Embark Silver Explorer and depart on your exciting 11-day expedition – “Rainforest Cultures & Natural Ecosystems”. This evening, after settling in and setting sail, you will be introduced to your Expedition Team and participate in a mandatory safety drill. Tonight you are invited to familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travellers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.
Arrive in the afternoon to this barren rock island off the Peruvian coast. Join the Expedition Team for the first Zodiac cruise of your journey. As you circumnavigate the island see hundreds of thousands of seabirds, including Peruvian pelicans, Inca terns and blue-footed boobies and even Humboldt penguins. See large colonies of South American sea lions. Learn how the guano that covers the island is prized as a rich, organic fertilizer, and harvested only once every eleven years.
Dock at Salaverry, but the day's destination is just a few miles north in Trujillo, which still retains much of its colonial charm and has a splendid backdrop set against the vast green and brown Andean foothills. Here visit the main religious center of the Mochica culture. Built in the 5th century, the archaeological complex encompasses an area of 60 hectares and includes the Temple of the Sun – the largest adobe structure in the world, and the Temple of the Moon, which is covered with beautiful Moche designs. As Silversea guests, have private, behind-the-scenes access. One of the resident expert archaeologists will describe the long-lost secrets of this fascinating site as they were revealed layer by layer. After learning about the archaeologists’ on-going conservation work, you will be given the opportunity to practice these same excavation techniques using authentic tools on a model ruin.
Following your traditional-style lunch at a private hacienda and entertaining Paso horse exhibition, next visit the pre-Incan ruins of the ancient Chimú city of Chan-Chan. Built from adobe, the Chan-Chan complex rivals Mexico's Teotihuacán or the primitive cities of Egypt, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a true metropolis and the largest adobe city in the world. At approximately 20 km wide and it is estimated that Chan-Chan had population of 50,000 to 60,000.
This morning, the Silver Explorer anchors off Isla Lobos de Tierra—rocky islands that protrude more than 200 feet (61 metres) from the surface of the deep blue Pacific. An abundant array of marine mammals and seabirds surround the island offering a splendid opportunity to explore with the Zodiacs. Sea lions, like sunbathers, bask on the beach while Peruvian pelicans fly overhead. During your morning foray ashore be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Peruvian pelicans and their young, and will experience close-up encounters with blue-footed boobies.
Exploration and discovery await as you anchor off the coast of the uninhabited and unspoilt Isla de la Plata (Island of Silver). The island’s name was derived from the legend of swashbuckling pirate Sir Francis Drake’s buried silver treasure. The popular legend states that in the 14th century, hundreds of tons of silver and gold were never fully recovered and is still hidden on the island. The island was privately owned until 1979, when it was declared part of Ecuador's Machalilla National Park. Best known for its fauna, which is amazingly similar to that of the Galapagos Islands, Isla de la Plata is a delightful place for birding, photography and long nature walks. Although just south of the equator, the influences of the colder Humboldt Current bring nutrient-rich water as far north as Isla de la Plata. Together with your local natural history guides, go ashore and enjoy various walks, watching for herons, pelicans, gulls, frigate birds, masked boobies, Nazca boobies, albatross and hawks.
This evening, once back on board the Silver Explorer, travel back to the time of pirates and treasure as your guest Historian, Sabrina Guerra Moscoso, presents her exciting and interactive lecture.
Dock early today and begin your adventures ashore at Isla Corazon. This heart-shaped island is a mangrove forest refuge comprised of 130 acres, and home to the largest colony of Magnificent Frigates in all the South Pacific. The guide for your visit, Mr Antonio Torres has extensive experience identifying birds and he has travelled throughout South America guiding groups of birding enthusiasts. Learn all about the habits and habitat of the Magnificent Frigate as well as the ongoing eco-tourism project to prevent further eradication of Isla Corazón’s mangrove swamps. Return to the mainland to enjoy a refreshing brunch.
Alternatively, join the Expedition Team on a tour to discover the history of the Panama hat and to see a demonstration of the traditional production techniques. Learn how the palm-like leaves are harvested and boiled to a soft fiber, and then slowly woven row by row into a hat. Once completed, the hats are shaped, ironed and fitted with a traditional black band. Finally, learn how the hats are rolled so that customers can take them home in a little balsawood box.
Return to Manta for a taste of traditional Ecuadorian cuisine. A local chef will describe the use of spices and chili sauce, teaching how to prepare an extraordinary meal, which you will then enjoy along with Ecuadorian beer, coffee and fine chocolate. A theatrical dance performance rounds out your experience of Ecuador by highlighting both the modern and traditional activities of the Manta region.
