On an important and temperamental river like the Amazon, it’s all about the ship.
It’s about getting off it – as soon and as often as possible.
Not that there’s anything wrong with life aboard the humble Amatista. It’s charming and comfortable and the perfect vessel to navigate and not disturb the muddy tributaries of the former Rio Grande. Anything bigger would surely be intrusive and would entirely miss the point of G Adventures’ week-long expedition to the Amazon River Basin of Peru.
The Amazonian Rainforest covers 60% of the country and as soon as you leave the gateway of Iquitos, the Amatista feels like the perfect ship to view its incredibly dense biodiversity from. It’s simple and rustic; there is no casino, no lavish after-dinner shows and no swimming pool. Instead, a maximum of only 30 guests roam its observation decks, the quiet reading lounge and the sometimes lively bar, where anyone can mingle with the ship’s very own naturalist guides. A single dining area dishes out delicious local staples like paiche ceviche and freshly picked fruit.
The Amatista was built using local hardwoods in a design typical to the region. Air conditioning, private showers with hot and cold water is as luxurious as it gets and for good reason; there is simply too much to see and do to stay on board.
Even before leaving for the Maranon and Ucayali tributaries, good time is spent at the Amazonian Manatee Rescue Centre, an early highlight for everyone and an important reminder of how delicate and at risk some of the region’s largest and most gentle inhabitants are from human encroachment.
Once on the river, shore excursions by motorized skiff include visits to remote villages to interact with its people. Shamans demonstrate their use of a treasure trove of local plants to ward off evil spirits, to heal, feed and cleanse local souls. Some communities occupy the river banks seasonally, when the water levels make it doable, retreating to higher ground when it isn’t.
Two whole days are spent in Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, Peru’s largest national park. Mornings bring the songs of hundreds of bird species. Colourful macaws and toucans decorate the evergreen canopy as regal herons wade in the wetlands below, surrounded by giant water lilies whose leaves can measure up to 10-feet in diameter. Families of spider monkeys showboat as sloths survey the scene.
On shore, naturalists engage guests during informative jungle walks. Piranha fishing is done from authentic dugout canoes in the eerie presence of lounging caiman, playful giant otters and sunning iguanas.
The hot midday hours are saved for on board lectures, alone time and rest with more wildlife viewing saved for the more bearable late-afternoon.
Those brave enough for a swim may encounter manatee, turtles and if lucky enough, the gray and pink river dolphins that call the Amazon home.
And as it turns out, there is an after-dinner show after all. Choreographed by Mother Nature, the spacious observation deck is the setting for one of the most compelling demonstrations of jungle life, orchestrated by the ecosystem’s countless inhabitants. Cicadas hum like electrical lines and the river’s banks are alive with rustle and the glowing eyes of ocelots, opossums and maybe even the revered jaguar.
Unplug and tune in. Let the weight of the air, the verdant vistas and the sheer massive scope of your surroundings humble and mesmerize. Feel small by living right, in perfect harmony with the lifeblood of one of the world’s most complex and dynamic regions, on and off the Amatista.