Amazon with International Expeditions

By Nell McCombs
This item appears on page 28 of the February 2016 issue.
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An Amazon River cruise, Aug. 16-24, 2014, was the sixth trip my husband, Ed, and I took with International Expeditions (IE) (Helena, AL; 855/246-0405 or 205/428-1700, www.ietravel.com)

We’ve traveled with them often because the accommodations on their tours are always quite nice and their guides are very knowledgeable. Including internal air, the cost of this 9-day/8-night tour was $4,716 each.

Because our air tickets (on LAN Airlines) were procured by IE, we were met at the Lima airport and taken to the Swissôtel Lima. Our arrival time was around 1:30 a.m., so we were happy to have someone from IE meet us!

The next morning we had a tour of Peru’s capital and largest city, seeing the colonial house area and visiting Casa de Aliaga, a private home dating back to the time of the conquistadores. We also saw the Cathedral of Lima, where Francisco Pizarro is entombed.

After lunch, we flew over the Andes to Iquitos, getting there about 8 p.m. A bus took us to the boat dock, where we boarded La Estrella Amazonica, met some of the crew and had an emergency drill, then dinner. The ship’s restaurant served buffet-style meals with many local fruits. 

Our cabin was quite comfortable and had a small balcony with a couple of chairs. The top deck of the ship had a bar and a lecture room where, in the afternoon, we usually had a talk on local sights. There were 23 passengers on board.

Morning and afternoon wildlife excursions were offered using two skiffs, each holding about 12 passengers plus a guide and driver. I was amazed at the knowledge of our guides. I asked one about his education and he said he had grown up in the jungle, then went to college for five years, taking naturalist‑type courses. All of the guides spoke good English.

The excursions usually consisted of boating up small rivers/streams and sometimes involved hiking in the jungle. On one hike we saw giant water lilies with pads 3 to 4 feet across as well as a sloth in the distance. Occasionally, we saw monkeys. 

Most of the time was spent on Rio Ucayali and some of its tributaries. We were on the actual Amazon only for short periods of time. Whenever we saw it, it was huge.

On one boat trip we fished for piranhas, which we later had for dinner — not much flesh on them. On another trip we went swimming with pink dolphins; they were about 20 to 30 feet away — beautiful creatures.

We had been advised to pack school supplies for a village school. The children sang songs for us, shook our hands and thanked us. I thought it interesting that most huts in this village had solar panels to power electric lights. 

That afternoon we visited a shaman, who blessed us by blowing smoke in our hair and faces.

At the end of the river trip we flew to Lima, where we had a day room in which to rest until it was time to go to the airport.

NELL McCOMBS

Ventura, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

An Amazon River cruise, Aug. 16-24, 2014, was the sixth trip my husband, Ed, and I took with International Expeditions (IE) (Helena, AL; 855/246-0405 or 205/428-1700, www.ietravel.com)

We’ve traveled with them often because the accommodations on their tours are always quite nice and their guides are very knowledgeable. Including internal air, the cost of this 9-day/8-night tour was $4,716 each.

Because our air tickets (on LAN Airlines) were procured by IE, we were met at the Lima airport and taken to the Swissôtel Lima. Our arrival time was around 1:30 a.m., so we were happy to have someone from IE meet us!

The next morning we had a tour of Peru’s capital and largest city, seeing the colonial house area and visiting Casa de Aliaga, a private home dating back to the time of the conquistadores. We also saw the Cathedral of Lima, where Francisco Pizarro is entombed.

After lunch, we flew over the Andes to Iquitos, getting there about 8 p.m. A bus took us to the boat dock, where we boarded La Estrella Amazonica, met some of the crew and had an emergency drill, then dinner. The ship’s restaurant served buffet-style meals with many local fruits. 

Our cabin was quite comfortable and had a small balcony with a couple of chairs. The top deck of the ship had a bar and a lecture room where, in the afternoon, we usually had a talk on local sights. There were 23 passengers on board.

Morning and afternoon wildlife excursions were offered using two skiffs, each holding about 12 passengers plus a guide and driver. I was amazed at the knowledge of our guides. I asked one about his education and he said he had grown up in the jungle, then went to college for five years, taking naturalist‑type courses. All of the guides spoke good English.

The excursions usually consisted of boating up small rivers/streams and sometimes involved hiking in the jungle. On one hike we saw giant water lilies with pads 3 to 4 feet across as well as a sloth in the distance. Occasionally, we saw monkeys. 

Most of the time was spent on Rio Ucayali and some of its tributaries. We were on the actual Amazon only for short periods of time. Whenever we saw it, it was huge.

On one boat trip we fished for piranhas, which we later had for dinner — not much flesh on them. On another trip we went swimming with pink dolphins; they were about 20 to 30 feet away — beautiful creatures.

We had been advised to pack school supplies for a village school. The children sang songs for us, shook our hands and thanked us. I thought it interesting that most huts in this village had solar panels to power electric lights. 

That afternoon we visited a shaman, who blessed us by blowing smoke in our hair and faces.

At the end of the river trip we flew to Lima, where we had a day room in which to rest until it was time to go to the airport.

NELL McCOMBS

Ventura, CA