Lindblad will sail to the Amazon and two other South American rivers this year. // © National Geographic
Passengers on Lindblad’s Epic South American Cruise will return with experiences not likely to be duplicated among their friends and family.
January 13 marked 125 years of exploration for the National Geographic Society, and their partner, Lindblad Expeditions, is celebrating with one of its most ambitious expeditions it has ever offered: a 38-day journey that will begin in Trinidad Sept. 18 and end in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Guests sailing onboard the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer will have the rare opportunity to explore three legendary rivers — the Orinoco, the Amazon and the Essequibo -- in addition to colonial towns such as Ilheus and Parati and cities including Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. The itinerary is carefully planned with flexibility to take advantage of unexpected opportunities that may occur in this colorful part of the world.
Each of the three rivers is exotic enough; together they make up a unique experience, especially in seldom-visited Guyana, where the Essequibo flows through some of the Earth’s most pristine rainforest. A recently published list of life in the area includes 600 species, and guests can be on the lookout for rare parrots, toucans, brilliant cotingas including the haunting bellbirds, and iridescent jacamars. Passengers can fly by charter aircraft (weather permitting) to Guyana’s crown jewel: powerful 822-foot Kaieteur Falls, exploding over a cliff among the jungle mists.
The Orinoco River in Venezuela is the world’s third largest by volume and, with a network of channels called canos, it is home to a dazzling variety of birds, plants and animals. Lindblad’s zodiacs reach otherwise inaccessible places in search of red howler and spider monkeys, electric-blue morpho butterflies and bow-riding river dolphins.
In the Amazon, National Geographic Explorer will enter the delta through The Narrows, and then spend two days exploring the river and its tributaries by ship and by Zodiac. Besides the chance to spot macaws, toucans monkeys, and both gray and pink dolphins, guests will see communities of local residents, called caboclos, who make their living on the Amazon; the ship will also visit Belem, the gateway to the Amazon founded by the Portuguese, with a very colorful colonial history.
Beyond the rivers and rainforests, the itinerary includes overnights in major cities, virgin beaches, and special access to Fernando de Noronha to explore and snorkel in the incredibly clear waters.
National Geographic Explorer is the latest addition to the Lindblad fleet, a true expedition ship with amenities including a glass-enclosed fitness center, two LEXspa treatment rooms and a sauna. Three-course meals are served, often using fresh-caught fish and local fruits and vegetables; there is also an alternative bistro. All staterooms are outside with windows or portholes, and each has a desk, atlas, climate control and a bathroom with a shower.
Explorer carries kayaks and a fleet of Zodiac landing craft, and an undersea specialist operates a remotely operated vehicle and sophisticated video equipment to bring guests into the underwater environment. There is an Internet cafe onboard, a laundry and a library, and a full-time doctor is available.
In addition to the extraordinary wildlife and flora, the Epic South American Cruise will focus on the region’s different musical styles and cultural heritages. Guests will travel with a formidable roster of experts including Cesar Gaviria, the former president of Colombia, who will discuss the political and economic climate of South America and his extraordinary efforts to protect the world’s oceans; National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence ethnobotanist Wade Davis, and Johan Reinhard, who uncovered Incan human sacrificial sites; National Geographic Fellow Thomas Lovejoy; ethnomusicologist Jacob Edgar, a world tastemaker and global explorer who will put together performances by some of the continent’s most talented artists; Priscilla Ann Goslin, New York Times bestselling author; and National Geographic photographers Tyrone Turner, Cotton Coulson, and David Wright.
Rates begin at $34,730 per person, double, for the 38-day cruise.