River Cruise Itinerary
Day 1: Lima, Peru
Arrive in Lima, where our local representative meets you at the airport just outside customs. Transfer to our nearby hotel where we enjoy a welcome dinner this evening with our Expedition Leaders. Our location, proximate to the airport, provides convenient access for tomorrow morning's flight to Iquitos.
Day 2: Lima / Iquitos / Nauta / Piranha Caño
This morning we fly to Iquitos, a once-booming rubber town that is now one of the largest cities in the Amazon, accessible only by air or water. We transfer to Nauta, a small riverside town on the banks of the Marañon River whose name literally means the “end of the road.” Here we board our deluxe riverboat, Delfin II. Cruising slowly upstream, bound for the Amazon headwaters, we enjoy panoramic views from the open-air top deck and sip exotic cocktails made with regional fruits and pisco, Peru’s beloved national brandy, while our Expedition Leaders provide an overview of the journey ahead.
This afternoon we disembark for a short skiff ride to Piranha Caño, near the confluence of the Ucayali and Marañon Rivers at the top of the Amazon River. Traveling through flooded terrain, we discover a tranquil lagoon that is rich with birdlife, particularly seedeaters that are difficult to find in other places. This is also a good spot to search for monkeys and sloths.
Day 3: Amazon River / Clavero Lagoon / Supay Cocha
Board excursion boats and head out for an introduction to the "river sea" that is the mighty Amazon. These legendary waters thrum with small boats coming to market, while the skies overhead are animated with a variety of birdlife. On a morning excursion to Clavero Lagoon, we hope to observe several species of egrets, herons, hawks and long-legged neo-tropical cormorants fishing for breakfast. We also explore other linked blackwater lagoons that are part of this huge lake where wattled jacanas compete for food with spiders, and grasshoppers and butterflies thrive along the grassy edges of freshwater swamps and marshes. This afternoon we take a naturalist-guided skiff excursion through Supay Cocha, a lagoon teeming with fish and surrounded by rain forest. Watch for troops of squirrel monkeys and birdlife, including black- and white-tailed trogons and paradise tanagers.
Day 4: Ucayali River / Yanallpa / Dorado River
This morning we visit Belluda Caño Creek near Yanallpa, home of the ribereño people. This is a small and spectacular tributary within the Pacaya Samiria Reserve and a prime location to seek out pink and gray river dolphins. These river-adapted dolphins are highly social, friendly cetaceans—and especially intelligent with a brain capacity 40 percent larger than humans. Plying the water in our skiffs, this is an opportunity for particularly close encounters with the increasingly rare Amazon River dolphin. We will also keep an eye peeled for birdlife and wide-eyed owl monkeys, the world’s only nocturnal monkeys, resting in the forest canopy in preparation for their next forage.
Continuing in the skiffs, we navigate small waterways off the main river for a further immersion in the verdant realm of the world's largest rain forest. On the Dorado River, our first stop inside the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, we search for birds such as snail kites, festive parrots, endangered scarlet macaws, olive-spotted hummingbirds, Amazonian parrotlets and wood creepers. Squirrel monkeys move in large, noisy troops overhead while iguanas laze in the sun. Gray and pink river dolphins rise gracefully from the water. At every turn, our guides reveal the secrets of the rain forest, helping us find wildlife where we would never see it on our own, given the amazing camouflage of so many masterfully adapted species. Before making our way back to the ship, scan the riverbanks for spectacled caiman, frogs, owls and capybara, the world's largest rodent. After dark, savor a magical night on deck as we listen to the symphony of forest sounds, or enjoy it in solitude from your cabin's private balcony.
Day 5: Zapote River / Pacaya River
This morning, we explore the blackwater Zapote River by kayak. The water, while clear, is the color of dark tea, an effect of the tannins deposited by the rich vegetation along the banks. Along this small tributary, we frequently observe a variety of monkeys including squirrel, monk saki and brown capuchin. Where dry ground exists, we go ashore for rain forest walks, keeping an eye out for a host of birds: large-billed terns, laughing falcons, gray tanagers, snowy egrets, horned screamers, tiger herons, short-tailed parrots, parakeets and perhaps the flashy scarlet macaw. We may even spy a three-toed sloth nestled in a cecropia tree.
