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Amazon sailings in Brazil or Peru often visit nature reserves and small villages along the river, and guided excursions feature a variety of wildlife sightings and unique nature experiences.

Explore the rainforest with an expert naturalist in search of exotic animals like caiman lizards, rare frogs, monkeys and vibrant butterflies. This stunning tropical oasis also is a bird-watcher's dream. Travelers can board a small boat for an opportunity to spot some of the roughly 1,300 spectacles of the sky, from vibrant macaws and toucans to rare harpy eagles and hummingbirds.

Or, try your hand at catching one of the toothy piranhas of the Amazon River. Several species of this feared fish inhabit the waters. Though they are known for attacking in packs, many of the myths surrounding them are largely exaggerated, as their group behavior is based on defense against larger predators.

Other activities on Amazon River vacations can include a visit to a butterfly farm, a lesson in the medicinal plants of the jungle or a barbecue and samba show.

Deep in Brazil's interior, Manaus is the chief port of the lower Amazon River and was called the "Paris of the Jungle" in the late 19th century; its ornate pink-and-white opera house is a favorite photo spot here. Many itineraries also include hotel stays in cities like Rio de Janeiro or Lima, offering an intriguing contrast to the lush wilderness of the Amazon.