After a morning at sea, arrive in Colombia where your ship has been granted permission to visit Gorgona Island, a UNESCO World heritage Site and National Natural Reservation Park. Due to its coral reef and tropical rainforest ecosystem, this small island is a natural paradise and a mecca for fauna and flora research. Until the mid-1980s, it was an Alcatraz style, high security prison. Today it is an exotic destination by any standard. Covered with lush, tropical foliage and forests, the island shelters a variety of species including 147 bird species and more than 500 species of marine fauna. Land by Zodiac directly on the beach, where you will be met by local guides for a nature walk. Hopefully you will see the island’s wild monkeys and spot the endemic blue lizard of Gorgona. The local guides will then lead your visit to one of the local indigenous communities where you will learn about the music, cuisine and livelihood of their culture.
Again by special permission, be able to visit two exceptional national parks along Colombia’s Pacific coast over the next two days – both maiden ports-of-call for the Silver Explorer. Today visit the remote Uramba-Bahía Málaga National Natural Park. The name Uramba is from the Afro-Colombian regions of the South Pacific, and refers to the gathering of items necessary for a communal meal. A perfect name to describe the 5-year effort required to resolve disputes between those who wanted to protect the humpback whale's nesting area, and those planning the construction of a deep water port. The 47,094-hectare park was established in 2010 and is a “hot spot” of biodiversity, home to 1396 species of animals and plants. Its tropical rainforest is a delicate ecosystem and a protected reserve for tree sloths and the endangered (and very rare) Icotea turtle. Together set out on exploratory hikes of the small islands in Malaga Bay, observing mangroves and waterfalls that tumble into natural pools. Hope to spend time enjoying the beautiful beaches and getting to know the local Emberá wuonnan culture.
Your explorations of the Colombian Pacific coast continue today with a visit to Utria National Park. From coral reefs and mangroves to the marine environment, tropical rainforest and rocky beaches where sea turtles come to lay their eggs, few places in the world encompass the diversity of Utría’s ecosystems. Again today, the Expedition Team will offer a choice of trail hikes to explore the park’s numerous highlights. During your walk, hope to see some of Utría’s great variety of animal life, which includes deer, wild pigs, anteaters, black howler and spider monkeys, wild cats (such as jaguar, puma and ocelot), sloths, and some adorable rodent species. As for flora, the park has several species of timber trees, notably the area’s beloved Cohiba tree and the Oquendo tree, which is used in the creation of local art and handicrafts.
The Darien Jungle is remote and has one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. It is also recognized as one of the world’s top ten birding sites, and you can hope to see many bird species such as the colorful crimson-collared tanager, green and chestnut-fronted macaws, rufous-tailed and snow-bellied hummingbirds, whimbrels, willets (a type of sandpiper), white ibises and egrets, laughing gulls. Other wildlife you may see includes tapir and black-headed spider monkey, vultures, and the endangered great curassows.
This morning, the Silver Explorer will anchor in the Bay of San Miguel. Explore this pristine, seldom visited area by Zodiac or local canoe, navigating up the tidal Mogue River. At the conclusion of your river adventure, hear the sound of distant drums welcoming you to the remote Embera Village. The Darien Jungle is rarely visited by outsiders (fewer than 1,000 tourists visit each year), and Embera Village is one of several indigenous groups who live in relative isolation.
Go ashore to melodic rhythms of traditional tribal music played by male villagers on drums, maracas and flutes. Local women and children in brightly colored attire welcome you to their village and introduce us to their way of life. Visit authentic tribal dwellings built of nearby trees and plants. Before leaving, villagers will perform a native dance for your entertainment and demonstrate basket weaving and carving techniques. And you will have the opportunity to purchase souvenirs of your visit including beautiful handcrafted baskets and carvings.
When preparing for your cruise, you are encouraged to purchase and pack a donation of school supplies. Much-needed items include pens, pencils, writing pads, reading material, and second-hand clothes for children ages 1 to 12 years old. The village is also always in need of prescription reading glasses, over-the-counter medicine and medical equipment. Donations will be collected on board by the Expedition Team and distributed to the local villagers during your visit as part of your cultural exchange.
In the 1880s, a French company began building a canal connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, but were thwarted by engineering problems and tropical disease, which killed over 20,000 workers. In 1903 the United States took over the project, completing it in 1914. 100 years later, the Panama Canal is still considered an engineering marvel. Today celebrate the canal’s centennial as you pass through the narrowest point of the Isthmus of Panama and the American continent. Three sets of locks work as water elevators lifting ships to the level of Gatun Lake, 85 feet (26 metres) above sea level, and later lowering them again to sea level on the other side. By using the Canal, vessels avoid traveling the 14,000 nautical mile route through the treacherous Drake Passage and around Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America.
Arrive in port in the morning. Following breakfast, disembark the Silver Explorer.