Visiting the Amazon Rainforest (What You Need to Know)

The Amazon rainforest is a place unlike any other in the world. It’s been more than 10 years since I had the opportunity to visit it, but I still clearly and vividly remember the experience. I sincerely hope I will be able to spend time in that place of other-worldly enchantment and beauty again. If I ever do, I will carry a few bits of wisdom with me that I gained from the experience of my first visit.

The Amazon Rainforest Is Wet

Seriously, the Amazon rainforest is the most humid place on the planet. When it rains, it’s very much all or nothing. Of the many new occurrences that I witnessed in the rainforest, one was the experience of hearing rain as much as a few minutes before feeling it. You get used to that sound of the heavens opening up and the downpour sweeping in before it actually reaches you. After the rain passes, you are left soaking wet. You can wrap yourself in as many ponchos as you like, but you’re going to get wet.

In addition to the rain, you are undoubtedly going to sweat. I went to the rainforest with the expectation of blazing, blistering heat. While that turned out not to be the case, it was definitely warm enough to make me sweat. All that wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the humidity.

The constant moisture in the air means once you get wet, you stay wet. Once your clothes get wet, they stay wet.

I began my visit by showering at least twice a day to get rid of the constant beads of sweat on my body, but I soon gave up the struggle and just learned to live with the feeling. Additionally, I gave up the struggle to keep my clothes dry. After getting caught in the rain, I hung my clothes up to dry in a hut in front of a fan but after hour and hours, they were just as soaked as before.

Since there is no getting around the fact that you’re going to get wet, if I ever have an extended stay in the rainforest again, I intend to pack every change of clothes I bring in waterproof and watertight plastic containment. I will bring at least one outfit per day so I will have one set of dry clothes ready for me in the morning. I will keep each article of clothing as compartmentalized as possible and put wet clothes back in these plastic bags because otherwise the moisture will, I have learned, spread to anything that is even somewhat absorbent.

You’re Going to Get Sick

I am from the United States. I have worked in a daycare center where I was instructed to wash the children’s dishes after snack times by scrubbing them off in a bucket of steaming hot water brimming with suds and then rinsing them off in a bucket of cold water mixed with a small amount of bleach. Coming from such a sanitized environment, when visiting places such as the Amazon, getting sick, for me, is just going to be part of the package.

Even if I am not infected with a virus or bacteria specifically, things will get into my body that it will not recognize and it will respond by attempting to expel them. I have always been a little more resilient to disease than most people, so out of the ten visitors to the forest in my party, I was the only one who didn’t have to miss out on any of the activities in our schedule to rest in bed. However, I did suffer from inevitable and persistent diarrhea. Pepto Bismol provided relief, but only short term.

That was another painful lesson I learned: All of these generic, over-the-counter medicines from the commercials we brought with us to treat rashes and upset stomachs were no match for the rainforest.

They made us feel better, but the effects of the medicine never lasted as long as the affliction itself.

I took medication to prevent myself from getting malaria, but the malaria medication was almost an ailment unto itself. We were all shocked when the director of the research station where we spent most of our visit said he didn’t take any type of medicine to prevent malaria. He explained that it was because he spent so much time in the tropics that taking that much medication would likely cause more damage to his body than a bout of malaria ever would.

Bugs Are Going to Bite You

We were instructed to bring bug spray, and we were told to pay special attention to our wrists, waist and ankles (i.e., all the places where insects could sneak under our clothes). I used bug spray, and it worked, but it didn’t last all day. A second coat of bug spray, I discovered, actually caused my skin to peel.

Fending off the mosquitos and other bugs became a constant balancing act.

Long sleeves and pants seemed like the obvious alternative, but that meant choosing between protecting most of my body from bugs and compounding the already stifling heat and humidity. Our first night we were instructed to sleep under mosquito nets, but I found the heat became positively unbearable, and I actually resorted to sticking my feet and hands out from under the net while sleeping.

Bugs in the Amazon are surprisingly discreet as well. The mosquitos are very small and their appendages so fine and delicate that I usually didn’t even feel them until they had already started to drink my blood. I had no idea how much I had been bitten until I looked down and saw a massive red rash on my leg.

