The gateway to Amazonia, Belem was founded in 1616 by Portuguese conquistadors. Enjoy a city tour including a visit to the Goeldi Museum before embarking the Sea Adventurer to begin your journey.
For the next three days, cruise the Amazon and its tributaries. This area supports an unparalleled richness of biodiversity, with nearly one-fifth of the world’s species of birds, about 30 monkey species, 1,800 species of butterflies, and more species of fish than the entire Atlantic Ocean. Zodiacs are key to explorations; they carry you along the waterways, as you search for birds, butterflies, Amazon river dolphins, and a host of other resident wildlife. On excursions ashore, explore the vegetation on nature walks and visit Caboclos, half-Portuguese, half-Indian natives who live in stilted houses along the river-banks. With an encyclopedic knowledge of the forests and fluvial environments, they share their wealth of experiences as you observe them in their daily activities.
Attend lectures on board and familiarize yourself with the history and culture of French Guiana, Suriname, and Guyana.
The three small islands which make up this archipelago were the site of the infamous French penal colony known collectively as “Devil’s Island.” Soon after the French Revolution of 1789, France’s criminals were shipped here, among them Henri Charrière, who described the inhumane treatment and his escape in his autobiography Papillon. Wander the ruins of the colony, which are nearly reclaimed by the jungle, and visit the guards’ quarters, prisoners’ cells, hospital, and guillotine site. Search for burnished buff tanagers and squirrel monkeys, among many other species, in this verdant paradise of tangled fig trees.
Take a tour of Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo, which is located on the banks of the Suriname River. Visit the 17th-century Fort Zeelandia, the country’s oldest building, housing the Suriname Museum. Watch for capuchin monkeys in Palm Garden, the city’s leafy park. Adjacent is the ornate Presidential Palace, one of the many historic colonial buildings of 18th and 19th century style, including the enormous century-old Catholic cathedral.
Rain forest habitat, which covers 85% of the country, begins 30 miles south of Paramaribo. An afternoon excursion takes you into the countryside where you visit an Amerindian village for a cultural presentation and a Zodiac cruise along the Para River.
Begin your travels up Guyana's mighty Essequibo River. The vast undisturbed rain forest blankets much of the country and supports 1,000 species of trees and about 1,200 species of mammals, reptiles, and birds. The Essequibo is lined with beaches, mangroves, shipwrecks, and boatyards, and is dotted with traditional dwellings and villages. Jet boats take you on exhilarating upriver explorations to the charming eco-resort island of Baganara, replete with white-sand beaches and nature trails. The small town of Bartika, a staging post for gold miners headed inland, has a marketplace where woodcarvings and gold jewelry are displayed.
A highlight of your time in Guyana is your chartered flight far into its wild heart-land to view Kaieteur Falls. The falls are 300 feet wide and 741 feet high — almost five times the height of Niagara. Enjoy a dramatic view of the thundering cascade, which creates a deafening roar along with many rainbows. You will also explore the virgin jungle of Kaieteur National Park to search for orchids and various bird species, including, with luck, the colorful cock-of-the-rock.
Lecturers recap your time in Guyana and introduce you to the history and natural wonders of Trinidad & Tobago.
Tucked off the coast of Venezuela lie the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Joined into one country in the latter part of the 19th century, Tobago is quite Caribbean in nature, with exquisite beaches, exceptional snorkeling, and a relaxed atmosphere, while Trinidad seems more the progeny of everlively South America with its calypso music and cosmopolitan feel. As with any siblings, the islands do share some traits, particularly with regard to their flora and fauna. Over 400 species of birds can be found here, along with 600 varieties of butterflies, and a host of monkeys, armadillos, caiman, lizards, snakes, and marine species. The varieties of flowering plants — 2,300 in all, are astonishing.
Spend the afternoon at your leisure and stroll through the charming town of Charlotteville, magnificently situated on a large, calm bay, or simply relax and soak in the sights and sounds on the white-sand beaches.
Encountered by Columbus in 1498, Trinidad’s native Indian population was later joined by Spanish, French, British, African, and Hindustani settlers, creating a cosmopolitan cultural mélange. After lunch on board drive to Caroni Bird Sanctuary, a National Park, and board local boats for a mangrove cruise. A highlight of your journey is the chance to photograph hundreds of flamboyant scarlet ibis as they come to roost at dusk. Keep an eye out for the 150 bird species found here including ospreys, herons, flamingos, plovers, and egrets. This evening you will be joined on board by a local steel-drum band for a lively performance of traditional music.
Disembark in the morning and transfer to the airport for your independent flight home.