Just Back From

Just Back From… Cruising the Amazon on the Aria

“So we are talking about a cycle, you know, my friends, what happens in the rainforest,” summarizes our naturalist guide, Roger. He has taken us through a detailed description of the Amazonian food chain, from bromeliad bulb to laughing falcon. We listen in rapt attention as our skiff floats under low-hanging tree branches in a small tributary off the Peruvian Amazon River.

We are part of a small, privileged group who get to explore a very remote part of this world. This, the rainforest basin that makes up more than 60% of Peru's landmass, is inhabited by only 9% of the country’s population. Our vessel, the recently renovated 16-suite Aria Amazon, is one of Aqua Expedition’s two river expedition boats touring the Peruvian Amazon.

The Aria offers three-, four- or seven-night journeys along the Amazon River. Guests explore local communities, travel along tributaries in hand-dug-out canoes, spot such wildlife as sloths, monkeys, pink dolphins and an incredible array of birdlife, and fish for piranhas with traditional wooden poles. The day is divided into morning and afternoon excursions in small eight-seat skiffs with a driver and knowledgeable naturalist guide.

Between outings, guests can relax in the luxurious surroundings of the Aria, either in the top-deck lounge, the small Jacuzzi on the front deck or by taking in the scenery through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the privacy of their cabins. Every possible wish and luxury, it seems, has been considered. Muscles a little cramped from a morning in the skiff? The on-board masseuse offers massages in the small top-deck treatment room. Feeling under the weather? The paramedic on board (who also visits local communities while guests are enjoying their excursions) will be happy to assist. Interested in a pre-dinner Pisco tasting? Pull up a seat in the lounge bar with the bartender. The 24 staff members are warm and welcoming, and they create an essential part of this unique experience.

The Amazon can seem daunting and remote, but the Aria offers a comfortable base from which to explore one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth. Among the most interesting and unique excursions is visiting the small communities that reside in stilted huts rising above the water, where inhabitants grow bananas and rice during low water season, raise free-range chickens that scamper along the banks and treat their aches and pains with medicinal local plants. These areas now have local schools as mandated by the president in 1994 and hospitals in the larger cities, but the standard of living along the riverbanks remains very simple. Many communities are shrinking as teenagers move to the larger cities to take advantage of opportunities there.

As we continue down the Yanallpa River, our guide's voice rises in excitement: he’s sighted a southern tamandua, a South American anteater. We are completely caught up in Roger’s bubbling and entirely genuine enthusiasm as we hurriedly pass around the binoculars. We peer into the tree, anxious to spot the animal before it disappears behind the foliage. It is yet another in a series of moments of wonder deep in the untouched rainforest.

Getting There

: From New York City, fly direct to Lima and then onwards by two-hour flight to Iquitos, where you will board the boat. While logistics getting to and from can be lengthy, the time difference is only one hour behind EST, so there is no jet lag upon arrival. LAN’s business class offers full-flat reclining seats on their direct New York-Lima flight, which makes the red-eye easier to bear.

When to Go: While the temperature stays mostly consistent throughout the year (with some rainy periods), there are two distinct high and low water seasons, with pros and cons to traveling during either time frame. Contact the Indagare Team to discuss which is best for you.

How to Go: A trip down the Amazon is a great end to the more typical Peru circuit of Lima, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco. Those who are visiting Southern Ecuador could also consider including Lima and Iquitos in their itinerary.

Who Should Go: While the lack of time difference and the idea of spotting sloths and dolphins may sound like a young child’s dream trip, and there is no official minimum age requirement, the boat doesn’t recommend bringing children under the age of seven. Active children may feel a bit hemmed in without the space to run around, and tech-oriented kids (and adults) may feel disconnected by the lack of TV and wifi. There are plenty of board games for some old-fashioned fun and a satellite phone for any truly necessary calls. While it is a remote adventure, this is not an active trip. Especially during high-water season, when the water levels do not allow for any hiking along the river, guests are sitting for the majority of the day. There is a small workout room on board (a feat in itself considering the intimate size of the boat) with one bike and one treadmill, but someone who is looking to be on their feet should consider traveling in the low water months between June—and November.

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