The Amazon River has the most extensive drainage system on earth. It’s double the size of the next biggest – the Congo River Basin. The river flows from west to east. Originating in the Andes Mountains in Peru, the Amazon flows through Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil. The Amazon and its basin cover a whopping 40% of northern South America. Two-thirds of this monster river is in Brazil, the largest country in South America.
The largest most precious rainforest in the world covers most of the basin. The diversity of flora is almost impossible to describe. Over a hundred arboreal species may live in a single acre. Giant trees soar 40 metres above the ground forming the canopy. From the lofty treetops, cries of primates, squawks of birds and humming of insects provide background music. Below the canopy are shade loving trees: palms, figs, Spanish cedar and many more. These are laced together by lianas, a woody type of vine. Orchids, ferns, mosses and cacti are epiphytes – plants which live on other plants.
More than a million species of fauna live within the Amazon Rainforest. Many of the mammals live in the trees.
There are fewer large mammals than in Africa or India. Counting of insect species is ongoing – 8000 so far! Substantial hairy spiders and leaf-cutting ants are just two of them. The most spectacular are the hundreds of butterflies. These gather on the sandy riverbanks.
- 2500 species of fish including the flesh-eating piranha
- Alligators, river turtles and sea cows (manatees)
- River dolphin
- Capybara – largest rodent in the world
- Tapir, white-lipped peccary and water buffalo
- Howler, squirrel and spider monkeys
- Puma on the Andean fringe
- Sloths, anteaters, armadillos and iguanas
- Boa constrictor and anaconda snakes
- An extensive array of birds
- Bats including the blood-eating vampire bat!