Located in the heart of South America is one of the world’s last untamed wildernesses, The Amazon Rainforest, comprising of both the Amazon and Orinoco River Basins. Growing up, I was mesmerized by the alluring call of the jungle, full of wonders unseen anywhere else in the world. When I came to Colombia, I knew that the time to visit was now. From the Colombian capital, Bogotá, a short flight leads to the small town of Leticia, the southernmost point of Colombia located directly on the Amazon River. As soon as I disembarked the plane I was hit with the full force of the Amazonian humidity and rain. I was wet immediately and trust me; I don’t think I completely dried until I left. But on the bright side, the humidity worked wonders on my skin.
Knowing that it could very well rain the entire time, I started right away to explore the city. I ate a traditional lunch of soup, rice, and plantains, which was practically the only thing I ate while I was there.
Leticia shares a border with Brazil and the town of Tabatinga, and the border is open to vehicles and pedestrians. I walked to the Brazilian side where I bought chocolate from a Brazilian company at a local store. I’m not sure if the chocolate was truly good or if it felt that way after spending a day walking through the jungle, but it was delicious. After exploring Tabatinga, I returned to the main park in town, Parque Santander, to watch the gathering of small parrots as they returned to nest. I had heard that a ton of birds would come but I was not prepared for the sheer number of birds circling the sky nor for the astounding sounds they made. It was incredible. The atmosphere surrounding the Amazon commands respect; its seamlessly ending rivers and forests encompass even the depths of the imagination.
Through a 3-day jungle tour I joined, we embarked on a 4-mile hike into the jungle led by an indigenous guide. Throughout our hike we learned about the different types of trees such as the palm that grows the açai fruit, certain vines that provide potable water, and all about medicinal plants that can help cure illnesses. It is fascinating to learn about how the natural resources of the jungle can be utilized by its inhabitants for almost any ailment. Upon arrival at our destination, a hut made from palm leaves and wood posts, we learned about some of the common indigenous traditions such as the creation of mambe, a paste of coco leaf and ash.
The 2nd day, we hiked back to the river where we took a small, motorized boat across the Amazon River to Peru where we explored flooded forests and even saw an anaconda in the water! We fished for piranhas and even got to eat them for dinner. Even though piranhas are not that big, no joke their teeth truly are. I definitely would not want to be bitten by one of them. That being said, 10 minutes later we jumped into the water to swim. I told myself at first, I wouldn’t do it. But I knew I just had to. I jumped In the water and it ended up being fantastic. As I cooled off from the intense heat and humidity, I saw a rainbow across the way. It was so quiet and peaceful just floating in the slow-moving water. Soon after, I started hearing the rustle of water and looked out to see pink dolphins gliding through the water, coming up at times for a breath and for a glimpse above water. That peaceful moment will live in my memory forever.
Exploring the Amazon Rainforest was a trip like no other. I felt an overwhelming sensation of appreciation for the amazing world that I live in and the chance I had to explore this sensational wilderness.
Jonathan Lingard is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Barranquilla, Colombia.