By afternoon we reach the Pacaya River at the heart of Peru's largest protected area, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. This vast flooded forest covers 10,000 square miles at the headwaters of the Amazon and is home to Peru's greatest concentration of wildlife. We set out to explore this emerald realm of trees, vines, streams and lagoons. Overhead, look for macaws, black-collared hawks, prehistoric hoatzin birds, capuchins and red howler monkeys, whose eerie call reverberates through the canopy for miles. We begin to get a sense of the layered richness of the reserve's mixed habitats: its 85 lakes are home to 250 species of fish, while it protects 132 species of mammals, 150 reptile and amphibian species, and 450 different kinds of birds. The reserve also contains the largest variety of flora in Peru, including huge bromeliads and 22 species of orchids.
Day 6: Sapuena Creek / Yarapa River / Puerto Miguel
Wake to the sounds of the jungle teeming with life and join our expert naturalists for a dawn birding excursion on Sapuena Creek, a blackwater stream leading to a large lake. Watch for purple and azure gallinules and wattled jacanas along the lakeshore before returning to the ship for breakfast. This afternoon, our skiffs cruise upstream to reach the Yarapa River, a pristine tributary to the Amazon. Turning into the Yarapa's remote reaches, watch for colorful birds such as the plum-throated cotinga, and look for gray and pink dolphins swimming alongside our boat. Local lore teaches that dolphins turn into humans to steal handsome men or pretty women from their villages during celebrations.
Later in the day, we disembark for a short skiff ride to Puerto Miguel, a riverside village where we'll meet residents whose indigenous culture has been a part of this region for centuries. At the thriving arts and crafts market, we have a chance to purchase items that support the community and empower women artisans. Sales indirectly help preserve local fauna, since income generated decreases the need for illegal hunting. We also visit a local school before heading out on a jungle walk in search for sloths and monkeys—then return to the Delfin II for dinner.
Day 7: Amazon Natural Park—Canopy Walk / Yanayacu Pucate / San Regis
This morning we begin cruising up the other main tributary of the Amazon, the Marañon River. Along the way, we stop at Amazon Natural Park, with the only canopy walk in the area. Suspended 85 feet above the ground, the walkway extends a third of a mile through the rain forest, one of the longest canopy walks in the world. From the treetops, we get an excellent vantage point for observing wildlife and plants in the terra firma forest, including walking palms and trees festooned with epiphytes.
Board kayaks and skiffs this afternoon to travel farther up the Rio Marañon to a virtually unvisited section of Pacaya Samiria at the junction of the Yanayacu and Pucate rivers. Giant kapok and strangler fig trees along the river are home to a multitude of plants and animals, and our Expedition Leaders explains the various mini-ecosystems found here in one of the most pristine parts of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Explore the waters on kayaks with the pink dolphins before we head to San Regis, a small isolated village that rarely sees outsiders. Here we visit with the prestigious shaman Carola, a “white” shaman who is known in the far stretches of the rainforest as a healer and spiritual guide. In addition to living a normal village life with her wood-carver husband, she is a spiritual caretaker to hundreds of residents spread over remote stretches of jungle.
Day 8: Fundo Casual / Tawampa Lake / Nauto Caño Creek
Early risers will see the most abundant bird and animal life. We set out at sunrise, when wildlife is most active in this tropical landscape, to explore the Fundo Casual trail. We walk deep into the rainforest on dry ground in search of sloths, birdlife and more. Keep an eye out for brightly colored poison dart frogs and other intriguing small creatures along our path. After lunch, we head to Tawampa Lake where we board skiffs in search of the giant arapaima, the largest freshwater fish in the world, then cruise to the Nauto Caño River, a small creek via which we explore marshes, side streams and oxbows while searching for many different birds and three-toed sloths in the trees.
As the sun descends below the canopy, an exciting adventure awaits: a chance to witness the transformation of the rain forest by nightfall. An orchestra of sounds evolves as nocturnal creatures awaken, with crickets and night birds providing a percussive rhythm. In the darkness, our guides use spotlights to search for wildlife. Black caiman, frogs, capybara, opossum, common potoo, black-crowned night heron, pauraques, spectacled owls and nighthawks are commonly spotted along the banks, while fish bats swoop down to scoop fish from the water. Back aboard ship, prepare to bid farewell to the Amazon River on the open observation deck during one last night of stargazing.
