What specific cities and /or countries did you visit? Amazon River, Peru
What was your favorite memory from this trip? The best part was the level of service from the crew and guides. There were only 19 of us for the first three days and then 10 of us for the last 4 days. Even with 10 of us, since we had 3 naturalists/guides, we took out 3 skiffs every outing -- one with 2 folks and two with 4 each. We had extremely personalized service which was really nice. Highlights for me were seeing the Anaconda snake, the stingray (which is normally a bottom feeder), the monkeys, and the birds.
Top excursions and landmarks/sites to visit: We took skiffs out 2 to 3 times per day to explore the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. The jungle/rain forest was beautiful and one day we stopped to a walk in a village. We also rode in dugout canoes and fished for piranha. Some folks even swam in the river, although most parts were not safe for swimming.
Were there any standout restaurants or foodie must-haves on this trip? The food aboard the ship was spectacular. The chef made many local dishes with locally sourced vegetables. We had cooking demonstrations and the one I liked best was the heart of palm salad. Here in the US, we have canned hearts of palms that are cut across the grain -- so little circles. Well, they had extremely fresh hearts of palm (which apparently you can't get just anywhere and is too fragile to export). They shaved them along the grain so we had "noodles" that were tossed with a vinaigrette that was phenomenal!
How would you describe the people and culture of this destination? Any interesting cultural lessons? The people along the way were extremely nice. We met a young lad of around 9 years old who had been sent to fetch a bucket (5 gallon bucket) of water. He had gone fishing while on his errand and had a lot of various fish. They said the youngsters are sent out on the boats from around age 5! The children seemed very well behaved but definitely more self-sufficient than US children.
One drink that grossed most of us out was Masato which is a fermented drink based on yuca, which is a big tuber with lots of starch and very little sugar. So native Peruvians boil, peel and chew the yucca and spit it out and let it sit for a few days. The enzymes in their saliva break down the starch and turn it into sugar. Then it ferments and they end up with alcohol.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about this destination? I was surprised at how many villages were along the way. We spent most of our time in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve but local people are allowed to live there. Some villages were not old (one had been formed only 40 years ago) and some were several hundred years old. In some places, the land floods during high water season and the land erodes away, forcing the inhabitants to relocate. Since we were there during high water, we could navigate some sloughs that were there only because the water flooded over the land.
During the high water season, some fish are able to go over the land and they eat fruit and seeds left by the monkeys (on what used to be land). Another surpise were the river dolphins. They were around a lot, but they didn't surface often or in a predicatble pattern. So it was hard to get photos, but the dophins were either gray or they were mottled with pink!! Those pink dolphins were quite a sight!!
Top 5 Tips and recommendations for this trip:
- We wish we had known better what to wear. As it turned out the morning excursion was pleasant and shorts and tank/tee tops would have been good. In the afternoon, the bugs started coming out plus the sun was more intense and it was good to cover up. So long pants and long sleeves were in order. Then in the evening, dinner was after a shower and it was appropriate to wear dresses or slightly nicer clothes.
- During the day a hat was a must. I found my bucket hat was good for covering my neck, but the front brim blew from the speed of the skiff and exposed my face to the sun. I brought several baseball caps, which kept my face in the shade because of the firm brim, but it exposed my neck to the sun. The best hat for riding in the skiffs was a baseball style hat that had fabric to cover the neck. I bought one onboard the ship and it was perfect!
- Laundry service was included on our trip. So for the week, I could have done with two or three outfits for each time of day. Laundry was back in the room around 12 hours after we left it in the laundry basket, so I didn't need as many repetitions.
- I had a camera with a good zoom lens and was able to get shots of monkeys, sloths, and birds that were very clear. I took a lot of photos from my iPhone and there were good, but the zoom could not always see quite far enough. I recommend both.
- We rode in skiffs every day. It was important to be present for the adventure and not worry about how we looked. I didn't wear any make-up and didn't worry about my hair since it was under a hat.
Did you travel via cruise ship? We sailed about Aqua Nera. It was a fabulous small boat (only 20 cabins) and all the cabins were the same size, which was quite large. The water pressure was phenomenal so those showers after the afternoon outing were very relaxing. One thing to note is that the tap water was not potable. They did provide drinking water and had filtered water available whenever we wanted, but it is important to remember that not all countries have potable taps.There was no elevator on the ship which had 3 decks. So physical mobility was a must. We also boarded the skiffs right from the ship, so some agility was required (especially since both might be moving when we boarded or disembarked from the skiff).
Meals were only served at certain hours. Breakfast was buffet style. Lunch and Dinner were family style, but it was never a problem asking for more food.
What makes this destination a must-see in your opinion? This was a trip for well traveled folks. I wouldn't rate it at the top of the list for folks who have not travelled much. But for folks that have seen many other places, then this destination should be on the list. The scenery was spectacular. There were many wild animals in the jungle, but sometimes we didn't see any. They may have been more inland and deeper in the jungle. There were not constantly animals which disappointed the folks who had been in Africa before. For birders, there were many species to see.
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