The Amazon with G Adventures

By Rosemary McDaniel
This item appears on page 29 of the December 2019 issue.

An egret escort on the Amazon. Photos by Rosemary McDaniel

If you’re crazy about wildlife, enjoy small-group travel, are reasonably mobile and want to learn about unique cultures, the “Amazon Riverboat Adventure in Depth” cruise is for you. I took this cruise in Peru, June 30-July 8, 2018, with G Adventures (Toronto, Canada; 888/800-4100, www.gadventures.com).

Sharing accommodations, I paid $1,662, which included two internal flights, two nights in a hotel in Lima, two bus rides from Iquitos airport to Nauta and back, six nights aboard the riverboat and all meals on board.

After a brief flight from Lima to Iquitos and a long bus ride with our two naturalist guides, Victor and Ucile, our group arrived in Nauta, where we boarded the Amatista, a purpose-built riverboat holding 28 passengers and a crew of 15 plus the two guides.

All cabins were air-conditioned, with facilities en suite. There was an indoor dining room, and the observation deck had a large, covered, open-air lounge, a bar and an air-conditioned lounge.

I mentioned the need to be reasonably mobile because boarding the Amatista required climbing down a very steep and slippery bank with no stairs or handrails, but we all made it with the help of many local hands.

Besides the talented cooks, there were crew members cleaning cabins, driving the two skiffs, assisting passengers into and out of the skiffs, tending bar and, before dinner, entertaining us in the lounge with their musical talents in a band called Chunky Monkeys. Such fun!

Meals, which were excellent, were served buffet style.

Whether we were floating along on the riverboat, cruising in a skiff or taking short walks on land, wildlife was abundant. We saw spider, howler, woolly and owl monkeys and, the smallest of the monkey species, a pygmy marmoset.

We also saw two- and three-toed sloths, pink Amazon dolphins, a red-tailed boa constrictor, an anaconda, iguanas, black caimans, a bird-eating tarantula (that crawled onto some people’s arms [NOT MINE]), many bats and a red-and-black poison arrow frog. We went fishing for piranhas and caught a few large enough to have for dinner.

The <i>Amatista</i> riverboat on the Amazon.

Among the many birds we saw and heard everywhere were colorful macaws and others in the parrot family plus caracaras, falcons, anhingas, kingfishers, cranes and thousands of egrets that lifted off from their tree perches and escorted the skiffs.

Motoring slowly along Amazon tributaries, we entered the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve to visit several villages. Because the water levels fluctuate depending on the season, all structures were built on stilts. Dugout canoes, when not in use, lined riverbanks.

Due to erosion, one village we visited had to be moved inland, including the church, which had to be dismantled. We met the village leader/church pastor, who was weaving palm fronds for new sections of its roof.

We also met two women who were raising three species of butterflies for plant pollination. After they showed us the various stages of butterfly development, we were given containers and released butterflies in a screened enclosure.

At another village, we saw how yucca was grown on a terraced area and were served a lunch that included fish with spices, guinea pig stew and chicken cooked in banana leaves, all of which was very tasty.

The village school had a couple dozen children of varying ages, and Ucile questioned them as to their favorite subjects, then all joined hands and we taught them the hokey pokey.

In the last village, the resident shamaness, who had studied under a mentor for eight years, expanded our education, including showing us her large botanical garden in which she grew plants she needed for healing various ailments. We also witnessed two ceremonies performed by her.

Providing a look at a fascinating culture and a wonderful variety of wildlife, this busy but relaxing adventure in one small part of the world made me want to return for more.

ROSEMARY McDANIEL
Trenton, FL