Day 9: Nauta / Iquitos / Lima / Depart
We disembark in Nauta this morning and visit the Rescue & Rehabilitation Center for River Mammals en route to Iquitos. Here, biologists and volunteers care primarily for endangered Amazon manatees that conservation authorities have seized from fishermen and locals who have captured them illegally. Scientists discuss efforts to help these vulnerable mammals, including how they are prepared for re-introduction into their natural habitat. We'll have the chance to see baby manatees and interact with charming, docile adults, maybe even helping to feed them. Other animals are also cared for at the center, often rescued after being captured as pets. We fly together to Lima, where a day room is provided to relax and freshen up before overnight flights home.
River Cruise Highlights
Cruise in air-conditioned comfort aboard our private chartered riverboat—all cabins are generously sized and have panoramic windows for nature viewing
Travel on a unique itinerary to the Amazon headwaters to explore WWF-supported Pacaya Samiria Reserve—home to pink dolphins, scarlet macaws and 15 species of primates
Visit remote villages, meet the friendly ribereños who call the Amazon rain forest home, and learn about their traditional culture
All This Included
As the riverboat chugs its way up the chocolate-colored channel, fringed on either bank by verdant rain forest, the primal depths of the upper Amazon beckon. Our focus is the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve at the headwaters, a 5-million-acre mosaic of pristine habitats including flooded and dry forest. It's home to some of the largest wildlife populations in the Amazon: pink and gray river dolphins, troops of howler monkeys, elusive sloths, flocks of brilliant macaws and bright butterflies. Lagoons covered in giant lily pads teem with fish and caiman, while scores of marsh birds hunt from shore. Cultural visits to local villages round out our rain forest adventure, as we traverse hundreds of miles of the Amazon and its tributaries aboard a deluxe riverboat built for exploring the river's farthest reaches.
All meals from dinner on Day 1 to lunch on Day 9
Safe drinking water
Services of NHA Expedition Leader
Services of a local naturalist guides and boat crew
A WWF expert on select departures
Permits and entrance fees
All sales taxes
Accommodations on this Tour
Lima: Wyndham Costa del Sol
Amazon River: Cabin onboard Delfin II
Pre and Post Add-ons
Guided Machu Picchu Adventure, 6 Days / Year-Round, From $3895
This journey through Peru's Sacred Valley takes us to the famed "Lost City of the Incas" where our guide unveils this remarkable archaeological phenomenon.
Lake Titicaca Extension, 4 Days / Custom, From $1695
Explore nature, history and culture, including the famous floating reed islands, at high-altitude Lake Titicaca, the sacred source of creation in Inca legend.
Extra Day in Lima, 2 Days / From $475
Visit Lima's grand historic monuments, colonial churches and famed 16th-century plazas on a survey of the Peruvian capital's major highlights.
Group Size Limit: Approximately 28 Travelers.
This itinerary is meant as a guideline and can change due to weather conditions, internal flight schedules and river water levels. On some occasions these conditions may require us to deviate from our intended itinerary, in which case we will provide the best available alternative.
Not Included: Travel to and from start and end point of trip, internal flights between Lima-Iquitos (approximately $390, to be added to your invoice), alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees, optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, souvenirs, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes (both international and domestic), optional travel insurance.
Physical Requirements: Easy. This program does not require a high degree of physical fitness, as much of our wildlife viewing is done from small motorized skiffs. Getting in and out of the skiffs can sometimes feel a bit unsteady, especially with the current of the river. Some excursions involve walking on nature trails through the rain forest. Guests must be able to walk at least 1.5 miles in high humidity over uneven ground with overgrown roots, in order to participate in all excursions. One trail excursion also requires ascending and descending around 100 steps. Walking on muddy trails or through standing water may be necessary at times. Guests are not required to participate in all activities.
Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines. Sorry, we are unable to offer air from countries other than the U.S. However, for those international customers who are able to arrange their own transportation to the trip origination city, we are able to offer the land/cruise portion of the package at the price quoted.