Another day, perhaps I didn’t put enough bug spray on, or perhaps the spray had worn off and I forgot to put a new layer on, but when I walked down to the small dock by the river to take a trip to the village, the adult in charge pointed to my waist and said that I had “chiggers.” I never knew their scientific name, but when I looked down and saw a chain of red bumps around my waist, I realized I must have indeed fallen prey to these virtually microscopic insects that are notorious for creeping into the spaces between clothing and burrowing under the skin.

Even if I had been diligent in each and every precaution, there were still encounters with the Amazon’s entomology that were simply unavoidable.

One day I was climbing over a log, and as I rolled my body over the top of it, I realized there must’ve been an insect on top of it as well because I felt something sting my side. It wasn’t even as painful as a bee sting though and quickly began to fade.

It’s Really Not That Dangerous

Popular media has always painted the Amazon rainforest as a savage and fearful place. Without a doubt, it should most certainly be respected. Travelers who go gallivanting over in a reckless and cavalier manner will very likely find themselves in trouble, but at the end of the day, the rainforest face poses no more danger than visiting any other wonder of nature. One of the first things the director of the station told us was, yes, there are piranhas in the river, and no, they aren’t going to eat you alive.

I visited the rainforest with my share of anxieties. However, the frankly indescribable sense of peace and tranquility I experienced the longer I stayed in the Amazon overrode everything else. The knowledge that an electrical eel lived under the dock ceased to faze me the longer I swam in the river.

My dwindling supply of dry clothes was an afterthought as I hurried to get dressed in the morning so I could make it to the watchtower in time to catch another glimpse of a flock of blue and golden macaws flying off into the horizon where emerald green clashed with blazing pink and orange. By the time I was told I had small bugs burrowing into my skin, I honestly just shrugged it off because all I was concerned with was getting on the boat and seeing what else the Amazon had to share with me that day.

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I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and went to California to get my first bachelor's degree. I am currently living and working as a teacher in China while studying the University of North Dakota's online bachelor of Communications/Journalism program.

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Visiting the Amazon Rainforest (What You Need to Know)

The Amazon rainforest is a place unlike any other in the world. It’s been more than 10 years since I had the opportunity to visit it, but I still clearly and vividly remember the experience. I sincerely hope I will be able to spend time in that place of other-worldly enchantment and beauty again. If I ever do, I will carry a few bits of wisdom with me that I gained from the experience of my first visit.

The Amazon Rainforest Is Wet

Seriously, the Amazon rainforest is the most humid place on the planet. When it rains, it’s very much all or nothing. Of the many new occurrences that I witnessed in the rainforest, one was the experience of hearing rain as much as a few minutes before feeling it. You get used to that sound of the heavens opening up and the downpour sweeping in before it actually reaches you. After the rain passes, you are left soaking wet. You can wrap yourself in as many ponchos as you like, but you’re going to get wet.

In addition to the rain, you are undoubtedly going to sweat. I went to the rainforest with the expectation of blazing, blistering heat. While that turned out not to be the case, it was definitely warm enough to make me sweat. All that wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the humidity.

The constant moisture in the air means once you get wet, you stay wet. Once your clothes get wet, they stay wet.

I began my visit by showering at least twice a day to get rid of the constant beads of sweat on my body, but I soon gave up the struggle and just learned to live with the feeling. Additionally, I gave up the struggle to keep my clothes dry. After getting caught in the rain, I hung my clothes up to dry in a hut in front of a fan but after hour and hours, they were just as soaked as before.

Since there is no getting around the fact that you’re going to get wet, if I ever have an extended stay in the rainforest again, I intend to pack every change of clothes I bring in waterproof and watertight plastic containment. I will bring at least one outfit per day so I will have one set of dry clothes ready for me in the morning. I will keep each article of clothing as compartmentalized as possible and put wet clothes back in these plastic bags because otherwise the moisture will, I have learned, spread to anything that is even somewhat absorbent.

You’re Going to Get Sick

I am from the United States. I have worked in a daycare center where I was instructed to wash the children’s dishes after snack times by scrubbing them off in a bucket of steaming hot water brimming with suds and then rinsing them off in a bucket of cold water mixed with a small amount of bleach. Coming from such a sanitized environment, when visiting places such as the Amazon, getting sick, for me, is just going to be part of the package.

Even if I am not infected with a virus or bacteria specifically, things will get into my body that it will not recognize and it will respond by attempting to expel them. I have always been a little more resilient to disease than most people, so out of the ten visitors to the forest in my party, I was the only one who didn’t have to miss out on any of the activities in our schedule to rest in bed. However, I did suffer from inevitable and persistent diarrhea. Pepto Bismol provided relief, but only short term.

That was another painful lesson I learned: All of these generic, over-the-counter medicines from the commercials we brought with us to treat rashes and upset stomachs were no match for the rainforest.

They made us feel better, but the effects of the medicine never lasted as long as the affliction itself.

I took medication to prevent myself from getting malaria, but the malaria medication was almost an ailment unto itself. We were all shocked when the director of the research station where we spent most of our visit said he didn’t take any type of medicine to prevent malaria. He explained that it was because he spent so much time in the tropics that taking that much medication would likely cause more damage to his body than a bout of malaria ever would.

Bugs Are Going to Bite You

We were instructed to bring bug spray, and we were told to pay special attention to our wrists, waist and ankles (i.e., all the places where insects could sneak under our clothes). I used bug spray, and it worked, but it didn’t last all day. A second coat of bug spray, I discovered, actually caused my skin to peel.

Fending off the mosquitos and other bugs became a constant balancing act.

Long sleeves and pants seemed like the obvious alternative, but that meant choosing between protecting most of my body from bugs and compounding the already stifling heat and humidity. Our first night we were instructed to sleep under mosquito nets, but I found the heat became positively unbearable, and I actually resorted to sticking my feet and hands out from under the net while sleeping.

Bugs in the Amazon are surprisingly discreet as well. The mosquitos are very small and their appendages so fine and delicate that I usually didn’t even feel them until they had already started to drink my blood. I had no idea how much I had been bitten until I looked down and saw a massive red rash on my leg.

Another day, perhaps I didn’t put enough bug spray on, or perhaps the spray had worn off and I forgot to put a new layer on, but when I walked down to the small dock by the river to take a trip to the village, the adult in charge pointed to my waist and said that I had “chiggers.” I never knew their scientific name, but when I looked down and saw a chain of red bumps around my waist, I realized I must have indeed fallen prey to these virtually microscopic insects that are notorious for creeping into the spaces between clothing and burrowing under the skin.

Even if I had been diligent in each and every precaution, there were still encounters with the Amazon’s entomology that were simply unavoidable.

One day I was climbing over a log, and as I rolled my body over the top of it, I realized there must’ve been an insect on top of it as well because I felt something sting my side. It wasn’t even as painful as a bee sting though and quickly began to fade.

It’s Really Not That Dangerous

Popular media has always painted the Amazon rainforest as a savage and fearful place. Without a doubt, it should most certainly be respected. Travelers who go gallivanting over in a reckless and cavalier manner will very likely find themselves in trouble, but at the end of the day, the rainforest face poses no more danger than visiting any other wonder of nature. One of the first things the director of the station told us was, yes, there are piranhas in the river, and no, they aren’t going to eat you alive.

I visited the rainforest with my share of anxieties. However, the frankly indescribable sense of peace and tranquility I experienced the longer I stayed in the Amazon overrode everything else. The knowledge that an electrical eel lived under the dock ceased to faze me the longer I swam in the river.

My dwindling supply of dry clothes was an afterthought as I hurried to get dressed in the morning so I could make it to the watchtower in time to catch another glimpse of a flock of blue and golden macaws flying off into the horizon where emerald green clashed with blazing pink and orange. By the time I was told I had small bugs burrowing into my skin, I honestly just shrugged it off because all I was concerned with was getting on the boat and seeing what else the Amazon had to share with me that day.

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