If you’re backpacking through South America, there are probably a few adventures on your travel hit list: hiking to the top of Machu Picchu, roadtripping through Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats and trekking through the Amazonian jungle. You’ll certainly earn your adventurer’s gold badge for each, but nothing (seriously NOTHING) will top a jungle tour through the world’s largest rainforest and the many surprises that lie within.

As you probably already know, the Amazon Rainforest is massive. So much so that you can book an Amazon trek in one of four (yes, you read that right – four!) countries: Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia. I chose Colombia because Amazon treks there are still relatively new. And being a “go hard, or go home” kind of girl, I equated that to it also being the most raw and rugged Amazon tour on the market. The fact I naively glossed over is that this would also make it the most challenging. So much so that I’d even be inclined to quit my first night in.

You, on the other hand, are reading this very post, which means you’re clearly a lot more sensible. You want a sense of what you’re actually signing yourself up to. So here is the full lowdown on my jungle trek through the Colombian Amazon – from the good to the bad to the ugly. Everything you need to know to book the Amazon adventure that’s right for you.

As I mentioned earlier, you can choose from a number countries for your Amazon jungle adventure. So the first step is to decide where you want to go most. I’d recommend building your trek into a more complete travel itinerary in one specific country you’ve been dying to visit. Why not start your trip in the middle of the rainforest but finish it relaxing on white sand beaches? Then, decide how long you think you’ll last in the jungle (two nights? one week?) and under what type of living conditions. Either way, you’ll be roughing it, but more developed tours somewhere like Brazil will offer slightly more luxe options. Once you’ve narrowed it down to which country you’d like to visit and how many days you’re prepared to trek, it’s time to find a reputable tour agency. Reputable is the key word here, because you’ll literally be going into the wild and you’ll want a guide you can really trust.

We arrived in Leticia (the Colombian hub for Amazonian treks) at the height of that steamy afternoon heat. The trip began by stripping our bags to the bare essentials: a change of clothes for when we inevitably got drenched, a few pairs of clean knickers / underwear, some basic toiletries and some handy jungle kit (i.e. a headlamp, a safety whistle and a sturdy rain jacket). We’d be carrying everything (including our hefty bottles of water) on our backs for the entire duration of the trip so we minimised as much as we could. Once packed, our expert tour guide Carlos, who literally grew up in the Amazon jungle, handed us a pair of wellies which would soon become our besties. After a refuel of rice and beans, it was straight into the bush for our first three-hour trek at sunset. But with so much foliage it gets dark really early in the rainforest. So before we knew it, we were relying on our trusty headlamps to prevent from sinking in anaconda-infested waters and making it to basecamp alive.

Legs shaking on arrival, Carlos helped us newbs set up camp, from collecting firewood for our evening meal to setting up our hammocks and overhead tarps to protect us from mosquito attacks (or any other jungle critters for that matter). This even included hanging our wellies off makeshift wooden poles to prevent spiders and snakes from crawling in overnight.  I warn you now – DEET or no DEET – you will be eaten alive in the Amazon. Always wear long sleeves (just power through the heat and humidity), apply mosquito repellent regularly and remember that your very itchy experience will soon make for killer dinner party conversation.