The pristine Pacaya Samiria Reserve on the Peruvian Amazon offers African-like safari adventure.

Far away from the overcrowded and over-commercialized waters of the Brazilian Amazon is the tranquil ebb and flow of the narrow, black water Amazon in the Pacaya Samiria Reserve of Northern Peru. A hushed and hidden land of mirrored forests, lily-covered waterways, and exotic jungle creatures, the Peruvian Amazon is a hidden treasure and well kept secret. The width of this narrow corridor has turned adventure vessels, explorers, and countless tourists away in years past, keeping its pristine condition and indigenous cultures safe from group tourism and Westernization.

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There are a select few who have heard the Peruvian Amazon tell its story and an even more discriminating number who have heard it told the way it was intended, aboard the luxurious and adventurous, MV Aqua. This 130 foot flagship of Aqua Expeditions is the idea and reality of Francesco Galli Zugaro, the president and CEO of the adventure company based in Iquitos. “I wanted guests to feel and enjoy the luxury experience of a boutique hotel,” says Galli Zugaro.

An inside look beyond the architecturally beautiful exterior reveals 12 luxury suites, richly appointed in modern sophistication with black slate accent walls, dark wooden flooring, enormous bay windows, and king-sized beds. Each suite is also equipped with its own air conditioning unit, elegant bathrooms, and a spacious shower.

MV Aqua

In keeping with the theme of being miles away from an ordinary Amazon experiences, Francesco Galli Zugaro has also made it a point in to incorporate an incredibly high-end cuisine experience aboard the MV Aqua. Famous Peruvian chef, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, who owns the renown Malabar Restaurant, now serves delicate Peruvian fare and fine South American wines aboard the Aqua. But not only does the accommodation and cuisine of this cruise put it in a category by itself, the wildlife and cultural adventures have served to distinguished the MV Aqua from ordinary Amazon floats.

Typically, an expedition begins with a long flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil, taking you much further south than necessary; then another long flight takes you back up to Manaus to arrive at the Amazon only to find an overrun waterfront with large commercial vessels and noisy group tours. Not to mention, once you actually begin, your wildlife viewing is usually from far away, restricted by the size of your vessel and the number of passengers it’s carrying. However, at Aqua Expeditions, this was the first perception Francesco Galli Zugaro and his crew wanted to change.

“Think of the Amazon as a water safari, and the MV Aqua is the Amazon in style.” With the cruise serving as a luxurious floating “base camp,” passengers are able to choose between 3,4, and 7 night expeditions and up to an expansive 650 miles down the Amazon. Passengers are comfortably seated into spacious skiffs, or in African safari terms, “floating game vehicles,” and are motored out to the waters edge and beyond to explore the wildlife firsthand and even the hidden villages of this remote area.


The vast Pacaya Samiria Reserve only adds to the safari effect as it resembles the famous Okavango Delta of Botswana. A great collage of the endangered pink Amazon dolphins, grey dolphins, three-toed sloth, Dusky Titi Monkey, zebra fish, eels, and countless other creatures make various appearances as you weave in and out of the black water mirrored forests, canals, and waterways of the reserve.

“The great thing about your base camp is that it moves with you,” says Galli Zugaro. On a typical African safari, you are restricted by how far you can drive or walk, allowing you only a glimpse into the environment around Aboard the Aqua and its skiffs however, you can cover over 10 times the average safari experience and see a much broader array of wildlife in a variety of habitats.

The range of activities aboard the Aqua is also just as impressive. Depending on when you travel, you can choose between black water lagoon visits, village visits on Amazonian islands, piranha fishing, and night excursions.

For more information on how to discover the Peruvian Amazon, please call us at 800.423.4236.