My husband, Chris and I had the opportunity to sail on the Delfin II last month in the Peruvian Amazon. It was a far different journey from the one we did in the Ecuadorian Amazon more than two decades ago when we had very basic accommodations and everything was pretty primitive. My how things (in the Amazon) have changed.
This time, our ship was a luxurious retreat from the flooded rainforests of the upper reaches of the Amazon River and impressive tributaries like the Marañon and Ucayali. Pioneers in luxury cruising on the Peruvian Amazon, the founders and owners of Delfin Amazon Cruises, have managed to retain a very local flavor while at the same time providing all the creature comforts that modern travelers expect – even in the middle of nowhere.
There’s a line in River of Doubt by Candice Millard that sums up my gut reaction to traveling in the Amazon Basin: “Far from its outward appearance, the rainforest was not a garden of easy abundance, but precisely the opposite. Its quiet, shaded halls of leafy opulence were not a sanctuary but, rather, the greatest natural battlefield anywhere on the planet, hosting an unremitting and remorseless fight for survival that occupied every single one of its inhabitants, every minute of every day.”
A few of my takeaways from our brief exploration of the Amazon and Ucayali River, starting out from Iquitos:
• Local, local, local- Our Peruvian owners, Aldo and Lissy, work very hard to ensure their two ships have a distinctly Peruvian feel in both decor and service. This ranges from the constantly changing decorations created by local residents to meals that include a wide range of fresh ingredients sourced from the surrounding jungle.
• Flooded Forest – June is normally a low-water period in the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin. But this year, the rivers were running exceptionally high, especially in and around Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve where much of the rainforest was still flooded. It was mind boggling to consider how much further down the water still had to recede (10-15 feet) to reach its normal level for this time of year.
• Animal Sightings – Expectations on wildlife viewings need to be managed before people arrive. This is a dense jungle and you really need expert guides to find the animals. You really have to work for viewings and photographs! Among the mammals we saw daily were gray river dolphins, who must have liked the vibrations from the ship’s engines, as they were our constant companions. We also spotted pink dolphins, but they were more elusive. Among the five species of simian we spied on the trip, my favorite was the owl monkey (also known as night monkeys or douroucoulis) – and the birding is awesome.
• Activities – In addition to going out daily in skiffs for wildlife viewing, we also had opportunities for swimming, kayaking, piranha fishing, and a night excursion looking for caiman (crocodiles), and visiting a village supported by the company.
• Organic bug spray doesn’t work all that well – I recommend using a DEET-based insect repellant and long sleeves & pants. T The paramedic on the ship does have an excellent treatment for bug bites from the night excursion.