There are only a few places left in the world where you can spend a week away from newspapers, television, cell phones and the internet, and the Amazon River Basin in Peru is one of them. A cruise on the Ucayali and Maranon rivers, which form the borders of the 5-million acre Pacaya-Samaria National Reserve and come together to begin the Amazon river, is for nature lovers appreciating a relaxed and quiet week with a small group of like-minded travelers.
The Delphin II is a luxurious expedition ship with extremely comfortable and spacious cabins and common areas. Days aboard consist of 2 or 3 daily outings, mostly on skiffs during high water season (December to May), and more on foot when river levels are lower (June to November). The excursions are primarily focused on discovering the incredible biodiversity of the region; one fellow traveler saw more than 100 different species (of the 527 in the area) during our cruise. In addition to the many-colored birds, we saw several different species of monkeys, reptiles and amphibians such as caiman and iguanas, tarantulas and scorpions, frogs and beetles, sloths, and the famous pink dolphins. There are so many butterfly varieties that most are not even named–an impossible task.
Our excursions also included visits to local villages, a jungle canopy walk on rope bridges, swimming in a beautiful lake at dusk, kayaking, and a delightful breakfast picnic surrounded by the resident Monk Saki monkeys. Lindblad and National Geographic provided outstanding educational presentations daily, ranging from improving your photos to indigenous cultures to a geological history of the region. Our naturalist guides were all native Peruvians who eagerly and enthusiastically shared their passion and incredible knowledge of the region with us.
In addition to nature watching, we enjoyed the company of our fellow travelers (the Delphin II carries up to 28 guests in 14 cabins), gourmet meals featuring the great variety of local fruits and vegetables, afternoon nap times, and evenings at the bar on the top deck, including a lesson on making the Peruvian national cocktail, the Pisco Sour. This trip tends to attract well-educated, seasoned travelers and nature lovers who don’t mind the 6 a.m. pre-breakfast outings and appreciate the slower-paced days. But, the voyage also provides a much-needed break in the action and a bit of zen for someone (like me!) who spends most days in front of a computer and is rarely separated from their iPhone or their to-do list.