Amazon River Cruises
The mighty Amazon basin is one of the richest areas of biodiversity on earth, offering up incredible wildlife, pristine virgin rainforest and a vast, virtually unexplored wilderness. At its heart courses the Amazon River, a winding waterway of breathtaking beauty, skirted by thick, lush forestry alive with brightly coloured birds, plenty of primates and a whole host of unique wildlife, birds and insects.
The world’s second longest river, the Amazon flows from the towering Andes in Peru for 4,000 miles through Brazil to the Atlantic Sea. Amazon River cruises travel along segments of this ‘River Sea’, sailing through parts of the vast, 2.7 million mile Amazon basin, which reaches into neighbouring Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Guyana and Colombia.
When Spanish explorers first conquered the Amazon in 1541, the river nurtured significant populations of indigenous peoples who farmed along its banks and fished in its waters, as well as semi-nomadic Indians who lived in its wider basin. The European conquest decimated these populations, with many Indians enslaved or dying from new, European illnesses such as smallpox.
Over the centuries since, roads have gradually opened up the basin, feeding the development of towns and cities, particularly in Brazil. In the Peruvian Basin or ‘Amazonas’, however, development has been slower: far-sighted measures to protect the jungle east of the Andes means that although the ‘Amazonas’ constitutes 50% of the country’s land mass, only 5% of its population actually live within it.
This makes the Peruvian Amazon one of the most biologically rich in the world. On an Amazon river cruise here, you’ll sail past dense cloudforests and waters that harbour a huge variety of wildlife, from monkeys, sloths and macaws to dolphins, caiman alligators and razor-toothed piranha.
Why Amazon river cruises?
Avalon Amazon River cruises wind through some of the Amazon’s most spectacular rainforest alive with hundreds of species of noisy birds, squawking monkeys and buzzing insects. Join us on our Avalon Amazon cruises and with luck, you’ll spot rare pink river dolphins, turtles, caiman, giant otters, anteaters and a myriad of other land and aquatic creatures. Other highlights include time with a local tribal community, interacting with villagers whose ancestors have lived in the rainforest for millennia.
Our Amazon cruises start in Iquitos, the region’s largest city and only accessible by air or waterway. Bordering the Amazon 78 miles from the confluence of its two main headwaters, the Ucayali and Marañon Rivers, this colourful city is a gateway to an extraordinary natural paradise.
Highlights of your Amazon cruise include sailing close to the Yacapana or ‘Iguana’ Isles, known for their large iguana populations. Snap photos of these fascinating reptiles as they rest on the ground or in the treetops. You’ll also get the chance to fish for the flesh-eating piranha who swim in the nearby waters under the guidance of an expert naturalist, and also look for dolphins, caimans and frogs as night falls.
Another stop on our Amazon river trips is Yanallpa, where’ll you enjoy a guided jungle walk in search of bald uakari monkeys, three-toed sloths and other creatures. Other trips along the river here can reveal everything from pink dolphins to trees inhabited by macaws and parrots – keep your cameras poised.
Another big draw on your Amazon river cruise is the five-million-acre Pacaya-Samiria Reserve. The world’s largest protected flooded forest borders the confluence of the Marañon and Ucayali and is breathtakingly beautiful. Board a skiff to sail along its shores and admire a magical Amazonian sunrise where the two rivers join – watching for falcons, parakeets and other amazing birdlife.
Next, it’s on to Puerto Miguel, an Amazon Indian village where you can meet the locals, discover more about their culture and learn how they survive from hunting, fishing, farming and gathering in the jungle. And often included as a last port of call on Amazon cruises with Avalon is the Manatee Rescue Centre at Iquitos, giving you a memorable chance to see young rescued manatees being fed and cared for.