Day 1: Lima, Peru
Arrive in Lima, where our local representative meets you at the airport just outside of customs. Transfer into the city and overnight in the cosmopolitan Miraflores district near the coast.
Day 2: Lima / Iquitos / Embark Riverboat
See the highlights of Lima this morning, visiting the Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, and the monastery and catacombs of Iglesia de San Francisco. We also tour the outstanding collection of pre-Columbian art at Museo Larco, where we'll enjoy lunch at the museum cafe. This afternoon we fly to Iquitos, a once-booming rubber town that is now one of the largest cities in the Amazon and can only be reached by air or water. Here, we'll board our deluxe riverboat, La Estrella Amazonica.
As we move out into the broad current of the Amazon, milky with silt, we enjoy our first dinner aboard. Later, head up to the open-air top deck for stargazing and storytelling with our local guides as we cruise slowly upstream, bound for the mighty river's headwaters.
Day 3: Amazon River / Yarapa River
Board excursion boats and head out for an introduction to the "river sea" that is the mighty Amazon. These legendary waters are thrumming with locals in small boats coming to market,
while the skies overhead are animated with a variety of birdlife. Back aboard ship, we cruise upstream till we reach the Yarapa River, a pristine tributary of the Amazon. Turning into the Yarapa's remote reaches, watch for colorful birdlife such as the plum-throated cotinga. On an afternoon skiff excursion, look for gray and pink dolphins swimming and playing. Local lore teaches that dolphins turn into humans to steal handsome men or pretty women from their villages during celebrations. Before making our way back to the ship, enjoy a vibrant sunset as we scan the riverbanks for spectacled caiman, frogs, owls and capybara, the world's largest rodent. After dark, savor a magical night on deck as we listen to the symphony of forest sounds, or enjoy it in solitude from your cabin's private balcony.
Day 4: Source of the Amazon River / Ucayali River & Tributaries
We reach the Rio Ucayali this morning, one of the Amazon's largest source tributaries. Wake to the sounds of the jungle, teeming with life,
and join our expert naturalists for a dawn birding excursion on Sapuena Creek, a blackwater stream leading to a large lake. Watch for purple and azure gallinules and wattled jacanas along the lakeside before returning to the ship for breakfast. Later this morning, as our skiffs navigate the small waterways off the main river, we are immersed further in the verdant realm of the world's largest rain forest. Venturing into the flooded marsh, we look for more birds, monkeys and sloths. At every turn, our guides reveal the secrets of the rain forest, helping us to find wildlife where we would never see it on our own, given the amazing camouflage of so many masterfully adapted species.
We also spend time today with the ribereño
people who inhabit this remote region. Accompanied by guides who grew up along the river, this is a fascinating opportunity to learn about the everyday lives of the indigenous people on a visit to a local village. Strolling through the community gardens, we learn from our guides about the many varied uses of medicinal plants. We may have a chance to visit a school or join in a game of soccer. The children are especially excited to see their faces on digital cameras and to show off their school and sing songs for us. After an afternoon boating excursion along Santa Rosa Creek, return to our riverboat for an evening of Peruvian music and dinner.
Day 5: Ucayali River / Pacaya Samiria Reserve
Day breaks over the origins of the planet's mightiest river as we reach Peru's largest protected area, the vast Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. This flooded forest covers 10,000 square miles at the headwaters of the Amazon and is home to Peru's greatest concentration of rain forest wildlife. Early this morning we set out by skiff into this emerald realm of trees, vines, streams and lagoons to explore the blackwater Zapote River. The water, while clear, is the color of dark tea, an effect of the tannins deposited by the rich vegetation along the banks. Along this small tributary
we frequently observe a variety of monkeys including squirrel, monk saki
and brown capuchin. Enjoy a peaceful picnic breakfast as we're serenaded by a chorus of birdsongs. Where dry ground exists, we go ashore for jungle walks, keeping an eye out for a host of birds: large-billed terns, laughing falcons, gray tanagers, snowy egrets, horned screamers, tiger herons, short-tailed parrots, parakeets and perhaps the flashy scarlet macaw. We may even spy a three-toed sloth nestled in a cecropia tree.
