Retirement Bucket-list Journeys # 6 – Amazon Jungle

Waited your whole life to visit one of the most important natural wonders on earth? Read on to discover how luxurious and comfortable your visit to the Amazon wilds of South America can be.

Luxury Amazon jungle tours tend to sell themselves to retirees looking for that one special South America experience on which to splurge and that’s probably because, in the heart of the most prominent rainforest on earth, a little luxury can go a long way. You may well be an adventurous soul who thrives on immersive hardcore wilderness experiences but not everyone feels the same. Not everyone wants to contend with a gazillion creepy-crawlies all over, incessant heat and humidity and the feeling that they just can’t get a break from the startling but at-times overwhelming nature of the Amazon.

Luckily, the options for comfortable Amazon experiences abound, both as far as river cruising is concerned and in terms of luxury eco-lodges.

Toucan, Amazon Jungle. Photo: Shutterstock

Toucan, Amazon Jungle. Photo: Shutterstock


Luxury Eco-lodge Stays

There’s a wide array of wonderful Amazon lodges that offer an immersive jungle experience whilst still providing a safe haven at the end of the day – things like ceiling fans in bedrooms, swimming pools, cocktail bars and gourmet dining may be taken for granted somewhere else, but not here. Days spent exploring the Amazon – on foot or by canoe – are rewarding and intense: having a heavenly abode to retreat to, at the end of the day, is about as blissful as you can imagine. A few special lodges even boast air-conditioned cabins so if you really don’t suffer heat well, you don’t need to miss out on an Amazon tour. The wealth of daily excursions include wildlife-spotting guided walks and canoe-trips, stand-up-paddle trips and evening walks to spot nocturnal creatures.

At Chimu Adventures, we’ve selected a few absolutely glorious lodges that fit the bill in all the major Amazon destinations (Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia) all immersed in a particularly biodiverse corner of the rainforest, so one need not stray far to really soak up the startling experience.

La Selva Amazon Lodge, Ecuador

La Selva Amazon Lodge, Ecuador. Photo: La Selva


Luxury Amazon Cruising

Amazon river cruising is as comfortable and luxurious as a lodge-based stay except for the fact that you get to explore further inland, reaching remote regions of the jungle that are utterly unspoiled. On a cruise, you can reach places where no lodge has ever been built, adding an extra hint of remoteness and exclusivity to your journey. Do note that just because you cruise into a more remote region, however, it doesn’t mean you will see more wildlife – animal-spotting in the Amazon usually only occur on-land excursions.

The best river cruise ships can actually outrank the best lodges, with stunning extras like Jacuzzis, all air-conditioned interiors, gourmet dining and silver service to boot. Your accommodation can be as sublime as you’d expect to find in any 5* hotel and although you’ll have just as many exciting activities on offer during the day, you will get what we’d call a much more ‘sanitised’ Amazon experience.

Manatee Amazon Vessel. Photo: Manatee

Manatee Amazon Vessel. Photo: Manatee


So…which one’s best?

‘Best’ is quite relative, in this context, as it will all depend on just how ‘close’ to the Amazon you wish to be. Some people loathe the idea of sharing close quarters with all manner of unique insects so, in this case, Amazon river cruising would be the way to go – they are, by far, the most luxurious and comfortable choice here. If, however, you just want some luxury, interspersed with immersive Amazon experiences, then a lodge-based stay would suit you well.

Other factors that’ll weigh in on your options will be the time of year you travel (cruising is best done during the wettest months when river water levels are higher – see the Best Time to Visit the Amazon), your budget (cruising is generally more expensive unless you score an early-bird deal) and how flexible you can be with your itinerary. Amazon river cruises depart on set dates and offer a more rigid itinerary whereas, on a lodge-based stay, you can really call all the shots – stay as long as you like and choose the daily activities as the mood strikes you. Both options offer you the chance to be as immersed in the Amazon jungle as you’d like to be, the main difference being just how ‘distanced’ from the wilderness you’d like to be once the sun sets for the day.

Aerial View of Amazon Rainforest, South America

Aerial View of Amazon Rainforest, South America. Photo: Shutterstock


Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to keep your expectations in check

Many people head to the Amazon on their retirement journey hoping to live out their favourite National Geographic documentaries, hoping they’ll see jaguars drinking by the river’s edge as they cruise by, otters scrambling in the forest as they go on guided walks and even seeing giant anacondas fighting it out right outside their river-side lodge cabins. In fact, some people may even be fearful of the Amazon, considering it a ‘dangerous place full of man-eating predators’. In truth, however, this is about as far from a real Amazon experience as any could ever get. National geographic never mentions that their photojournalists took months (if not years) to nab that iconic and breathtaking animal photo.

This expansive, jaw-dropping jungle is a haven of peace and tranquillity, one that does its job of hiding its resident wildlife exceptionally well. Don’t let documentaries fool you: spotting wildlife in the Amazon is immensely difficult and requires long walks in silence, patience and an experienced local guide to point things out. Sometimes, the sloth/monkey/toucan will be right in front of you but so well camouflaged that it’ll be almost impossible to spot on your own. This is a crazy world of biodiversity, home to countless species of plants and animals, many of which you will have never heard of. A visit to the Amazon is an astonishing and even life-changing experience but don’t expect to visit a place where the most famous (and largest) animals are a breeze to spot because that it is not.

For that, you need to visit the Wetlands of the Pantanal.

Brazilian Pantanal: The jaguar

Brazilian Pantanal: The Jaguar. Photo: Shutterstock


To recap, lodges in the Amazon offer a more rustic (whilst still very comfortable) experience that’s a lot more immersive and some may say, a little more authentic. Cruises, for their part, offer unadulterated luxury – for some, the promise of 24/7 air-conditioning and no bugs in the bathroom are reasons enough to splurge on a river jaunt instead.


What will your Amazon pleasure be?

The way you ultimately want to experience the Amazon will be an entirely personal choice, one that certainly won’t be dictated solely on age. We’ve planned retirement bucket list journeys to South America incorporating both lodge-stays and river cruising and we have on good authority that the two experiences are so different, they can also easily be combined. The best of both worlds, one might say.

Contact us today to learn more about including an Amazon jungle experience in your epic retirement bucket-list journey to South America.

Amazon Jungle tours are one of 7 Best Chimu Adventures for Retirement Bucket-List Journeys. Here are the other six:


Author: Laura Pattara

“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”