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The Gap Year Blog

Exploring the Amazon River

22 Nov 2017 15:15 PM

The Amazon River and the surrounding habitat that it supports is known to be some of the most biodiverse habitat in the world. This river is also famous for its vast size; it is one of the longest rivers in the world and during the rainy season can reach widths of 24 miles. Here we talk you through some of the jaw-dropping facts that make the Amazon so astounding.


The source of this mighty river is now thought to be the waters of the Mantaro River in central Peru. From its source the river runs through 5 countries, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. The mouth of the amazon can be found on the coast of Brazil, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. The river is split into the upper and lower Amazon and an amazing spectacle can be witnessed where the two sections of the river meet. The water of the upper Amazon is sandy in colour, while the waters of the lower Amazon appear black. Where these two sections meet, the waters do not mix, creating a striking contrast between the two colours. The river is so vast that it has over 1,100 tributaries that reach out into the Amazon basin, which covers a total area of 7,500,000km2!

Photo credit: Flickr | Terry Feuerborn


The Amazon river itself is home to the largest diversity of freshwater fish in the world, with over 5,600 species, as well as dolphins, snakes, caimans, river otters, turtles and the list goes on. This giant waterway supports its own rich ecosystem, teaming with life. One of the Amazon’s most famous inhabitants is the Amazon River dolphin, or boto. This large freshwater dolphin can measure up to 2.5m in length and has a distinctive pink colouration and a long, toothed snout.

Photo credit: Flickr | Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith

Another mammalian species that inhabits the waters of the Amazon is the giant river otter, this animal is called ‘giant’ for a reason, with the males reaching lengths of up to 2m! These otters are highly social animals and live in close family groups. Giant river otters live in underground dens close to the water’s edge where they hunt for fish, crabs and even small caimans.

Photo credit: Flickr | Dick Knight


The amazon is home to many giants and the same goes for its plants; the giant water lily Victoria amazonica grows in the shallow waters of the Amazon basin and can reach a diameter of up to 3m. It is even possible for people to stand on the lily while it remains afloat, provided the weight is evenly distributed.

Photo credit: Flickr | Phương Nguyễn



Travelling the Amazon

The best time to visit the Amazon is around May or June when it’s not too rainy or too hot, just right! You can explore the river by boat on trips that last several days. Alternatively you can stay in one of many lodges in the forest and hopefully spot some incredible wildlife. Be sure that the animals you see during your visit are wild, as animal exploitation for the tourist industry is on the rise in the Amazon and should be avoided. The easiest way to access the forest is via the city of Manaus in Northern Brazil.


The Amazon is a truly incredible force of nature, from its source in Peru, to its mouth on the Brazilian coast, this river dominates the landscape. Its tributaries reach far out into the surrounding land and create the largest river basin in the world, this river and the surrounding forest is a must-see for those who love the natural world and thrive on adventure!

By Gabrielle Brooks - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!