By Amanda Gerardo
I recently returned from an amazing adventure exploring the rich waters, tangled jungle and lively river banks of the Amazon, traveling aboard the Delfin II on a journey to the heart of Peru’s Pacaya-Samiria Reserve–a destination overflowing with beautiful and fascinating flora and fauna. The abundance of spectacular wildlife, beautiful landscape and warm welcomes of the locals in the villages we visited along the way are memories I will treasure. The Amazon is an extraordinary destination for the expedition traveler, not only abundant in wildlife and culture, but also in phenomenal experiences.
The sun had just dropped sleepily below the horizon, washing the evening in a tranquil denim glow, as our skiff sped into a wide stretch of the Amazon River where the Delfin II was awaiting our return. We rounded the corner on the last stretch of the evening’s excursion just as a huge flock of herons crossed our path, their graceful wings painting a stark white contrast against the violet sky. The mass of birds settled into a tree marooned in the middle of the river and obligingly posed as our skiff quietly drifted in for a closer view. While my fellow passengers eagerly clicked off photos, necks craning upwards, I set my camera down in an attempt to absorb the moment: the feeling of the breeze cooling my skin after a day in the sun, the excited voices of my shipmates as they witnessed another show of nature’s beauty and the din of wildlife settling into the evening chapter of the day. If it wasn’t for the slight twinge of hunger beckoning for another delicious dinner, I would have wished for the moment to last forever.
Although that evening was a highlight of my trip, there was not a moment in the Amazon that was anything less than amazing. The 28 passenger Delfin II is cozy yet elegant with spacious cabins and an intimate atmosphere. The top deck is an open-air lounge with hammocks and comfy couches for wildlife watching, enjoying a drink from the bar or swapping stories with your new neighbors about the day’s excursions. Indulging in local cuisine is always something I relish on my travels and the meals served onboard were an event all of their own. The dining room was transformed every mealtime with unique and inventive tablescapes. The food matched that creativity and the chef did a wonderful job of introducing Peruvian specialties in a palatable way. On a few evenings, some of the crew took up musical instruments and serenaded us while we finished dessert – a perfect way to wind down the evening.
While our gastronomic adventures kept our bellies satisfied, the daily excursions exploring the rainforest satisfied our other senses. On hikes through the forest and up in the trees (on a canopy walk) we met local ribereños—the locals that live on the river banks—who introduced us to tarantulas, brightly colored frogs, and inquisitive monkeys. Skiff rides produced countless bird sightings as well as sloths, lizards, more monkeys and even a river rat. On one of my favorite outings, we plowed through lush water plants and past giant lily pads to a big lagoon where we swam amongst frolicking pink dolphins. Kayaking allowed us to explore the nooks and crannies of the river’s edge and all the secrets it holds for only those willing to slow down enough to witness them.
Beyond the incredible wildlife and nature encounters, walking through a few of the local villages and learning about the Amazonian lifestyle was epic on a cultural level. It surprised me to learn from our guides that, although the locals don’t have much money, it is easy for them to live a good and full life with a little bit of effort, growing crops in the fertile soil and fishing out of the plentiful waters. From our short visits with the Ribereños, they seemed to me to live happy and simple lives, devoid of the complications of a fast-paced urban lifestyle. One of the most rewarding moments of the trip was seeing the joy and excitement of the children when the guides passed out school supplies and vitamins – simple pleasures that are easy for many of us to take for granted.
When I think back on my time in the Amazon there is not one memory that comes to mind, but rather the captivating feeling that overcame me; the calming stillness that I felt on that twilight skiff ride amongst the herons. There is peacefulness to the nature and people of the rainforest and it resonated so deeply that I felt it from the moment I stepped on the ship to the moment I wistfully said my goodbyes. And that is a feeling I hope will never truly escape me.
Check out Amanda's photo gallery here.