So you’ve decided that you want to go on a wildlife holiday in Latin America, but as you do more research, you realise that there are more options than you thought. Here we break down the main options, as well as the pros and cons of each.
The Amazon Jungle
As you probably know, the Amazon is a tropical rainforest covering a vast swathe of South America, reaching into Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Its claim to fame is that it is one of the most biodiverse regions on planet earth, home to a wide range of plants, which in turn contribute to an ecosystem which supports a huge number of birds, reptiles, mammals and amphibians. As it is such a large rainforest, it makes sense that different regions of the Amazon support different plant and animal species.
Things to Consider about an Amazon Holiday
- The Amazon is an iconic destination, and for many, a long-time bucket list item.
- There is a huge range of wildlife to be spotted. For example, there are around 427 species of mammals and more than 400 types of reptiles. There are also countless invertebrate species.
- Animals to be spotted include anteaters and otters, toucans, boa constrictors, poison dart frogs, caimans, monkeys and piranhas. And that is before we even start on the variety of birds to be seen!
- Different animals are concentrated in different parts of the Amazon. If it’s pink dolphins you are desperate to see, the Brazilian Amazon is the place for you, while one of the best places to see macaws is the clay lick near the Tambopata Research Center in Peru.
- Bear in mind that dense jungle means that in some areas it is actually quite difficult to spot all this wildlife, and it is impossible to guarantee a sighting of any specific species.
- You are likely to get a local guide, and generally-speaking the Amazon guides are extremely passionate about their subjects.
- Apart from wildlife, the Amazon is also home to Amazonian tribes. Learning about the people who make the jungle home can add a fascinating dimension to your visit.
- Most Amazon jungle lodges are very remote, meaning that a fair amount of travelling is required to reach them.
- Different lodges are situated closer or nearer to towns, so depending on whether you want to feel isolated from civilisation, or are happy to be near a village, you might want to check on the exact location of your jungle lodge.
The Pantanal Wetlands
The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland area, and boasts one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the world. Situated in southern Brazil, it also stretches into Paraguay and Bolivia, covering an area roughly the size of Portugal. Less well-known than the Amazon, the Pantanal delivers on the wildlife front despite its lack of street credentials.
Things to Consider about a Pantanal Holiday
- The Pantanal is a flat wetland, with less vegetation than the Amazon for animals to hide away in. This means that wildlife is generally on display and easier to see as species move through the area.
- There is a huge array of wildlife, from the endemic capybara (the world’s largest rodent, resembling a guinea pig with long legs), to caimans, tapirs, jaguars and rheas.
- The best time to see Pantanal animals is during the dry season (May – October) when they congregate around water sources.
- Like in the Amazon, it is difficult to guarantee sightings of specific animals, and certain species, like jaguars for example, are extremely elusive.
- While sparsely populated, the Pantanal does have some human inhabitants, namely the ranchers who drive their cattle around the open plains.
- Situated in a rural part of Brazil, infrastructure such as roads can be basic, and the distances travelled from Cuiaba (the gateway city to the Pantanal) to your lodge can be long.
Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica
Named after the turtles which lay their eggs on the black sand beaches of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, Tortuguero is part coastal reserve and part rainforest. Canals run through the jungle, providing a home to water-based creatures, while land-based animals find solace in and amongst the jungle foliage. The abundance of wildlife combined with the ease of travel in Costa Rica, make Tortuguero a favourite destination for wildlife holidays.
Things to Consider about a Tortuguero Holiday
- The coast of Tortuguero is home to sea turtles and between June and October there is the potential to see them nesting.
- Tortuguero is bursting with life and you are guaranteed to see a wide variety of species, even during a short stay.
- Wildlife in Tortuguero includes howler monkeys, spider monkeys, caimans, sloths, iguanas and tapirs, as well as myriad bird species.
- As Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination and wildlife tends to be concentrated in certain areas, you will undoubtedly come across other tourist groups while out wildlife-spotting.
- Tortuguero is situated about 6 hours travelling time from San Jose, and is accessed by a 3-hour coach journey followed by a boat journey. Alternatively it can be accessed by plane in around half an hour.
Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
In a country renowned for its biodiversity and wildlife destinations, Corcovado National Park is arguably the best of a brilliant bunch. Much more remote than Tortuguero, the jungle here is pristine, the wildlife has been largely undisturbed - making it much less shy - and there are fewer tourists about giving it a more isolated and immersive feel.
Things to Consider about a Corcovado Holiday
- Corcovado is accessed via a 45 minute flight from San Jose followed by a 90-minute boat ride through canals and along the coast to the hotel.
- The jungle here is remote, making it far more likely that you will have the jungle “to yourself”.
- As with any wildlife holiday, it is impossible to guarantee sightings of any, let alone specific, species, but the variety here is wide and the wildlife population is dense, making the chances of some great sightings extremely high.
- Wildlife to be spotted here includes tapirs, coatis, sloths, crocodiles and birds, birds, birds.
For further information, feel free to give us a call and we can discuss in more detail any specific questions you may have.
See our Peru Amazon holidays here
See our Ecuador Amazon holidays here
See our Brazil Amazon holidays here
See our Brazil Pantanal holidays here
See our Costa Rica Tortuguero holidays here
See our Costa Rica Corcovado holidays here