The Amazon River, the largest river system in the world, spans over 4,000 miles and crosses the entire continent of South America. It’s source starts high up in the Andes Mountains of Peru, passing by the lost Incan City of Machu Picchu and continuing to flow across the Peruvian rainforest, crossing through Columbia and Brazil until it finally reaches the Atlantic Ocean. Being the adventurer that I am, I knew I had to fly to the source of this mysterious river to uncover the truth about our world’s largest rainforest, and to witness for myself what all this land has to offer.
Although, in August it is Winter in Peru, the Amazon only ever has two seasons, dry and wet. The water levels change drastically between these two seasons and the river can swell up to 35 feet higher than it is during the dry season flooding the forests, villages, and even forever altering the landscape once the waters recede. Here, you have no choice but to adapt to the rules of the Amazon. In fact, Adaptation, is the recurrent theme that I saw when I landed in the jungle, not only with the plants and animals that live there, but the people too. Since there are no roads to get to most of their villages, the only way to get around is by boat or on foot. When the rivers rise, people have learned to migrate to the second story of their stilted wooden homes just like how the animals retreat higher into the canopy of the trees. Life goes on and is dictated by the changing tides of the river. This is when I realized that the only way to truly experience the Amazon is to do what the locals do; either live on the water, or escape high into the trees.
The most typical way to view and experience the Peruvian Amazon is by boat, specifically with Rainforest Cruises. The Delfin I riverboat (the same boat National Geographic uses to charter trips in the Amazon) is a floating luxury hotel that gives you the opportunity to see the eco-systems of the rainforest up close, but also enjoy many five-star amenities such as fine dining prepared by some of the top Peruvian chefs, massages, private rooms and bathrooms, hot showers and air conditioning (something you don’t realize is a luxury until you’re down there), and numerous activities the crew offers.
From the second Shannon and I stepped aboard what would be our floating home for the next 4 days, we were treated like royalty. They took off our shoes and cleaned them while greeting us with welcome cocktails and showing us to our suites. Our suite was aptly named, The Anaconda Suite, since I was determined to find one during our adventures down there. As we settled into our cabin which had a private wrap around balcony and windows, I laid on the bed to relax and read and had front row seats to watching the famous Pink Dolphins jumping and frolicking in the Amazon river around us! It was such a magical sight.
What is so cool about living aboard the Delphin I is that you are constantly moving from one location to another, reaching remote destinations in the Amazon that you otherwise couldn’t get to. One evening we would sail to have the best sunset, or find the best spot to fish for piranhas and by morning we would be further downstream at a reserve where we could canoe in to a hidden spot for breakfast where a table of local fruits, pastries, and coffee would already be laid out for us. While moving, you are not disturbed by mosquitos and you have this constant breeze as you pass by quaint villages or just snooze and relax.
Although living on a boat was magical and romantic, some of the highlights of the trip were when we were able to take a small skiff boat down some of the narrow tributaries to see the river teeming with wildlife and birds or getting to go hiking through the rainforest to some of the nearby villages. I loved practicing my Spanish and speaking with the locals, learning about their lives, and even playing soccer in the evenings with the men and crew of the ship. Everyone we encountered was kind and welcoming and eager to tell us all about their lives and explain the mysteries of the jungle. My inner Indiana Jones self loved spending the days hiking, taking photos, and getting dirty exploring the jungle, but then my alter ego self on vacation was able to return to the luxury of a hot shower and 5 star meal. The evenings would literally sail by with the bartender serving cocktails under the stars while we traded survival stories with the other guests. Every day’s stories would outdo the day before and it was the perfect blend of adventure, exploration, and comfort.