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OCTOBER 17, 2018

VENTFLASH #243: VENT’s Fabulous Amazon River Cruise

Dear friends:

If I were told I could make only one more trip in my life, I would return to Amazonia, that great region of South America that encompasses the Amazon rainforest and a place where I have been many times before. I will never forget my first trip to Amazonia, in July 1978, with the legendary tropical ornithologist Ted Parker, to the Explorers Inn in southern Peru. At the end of a long day of travel, we arrived at the Inn late in the afternoon and walked down the main trail at dusk through magnificent rainforest. Bird sounds came from many directions. At once I felt more immersed in nature than I had ever been. Over the next few days we saw toucans, guans, parrots, hummingbirds, antbirds, woodcreepers, and many other species. At that point in my life I had been traveling to the Tropics for over fifteen years, but I had never experienced such wonderful diversity of life as I did on that first trip to Amazonia.

Blue-and-yellow Macaws - Photo: Andrew Whittaker

 

Over the next twenty years I made many more trips to Amazonia. All were wonderful, but the best were the Amazon River Cruises aboard ships chartered by VENT. Unlike land-based trips, a trip aboard a riverboat precludes having to pack and unpack repeatedly while moving from one accommodation to the next. A trip on the Amazon River is an odyssey of sorts, and while birding is central, it is but one aspect of what is otherwise a complete natural history experience filled with primates, river dolphins, reptiles, amazing botany, colorful butterflies, and more. Plus, in being on the Amazon, you will experience the thrill of cruising on the world’s largest river—always an epic event.

VENT has been operating Amazon River Cruises for over two decades. Our trips operate on the Peruvian Amazon above the city of Iquitos. Many other companies that offer Amazon cruises operate on lower stretches of the river. We prefer this area of Peru as it contains the wildest remaining stretches of river. Also, we operate our trips early in the year when water levels are high. This is a strategic decision in that higher water levels allow for exploration of an array of side streams and back channels instead of being confined to the main river, which is the situation for trips operated by other companies later in the year.

Exploring a back channel by skiff, Amazon River - Photo: David Ascanio

 

Our Amazon River Cruise is one of our most popular trips, and this winter we will again return to the mighty river for a voyage, February 21–March 3, 2019. For this departure, we have chartered the Zafiro, a beautiful riverboat offering excellent accommodations and cuisine and an outstanding staff. Leading this trip will be David Ascanio, Andrew Whittaker, and Steve Hilty, all terrific leaders who possess many years of experience leading trips on the Amazon River.

I last participated on an Amazon River Cruise about three years ago. We had a wonderful trip as always, but to convey what it is like to travel up a side stream in a motorized skiff, I recite a list of the birds (and a mammal) we saw in the first hour of a particular morning on the river:

6:30–6:55 a.m.: Lesson’s Seedeater, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, Blue-gray Tanager, Red-and-white Spinetail, Hooded Tanager, Bananaquit, Plain-breasted Piculet, Black-and-white Seedeater, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Muscovy Duck, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Blue-headed Parrot, Social Flycatcher.

6:55–7:30 a.m.: Blue-and-yellow Macaw, White-eared Jacamar, Ringed Kingfisher, Greater Ani, Short-tailed and Mealy parrots, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Bluish-winged Parrotlet, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Black-collared Hawk, Tui Parrotlet, Black-tailed Tityra, Pale-rumped Swift, Black-fronted Nunbird, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Horned Screamer, Pale-vented Pigeon, Slate-colored Hawk, Amazon Kingfisher.

That was just the first hour. The show went on through the morning until we returned to the ship for a short break before going out again until lunchtime. Every day was marvelous. By the end of the week we had seen around three hundred species of birds and over half a dozen species of primates, plus scores of butterflies and other wonderful creatures.

Contrary to what you might imagine, the weather in the Amazon is not terribly hot, and there are no hordes of mosquitos. During the hottest time of the day you will be relaxing amid the air- conditioned confines of our lovely ship.

Cruising the Amazon River aboard Zafiro - Photo: International Expeditions

 

When I really think about it, I have to say that our Amazon River Cruise is probably my all-time favorite trip. And I make that statement from the perspective of having spent much of my life traveling all over the world. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough. You will love it!

A few cabins are still available on our upcoming departure. If you’ve not yet been to the Amazon, I strongly urge you to reserve one of the remaining spaces soon, as this trip will certainly sell out.

Amazon River Cruise: Birding and Natural History Odyssey Aboard Zafiro, February 21–March 3, 2019; cabins start at $7,895 per person in double occupancy from Lima. Only a few cabins remain available.

Best wishes,

Victor Emanuel