Oceangoing cruise ships usually visit the Amazon as part of a longer, multi-country itineraries. Oceangoing ships can only travel the Lower Amazon from Belem at the mouth of the river and 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) upstream to Manaus, a city in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest with more than a million inhabitants and very little road access. The smaller expedition-like ships with a shallower draft sail on both the Lower Amazon in Brazil and the Upper Amazon and its tributaries.
Amazon cruise on the smaller boats have starting points in 4 different countries: Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. In Brazil most cruises will leave from Manaus. This is one of the best cruises since it allows you to explore the jungle. You may also be able to take smaller boats into the denser areas on the river.
Most cruises from Ecuador will leave from the Napo Basin, and sail the Napo River and its tributaries. The Aguarica River is also a popular choice. Traveling around Ecuadorian Amazon offers an unforgettable experience. Most cruises will have Monkey Island, Yasuni National Park and Biosphere, and jungle trail walks in virgin rain forest on their itineraries.
Peru is another option as starting point to travel the Amazon River. Iquitos is a good location to start the journey, from here you can choose to navigate into the Pacay Simiria natural reserve for amazing wildlife, cruise down river to Tabatinga in Brazil and Leticia (from where you can continue down to Manaus), or venture up river to the Yurimaguas region. Some itineraries include cruises along Amazon tributaries on local canoes, which is the most ideal way to explore the enchanting wildlife and peek into the lives of the indigenous population.
Bolivia offers a bit of a different option. Here the Amazon is very dense and much of the area is remote. Equal in size to California and Texas combined, Bolivia holds thousands of unexplored Inca and pre-Inca ruins, thousands of square miles of Amazon rain forest, unsurpassed wildlife viewing, and very few tourists. It is the least populated and the least explored of the nine South American countries that comprise the Amazon Basin.
Amazon River cruises provide plenty of opportunities for individuals to see wildlife and cultures found in this region of the world. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when planning an Amazon River voyage, including: Research any company extensively before booking with them; Some areas of the Amazon can be dangerous; Ask about travel guides that speak multiple languages. Give yourself enough time to plan for this type of cruise adventure, as your expedition into the Amazon can be a life changing experience.