The Amazon River is the world’s largest river by water volume, and a very romantic river indeed. It pumps out over 7-million cubic square feet of water per second. That’s more than the next seven largest rivers combined! It’s no wonder that an expedition down the Amazon River is on nearly everyone’s dream list. It’s vast, powerful, and an exciting adventure destination.
Our journey started in Lima, Peru where we spent a day exploring the historic center. The old city is an important stop on anyone’s journey to Peru. With a high concentration of historical monuments, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
We saw the ornate exterior balconies of the Monastery of San Francisco of Lima, which houses the eerie catacombs filled with ancient bones. We explored the back streets and markets, and we took a quiet moment in the Basilica Cathedral of Lima.
Visiting the historic center was an excellent way to gain an understanding of the country’s history before catching our flight to Iquitos. Once an important hub for the rubber boom trade in the early 20th century, Iquitos is now a popular jumping off point for tourists exploring the Amazon via riverboat.
It was late in the evening when we boarded our riverboat. After a quick orientation, emergency drill and dinner, we went straight to bed.
We woke early to catch the sunrise and bird watch. It was a glorious morning and a few other early risers were on deck with us in search of parrots, macaws, and toucans. Our guide, Angel, pointed out an endless supply of birds flying overhead and sitting in trees on the shore. It was fascinating to see such a diversity of species sharing one space.
Not being avid bird watchers, we were more inclined to enjoy the scenery of the mighty Amazon River. The current was swift, and the murky water was fierce. Being near the end of the rainy season, the water was continually rising. The water smashed against the riverbanks and broke off logs and trees, which then floated downstream. We were happy to be on the Estrella Amazonica, a sturdy riverboat that sleeps 31 people. We barreled through the obstacle course of debris with ease.
Our time was not exclusively spent on the riverboat. Much of the day was spent on skiff boats exploring quiet tributaries branching out from the main river. It was the perfect way to see wildlife up close and get a feel for the local life.
We stopped and said hello to families living on the river, and children played in the water to escape the heat.
We caught sight of howler, spider, and capuchin monkeys leaping through the treetops. Every so often a monkey would venture closer to shore where we could sneak a closer peak before he scampered back to the safety of the jungle.
We witnessed minute iguanas on green leaves, pink dolphins jumping out of the water, and three toed sloths hanging upside down from branches high in the air.
The river is teeming with life. The wildlife was wonderful to see, but it was visiting the villages and meeting the people of the Amazon that was truly heartwarming.
Life on the Amazon is changing rapidly, but in many ways it feels as if time has stood still. There is no electricity in villages, and people rely on their skills of living in the wild to survive.
Fishing is their main source of food, and rainwater is gathered through large barrels that are filtered and treated to create a safe source for drinking. What’s most important, however, is making sure that the children are educated. School is free in Peru, and teachers travel out to the remote villages of the Amazon to make sure that children are learning.
We had the opportunity to visit a school; the kids were full with energy and enthusiasm. It’s difficult for families to send their children to high school outside the village. However, as more tourists visit the area, more money is put into the economy, and kids have more of a chance for a future.
Visiting the Amazon was a learning experience for us too. We gained valuable insight into the importance of maintaining the Amazon. The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve consists of 5-million acres of protected land. It was uplifting to see that serious steps have been taken to preserve the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest by the Peruvian government. The Amazon is quickly becoming more accessible to tourists, and it’s critical that as numbers grow, conservation grows with it.