Macro Photography in the Amazon Jungle of Peru


The Amazon jungle or Amazon rainforest is the largest area of lowland rainforest in the world and one of the last great wilderness areas on Earth. Many people think of Brazil when they hear the word “Amazon” but there are also huge areas of trackless, primary rainforest in several other South American countries, including Peru.

Some of the wildest and most diverse areas of the Amazon are found within Peru’s borders. Not only is much of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest still intact, but well established ecolodges and reserves also make the rainforests of Peru some of the most accessible areas of the Amazon.

The Peruvian Amazon is renowned for its fantastic photography opportunities. Photography tours to the Peruvian Amazon often visit clay licks in Manu National Park and the Tambopata Reserve where spectacular macaws and hundreds of screeching parrots come to feed on mineral rich clay and pose for one of a kind photo opportunities. Photography trips to the Peruvian Amazon may also include excursions to hides above mud wallows in the hopes of photographing a  Tapir or a herd of White-lipped Peccaries. Participants on photography tours to the Peruvian Amazon even have a chance (although remote) at getting stunning images of a jaguar as it rests on a riverbank. Macro lenses and settings, however, will be put to far more use because the easiest and some of the most incredible photography subjects in the Peruvian rainforest include the myriads of insects and other small creatures that thrive there.

High insect diversity = endless and incredible photographic opportunities in the Peruvian Amazon peru jungle tours

Wildlife and nature photographers will be coming to the right place when taking tours to the Peruvian Amazon because these forests are some of the most biodiverse terrestrial habitats on Earth. They degree of biodiversity harbored in the Peruvian Amazon is simply astonishing. For example, one square mile of rainforest may harbor more than 50,000 insect species (!). A night walk will give a hint at this (especially the incredible variety of Katydids) but most people can’t help but notice the sheer number and types of ants.

Ants could actually make up 30% of the biomass of the Amazonian rainforest and come in countless varieties and shapes. Because they can’t fly away, and have interesting behaviors, they also make excellent subjects during Peruvian photography tours. To make up for being easy to catch though, most also bite and some have horrible stings so care should always be taken to not get too close when photographing ants in the Peruvian Amazon.

Army Ants – one of the best things to happen on any travel photography tour to the Peruvian Amazon

Army ants! These nomadic, top predators rustle through the forest floor and move up the trees in nomadic swarms that number in the tens of thousands. They bite anything that moves and thus one would expect that these insects would be the worst thing to run into on a photography tour to the Peruvian Amazon. Just the opposite is the case, however, because they scare every insect and small creature out of hiding, attract rare birds, and make for exciting portraits as they take down a scorpion, tarantula, or walking stick. They are also easy to avoid as long as one stays on the edge of the swarm and watches where one steps or places a tripod. Getting the chance to photograph these uncommon ants as they forage and attack everything in their way might also make up for a few stray bites.

Leaf-cutter Ants – quintessential, easy subjects for nature photography in the Peruvian Amazon

Unlike Army Ants, Leaf-cutter Ants are common and easy to find in the Peruvian Amazon. They are active at all times but are most industrious during the dark of the night. Their habit of following obvious trails as they carry small pieces of leaves to their underground nests makes Leaf-cutter Ants great photography subjects and especially so for kids and beginning photographers just learning how to shoot with macro lenses.

Leaf-cutter Ants make especially nice portraits when they carry bits of colorful flowers instead of the usual green bits of leaves. A good way to increase one’s chances of getting photos of Leaf-cutter Ants carrying flower pieces in the Peruvian Amazon is to place some flower bits near the trail for them to find and then take photos as they carry them back to their nest.

Other insects for nature photography in the Peruvian Amazon

In addition to exciting Army and Leaf-cutter Ants, there are countless other types of insects and macro-sized creatures seen on photography tours to the Peruvian Amazon. A handful of some of the more spectacular are:

The Trap Jaw Ant – This predatory ant gets its name from its large mandibles that are held open wide at 90 degree angles to each side of its head. It catches and kills its insect prey by quickly snapping shut its powerful jaws.
Morpho Butterfly – The shining blue upperwings of this large butterfly make it look like something from another, more magical world as it flutters along streams through the rainforest. It can be difficult to capture the electric-blue colors on its wings, though, because this butterfly shows gray and brown underwings with an intricate, camouflaged pattern when it alights. Nevertheless, patient photographers may get good captures of Morphos (and other butterflies) by putting rotten fruit out for bait (their preferred food source) and waiting for Morphos to come and feed.

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