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Sleek & Chic Afloat | MV Aqua Luxe River Cruise, Amazon River, Peru

July 20, 2010

As the global economy spins forward, rising income levels introduce more people to the allure of travel. And as tourism spreads across the world, new products emerge, pushing with them the luxe bar and raising it to new heights.

Regardless how remote the location, there’s bound to be a luxury hospitality of tour operator that caters to the superfine niche of luxe. Including experiencing the mystical Amazon, from a different vantage point, from the water!

Enter Peru-based Aqua Expeditions that operate South America’s first luxe river cruise, with their MV Aqua. Introducing a new level of luxury cruise never before seen in the region.

Embark on the voyage of a lifetime, sailing the earth’s mightiest river — the Amazon. The first true luxury vessel in the region, the MV Aqua caters to the most discriminating and adventurous of world travelers, providing an unforgettable journey into areas penetrated by only a privileged few. As your ship docks along the river, knowledgeable and experienced naturalists will take you, via small launches, into remote estuaries in the Peruvian rain forest and the Pacaya Samiria Reserve. As you explore these pristine wilderness areas teeming with wildlife, you will also encounter local people living in villages as they have for centuries. And when the day’s sightseeing is over, the comforts of your luxurious floating hotel will await you.

Accommodations
MV Aqua is Aqua Expedition’s 130-foot flagship. Its 12-luxury guest suites, designed by an internationally renowned Peruvian interior designer, measure a generous 230 to 240 square feet, and feature large, outwardfacing panoramic windows and en suite sitting areas.

All suites are air conditioned, and four are interconnected, to cater to families. Guests can socialize in the dining room, bar, on the observation deck and in the outdoor lounge. There is also a small boutique. You’ll be served by a crew of 14, plus three skilled guides. Rates include all excursions, meals, and wine with meals.

Amenities/Attractions
Guests may choose three-, four-, or seven-night itineraries. Each day will bring amazing new wonders, as guests set out with guides in a fleet of three launches to float toward the source of the mighty Amazon. Each day, you will explore the small inlets and various winding river systems that make up the flooded forest. Pacaya Samiria Reserve, located on the headwaters of the Amazon basin, spans more than five million acres. Twice the size of Yellowstone Park, it teems with wildlife and aquatic life. Visitors will have the opportunity to see hundreds of species, including the endangered pink Amazon dolphin, black alligator, and giant river otter.

Dining

The menu at onboard the M/V Aqua has been carefully designed by one of Lima’s most famous chefs, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, and is presented on delicate crystal and china service. It finds its influences in Peruvian and European cuisine, and there is a large selection of wines available, giving you the opportunity to experience many of South America’s finest.

Seasons
Aqua Expeditions operates year-round, and every voyage is uniquely appealing, based on the changing seasons. During the wet season, the river and estuaries grow, allowing launch boats to venture deeper into the flooded forest. During the dry season, the river recedes and beautiful sandy river beaches form.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of a cruise on the M/V Aqua is the inclusion of numerous daily excursions along the river and into the rainforest. The ship’s three naturalist guides are experienced and highly trained to provide you expert knowledge of the Peruvian Amazon. These guides will accompany you on all of your excursions, by skiff or by land, and will help you to notice even the smallest details of life in the Amazon.


MV Aqua’s skiff on an excursion to various areas during the different cruises.

7-NIGHT ITINERARY

Day 1: Iquitos/Amazon River
Arrive in Iquitos this afternoon. There you will board your luxury 12-suite expedition vessel, M/V Aqua, your home for the next four or eight days. Check into your luxurious, oversized suite, and as you settle in, your ship will start its journey toward the Yarapa River, an estuary of the Amazon. You are embarking on a spectacular adventure, to a place visited by only a few of even the most experienced world travelers. Your days in this hidden part of the world will be a dramatic study in contrasts. Imagine seeing rare howler monkeys and pink dolphins and harpy eagles (not to mention exotic six-foot-wide water lily pads) by day, and then returning to exquisite gourmet meals, paired with some of the finest wines from all of South America. In the evening, you may go on another expedition, or you may simply want to sit out on the top deck, sip a Pisco sour, and count the stars. The choices are yours.

Day 2: Yanayacu/Yarapa River
Wake up on the Yanayacu River, throw open your curtains, and you may well see a great snowy egret, white against the green of the jungle. Keep your binoculars with you on your early morning bird watching excursion, to catch sight of russet and blue tiger herons, vivid masked crimson tanagers, graceful storks, blue and yellow macaws, and black-headed parrots . . . just some of the 250 species of birds that you will spot as you glide along the river. In the afternoon, you will board the ship’s small skiffs and float to Corriente Lake, where you will have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to fish for freshwater red-bellied, black, white, and purple piranha. The fishing is good year round, but is spectacular in the dry season. Amazonia is home to more than 2,700 species of fish . . . more than can be found in all of the Atlantic Ocean. Later that day, we will visit the small village of San Juan del Amazonas, where some 80 descendants of the famed Cocama Indians still live in thatched stilt houses, carrying on their tribe’s traditions and earning their living by fishing. That evening, sip a sundowner with your new friends, as you watch the sun set over the mighty Amazon River. After dinner, your naturalist guides will take you on a night excursion to find caimans, frogs, tarantulas, bats (there are 88 species in Amazonia), arboreal snakes, possums, owls, and other nocturnal birds.


One of the day excursions on traditional dugout canoe to explore the Amazons many natural wonders.

Day 3: Yanayacu and Pucate Rivers, Pacaya Samiria Reserve

Passengers have two options:
Option 1: Full-Day Excursion – Journey from Yanayacu Creek all the way to remote Chingana, a small creek where giant river otter usually nest. These handsome animals were killed in great numbers for their pelts, and are now threatened with extinction. On this excursion, you will also see howler and capuchin monkeys, the squirrelsized monkeys called tamarins, pink and gray river dolphins, and a vast variety of birds.

