Feat­tru­arveesl

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Estrella Ama­zon­ica, en­joy­ing happy hour on the top open-air deck, and lis­ten­ing to our multi-tal­ented nat­u­ral­ists and crew play ev­ery­thing from tra­di­tional Peru­vian folk mu­sic to Amer­i­can rock Gn’ roll. (e watched the sky slowly be­come a col­lage of fiery col­ors be­fore dark­ness set in and paved the way for stars to give us a dou­ble fea­ture. One evening, we took the skiffs out for a ring­side seat to this per­for­mance. (e were ser­e­naded by a cho­rus of frogs, while fire­flies and glow worms winked flir­ta­tiously at us. Our guides and boat driv­ers used their bea­cons and spot­lights to lo­cate noc­tur­nal wildlife. See­ing the red eyes of a caiman blaze in the dark­ness gave me an eerie feel­ing, know­ing that these and other crea­tures in the jun­gle were watch­ing our ev­ery move­ment.

Liv­ing quar­ters on the charm­ing La Estrella Ama­zon­ica are cozy, yet com­fort­able for the 2 pas­sen­gers and crew. In ad­di­tion to state­rooms, there’s a din­ing area, lounge bar, lec­ture meet­ing room and even a tiny work­out fa­cil­ity. Food is served buf­fet style with sev­eral en­trde op­tions, in­clud­ing fresh fish, and plenty of de­li­cious trop­i­cal fruit and veg­gies. Staff are ac­com­mo­dat­ing and hos­pitable, mak­ing ev­ery ef­fort to please.

They are gra­cious and po­lite, and never fail to greet you with a warm, wel­com­ing smile. They also have a great sense of hu­mor, which au­to­mat­i­cally sets pas­sen­gers at ease.

The nat­u­ral­ists are not only guides ex­traor­di­naire, but mu­si­cians and sto­ry­tellers. They en­joyed re­gal­ing us with Ama­zo­nian folk­lore, which of­ten dealt with su­per­sti­tions and myths about such crea­tures as the jaguar, sloth and pink dol­phin. Many of the tales had morals and warn­ings that peo­ple in the vil­lages con­tinue to ad­here to even to­day.

In the span of our week-long trip, we went a to­tal of 0 miles on the river. (e ex­plored sev­eral trib­u­taries of the Amazon, as well as the famed Pa­caya-samira Na­tional $es­erve, one of the largest pro­tected ar­eas in Peru, with a size ap­prox­i­mat­ing Bel­gium. Its main pur­pose is to pre­serve ecosys­tems of the Omagua $egion and to pro­mote sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of lo­cal vil­lages. The re­serve’s bio­di­ver­sity is im­mense, and the level of in­volve­ment of res­i­dents in re­gards to con­ser­va­tion is re­mark­able. Nearly 3,000 peo­ple live in and around the area within 20 com­mu­ni­ties. $angers work with res­i­dents to pre­serve this un­spoiled lo­cale, and they take their role se­ri­ously.

Through­out the jour­ney, I kept my eye out for the elu­sive Mrs. Conda first name, Ana. As the days went by with­out a sign, I be­gan to ac­cept the re­al­ity that this leg­endary snake and I were des­tined not to meet. At the tail end of the trip, we went on a jun­gle walk, where lo­cal track­ers came along to as­sist nat­u­ral­ists in find­ing var­i­ous crea­tures. As we trekked through the thick fo­liage, lined by walk­ing palms and mas­sive banyans or Ia­vatar-likej trees with their gnarly roots and thick trunks, the in­ten­sity of color was al­most blind­ing. Af­ter ex­am­in­ing such crea­tures as bul­let ants, poi­son dart frogs, horned toads and a red-tailed boa con­stric­tor, we heard a sud­den shout. Mrs. Conda had been found, ex­actly where ex­pected F on the edge of a boggy swamp, well­cam­ou­flaged in her eco-green skin. The tracker picked up the snake and held it out to us for a good look, keep­ing his hands and body away from its fangs, while it strug­gled might­ily and force­fully to be re­leased. Though the ana­conda is not ven­omous, it is in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful and em­ploys con­stric­tion to sub­due its prey. (e noted that the snake’s girth was large some grow as big around as a grown man , but that it was not very long in size, and one of the nat­u­ral­ists com­mented that it was prob­a­bly an im­ma­ture ana­conda.

I was ec­static nev­er­the­less with this younger ver­sion, a Miss Conda, if you like F mis­sion ac­com­plished

If you go

There are a num­ber of com­pa­nies that of­fer river­boat trips in the Peru­vian Amazon. I opted to go with In­ter­na­tional Ex­pe­di­tions, due to its stel­lar rep­u­ta­tion in the in­dus­try. It is a pi­o­neer in eco­tourism and is known as a world leader in small­group na­ture travel, with a host of award-win­ning ex­pe­ri­ences and unique itin­er­ar­ies to far-flung des­ti­na­tions. I was also at­tracted to the com­pany be­cause it has a long his­tory of sup­port­ing con­ser­va­tion projects across the globe. In the Amazon, for ex­am­ple, it helps to fund on­go­ing con­ser­va­tion ef­forts, such as build­ing water-treat­ment plants in vil­lages, fund­ing the Amazon Med­i­cal Clinic and de­vel­op­ing Las Malv­inas 'rban

arden Project in Iquitos, Peru.

or more in­for­ma­tion about In­ter­na­tional Ex­pe­di­tions

www.i.e.travel.com.

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