Amy, our in-house graphic designer is spending a year traveling the world. She just spent three days on the Amazon Aria and is sharing her experience with us today. To read more about Amy’s travels, click here.
In my opinion, the best way to experience the mighty Amazon river is aboard the Amazon Aria, an eco-conscience luxury cruise that offers 3 to 7 night stays. It has everything one would expect from a Ker & Downey trip – gold-standard service from the moment you walk off the plane, to the packed lunches they provide when you are dropped off at the airport. I never had to plan or think; every detail was nailed down and on time. My hardest decision was deciding which excursion I wanted to do. There are plenty of activities that were packed into three days. Being on a boat made seeing more of the Amazon possible while enjoying the luxury comforts of a 5-star hotel. I cannot rave enough about the delicious meals locally sourced and made on-board designed by Executive Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, whose restaurant, Malabar, is among the top ranked in Lima. From beginning to end, the Amazon and the Amazon Aria quickly grew on me, everything was flawless.
On arrival, I was engulfed by heat and humidity, letting me know that I had entered rain forest territory. April is considered the wet season, meaning daily rain pours are expected, but also means fewer mosquitoes, which was a silver-lining. The Amazon Aria naturalist guides warmly greeted us at arrivals with a wet towel, chocolate, and cold waters. There were 22 people boarding the ship, and they knew all our names within ten minutes. We drove to Iquitos, where we had a tasty local meal then started our journey off the land and onto the boat. Right off the bat, we got into skiffs, never more than six people in a skiff, and started off for our first excursion. Our first stop was a visit to an indigenous tribe who greeted us with a quick talk, explaining what life was like living in the rain forest and showed us a few traditional dances. After wishing us well, we explored further into the rain forest via skiff, another perk of the wet season. Sloths were high above, squirrel monkeys swung from branch to branch, and parrots flew in pairs in the sky. This place is magical, surrounded by exotic wildlife and beauty. As the sun set, we arrived at the Amazon Aria. The boat only has 16 suites, so it’s not too intrusive on the river. Every inch is utilized efficiently and the staff to client ration is 1:3, making for great attention to detail and safety.
Waking up to different views on the river was my absolute favorite part about the Aria, floor to ceiling windows are standard with every room. After coffee and breakfast, we would set out for more exploring on the skiffs. The naturalist guides were extremely knowledgeable, and all of them born in the rain forest. I learned about how they grew up and how they came to be Amazon guides. One guide has been in school for 16 years, still learning about touring as well as several different languages. Their passion for nature and wildlife made me passionate about it. They could locate any bird by their song, they knew where to find caimans in the dark, they could smell monkeys from a distance, and call pink dolphins closer to the skiff. I was amazed at how in tune these guides were with the environment. Other activities we got to experience included kayaking, swimming, canoeing, and piranha fishing, which was loads of fun. On the second day, we got off the boat and did a rain forest walk to try and find the infamous poison dart frog. We never did see one, but walking among the towering trees, surrounded by vibrant flora and fauna, and balancing on suspended bridges high above the ground, was an experience I will always remember.
One afternoon we got to visit a local community and deliver school, hygiene and fishing supplies, the Aria’s personal philanthropy initiative. The people warmly welcomed our arrival, showing off their beautiful land and explaining what their day to day life is like living in this hard environment. The children were excited to receive new supplies and were most happy about the toothbrushes. On the last day, we biked through Nauta, the docking site for the end of the trip and stopped at the manatee rescue center before going to the airport. The three days went extremely fast, yet I felt like we got to see and experience so much of the Amazon. One of the most important take-a-ways was the realization about how many animals are becoming endangered, especially the manatee, down to under 200 in the wild. Protecting the Amazon is a top priority for the Aria, who’s main mission is to educate guests when they come to visit. Jean-Michel Cousteau said, “If you love something, you’ll protect it.” And that’s exactly what they stand for. This experience certainly made me fall in love with the Amazon and I encourage others to take the journey to see for themselves.