Imagine discovering places only a fortunate few have ever visited, traveling deep into the mystical Amazon rainforest, exploring the unexplored while floating in luxury on board your own private five star home. Imagine that – together with impeccable service, adventure and great food. Explore The Amazon In A Luxurious Riverboat!
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Aqua Expeditions is the brainchild of Francesco Galli Zugaro, a true connoisseur in every sense with years of experience in international high-end tourism. In always wanting to create luxurious water cruising on the world’s’ greatest rivers, the Amazon was a natural first for one of the world’s great destinations in which to do it.
The journey started upon arrival at Iquitos, Peru’s gateway to the Amazon and the largest city in the world that is only accessible by either boat or air. A two-hour drive later through raw farmlands, we arrived at the village of Nauta on the banks of the Maranon River, an upper tributary of the Amazon. As we were pretty much on the equator, it got dark very early. That said, the candle lit pavilion leading to where our boat was docked provided the perfect welcome. The water safari in the remote and beautiful area of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, a uniquely preserved area in the Peruvian part of this magic forest.
Designed by Peruvian architect Jordi Puig, Aqua’s two vessels constitute the only uber-luxury boats that in fact sail down the Amazon. With 12 and 16 suites respectively, they are like floating 5-star luxurious hotels, with panoramic views thanks to the large windows that have been incorporated throughout their exterior facades. All the suites within are decorated in soft hues, wood, locally weaved fabrics and crisp white linens. The previously mentioned large floor to ceiling windows brings the breathtaking scenery along the river’s banks almost inside as the vessels glide gracefully through calm waters. As I lay on my bed – my room was on the ‘ground floor’ – I felt as if I were floating on the water watching a movie unravel in front of my eyes, a spectator to a collage of sights and sounds: families travelling along the river in their canoes, kids playing on the its banks, low flying snow-white egrets swooping just above its edge and pink dolphins jumping playfully in the water.
On board, it’s all about attention to detail and the provision of high-end services including a doctor and emergency medical care, security, and even a handful of naturalists – biologists who have grown up in the forest, and are very enthusiastic about sharing all their knowledge with the guests onboard. Thanks to Juan, Julio, Ricardo and Roland, we had a crash course in all things in only four days – a testament to Aqua’s commitment to supporting wildlife preservation in the south American forest River region. There is thrice daily room service, and the staff quickly picks up on your preferences and call you by your name – keeping things very low key and personable. When it comes to the food, well, the journey is a culinary feast even for the most demanding foodies, perfectly complemented with a very good selection of fine wines by the glass, cocktails and Peru’s epic national drink, the ‘pisco sour’. Created by Peru’s star chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino – of Malabar fame – the daily changeable menu is a celebration of Peruvian jungle food, featuring local flavors and ingredients, fresh fish and Andean harvested quinoa.
The twice daily expeditions with the specially designed skiffs would take us up streams, black water, lakes and rivers, and even on ground expeditions through the dense rainforest. Upon returning, sweaty and hot from the humidity and the excruciating sun, cold drinks made of exotic local fresh fruits would wait to quench our thirst.
But the best part of it all was sitting in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone coverage, just listening to the sounds of nature, awestruck with the beauty, serenity and colours of it all. Natural perfection at its very best!
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