The Amazon is more safari than cruise, and seeing it on a four-cabin vessel is like viewing wildlife from a private floating jeep. Four days on the Delfin barely scratched the surface.
Day 1: We boarded at Delfin Amazon Cruises’ custom-built dock, complete with palm leaf roof, at Nauta, two hours drive from Iquitos, Peru. Glowing in the darkness, the Delfin I seemed a decadent home for only three couples – Germans, Canadians and Americans – and myself. Welcomed with Pisco Sours, we were shown to our oversized suites (about 32 square metres, plus a balcony as big as a bus). Reuniting for a delicious seafood meal, the lucky seven guests ended the night at the open bar on the top deck as we sailed down the Maranon River.
Day 2: After a breakfast fit for kings, the group was led onto a skiff to spot birds and animals along the Ucayali River. We saw iguanas, toucans, macaws, hawks, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, kingfishers and a three-toed sloth very slowly descending a tree. In the distance, the laughter of ant birds and the distinctive call of oropendolas rang through the jungle. Then, a pod of dolphins appeared. Magical!
In the afternoon, our guide Renny took us on an easy hike through a forest, where we learned about a fraction of the Amazon’s 65,000 species of trees and plants. The evening was spent sampling more Peruvian cuisine and cocktails in the warm October breeze.
Day 3: Today we woke at 6am to catch the sunrise fauna of the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve. Dozens of squirrel monkeys leapt through trees; a black vulture caught a catfish; and we also had the chance to go fishing. Within five minutes, everyone had pulled in a piranha each! After lunch, some gentle kayaking and a three-course dinner, we relaxed and watched a storm roll in.
Day 4: Time to visit a village and meet the locals, where children happily posed for photos. Then, two of us accepted the opportunity to jump in for a swim.
On our last night, we were treated to a beautiful sunset, when suddenly a rare pink dolphin popped up and played nearby for half an hour. A five-course feast was followed by Chilean and Argentinean wines with bartender Denis up on deck.
Day 5: Stopping at a market before the journey back home, we also went to the Manatee Rescue Centre. Passengers then carried on to other adventures, such as Machu Picchu, a short flight away.
Fares start at US$4,200 per person twin-share for a four-night cruise, drinks, meals, activities and transfers. The vessel’s engine is loud, but otherwise Delfin I is modern and deluxe. See www.delfinamazoncruises.com.
LAN offers six one-stop flights per week from Sydney to Santiago, via Auckland (and three non-stop flights in a code share service operated by Qantas), with connections to Lima and Iquitos. See www.lan.com.
First published Jan 2013 by Cruise Weekly