The Amazon rainforest is so often heralded as an exotic location beyond common understanding and is critical to the health of the planet. What many don’t realize is that it is accessible to tourists, whether you’re looking for adventure tourism, luxury travel or something in between. Here are 3 reasons why you should visit the Amazon at least once in your life.

See Animals Found Nowhere Else

When you’re in the Amazon basin, you’ll have the chance to see animals you’ll never have the chance to see again. You’ll be able to witness sloths, aka the slowest animal on earth, in its native habitat in trees, on the ground or in the water. (Yes, they can swim.)

The Amazon is home to a huge number of primate species found nowhere else in the world. You can also find species you’ve only heard about like jaguars and, rarely, pink river dolphins. The river dolphins of the Amazon are doing much better than their nearly extinct relatives in Asia. That’s on top of more than 200 known bird species. All in all, one in ten known species on the planet are found here.

Learn About the People

The Amazon contains a few uncontacted tribes and you’ll have the chance to visit villages where life is almost unchanged. You could also visit the archeological sites that dot the area, such as the ancient raised dams and roads that revealed that this area was once as well farmed and developed as Mesoamerica to the north.

Or include a trip to Inca and Mayan sites on your way to the Amazon. For example, you could visit pyramids that aren’t as famous as the ones in Egypt but just as historically important. Or visit the several hundred Amerindian tribes in the region that have retained their ancestral customs.

Adventure Travel That’s Truly an Adventure

Not only is the Amazon one of the longest rivers in the world, it remains one of the least developed. For example, there are no bridges across the Amazon. Take river boats or luxury ships on a cruise of the Amazon, and you’ll see vast swaths of virgin rainforest and wild animals that you’d have to travel days up little tributaries to see on an Asian river tour.

A side benefit of planning a trip to the Amazon is the sheer flexibility. You can travel the river in the dry season when there are vast swaths of savannah and grassland or the wet season, when the river has flooded the forest, so small boats can take you right up underneath exotic birds in the trees.

Note that if you arrange a riverboat cruise, you can stay on the boat itself instead of trying to camp in the rainforest. They’ll typically provide meals, lectures and everything you need for the trip.

The Amazon is home to cultures and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. You’ll have the chance to have a direct personal experience with a key center of biodiversity on the planet. Now you will have personal experience with the place, something few others have.

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