amazon river tour
amazon river tour

The biggest mammals in the Amazon

As one of the most biodiverse habitats on earth, any trip to the Amazon jungle is likely to involve a few close encounters with some of the wilder local inhabitants, some of which are found nowhere else on earth.
Though some jungle residents are hard to spot, others are plentiful and happy to show themselves to visitors taking part in Amazon jungle expeditions. This makes for some great photo opportunities and some unforgettable experiences.
Some of the most famous and most iconic of the Amazon rainforest animals are the biggest. So, if you’re strapping on your walking boots and heading to the jungle any time soon here are some of the largest mammals to watch out for.

In the waters

The biggest water-dwelling mammal, and probably the biggest mammal in the Amazon altogether, is the Amazonian Manatee.
A distant relative of the elephant, the Amazonian Manatee can grow up to 2.8m and weigh up to 540kg, with the female usually larger than the male of the species.
Unlike the playful pink dolphins that can often be spotted swimming in the waters of the Amazon, the manatee is one of the more elusive Amazon rainforest animals and can often be difficult to spot thanks to its habit of lurking in the murky waters of swamps and lakes.
What’s more, the Amazonian manatee is able to dive for up to 16 minutes, so any passengers on river cruises hoping for a sighting will have to keep their eyes peeled.


How to see it?

We, at have put together an exclusive Manatee Amazon Explorer Cruise in the Ecuadorian rainforest on Napo River. On it, you will get to visit Monkey Island,  Yasuni National Park and Biosphere Reserve. You will have the chance to see manatees in their natural habitat as well as monkeys, birds, river dolphins and (if you’re lucky) anacondas. For more info, click here.


On land

Amazon tripThough the manatee is the largest of the Amazon rainforest animals that live in the water, the jaguar is normally considered the king of the jungle on dry land.
Weighing an average of 56-96kg and growing up to 1.95m in length, the Amazonian jaguar is a fierce predator that hunts almost all of the terrestrial and riparian vertebrates found in Central and South America.
However thanks to their stealthy nature and habit of hunting alone, you’ll be hard-pressed to spot a jaguar during your Amazon adventure.
Though the jaguar is undeniable a jungle giant, the recent discovery of a new species of tapir could rival the big cat when it comes to size. Growing to around 1.2m and weighing up to 110kg, this new contender could have a real shot at taking the title.
Though scientists have studied many of the Amazon rainforest animals, there are still plenty that remains undocumented, so you never know when a new mammal will pop up and snatch the manatee’s title of the biggest mammal in the Amazon.


How to see it?

This elusive feline is almost impossible to spot from the land. Because of their sharp sense of hearing, the can hear you coming from a few miles away and they’ll run away as soon as they feel threatened. From the river, it’s a different story, during the quieter times of the day, and when the boat engine is resting, it is possible to spot the jaguar from a distance with your binoculars, if you’re very lucky, and the conditions are right during our Three Frontier River Cruise.


For more information about other animals living in the Amazon rainforest, we invite you to check out our pages about reptiles, birds and dolphins.

Is an expert in everything South America, his passion for the region and exploring off the beaten path makes his travel writing both useful and interesting. He has written for several mainstream publications and you can read his guides on Ecuador, Peru, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon. Andre is also an accomplished photographer and has been recognized as one of the best wildlife photographers in the region, his photos have been featured in National Geographic and other journals. As a travel agent Andre specializes in curating unique experiences, crafting tailor made itineraries and helping visitors make the best of their vacation, always putting the experience first

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *