The best way to experience Peru’s remote upper Amazon is by joining an Aqua Expeditions river cruise. The 147-foot Aria Amazon, launched in 2011, underwent a complete face-lift in 2015, with new lighting and upgraded linens adding to the already high levels of comfort.
All 16 double-occupancy cabins (four of which can be combined for family use) offer floor-to-ceiling windows for unforgettable views of the passing scene. Large, comfortable lounge areas provide congenial spots for relaxation and briefings. And in the dining room, the superb cuisine is overseen by chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, one of Peru’s culinary stars. Days are filled with expeditions into the rainforest aboard aluminum skiffs. Each of these is manned by a trained pilot and a naturalist guide. We found the guides to be amazingly well-informed. Two of them had been raised in small villages in the rainforest, and what seemed so exotic to us was merely their backyard.
As we cruised the waters, or hiked through the forest, we encountered fantastically colored butterflies, such as giant blue morphos, and dozens of species of birds, including elegant capped herons, gorgeous macaws and a stately owl-like bird, the great potoo, among them.
On a night excursion along a dark tributary, we saw fishing bats skimming the river for prey and the glowing red eyes of a spectacled caiman watching us from the water’s edge. Most exciting was an afternoon spent amid a pod of pink river dolphins. We returned from each adventure to find members of the crew waiting for us with trays of cool drinks and cold towels, which we gratefully accepted before heading to a large Jacuzzi on the top deck.