Cruising glamorously in the wilds of the jungle
By Fran Golden
I sit in a cushioned chair on a 10-person skiff, experiencing the Peruvian Amazon with National Geographic’s cruise partner Lindblad Expeditions. Anacondas and red-eyed caimans float below the water’s murky surface. Birds in colors that range from black to day-glow blue fly or sit in trees above. I’m expending no energy at all, but my heart is pounding.
A crewmember from the 28-passenger Delfin II river ship, our “base camp” for the week, mans the tiny skiff’s engine. When hanging vines and logs get in the way of our exploration, our locally raised naturalist guide, Adonay Rodriquez, takes out a machete and slashes them.
The Guns N’ Roses song “Welcome to the Jungle” plays in my head. But unlike the song lyrics, this jungle will not bring me to me knees. I am in very capable hands. Out in the middle of nowhere, a cacophony of unfamiliar sounds rings in my ears — tweets, twerps, cracks, creaks, buzzes — and I am glad I am not alone.
The Amazon. Even the word sounds exotic, sexy — A-ma-zon. As someone who makes her living traveling the world, I wish I had a dollar for every person who asked me if I’d been there. Whether intrigued by stories in National Geographic, in jungle movies, or about Theodore Roosevelt in The River of Doubt, the place has its followers.
Experiencing the Amazon firsthand, you quickly learn that it doesn’t matter whether the mighty river, which runs from the high Andes to the Atlantic, is in fact the longest river in the world. (There is dispute with the Nile.) The fact is that you are in one of the most isolated places on the planet, and it’s eerily beautiful, and that’s the experience you pay for.
With snakes under the water, kingfishers and a flock of egrets suddenly flying overhead, and hanging vines that could hold Tarzan, Adonay teaches us to listen as well as look in order to sense the wildlife. His trained eyes spot a brown-throated, three-toed sloth high in a tree. I struggle to focus my binoculars, eventually catching sight of the brown fuzz ball.
If wildlife is what brought you to the Amazon, you’ve come to the right place. Never mind that at times it’s pouring rain (the ship provides mud boots and other rain gear) and other times kind of buggy (prepare to slather yourself with mosquito repellant)….