As the sun descends below the canopy, we once more board excursion boats to head into the "mirrored forest" of the Pacaya Samiria Reserve to see towering trees reflected in the flooded environs. At dusk, an exciting adventure awaits as we experience the rain forest's transformation by nightfall on a boat ride along the Dorado River. An orchestra of sounds evolves as nocturnal creatures awaken, with crickets and night birds providing a percussive rhythm. In the darkness, our guides use spotlights to search for wildlife: black caiman, frogs, capybara, opossum, common potoo, black-crowned night heron and nighthawks are commonly spotted along the banks.
Day 6: Yarapa River / Maranon River
On a naturalist-guided kayaking excursion, paddle along the narrow Yarapa River watching for troops of squirrel monkeys and birdlife, including white-throated toucan and cream-colored woodpecker. We also visit a respected village shaman, learning about the medicinal plants he uses to heal the local people, as well as about the future of traditional rain forest
medicine. Back aboard the Estrella Amazonica
, we pass the confluence of the Amazon, created by the meeting of the Ucayali and Maranon rivers, and turn up the Maranon, one of its two primary source tributaries.
Later, we hike on a jungle trail through the terra firma forest to see walking palms, trees festooned with epiphytes, and a vaulted canopy. Keep an eye out for brightly colored poison dart frogs, tarantulas and many more intriguing small creatures along our path. Overhead, look for macaws, black-collared hawks, prehistoric hoatzin birds, capuchins and red howler monkeys, whose eerie call reverberates through the canopy for miles. We've begun to get a sense of the layered richness of the reserve's mixed habitats: its 85 lakes are home to 250 species of fish,
while it protects 132 species of mammals, 150 reptile and amphibian species, and 450 different kinds of birds. The Pacaya Samiria Reserve also contains the largest variety of flora in Peru, including huge bromeliads and 22 species of orchids.
Day 7: Maranon River / Yanayacu Pucate
This morning we travel farther up the Rio Maranon to a virtually unvisited section of Pacaya Samiria, where the Yanayacu and Pucate rivers meet. The giant kapok and strangler fig trees along the river are home to a multitude of plants and animals, and we discuss the various mini-ecosystems with our naturalist guides. Board the skiffs this afternoon for an excursion on Pauachiro or Nauta Caño Creek, where we frequently observe sloths and silverback, tamarillo and spider monkeys.
Day 8: Nauta / Amazon River
Heading back downriver, we stop to take in a morning market in the bustling river town of Nauta and enjoy a tour aboard a local rickshaw. Before returning to La Estrella Amazonica,
we stop at Montoya Lake to see the famous giant water lilies of the Amazon, Victoria regia,
the world's largest aquatic plant. The pure white flowers, a foot in diameter, bloom at night, gracing the six-foot-wide spiny green platters on which they rest. As our riverboat makes its way back to Iquitos, stop by the lecture room for a final review of our wildlife checklist, or try origami-style towel folding on the open-air top deck with assistance from our cabin staff. Early this evening, prepare to bid farewell to the Amazon River as we make a final skiff excursion on the main channel past Panguana Village.
Day 9: Iquitos / Lima / Depart
We disembark in Iquitos this morning and visit the Rescue & Rehabilitation Center for River Mammals. Here, biologists and volunteers care primarily for endangered Amazon manatees that conservation authorities have seized from fishermen and locals who have captured them illegally. Scientists will discuss efforts to help these vulnerable mammals, including how they are prepared for re-introduction into their natural habitat. We'll have the chance to see baby manatees and interact with charming, docile adults, maybe even helping feed them. Other animals are also cared for at the center, often rescued from capture with the intention of being held as pets. Afterward, a day room is provided to relax and freshen up before our flight back to Lima late this afternoon, or, for those guests who prefer, our Expedition Leader will accompany you on a visit to a nearby museum featuring Amazonian art. Upon arrival in Lima, we'll connect with overnight flights home or get ready for post-trip extensions to Machu Picchu or Lake Titicaca.
Please Note: This itinerary is meant as a guideline and can change due to weather conditions, internal flight schedules and river water levels. On some occasions these conditions may require us to deviate from our intended itinerary, in which case we will provide the best available alternative. And we'll make a great adventure of it!
Physical Rating: Easy