Monkeys, sloths and anacondas were the first to come to mind when I began planning my trip to the Amazon jungle. Yet somehow I never imagined I would be seeing and experiencing just that whilst cruising the Amazon! Having fallen victim to safari obsession over the past few years throughout Africa, I have since been seeking a new wildlife experience to match or surpass my previous animal encounters. On my recent trip to the Peruvian Amazon I have found just that.
Having always dreamt of visiting the jungle and not knowing where to start in planning a trip, I jumped at the opportunity to cruise along the river network throughout the Amazon with Aqua Expeditions on a four day river cruise.
Over five days and four nights we covered 355 nautical miles, spotting wildlife near and far on day excursions, enjoying Peruvian hospitality on board and forming new friendships with our small group of 24 travellers on board.
Cruising the Amazon: Five days & Four Nights On Board
The tour began in Iquitos, a sizeable town known as the gateway to the Peruvian amazon. Before arriving in Iquitos I had only ever travelled to Lima (the capital of Peru) and Cusco towards the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Those experiences were quite pleasant and breezy in terms of weather, though in Iquitos you can expect 90% humidity year round – so be sure to pack accordingly!
The trip departed on a Tuesday afternoon and after a long drive through the countryside, we arrived at the port to embark on our journey. Although I was travelling solo I met a lot of great people in the five days that followed, which made the experience a much more pleasurable one. Because of the small size of the boat the maximum capacity is 24 guests, so the experience allows you to get to know each of your fellow travellers better of the days that seemingly mesh into one, rather than to be overwhelmed with new names and faces.
Over the length of the trip we would cover a number of rivers throughout the Amazon river network, eventually arriving on the Amazon River proper on our last two days of the cruise. Waters we travelled along included the Yanallpa river, Dorado-Warmi River and Carocurahuayte Lake where we spotted a toucan, one of the (many) animals on my Amazon bucket list!
Venturing out twice daily on skiffs gave us the opportunity to see a wide range of wildlife up close. Never knowing where to turn and what we would see next, each excursion was an exciting new adventure into the depths of the Amazon River.
On our first day we spotted the well-camouflaged green tree iguana, with our naturalist guide ensuring us this was just the beginning of our wildlife adventure. Not to be mistaken, we soon spotted our first three toed sloth hanging way in the distance and only truly visible through a pair of binoculars, a necessary accessory for any Amazon adventure.
Over the next few days we continued to marvel at the incredible wildlife both on the river and on shore, with the likes of pink river dolphins, caimans, scarlet macaws, toucans and red howler monkeys most impressing our group. While we were unable to catch a glimpse of those higher in the food chain such as the anaconda, we were still able to see a great range of wildlife typical to this dense jungle land.
Being the largest river by discharge in the world (second in length after the Nile), it is little wonder there was plenty to explore by way of nature. On one of our on-shore excursions we went in search of giant water lilies, nestled in the shallow waters of the Amazon river basin. This gave us on opportunity to see the Amazon flora more up close, as previously we had been viewing the giant cane trees, cecropia trees, and gorgeous heliconia plants from afar on our twice daily river excursions.
Community Visits & Giving Back
Perhaps the single most impressive aspect of Aqua Expeditions and my time on board was the devotion to small river communities we passed and subsequently visited throughout our time on the river. On the last day we had a chance to visit a small school where the children sang us songs (including their national anthem, hand on heart, which was all very patriotic!) We were also introduced to Amazon life and given a much closer look at housing arrangements, whereby families sleep on the floor of their stilt houses which protect them from the ever rising river levels in the wet season.
All in all the trip was incredible but these community visits were what really tied it all together. By visiting Peru and investing in the economy you are directly aiding in the development of this country, particularly out of the big cities like Lima and Cusco where tourism is already so developed. I’d definitely recommend this trip for anyone looking to be introduced to the Amazon – it certainly isn’t one I will forget any time soon!
A very very very big thanks to the team on board the Aqua Expeditions for an unforgettable experience and to Aqua for welcoming me to experience this cruise as a guest. All opinions are my own! I flew to Peru with LATAM Airlines, flying in to Lima and eventually Iquitos to begin my Amazon adventure.