Embark Where the Amazon Begins
Never has so handsome a vessel plied the secluded waters beyond the confluence of the Ucayali and Marandn Rivers – the legendary inception of the mighty Amazon, 2,000 miles from the Atlantic. Originally built as a private yacht and renovated in 1997 in the style of a classic 19th-century riverboat, the 112-foot La Esmeralda features eight cabins and a spacious observation deck. Attentive naturalist guides point out the prolific wildlife of the primeval environs.
More species of primates have been recorded in this region than anywhere else in the New World, and the Ucayali also boasts a large population of both gray and pink river dolphins. Small custom- built excursion boats take off for narrow passages, flooded forest, and blackwater lakes, dropping passengers off for guided stops at little-visited riverside villages and hikes through virtually uninhabited portions of the Amazon jungle. On board, delicious meals are served in a dining area graced with floor-to- ceiling windows. Nighttime entertainment includes the spectacle of both southern and northern constellations.
Unpack on land at any of the five Explorama lodges in the 250,000-acre Amazon Biosphere Reserve, then head to the nonprofit Swiss Family Robinson-style camp called the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER), a treetop system of ladders, cables, and netting. Visitors ascend some thirteen stories, or 125 feet, to experience the rain forest’s diversity from an ingenious multilevel system of aerial platforms and hanging pathways. From here you might spy one of the estimated two-thirds of the rain forest species that live in (and never descend from) the canopy – many of which still remain to be identified.