The Amazon Basin Feature


Cruising the Amazon

The most comfortable way to explore the Amazon and its tributaries is on a river cruise, most of which depart from the port of Nauta, a one-hour drive south from Iquitos. Those cruises head up the Amazon River and its two main tributaries, the Ucayali and Marañón, to take passengers deep into the Reserva Nacional Pacaya Samiria. Because of its distance from Iquitos, Pacaya Samiria is one of the best areas in the region to see wildlife, but it is also one the most difficult to reach. Cruise boats travel to a different area each day, where passengers board smaller vessels to explore narrow rivers, oxbow lakes, and flooded forests. The daily excursions, led by expert guides, may also include forest hikes, dolphin-watching, or a visit to an indigenous village.

River cruises can cost twice as much as a stay in a nature lodge, but they generally offer a higher level of comfort and service, and allow you to visit more areas than you could from a lodge. Delfin operates the most exclusive boat, the Delfin I, which has four spacious cabins complete with private balconies. The company's larger Delfin II sleeps 28 passengers, but provides the same high level of service. Aqua Expeditions has two comparable boats: the Aqua, which sleeps 24 passengers, and the Aria, which accommodates 32. Both Delfin and Aqua Expeditions offer three- and four-night cruises, and Aqua Expeditions passengers can combine two tours for a seven-day cruise. International Expeditions runs seven-day cruises on ships with smaller cabins that go farther upriver and cost considerably less than the others. Green Tracks, a smaller company also runs relatively inexpensive seven-day cruises in renovated steamships that forgo luxury but prioritize exposure to nature. No matter which company you choose, an Amazon cruise is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

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