La Amatista offers such creature comforts
as air-conditioning and hot showers.
On Peru’s little-traveled upper Amazon the dolphins are pink, tiny
owl monkeys venture out only at night and lizards walk on water.
What’s considered natural on the world’s mightiest river is the
stuff of a supernatural cruise adventure.
One of the best ways to see the remote reaches of the Peruvian
Amazon is by riverboat. So, I set out this spring for the
31-passenger La Amatista (meaning amethyst), one of three
riverboats operated year-round by Alabama-based International
Expeditions. My 10-day package began in Lima, Peru. After a city
tour and two-night stay at the first-class Swissotel, we flew to
Iquitos in northeastern Peru. At 2,300 miles from the mouth of the
Amazon on the Atlantic Ocean, the once-booming town is the world’s
most inland seaport and can only be reached by plane or boat.
We boarded La Amatista in Iquitos and headed another 300 miles
up the Amazon, Ucayali and Maranon rivers, far off any beaten
tourist path. While the larger ships of such lines as Princess,
Oceania and Holland America cruise the lower Amazon between the
Atlantic Ocean and Manaus, Brazil, during winter months, Peru’s
upper Amazon is only accessible to shallow draft riverboats.
Our cabins onboard La Amatista were small, yet comfortable.
There were no TVs or phones, though cell phones worked for brief
periods when the boat passed larger villages. All cabins featured a
private bathroom with a shower supplied with water filtered from
the Amazon. For drinking, there was plenty of complimentary bottled
water. Thoughtful amenities included robes, hiking sticks and
leather gators (ankle protection for jungle walks). Cabin
attendants did guests’ laundry at no charge and cleaned muddy shoes
Guestrooms Daily shore excursions
include village visits and dancing
Meals were casual buffets in a dining room with a panoramic river
view. The menu was hearty, healthy fare such as catfish, chicken,
rice, fresh veggies and exotic tropical fruits. One night, the chef
cooked the piranhas we caught on our afternoon excursion.
For the six-night cruise, we followed a routine similar to an
African safari. Days began with breakfast around 7:00 a.m.,
followed by a motorboat ride on the river or a small creek in
search of wildlife. We were back on board around 11:00, in time for
a naturalist briefing before lunch.
During the hot midday hours (the area lies about four degrees
south of the Equator), we enjoyed siestas. We climbed back in the
motorboat around 4:00 p.m. for more wildlife spotting or to visit a
secluded village, an unexpected highlight of the voyage. At sunset,
we enjoyed cocktails on the top deck accompanied by musical
selections by the talented crew. Dinner and stargazing or caiman
(crocodile) hunting in the dark rounded out the day. On the last
full cruising day, we had the opportunity to look down on the
jungle from the vantage point of an extensive canopy walk. The
swinging walkway was built in eight sections at a research lodge
and wildlife sanctuary on the Maranon River. On the two-hour hike,
we added sightings of wild pigs, capybaras (dog-sized rodents),
river otters, tiny poison arrow frogs, anacondas (thankfully
confined in a pen) and woolly monkeys to the long list of animals
we felt fortunate to observe on our Amazon odyssey.
International Expeditions operates 10-day Amazon
tours on a year-round basis. The fully escorted trips begin in
In addition to La Amatista, the International Expeditions fleet
includes La Turmalina and La Turquesa, accommodating 28 and 47
passengers, respectively. All the vessels are crafted of beautiful
native hardwoods. Fares for the three riverboats are identical,
with two category options upper or lower deck. Agents should advise
clients that there are no elevators on board and no easily
accessible medical facilities while on the river.
Commission: 10 percent