From the moment you step on board, you will enjoy the M/V Aria’s atmosphere of low-key luxury. As you settle into your handsomely appointed, over-sized suite, you will feel the vessel begin to move; the beginning of one of the great adventures of your life. Stand on the Upper Deck to take in the view, as the M/V Aria leaves Iquitos behind.
Over the next four days, you will also sail along the largest tributaries of the Amazon, as well as the mighty Amazon itself on your Amazon river cruise. You are embarking on a spectacular adventure, to a place visited by only a few of the most experienced world travelers.
After lunch explore the Amazon on a jungle walk. Your guides will introduce you to native people doing subsistence farming, and will tell you how they learned to cultivate wild plants and trees to earn farm income. As your adventure takes you deep into the primary forest, your guides will also show you the wealth of fruit trees and medicinal plants hidden in the jungle – and will reveal some of the plants’ secrets.
This morning you will board your skiff to go deep into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, along the Samiria River. Along the route, have the opportunity to see various species of monkey, such as howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, saddleback tamarin monkeys and many bird species such as blue, yellow and scarlet macaws as well as toucans and some species of river hawks. Arrive at the PV2 Tacsha watchpost, where you will follow a path deep into the rainforest. Enjoy a generous picnic lunch, before beginning your journey back to the vessel.
This morning your Naturalist Guide will tell you all about sustainable resource management projects in Amazonia, and will take you to one of these projects, where villagers are planting palms to obtain oil. Your Guide may also show you the artificial nests created on the sand to protect turtle eggs. Then you will go deep into the jungle, where you will encounter wildlife and learn first-hand about the important medicinal value of many jungle plants. You will also see the famous Kapok Trees (ceiba pentandra), the tallest trees in the Amazon Basin.
In this late afternoon skiff excursion, keep your eyes directed toward the jungle canopy, where you can spot at least several kinds of primates—some of the 13 species of monkeys resident in the National Reserve. Perhaps you will catch a glimpse of tamarins and dusky titi monkeys, as well as pigmy marmoset monkeys. Watch for alligators, and keep your binoculars at the ready, as you are likely to see more than 200 species of birds. As the sun sets and your searchlight comes on, keep your eyes out for caimans, tree boas, tarantulas, and frogs.
This afternoon, travel to this splendid “hot spot” lake, where you will be certain to catch some of the more than 3,000 species of tropical fish that live in the Amazon basin. The key focus will be on piranhas, those small, sharp-teethed carnivorous fish with a big reputation for being scary. Catching one will make for great cocktail conversation back home.
Weather and time permitting, this will be the last opportunity to see how people live along the Amazon—by visiting the lively riverside community of Belen, in Iquitos, by skiff. Here, where the houses and shops actually float on the river during some months, you will see the bustling food market for the entire Peruvian Amazon. All local inhabitants throughout the region sell and purchase goods here.
Enjoy lunch on board before disembarking. Your afternoon in the remote city of Iquitos, accessible only by river or air, will not disappoint. This bustling town, complete with a house built by Gustave Eiffel, was once a rich center of the rubber industry. Before heading for the airport, visit the Manatee Rescue Center, where biologists and volunteers care for endangered Amazon manatees that conservation authorities have seized from local people, including fishermen. Biologists will give a presentation about the project and its efforts to help these helpless mammals. You will also see how the manatees are cared for and are prepared for re-introduction into their natural habitat. Finally, stop at the San Juan Amazonian Indian Market, for a last chance to shop for local crafts. Check in at the Iquitos International Airport with the assistance of your guides, who will stay with you until you have boarded your evening flight back to Lima.
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