One of the things that most of our guests love is how our expeditions allow them to get off the grid. Whether it is cycling through the golden paddy fields of the Mekong delta, watching pink dolphins frolic at dusk on the mystical Amazon river, or hiking through untamed landscapes up an ancient Eastern Indonesian volcanic caldera, there is a remarkable sense of peace that comes with not chasing a busy, device-beholden, everyday existence.
Experiencing the natural world, up close and personal, is an important tenet of Aqua’s philosophy. It not only calms the mind and reduces mental fatigue, but also promotes mindfulness and gratitude. An Aqua Expedition voyage effectively allows our guests to unplug from technology and connect with their fellow travelers, as well as the destination itself via immersive experiences in nature, culture, and locals.
Experience a different slice of Mekong life and culture on two wheels. The Aqua Mekong boasts ten top-of-the-line Cannondale all-terrain bicycles which are provided free of charge for passengers to explore during personalized day trips and shore excursions.
Our expert guides will take you on small groups no larger than 10 to breeze through pastoral landscapes, religious landmarks, and river views. No two cycling excursions are the same, and there are different levels of activity whether you are a pro or novice rider.
A favorite route is at Binh Thanh island, where guests can go on an invigorating morning ride to experience an eight or 11-kilometre cycle to observe village life at its most authentic. Here, you will get the chance to visit communities which make a living through fish farms, fruit and vegetable gardens, and growing water hyacinths. Alternatively, get your fill of local art as you ride through the charming lanes of Cai Be, where small art galleries and centuries-old courtyard houses are open for visits. Just perfect for closing those exercise and move rings while simultaneously connecting with nature, sans screen!
The Amazon rainforest is a living museum. Home to more than one-third of all recorded animal species in the world, including 20 percent of all bird species, it also boasts at least 40,000 plant species, 427 mammals, 378 reptiles, more than 400 amphibians and around 3,000 freshwater fish.
Our experienced naturalist guides lead guests through the snaking tributaries and enigmatic black waters of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, where there is a high chance of spotting armoured catfish, red-bellied piranhas or even the beady-eyed heads of spectacled caimans. Yet just as captivating is the scene above the river where dusky titi monkeys frolic in the tree canopy and antediluvian prehistoric boatman birds streak high above.
Often, it is the details right in front of you which are the most fascinating – the sculpturally elegant Ceiba tree, also known as Kapok in English or Lupuna in Peruvian – is considered the mother of the forest by many of the Amazon indigenous cultures because of its sheer size and usefulness. Known to grow as tall as 200 feet, with a trunk circumference of up to 30 feet and giant buttresses, they are home to a range of species including frogs, snakes, epiphytes, and bromeliads. We guarantee that the only time you will be reaching for your phone is to snap a few photos.
Walk the Line
If hiking through remote tropical jungles and spectacular volcanic landforms sound like your cup of tea, then our Aqua Blu itineraries are an ideal choice. One of our essential adventures is on our Komodo voyage in East Indonesia. You may not get telephone reception or Komodo dragons out on Padar island, but what you will get in spades is some of the most dramatic natural vistas in the world.
Compact and picturesque, Padar offers a distinctive savannah terrain that takes you to a viewpoint of perfectly curved bays and beaches that flank both sides of the island. Depending on your level of fitness, this hike will take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour, but the toil is worth it. Framed by the cobalt blue of the surrounding sea, it is an unbelievably breathtaking sight and photographer’s dream.
There are plenty of opportunities to commune with nature, with some of the most memorable at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Raja Ampat captivates with the enigmatic beauty of its milestone karst island clusters, enthralling explorers since the time of European colonists and later, 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, informing his parallel theory of evolution. Today, it offers still the chance to find a perfect private hideaway out of thousands, including a trek to the secret Kali Biru river, where your efforts on foot will be rewarded with a refreshing swim into the gently flowing cerulean waters.
Birds of a Feather
If there is anything we need more of right now, it would be the ability to quiet our minds. Birdwatching, as a form of active meditation, does just that, not to mention how relaxing it is for the eyes after hours of looking at our devices. Each Aqua Expedition journey recognizes the benefit of such an activity, thus offering it as an excursion for avid and beginner birders alike.
Whether it is the unusual Hoatzin or the colourful Macaw, our expert Peruvian guides, like George, will be able to identify each unique call early in the morning. Listen to the Amazon rainforest in the stillness of dawn, and find yourself suddenly connected with the natural world in the purest, most harmonious state of mind.
The ecosystem of Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia is well known for its biodiversity, and the 22,000-hectare Prek Toal Core Bird Reserve provides the last Southeast Asian refuge for large waterbirds such as the spot-billed pelican, milky stork, black-headed ibis and the elusive masked fin foot. A little further south, the rare red birds of paradise make their home in the forests of Waigeo island in Raja Ampat. Moyo island, on the other hand, boasts 86 of the 124 bird species found in Sumbawa, with the rarer bird species being the yellow-headed parrots and the chicken-like megapodes. How will you recognize all the species? The only Wikipedia you’ll need are our very own naturalist guides.
Aqua is in our name, and it is the environment in which we operate, so it’s only natural that water-based adventures make up a large part of our excursions. Guests on the Aqua Mekong are more than welcome to take advantage of our eight double kayaks anywhere along our river voyage upon the caramel waters of the mighty Mekong. As an alternative to our cycling excursions, we invite you to take a relaxing kayak tour – perhaps the floating village of Kampong Prasat, for example, to observe Khmer riverside life that has gone nearly unchanged for decades.
If it is a thrill-seeking wildlife experience you are looking for, you could do no better than piranha-fishing along the banks of the Amazon river. Actually classed omnivores, not carnivores as sensationalized in movies, piranhas are not the scariest predator lurking in the waters, even if they do have sharp teeth and grow up to 50cm long. This exciting excursion may not calm your heart rate, but the dark waters of the river and its surrounding flora and fauna will keep you off your gadgets anyway.
For a true digital detox, snorkeling and scuba diving in the pristine seas of East Indonesia may be your best bet. Away from the distractions of electronics, the sport demands that you control your breathing and focus on discovering the abundance of marine life around you. And what profusion there is! Known to house every underwater habitat imaginable, Raja Ampat makes up a small part of the Coral Triangle, where pristine reef flats, secret bays, swift channels, deep drop-offs, shallow seamounts, mangroves, marine lakes and protected coral gardens are found. These diverse marine habitats result in more than 1,300 species tropical marine fish, over 600 species of coral in addition to manta rays, rare sea turtle species, and schooling hammerheads calling it home.