The Amazon Rainforest is the largest forest in the world, as well as one of its largest ecological zones. Sprawling across a huge swath of Brazil, Columbia and Peru (as well as a few other countries), this massive woodland makes up half of the world’s rainforests. Its dominant feature, besides its biodiversity, is the immense Amazon River which meanders through its heart. The Amazon is home to more species of plants and animals then any other place on Earth. A portion of the Amazon are protected in the Central Amazon Conservation Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The great forests of east-central South America were about the last place on Earth to be reached by humans. The earliest known civilizations can be traced back to the 10th Millennium BC. European explorers arrived in the 16th century, after which time many local peoples were wiped out by disease. During the 20th century the Amazon Rainforest has suffered terribly from deforestation. Conservation efforts are ongoing but success has been elusive.
The Amazon Rainforest is huge, and different regions offer different ecological treasures. It is estimated that the forest has over three hundred billion trees in thousands of species (over forty thousand species of plants can be found here). The main route of the Amazon River can be traced from the highlands of Peru directly across the continent to the coast of Brazil. Tens of thousands of miles of other rivers drain into it. The forest is also home toover two thousand species of animals (excluding fish and insects), including some of the biggest cat species in the Americas.
The Amazon Rainforest is immense, and there are many ways to visit. One of the best preserved and most popular areas for visitors is Jau National Park, which is part of the UNESCO site, located in the northwestern corner of the forest in the remotest part of Brazil. Another popular way is by boat along the river (day cruises and longer trips are available from many cities). Web: www.brazil.org.za/national-parks-of-the-amazon (official website).