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Being cooped up in the house these last few months has got me to thinking about a few of my bucket list travel destinations. And as things start to get back to normal I would like to take a close look at one of the places that I definitely want to visit in the next few years.
The mighty Amazon River has amazed me since boyhood. It is the largest river in the world by amount of water discharged and the second longest in length. Boasting earth’s largest rainforest, the river offers visitors an unforgettable journey into the “selva” or jungle as locals call it, where the world’s largest and most diverse collection of plant and animal life are found.
The 4,000-mile-long waterway stretches across nine South American countries as it makes its way eastward from the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Peru towards the Atlantic Ocean. Along its route, the river provides a source of life to more than one-third of all recorded animal species in the world. This includes some 40,000 plant species, 427 types of mammals, 1,300 birds species, 378 different reptiles, more than 400 amphibians, and roughly 3,000 freshwater fish.
A great way to experience the river and jungle together is by boat. There are numerous excellent companies that provide memorable experiences down the Amazon. A friend recommended Rainforest Cruises (www.rainforestcruises.com), which showcases Amazon River cruises from Peru.
The Rainforest Cruises start in Iquitos, Peru, located on the banks of the Amazon River, or in the city of Nauta. Both cities are the center of Amazon River cruise activity in Peru, and are found in the enormous province of Loreto, in North-Eastern Peru. Two-thirds of Peru’s land mass is covered by the Peruvian Amazon jungle, much of it unspoiled and waiting to be explored by riverboat.
“An Amazon River cruise in Peru will provide you with a genuine experience of the mighty Amazon River, the rainforest and all the wildlife and people who call it their home,” says the Rainforest Cruises website. “Mischievous capuchin monkeys, tasty Amazonian superfruits, smiling locals and rich rainforest scenery will be sure to give you a lifetime of lasting memories.”
The company says the best way to visit the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest is to tour backwaters aboard a traditional riverboat. River travel is still the primary method of transportation in the region as the Amazon rainforest is mainly a roadless wonder. An Amazon cruise is the only way to access the narrow, winding creeks and tributaries. Trips head deep into the rainforest for the best wildlife-spotting opportunities, jungle treks and local community visits.
Other animals to see on trip down the most biodiverse rainforest / river system on Earth include pink and grey river dolphins, three-toed sloths, jaguars, macaws, capuchin monkeys, anacondas, to name a few. Some of these creatures are endemic to the Amazon region, so being able to see them in their natural habitat can be spectacular. “The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in Peru boasts some of the Amazon’s most abundant biodiversity. Once you are there, just sit tight, be very quiet and use each of your senses to listen to leaves rustling in the trees,” says Rainforest Cruises.
For many Rainforest Cruises travelers, an unexpected highlight of an Amazon River tour is the chance to sample many of the region’s popular dishes, both traditional and modern. “Meals are lovingly prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients from the surrounding environment. You can expect to sample a variety of exquisite fish, meat and vegetable dishes, accompanied perhaps by a cocktail made with exotic tropical fruits. Ask your guide for a Pisco Sour lesson,” says the tour company. With any style of Amazon cruise you choose, the food and drinks onboard will be a trip highlight!
The Peruvian Amazon is also home to a diverse population of Amazonian tribes and mestizo communities. Many of these people keep their traditional lifestyle and some are completely isolated from the outside world. Other communities have decided to share their culture with visitors to the Amazon, inviting tour groups to learn about their lifestyle. A river cruise can give guests an opportunity to meet a local shaman, learn about natural medicine, meet local school kids and see first hand how Amazonian food is prepared. For more information, visit: www.rainforestcruises.com