About Tropical South America

Tropical South America covers around 1.387 million hectares, spanning the largest area of tropical rainforest in the world including the Amazon Basin and the Orinoco and Parana watershed complex. The area comprises Columbia, French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil.

The Amazon Basin, perhaps what this area is most well known for, begins in the Andes in Bolivia and covers Peru, Ecuador, Columbia and Venezuela. It runs alongside the impressive Amazonian plain which resides predominantly inside of Brazil. Tropical South America is home to a massive ecological system, particularly in the lower parts of the basin and, for many small communities and settlements, it is a vital part of their existence providing them with food, water, and materials. The tropical rainforests that this area boasts are home to the world’s richest ecosystem in regards to biodiversity, with Brazil ranking at the top of the pile.  

Climates in Tropical South America are hugely diverse, ranging from arid and semi-arid to pluvial. The northern part of the region predominantly comprises subhumid forests, particularly in Venezuela and Columbia, whilst the northeast of Brazil sees a more semi-arid ecosystem similarly to the Paraguayan chaco. The Peruvian Pacific littoral is characterised by dry forest formations.


It is widely considered that the indigenous South American peoples (estimated at around 14 million when the Spanish Conquest occurred) descend from Mongoloid expansion which was made up of predominantly hunters and gathers who crossed the Bering Straits around 20,000 years ago. Development in the region is predicted to have increased tenfold about 2,600 years ago by the growth of agriculture. However, it is well known that the most famous and perhaps most important development of tropical South America took place in the central Andes with the Inca Empire. At its most successful, this region was comprised of around 1,000,000 square miles and was home to a population of about 6 million.


The culture of tropical South America is extremely diverse and draws inspiration from numerous traditions and heritages including the native cultures that resided in the area before the arrival of the Europeans (mainly Spanish, Portuguese, and French).

Music is a huge part of life in this region which incorporates both traditional versions as well as fusions which draw inspiration from numerous other cultures. Musical style can be divided into separate genres depending on where it stems from on the continent; for example the music in the west of the region is different to that in the south or the east.

The cuisine in tropical South America is also hugely diverse and varies considerably depending on whereabouts in the region you are. The richest ingredients tend to stem from the mid-continent around Amazonia, for example in Peru there is a lasting influence from the Inca peoples. Here, potatoes are grown in abundance and form a huge part of the daily diet, as well as plant species such as quinoa.


Health risks in the tropic regions such as tropical South America are different than most other parts of the world due to their particularly humid atmospheres. The bacteria present in certain foods take some time to get used to, often providing foreigners with a dose of travellers’ diarrhoea. However, this will usually not persist for longer than a few days.

Malaria is perhaps the most important disease to be aware of in this region. It is mainly present in the tropical rainforests and more rural areas and is rarely seen in more urban landscapes. The disease is easily prevented with suitable medication and preventative measures.

Dengue Fever, which is also transmitted via mosquito is prevalent in tropical South America, but is mostly restricted to urban areas particularly in the rainy season. There is no vaccine for Dengue Fever, making preventative measures highly important.

Yellow Fever, yet another mosquito transmitted disease occurs mostly in the Amazon region. There is a vaccine available which can be obtained before departure or on route in South America.

A large portion of South America is home to Chagas Disease, which is transmitted by contact of the reduviid beetle’s faeces. It is most prevalent in rural areas but can be avoided with suitable bed netting and other preventative measures.

Rabies is on the decrease in tropical South America. It is a disease transmitted via bites from infected animals and is most common in rural regions. If you plan on spending a considerable amount of time outdoors or in close proximity to wild animals, there is a vaccination you can obtain before your departure.

Hepatitis affects the liver and has three strains. Hep A is contracted through contaminated food and water, or through personal contact. Unsanitary conditions provide rife breeding grounds for the disease, so take extra measures when travelling through these kinds of areas. Hep B is contracted through bodily fluids, whilst Hep C, the most serious strain, is contracted through blood and sexual contact. There are vaccinations available for hepatitis.

Tuberculosis, a lung infection, is contracted through bacteria in the air or unpasteurised milk products. There is a vaccination you can obtain before departure to protect against TB, although a number of treatment-resistant strains have emerged in recent years.

Typhoid fever is contracted via contaminated food and drink and, whilst the vaccination is not one hundred percent effective, it is worth getting particularly if you plan on travelling in rural areas.

This list of medical ailments that affect tropical South America may seem extensive, but if you obtain the correct vaccinations and medication before departure, you should have no serious health problems. The majority of visitors to this region suffer very few medical issues.