birdwatching on an Amazon river cruise excursion

An Amazon River Cruise is not like any other small ship cruise around the world. You don’t book one of these to disembark at ancient castles or go shopping for ornaments. You can also go on one at any time of year and not have to bring a coat.

A cruise on the mighty Amazon River is all about exploring nature and disconnecting from a busy world. You move at a slower pace and open up your senses to one of the wildest parts of South America.

That doesn’t mean you have to sleep on deck, exposed to the elements though. If you book a trip on the Zafiro ship through International Expeditions, you’ll have a comfortable bed in a climate-controlled cabin, you’ll eat really well, and the staffers will make sure you’ve got a sundowner in hand when you want to toast the end of the day.

You’ll have plenty of chances to try experiences you’ve never had before, however. Here are a few things you’ll be able to do when you go cruising from Iquitos, Peru in the jungle area.

Catch and Eat Deadly Piranha

When you hear the work “piranha,” you probably think of deadly fish with sharp teeth who can devour an animal (or us…gulp) in no time flat. You can turn the tables though by having them for dinner instead.

They’re not really as ferocious as the old horror movies would have you believe though. Maybe they need a better PR firm because there are a lot of piranha myths to be debunked. They’re not all that big, first of all: usually 5 to 10 inches long. They normally only attack something that’s dead or close to it and they school as much for protection as anything.

fishing for piranha on the Amazon River

To fish for them you put some raw chicken on a simple fishing pool without a reel then wait for a tug. Once you’re back on the Zafiro ship, the chef will fry up the day’s catch and put it on the spread for dinner. It ends up being a white and flaky river fish that’s quite pleasant to try.

Go Wildlife Spotting on Land

While Peru is most famous for its Inca structures, around 60% of the country’s land is in the Amazon Basin. It’s a wildlife haven like no other: the country has the largest number of birds and the third largest number of mammals in the world.

On an Amazon river cruise, you’re not just sitting around on a ship. You get plenty of chances to hike into the rainforest with an experienced local guide who knows how to spot creatures that like to stay hidden. You’ll learn about how the flora and fauna interact in the jungle and how the animals adapt to their environment in different areas along the river.

That doesn’t mean you won’t see anything from the river cruise ship itself, of course. You may spot pink river dolphins, caimen, or colorful tropical birds flying by the treeline.

Go Bird Watching in the Jungle

You’re guaranteed to see some interesting birds when you spend your vacation on the Zafiro Amazon small ship cruise boat. There are plenty of birds squawking away in the morning even when you just walk out on deck, but an experienced guide can find dozens more within an hour when you go for a walk or enter a tributary off the big river.

Some of the most common spottings are Macaws, Toucans, the Dusky-Headed Parakeet, and the Gray-Headed Kite. You may smell the “punk rock bird” Hoatzin stork before you see it and it’s probably not one you want to get to know better.

birdwatching on an Amazon river cruise

See some other birds you might spot here.

Kayak the Tributaries of the Amazon River

kayaking the Amazon jungle tourKayaking the Amazon itself would have to be a downstream affair in this current. There are lots of offshoots, lagoons, and tributaries where it’s possible to kayak on the water, however. Built into a river cruise in the area are opportunities to get close to the water and see the wildlife on the shore up close.

With good equipment and a local guide leading the way, you’ll be able to see prehistoric landscapes and feel like a real explorer, but be assured that all the right safety precautions are in place.

Meet the River Manatees on Your Amazon Cruise

Even before you board your ship after arriving in Peru, you’ll get to see some manatees. That’s because your cruise includes a visit to the Manatee Rescue Center, where biologists and volunteer helpers care for rescued animals. When they are ready, the river mammals are introduced back into their natural habitat.

You may visit another rescue center at another point on the river, depending on your itinerary, but many guests also end up seeing one in the wild as well.

These are just a few of the activities you can expect on a Zafiro ship cruise on the big river. During the week you can take part in a cooking lesson, do some dancing, have a picnic breakfast in the wild, and enjoy a sunset champagne toast. See a full day-by-day itinerary here.

You don’t have to stick to the Amazon though once you’ve come all this way. International Expeditions can arrange trips to the Ballestas Islands and the Nazca Lines, a longer time in Lima, or combine this with a tour of the Sacred Valley. See more at their website.