Our first early excursion in the narrow gallery forest was thick with vegetation and fraught with countless monkeys, reptiles, adorable bats, and frisky frogs. The Amazon is the most bio-diverse place on the planet, with more than 400 species of mammals, nearly 1,400 birds, and over 3,000 fish.
The Peruvian part of the Amazon accounts for just 13 percent, so you won’t see big cruise ships or any ships in this part, save a local or two fishing or scooting from village to village. It’s the real deal.
By our afternoon excursion we were ready for the parade of pink dolphins, which seemed to be following us. That’s when the dream took a fairy tale turn. The fate of these beautiful, dancing creatures is secure as locals are superstitious and have a tale attached as to why they can’t even touch them. They are running their own show.
As we continued through the Pacaya Samiria Natural Reserve, one of the New Seven World Wonders, we met with a barefoot local, who brought a new level of insight. It’s an Aria custom, a way to engage locals and get them invested in the Amazon’s preservation.
As daylight slipped away, the motors were turned off and our three Aria skiffs were tied together. It was an Amazonian version of a safari sundowner. Aria's bartender miraculously appeared, serving chilled glasses of champagne to all while we bobbed along the mossy river.
At the suggestion of one of our chattiest guests, we were silenced for a proposed minute that lasted three. The day’s dusky hue created the perfect ambiance for primal and vibrant signs that seductively surrounded us. That was that magic travel moment. It’s the disconnect from where we once were and the deep connection to where we are. It’s the travel A ha!
Our next day was a full day excursion, deep in the reserve on the expansive Samiria River. We’d seen several monkeys but were now privy to several others, including Red Howlers, Squirrel, Titi, Capuchin, and many Monk Saki monkeys.
We were jonesing to see an Anaconda or jaguar, basically anything that could kill us. Of equal interest, on the cuddly front, we wanted to see sloths, of which we saw three that day. Be sure to pack your binos as they’re unbelievably cute, yet not as innocent as they appear. Apparently one of the guide’s friend’s was teasing one in his youth. The sloth got a vice grip on his hand that nearly crushed his fingers in to dust.
True to form, they’re lazy and looped. Apparently, when ladies are mating they put the signal out and first one in, which could take weeks, wins. There’s no real screening process there.
There was also an endless array of birds, including various macaws, parrots, tucans, hawks, and vultures. Our guides forever explained the intricacies of the Amazon, where every single species plays a part in life and death to keep all in balance. There is a rhythm, ritual, and reason to all, which is why it’s so important not to disrupt.
We passed check points along the way as things are getting stricter, but far from under control. On our way back at a station we picked up a turtle that had been wrongfully captured, taken by locals. It was our job to drop it at a river bank on the way back.
Once sent on its way, we headed straight in to a storm. Suited up in rain ponchos provided on the skiffs, we drove right in to the eye of it, in our open boat. It was an amazing explosion of nature that had a powerful and peaceful effect on us. We fell deeply asleep, heads bobbing and all, like over-served sloths.
After early morning piranha fishing and breakfast onboard the skiffs, we took our siesta on deck, which made me regret not doing so sooner. I found such travel nirvana watching the Amazon go by from the privacy of my white peaceful room in the afternoon. Who knew this was of equal pleasure.
Many guests brought bags of goodies to give to locals, another Aria tradition. Before our departure, we popped by one of the local villages along the river where the kids ran out up to their waists in the water to eagerly greet us.
Kids gathered for goodies while women laid out crafts. The best part of the village visit was watching boys, covered tip to toe in what looked like clay, play in the mud. It was a blissful vision.
The ride back was capped with a breathtaking purple, pink, and charcoal blue, stunning sunset that once again silenced the skiff. Our guide took the long way home in hopes of finding us an elusive jaguar. We missed the cat, but caught the Milky Way, the Southern Cross, and a dense blanket of stars.
Our final night had us feeling a bit weepy on the inside. We met in the Bar-Lounge as we too followed a rhythm and ritual that involved pre- and post-dinner drinks. Our lovely local guides usually briefed us about the previous and pending day’s events. That final night, they shook up their ritual. They presented an incredible band, comprised of the crew, local tunes, and some saucy dancing.
After dinner, we had our final tipple that started in the Lounge, yet quickly ended on that delicious deck. Once again we were left wondering why we hadn’t done that every night.
The sexy tunes meticulously mixed for the boat by a top DJ in Lima, one of the seven 24-hour daily mixes, was all that was heard in the background. We all stood silently for almost an hour at the edge of the boat on the upper deck with the Amazon below us, the wind on us, and a thick layer of stars above.
We couldn’t get enough of this sensorial event. Once the light of Iquitos approached, the first sign of civilization in days, we scattered, quickly slipped back to our individual suites.
Now if only the LAN return flight to LA could be delayed…for days.
Make it Happen: LAN airlines flies in to Lima and in to Iquitos. For more information, visit www.LAN.com.
Aqua Expedition hosts three-, four-, and seven-day cruises on the M/V Aria. Visit www.aquaexpeditions.com/luxury-aria or call 866-603-3687 to book.
Special Offer Onboard Aqua Expeditions: Aqua is celebrating the launch of its newest vessel, the M/V Aria, by partnering with Gianni Bulgari's Swiss brand Enigma to custom-create 10 limited-edition C42 AMAZON luxury adventure watches. Designer timepieces will be available exclusively onboard the new M/V Aria and its sister ship, the M/V Aqua, for $4,546. Ten percent of proceeds from the sales go directly to community efforts in the areas that Aqua Expeditions' vessels visit throughout the year.