Option 2: Guided Jungle Walk/Siesta/Monkey and Dolphin Expedition – This morning your Park Ranger will tell you all about sustainable resource management projects in Amazonia, and will take you to visit one of the projects, where villagers are planting palms to obtain oil. The ranger may also show you the artificial nests created on the sand to protect turtle eggs.

After lunch and a siesta, your naturalist guide will take you on a Monkey and Dolphin Expedition. You are likely to see all four of the most common species of freshwater dolphins—including the unusual pink ones—found in the Amazon. Later, keep your eyes directed toward the jungle canopy, where you can spot at least 10 of the 13 species of monkeys resident in the National Park, including tamarins and howler, woolly, and pigmy marmoset monkeys. Watch for alligators, and keep your binoculars at the ready, as you are likely to see more than 200 species of birds. After sundowners on the top deck, dinner, and an optional night excursion, the M/V Aqua will set sail toward Nauta Caño.

Day 4: Birthplace of the Amazon/Nauta Caño/Ucayali River and Puerto Miguel
Today, the M/V Aqua skirts the edges of the vast Pacaya Samiria Reserve, a flooded forest covering five million acres at the headwaters of the Amazon basin. Rise early and be on your skiffs at 5:30 a.m. to view one of the great spectacles of the Southern Hemisphere: the sun rising over the birthplace of the Amazon River. Here—where the union of two major tributaries, the Ucayali and the Marañon, form the world’s greatest waterway—nature is at its most dramatic. Your dawn excursion will be accompanied by abundant bird song, as you glide in small boats past river banks populated by large-billed terns, laughing falcons, gray tanagers, sandpipers, five kinds of parakeets, the exotic short-tailed parrot, and dozens of other birds. A post-breakfast excursion to Nauta Caño takes you into a wilderness populated by squirrel monkeys, saddleback and black mantle tamarins, iguanas, tagu lizards, and an abundance of tropical birds. After lunch, our three-night passengers depart for the journey back to Iquitos Airport, and a new group arrives. Those doing the full seven-night journey will depart on the Ucayali River Excursion, to visit Puerto Miguel village.

Day 5: Tapiche River/El Sapote Creek
Today begins with an early morning journey via skiff along the remote Tapiche River, to search for the magnificent, 3 1/2-feet-long harpy eagles. Chances are good that you will also see umbrella birds, tanagers, stern looking chachalacas, puff birds, and more on this expedition into the deep wilderness. After breakfast, it’s time for piranha fishing on the Tapiche (where they are bigger than elsewhere). Other options: curl up with a good book in your spacious cabin or on the Observation Deck. As you sail along, you will catch wonderful glimpses of life along the river . . . fishermen paddling along on canoes made from tree trunks . . . children waving from riverside villages. Those who want to venture out into the night will be richly rewarded at El Sapote Creek (only available in the wet season), where it is possible to see night jars, night hawks, frogs, tarantulas, bats, falcons, porcupines, night monkeys, and more.

Day 6: Pacaya Samiria Reserve
Today is devoted to a full-day excursion into the wildlife-rich Pacaya Samiria Reserve, so vast that it is the size of some Central American countries. Traveling into the reserve in small boats, you will enter the black water lakes collectively known as the Mirrored Forest, where you will view the almost magical reflection of the towering trees in the glistening water. In addition to the birds, caimans, monkeys, and dolphins of the Amazon jungle, you will also see a rich array of flowers in a riot of colors. In the wet season, as the water level rises, it is possible to travel deeper into the reserve, exploring its farthest reaches. In the dry season, you can spot turtles, and the massive jabiru—pink storks standing five feet tall, with nine-foot wingspans. After dinner, those who choose to go out on the skiffs will have a chance to experience the nightlife along the river—an intimidating array of yellow-crowned brush-tailed bats, fishing bats, snakes, frogs, and tarantulas. Finally, spend a little end-of-day relaxation time in an oversized lounge on the Observation Deck, experiencing the deep darkness of the Amazon night and listening to the ever-changing sounds of the jungle. Then it’s time to head off to your ultra- comfortable bed.

Day 7: Ucayali/Amazon River/Sapo Playa/ “Jurassic Park”
The day begins with a cruise down the Ucayali and Amazon Rivers. We make a stop to visit the small, bananagrowing village of Sapo Playa, where you will need items—t-shirts or school supplies—to barter for purchases. These friendly people are eager hosts. You will have a delightful time with them and will get some great photographs. Later that day and early evening, we will visit “Jurassic Park,” a prehistoric-looking swamp where the giant, sixfoot in diameter lily pads grow. Here, during the wet season, you will also have the chance to visit lovely Chontilla Lake, rich with monkeys, birds, and dolphins. An optional night expedition lets you view the massive water lilies again, and gives you a good view of bats and night birds. Then it’s back to the ship, which sails toward the Tahuayo River.

Wake up for an early morning excursion on the Tahuayo River, to capture your last sunrise photos. The morning light is a perfect time to snap pictures of the rare pink dolphins, terns, and parrots. You will also have another chance to see the famous, giant, six-foot-wide Victoria Regia lily pads. During the four-hour voyage to Iquitos, you will enjoy breakfast and can pick up some last minute souvenirs in the boutique. Your afternoon in the remote city of Iquitos, accessible only by river or air, will not disappoint. This bustling town, complete with a house built by Gustave Eiffel, was once a rich center of the rubber industry. After lunch and a visit to a butterfly farm, you will tour Iquitos before heading to the airport for your flight to Lima, and on to your next Latin American destination, or for the journey home.

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