12 Nov Cruising in the Peruvian Amazon
Cruising the Peruvian Amazon
Hayley Crowden- Travel Specialist
The Amazon Rainforest is famous for many things – colourful birds, monkeys, piranhas, anacondas, sloths, insects of all sizes, and a steamy temperature. What probably doesn’t spring to mind for most people is world-class gourmet cuisine served beneath the lush canopy by white-gloved waiters, cocktails at sundown, and views of the mighty river slipping past a comfortable, air-conditioned cabin. But then experiencing the greatest jungle on earth aboard the deluxe riverboat, Delfin II, isn’t your average (if such a voyage can EVER be considered ‘average’) Amazon cruise.
Exploring tributaries of the Amazon, including the Pacaya and Dorado Rivers, on a purpose-built, spacious and well-maintained vessel with up to 28 like-minded travellers and a crew of 12 that includes a gourmet chef and impressively knowledgeable naturalist guides is a lot more comfortable than camping, combatting mosquitoes and eating grubs (which, speaking from experience, I cannot recommend very highly)!
Pink River Dolphin
The crew take care of everything – whether it’s anticipating your need for a cold face towel, fan, rain poncho, or snack while out on a motorised excursion skiff, baiting your hook when piranha fishing, or guessing that a beer after swimming with pink river dolphins is exactly what a thirsty Australian tourist might appreciate. The food aboard is a real surprise, a fusion of local cuisine and international flavours, with every meal beautifully presented and served with a warm smile from the staff.
My room on board the Delfin II
But, for me, an unexpected highlight was not just the pleasure of exploring in comfort or the wildlife for which this jungle is renowned, but the small communities we were pleased to meet along the way. Each village we passed greeted us with beaming faces and friendly waves, shy toddlers hiding behind elder siblings who were eager to chatter away with us (lack of language is no barrier when laughter and smiles are the main form of communication).
In one village, a proud father of eight little ones showed us through his humble one-room stilt house, before we visited the local school and delighted pupils with pens, crayons and calculators we’d brought along. On the village soccer field that also serves as the town square and centre of the community, a fellow ‘gringo’ from our boat organised a running race with the children. It didn’t matter that we spoke not a word of the local dialect; within a few minutes there were at least 30 jostling children lined up waiting for “on your marks, get set, GO!” before tearing down the field to the finish line. I tried my hand at one of the most popular sports of the area, playing a muddy game of volleyball with a group of the teenaged girls – it was soon clear that not only did I look quite ridiculous (and very dirty) but lacked any skills whatsoever compared to the smiling, barefoot and energetic village youngsters.
Whenever we travel, we each take home a part of our trip that we treasure as an individual highlight. Cruising on Delfin II it could have been the exotic wildlife, the exceptional meals, the impeccable vessel and cool, comfortable rooms, or the attentive staff. But for me it was the moment when the differences in culture, background, wealth, clothing and skin colour were completely forgotten and I was just another member of the local volleyball team.