of land within the Pacaya Samiria area. You will have the chance to meet some of the local people as part of your Amazon cruise experience. In addition, Pacaya Samiria park rangers will show you some of the conservation and sustainability projects that are part of this vast reserve within the Amazon rainforest.
When you arrive at Pacaya Samiria Reserve, you will enter a world filled with birds in neon-brilliant colors, playful monkeys, graceful hawks and herons and millions of butterflies. You will have the opportunity to see hundreds of species, including the endangered pink Amazon dolphin, the three toed sloth --- and perhaps, if you are very lucky --- a sleek, black jaguar!
In this glorious environment, parrots and macaws perch in trees as though posing … fuzzy orange and black howler monkeys munch on the treetop leaves … pre-historic looking iguanas, like mini-dinosaurs, laze in the sun. You will have the chance to watch long-legged cormorants fish for their dinner, and will probably see alligators cooling themselves in the river, and possibly … from a safe distance … the legendary boa constrictor.