Known as the birthplace of the Amazon, the Peruvian region of the Amazon river and rainforest system is the most untouched, bearing a large concentration of wildlife and flora in the vast protected area of Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.
A Brief Background of the Amazon
The Amazon is the largest rainforest on Earth with the surface of 55 million hectares, and it’s also known as the region with the largest biodiversity on land. With such an enormous surface area, this incredible ecosystem stretches across nine countries in South America: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
A staggering 1 in 10 known species on the planet can be found in the Amazon rainforest, including 40,000 plant species, 3,000 fish species, 1,500 bird species and 370 types of reptiles. Also, this region has become the last place where visitors have the opportunity to spot some of the world’s endangered species in the wild, such as jaguars, pink river dolphins and harpy eagles.
The Amazon also represents more than 50 percent of the Earth’s remaining rainforest, where you can find almost 400 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species.
Without the 4,000-mile long Amazon river, this ecosystem would be virtually impenetrable by humans. Thankfully, the spectacular waterway that gives the forest much of its life also gives explorers a chance to experience this wildlife kaleidoscope by means of an Amazon river cruise.
The question in most visitors’ mind is: Why should Peru be the destination of choice for an expedition into the Amazon rainforest, especially when it is smaller than Brazil in terms of Amazon ecosystem surface area?
Reason #1: Home to Luxury
While the Amazon can be haven for wildlife, for humans who are accustomed to creature comforts the jungle can be an unforgiving place. So, even if you don’t live and breathe luxury in your daily lives, you’ll come to realize the necessity of five-star comforts when exploring the great Amazonia.
On board a luxury river cruise ship such as the Aria Amazon and Aqua Nera that sails in the Peruvian Amazon, you’re guaranteed to feel at ease in the middle of wilderness. Not only will you have a comfortable suite to call home (not to mention the indispensable hot shower) after each day’s excursions, you’ll also have your very own Amazonian habitat.
Designed by renowned architects and designers, an Aqua Expeditions ship also features amenities such as a Jacuzzi/plunge pool, indoor lounge and bar, cinema and spa — everything needed to reassure guests and help them feel at home in Amazonia, and then some!
Reason #2: Hassle-free access
It’s fair that would probably assume that you will need to change a few planes, cars and boats to get to the heart of the Amazon, and that’s probably true — with one notable exception: getting to the Peruvian Amazon.
With daily direct flights to and from the Peruvian capital of Lima, you can easily get to Iquitos, the gateway to the Amazon in Peru and the starting point for an Aqua Expeditions Amazon journey. (Keep in mind you can’t drive to Iquitos, as this is the largest city in the world that’s not accessible by road.) The Lima-Iquitos flight takes less than two hours, and direct flights of a similar duration are also available to and from Cusco — gateway to the famed Machu Picchu.
Compared to other Amazonian countries, the Peruvian Amazon rainforest is also the easiest one to access. For instance, in Brazil, you will need to take a direct flight from São Paulo or non-direct ones from other major cities. The shortest flight duration is a bit less than four hours, and the ticket prices are higher than in Peru. The Amazon in Columbia has only two direct flights from Bogota per day (and you won’t get to sail on the actual Amazon river).
Reason #3: Largest Protected Area
In the Peruvian Amazon, you get to witness the spectacle of the largest protected flooded forest in the world, the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. There, you can find 1,204 plant species, 449 bird species, 256 fish species, 102 mammal species, 69 reptile species and 58 amphibian species.
What makes this area truly unique is the cycle of rising and falling rivers like no other region in the Amazon. If you visit Pacaya-Samiria during the high water season, the majority of the area will be flooded and you’ll sail among tree canopies with a high concentration of wildlife (excursions are mostly on skiffs).
[Find out what a low water season is like in the Peruvian Amazon here.]
In fact, Pacaya-Samiria is a unique place for several reasons. It’s estimated that 42,000 people live within the park. Visiting this area will teach you a lot about the indigenous way of living, and learning a thing or two about amazing Peruvians who have lived in the Amazon their entire lives will be the highlight of your journey.
On board the Aria Amazon and Aqua Nera, seasoned local English-speaking naturalist guides, born-and-bred in this region, will lead you on rewarding wildlife and cultural discoveries in the Peruvian Amazon.
Reason #4: The Birthplace of the Amazon
At the eastern tip of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is also where the Amazon river is “born”. The area of the birthplace of the Amazon, where Aqua Expedition vessels cruise, is the most pristine and untouched region of the Amazon, with the chance to swim, kayak and canoe in crystal clear, low-sediment waters (also known as “blackwater”).
Reason #5: Amazonian Cuisine
The Peruvians take great pride in their cuisine, and every region in the country has its own traditional fare — including the Peruvian Amazon!
From the native paiche fish to the Aji Negro, a fermented sauce made from a local variety of yuca (cassava), native Amazonian people of Peru have over centuries developed their own unique flavors and ways of cooking.
It would’ve be next to impossible for outsiders to sample native Amazonian produce and ingredients if not for Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, a celebrated Peruvian chef who has been dedicating his career to promoting the culinary gifts of Peru’s Amazon background.
As the consulting chef responsible for creating the only rainforest-to-table Amazonian menu on an Amazon river cruise (on board the Aria Amazon and the upcoming Aqua Nera), the award-winning Chef Schiaffino has also contributed to a whole lot of good, by helping restore the dwindling paiche fish population, educating locals on sustainable cultivation techniques, and promoting Amazonian produce to top-tier restaurants in Lima to generate income for Amazonian natives.
[See dates for Chef Pedro Miguel Schaffino’s Aria Amazon Chef-Hosted Departures.]
Aside from the Amazon, Peru is also the mystical and vibrant epicenter of ancient South American culture. Aside from Machu Picchu, a wealth of spellbinding archaeological attractions, such as the Nazca Lines and Chan Chan awaits, alongside displays of vibrant culture in places such as Lake Titicaca. Peru as a country is relatively compact so you can easily fit the Amazon and other once-in-a-lifetime sights into a two or three-week itinerary.
We’re incredibly proud to sail in the Peruvian Amazon, and you would be too!
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