Piranhas & poisonous dart frogs: the dark heart of the Amazon Jungle

By Emma Smith, Back Track Adventure Consultant

There’s South America which brings to mind all the iconic images of Machu Picchu, meandering llama, colourful ponchos and festivals… and then there is the deepest and darkest Peru aka Northern Peru and the Amazon Jungle. That’s where you will find me.

We flew into Lima and spent one night there before flying north up to Jaen and transferring out to the Amazonas region of Chacapoyas, where we spent four nights in a spectacular mountainous region.

We visited Kuelap – the most important archaeological site in the Northern Peruvian Andes predating Machu Picchu.


Staying at a beautiful lodge, we were spoilt with views out to Gocta waterfall which is 771m tall and made me feel like a dot on the landscape. No sloths amongst our group, we did a 12km hike to the base of the waterfall… justified all the required eating thus far!

Next, a visit to the Leymebamba Museum which exhibits over 260 mummies and Revash with its several mausoleums in the rock face. Extraordinary. We then flew back to Lima for another overnight stop before our flight up to Iquitos for our three-night Amazon River cruise onboard the Delphin III.

Cruising into the jungle

The Amazon Jungle Cruise was like nothing I have ever experienced before. The ship was 5-star luxury with a plunge pool, all you can drink Pisco, great cabins, and friendly staff. But nothing compared to the wildlife. I’ve seen my share of amazing animals, but this was something else:

  • Sloths
  • Toucans
  • Pink dolphins and bottle nose dolphins
  • A massive Anaconda (pictured left)
  • Tarantulas
  • Poisonous dart frogs
  • Howler monkeys
  • Caiman
  • …and so much more.



And to top it all off I caught a Piranha, teeth and all!



What surprised me

This was my first trip to South America, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was amazed at how beautiful the landscape was in the Northern region. We were literally among the clouds in the mountains and then up to the Amazon Jungle; it was such a contrast of landscapes but equally amazing!

What not to do…

While in the Amazon, I made the mistake of having some black sleeves on my long-sleeved shirt and despite having two different types of bug spray on including Deet, I still got eaten alive through my shirt!

Yes, I survived piranhas, tarantulas, woman-eating snakes and more, but the bugs nearly carried me away! So, wear light, neutral colours and spray, spray, and spray some more!

My tip for your journey

Try and break up your flights and overnight somewhere on the way. On the return journey we flew from Lima to Santiago, to Auckland, to Sydney, and back to Brisbane all in one hit and I was truly exhausted. We were also delayed so we had extremely short connection times which was very stressful. The overnight stopover would solve this!

What I discovered about me

Like all good adventures, I have plenty to take away with me, but I surprised myself; I am actually more adventurous than I thought.

I am not one who enjoys hikes, and snakes and spiders are my worst nightmare. But being rewarded with the most beautiful waterfall at the end of a tough 12km hike and seeing those animals in their natural environment was amazing.

Sometimes you just need to go out of your comfort zone and you will be pleasantly surprised!

Call, drop in, or email Emma to talk about your South American adventure. Emma would be delighted to give you the insider advantage and send you on the most memorable journey of your life!