Probably the best recognised, most romantic and exotic river in the world, the Amazon runs - fed by its tributaries - from its modest source in the Andes down to the Atlantic Ocean in northern Brazil. The majority of this vast basin, 7 million sq.km., an area almost as big as Australia, is blanketed in primary rainforest, and includes territory from nine nations: Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname. Throughout, the biodiversity is astounding, with one in 10 of every natural species to be found.
Much of the region is unsullied wilderness, home only to remote or undiscovered tribes. There are virtually no roads, few airstrips, only a handful of large river ports. Elsewhere, human society clings to the banks of rivers and streams, surviving on subsistence agriculture, stock-rearing and fishing. Ambitious developments in the past and present - the rubber boom, large scale logging, Fordlândia, soya - have met with varying degrees of success, and nowadays large tracts of the forest are under threat.
Amazonia is not uniform jungle; different species thrive in different areas, and a visit to the Amazon region in one country can contrast notably from the next. But the local people welcome visitors, and recognise the protection that sustainable tourism offers them.