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The Amazon River, believed to be 100 million years old, is key to life on Earth. As home to one in 10 of all known species, the Amazon basin supports incredible varieties of wildlife, not to mention more than 80,000 species of plants, many found nowhere else on the planet. The depths of the Amazon jungle hold much mystery — a clear draw for travelers looking for unique and authentic experiences.
In 2015 and 2016, ships both small and large are cruising the Amazon and its tributaries — from ocean-going companies, such as Holland America Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises, to river cruise lines, including Avalon Waterways, Aqua Expeditions and Haimark Ltd. The latter two have particularly special offerings for guests.
Haimark will make its debut on the Peruvian Amazon Oct. 11, with six-night sailings onboard its new, all-suite 44-passenger Amazon Discovery, sailing roundtrip from Iquitos, Peru. This is the ninth ship in Haimark’s fast-growing fleet, and its product is typical of the company’s attention to the environment, local culture and participatory experiences for its guests.
Haimark is partnering with the region’s Monkey Island, allowing guests to see where injured primates are rehabilitated, and with Manatee Rescue Center. Passengers may also swim with pink river dolphins, walk into the “mirrored forest” of Nauta Cano at night and attend a traditional dance performance by indigenous tribal people.
Tom Markwell, managing partner of sales and marketing for Haimark, says the company is paying great attention to sustainability, as well as making sure the ship’s interior — which will be decorated with Peruvian fabrics and local art — reflects the region. Additionally, guests will enjoy Haimark’s attention to local cuisine; the line will use regional fruits, vegetables and fish in its dishes, and clients will learn how they’re prepared.
Accommodations will range from the 237-square-foot Flora Suites to the 597-square-foot Amazonia Suite. One particularly charming feature of Amazon Discovery is a telescope in every suite, so that passengers can look deep into the rainforest.
Meanwhile, Aqua Expeditions is renovating its two ships in the Peruvian Amazon. The extensive upgrades to the 12-cabin Aqua Amazon and the 16-cabin Aria Amazon are being overseen by the original designer, Peruvian architect Jordi Puig. New woodwork, paint and awnings will refresh the exteriors, while new, upholstered furniture, wall coverings and lighting will be added inside. New 10-passenger skiffs have been added for each ship, as well.
Aqua’s three-, four- and seven-night itineraries include experiences such as fishing at Charo and Carocurahuayte lakes, exploring the Yacapana Islands, guided tours of Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve and visits to local villages.
Pre- and post-cruise extensions are available on these sailings. A natural choice is Machu Picchu, where the multinight stay provides a magical experience of the ruins after most visitors have left.