Written by Pauline Viaud
The Amazon Rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world. It stretches over several countries in South America, including the French Guiana. It’s called the Planet’s Lungs.
Last year, I spent six months in French Guiana, exploring its wild territory; it was such an intense and unforgettable experience.
Are you ready for an adventure?
WHAT YOU NEED TO EXPLORE THE AMAZON
You don’t go hiking in the Amazon Rainforest the same way you go to the beach! You need hiking boots, pants, water and, if needed, food reserves, a hammock, a mosquito net, a sleeping bag, a headlamp, and a machete (one for the group)… these are just the essentials! A compass, a map and a GPS are a must-have too.
DISCOVERING THE RAINFOREST
The rainforest is VERY humid! You lose water, sweating and for each kilometre you walk! The roads aren’t always flat. I like to have sticks to lean on, especially because the ground is often slippery.
The Amazon Rainforest is dense. We rarely see the sky, so there is not much luminosity, and you can easily lose track of time. The rain can’t always get through the vegetation, so you will get part wet from the rain and part wet from the humid air! There’s no way out of it!
Although the National Office of Forests is doing an amazing job, there are still a lot of obstacles for the hikers to enter its impenetrable jungle! You have to avoid branches on the paths, but above all, you will have to jump or climb trunks and cross rivers.
To cross rivers, everybody has its own technic on a trunk. Mine is often to move forward using my butt because I lose balance quickly, especially with a backpack!
The rainforest is very noisy.
Big leaves and fruits are falling, and branches are breaking.
The Screaming Piha warn the other animals you are there. Its two-tone song is very distinctive and repetitive. Its colleagues take over from it while you are moving forward.
The song of the family of parrots is very noisy and not very melodious! The pretty hummingbirds are loudly buzzing when around you.
Cicadas and crickets sound exactly like circular saws!
Animals are moving on the ground and in the air: for example, the monkeys in the trees, you won’t notice them, but you will see and hear the trees moving.
During the night, you can often hear howling monkeys. You should be aware because their sound is a mix of a grunt, but it also kind of sounds like the wind… a sigh from a ghost. You hear it miles away- it’s weird and terrifying!
When you enter the Amazon Forest, this strange world, you smell a lot of things.
Decomposing wood, the thick layer of humus, mushrooms, humidity…
Crossing or marking of animals, like wild pigs or even felines.
You do feel like you’re entering an occupied territory…
Falling trees are the first cause of accidents. As the rainforest is dense when a tree is falling, it pulls down other trees with a network of lianas. Even if it’s tempting, you shouldn’t try to play Tarzan with lianas!
It’s important to follow the marked path because it’s easy to get lost.
The other bi-hazard in the rainforest would be to walk on a Bushmaster snake, the most dangerous snake in South America, whose bite can be lethal for the weakest. You can find it on the paths. Its colours are similar to the colours of nature, so you have to be careful. If you don’t bother them, they won’t attack you. Many other snakes live there, so it’s important to walk with sticks, as they can’t hear you, but they will feel your vibrations on the ground.
You’re also entering the territory of many felines: pumas and jaguars are the biggest ones. It’s rare to meet one of them because they avoid human contacts. However, they can attack dogs, so you better keep them with you at night.
Trap-door spiders, urticant caterpillars, fire ants, scorpions, scolopendras… can be dangerous or very annoying if they sting/bite you, so you really need to watch where you sit!
Parasites like ticks or worms can try to share your body, so pants and long sleeves clothes are needed!
THE MAGIC OF THE RAINFOREST
But above all, the rainforest is amazing! It’s full of life if you take the time to observe it, from the ground to the sky.
Sometimes, when you’re hiking, it’s impressive to see how many seeds the wind or the animals dropped on the ground. They are rooting quickly to create a new plant. You can admire trees that are at least a hundred years old. With a twisted neck, you may be able to see the tipping point! Their roots have entirely different sizes and shapes.
Windfall: when a tree falls, it makes room on the ground and for the light to penetrate. Small plants that were patiently waiting to grow can now do so. The trunk on the ground can help other plants to grow and can be a shelter for animals.
Many animals are living in the rainforest. Many families of monkeys: spider monkeys, howling monkeys, tamarins… And other mammals we know about, but we’ve never seen: giant anteaters, grey-winged trumpeters, sloths, armadillos…
In the sky, you can see the beautiful macaws and toucans.
In this two-coloured landscape, a little bit monotonous, you can often see a blue flash: the morpho butterfly. This butterfly lives only a few hours or days when it’s the hottest. It is swift and hard to immortalize! Every time you get to see one, it’s a delight!
Between plants looking like insects and animals looking like plants, partnerships to protect themselves from parasites, the plants and animals intelligence is real!
In the Amazon Rainforest, you have 2 sleeping options. The first one is a “carbet” (hut-camp), a lasting construction with a roof but no walls. You have free access to these public or private structures on the roads, or you can rent one. In case of a wilder expedition, the second option is to bring ropes and tarpaulins, and to hang your hammock between trees, using a tarp as a roof.
This is luxury when there is a creek nearby the camp, and you can cool down at the end of the day.
After many hours of walking in the jungle, you go to bed early so you can wake up at sunrise.
It would be best if you got used to sleeping in a hammock, and figure out how you want it, loose or tense. The nights are cold so that you could use a blanket. You quickly know if your hammock is too close to your neighbours because you touch them while swinging!
There are not too many mosquitoes in the rainforest, but when sleeping near a river, they can be quite voracious and attack you through your hammocks!
You rarely have a deep sleep when in a hammock, therefore you can hear the rainforest’s strange noises.
The Amazon Rainforest is magical, lively and powerful. Your five senses will be mobilized! I feel so lucky I got to experience it!
So, what do you think?
This post was translated from French to English by:
I am Charlene. I was born in France but I live in Quebec City since 2007. I am a 32-year-old married mom of 2 (a boy and a girl), a part-time student (translation) and also a hockey mom 😉 I decided to go to university at 31 because I love foreign languages and I needed a new challenge. I love food and wine (I’m French you remember 😉 ), I have a very long travel bucket list and I practice Zumba and Yoga.