5 Amazon animal species

Posted by on June 18th, 2013

A trip to the Amazon is on many people’s bucket list, and with the variety of species on offer it’s no wonder why. Here’s a list of five animals that were highlights of my months in the jungle. (I’ve strategically left sandflies and mosquitoes off the list – the less said about them the better!).

Squirrel monkeys

No jungle experience is complete without the sight of monkeys leaping from tree to tree, chattering and barking as they go. When you visit the Amazon you’ll almost certainly see quite a few species of monkey. Howler monkeys are the biggest ones you’ll encounter, and they actually have the distinction of being the loudest land animals in the world, but I still prefer the squirrel monkeys for sheer picture postcard cuteness. No prizes for guessing how they came to be so called, squirrel monkeys are very inquisitive creatures and will often come right up to your boat or car to investigate.

Giant river otters

Giant river otters are the largest otter species in the world, measuring up to 2.4 meters in length and attaining weights of 75 lbs. They are voracious predators (their impressive teeth and muscular tails come in handy here) but they are also very social animals which place huge importance on family. Prized for their pelts, they have been the victim of poaching for centuries. Luckily they now enjoy considerable protection in Peru, and this country is one of the best places to view them. There’s a fantastic documentary about them here.


It’s strange than an animal I never got to see has left such an impression. For seven straight nights, my guide Tomba and I followed tapir spoor, painted our faces with mud and hid amongst deep undergrowth waiting for these enormous pig-like mammals to appear. We heard them a few times, but I never did glimpse one. Perhaps you’ll have more luck than me – I know some lodges are close to salt licks frequented by tapirs.


For me, nothing epitomises the Amazon more than the site of blue and yellow macaws roosting in palm trees and church steeples in the towns and homesteads of the region. Of course you will see rarer and more special species of parrot, macaw and parakeet (especially if you visit Posada Amazonas with Vaya Adventures) but these macaws are large, vocal and spectacular. Other bird species worth looking out for are the festive Amazon parrot, the famous cock of the rock and the mysteriously named hoatzin.

Caimans and alligators

It wouldn’t be the jungle if there weren’t prehistoric, armor-plated saber-toothed reptiles patrolling the depths. The Amazon is home to American alligators and caiman. Caimans are smaller than alligators and not as dangerous, and the most common species, the spectacled caiman is distinguished by the bony ridge between its eyes which gives it them impression of wearing glasses. Many lodges and homesteads have ‘tame’ caimans which wander about camp, affording tourists a chance to get up close and personal.

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