Long before there was Amazon, there was THE Amazon. Covering about 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers) in the heart of South America, the Amazon is the world's second-longest river and one of the most mysterious regions in the world. With dense rainforests and few people, the Amazon is still ripe for exploration. And, it seems like scientists announce that they've discovered a new species there almost every week. Why shouldn't you get in on the action?
Don't start outfitting your paddleboat just yet. Because it's a complex and fragile ecosystem, the best way to see the Amazon is on a river cruise. That way, you'll have a big boat to sleep and eat on, but will be able to go out into creeks and tributaries, as well as on the river itself, in smaller boats with a knowledgeable guide. Most Amazon cruises connect you with naturalists, to explain the plants and animals you'll be seeing. Many cruises will also connect you with the people who live along the Amazon, so you'll learn not only about the various flora and fauna, but also the history, culture and issues facing the entire region. The locals also probably have the best tips for avoiding Amazon-size mosquitoes.
Still not enough adventure for you? Look for a cruise that combines environmental and cultural education with fishing expeditions. The Amazon is home to some of the world's most extreme species of fish, and eating a piranha will earn you a ton of street-cred -- assuming the piranha doesn't eat you first.
Want more information? There's a Web site where you can order all sorts of books on the Amazon, but the name escapes me right now.