At more than 4300 miles long, the Amazon river is the longest river in the world – almost three times the length of the Colorado river. Some of the indigenous tribes of its interior, have yet to contact the outside world. It’s a fantastical place that’s part river, and part flooded forest that swarms with fresh water pink dolphins, flesh-eating piranhas and fish that resemble dinosaurs. It’s a place meant to be experienced from the water…Even better if that means boarding a floating hotel.
That’s exactly what we had to look forward to when we landed by plane in the northern Peruvian jungle city of Iquitos., a place that's famous for being the world's largest city that's unreachable by road. The only pavement leaving its sprawl goes only two hours out of town to Nauta, at the edge of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. It will be our disembarkation point on the Amazon Star, that floating hotel, and our home for the next four days.
Over the last decade, the Pacaya-Samiria reserve has blossomed into one of the most sought-after destinations to experience the Amazon river. Partly because of its accessibility from the city of Iquitos which has a modern airport, but also because of the innovative and boutique cruises that have sprung up in recent years. These are boutique jungle cruises that gently blend comfort with the urges of an explorer who wants to head into the one of the most remote places on earth while sipping a cocktail.
The Amazon Star has only sixteen cabins, all connected to private balconies. It’s equipped with a rooftop bar, dinning room and an array of staff including gourmet chefs and skilled naturalists who illuminate the biodiversity of the Amazon's ecosystems. To get up even closer to nature, small motor skiffs accompany us the whole time, taking us into small tributaries that hide flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. For those looking for something a bit more active, the Amazon Star also comes complete with kayaks and paddle boards for guests who want to immerse themselves into the rivers even further.
All of the boutique cruises in the Pacaya-Samiria have unique characteristics. Some boast bedding with a finer thread count while others are a bit more rustic. The Amazon Star holds a secure place as the cruise that won’t break the bank but also reaches the fringes of luxury. A luxury that is not pretentious, nor foreign to its surroundings. It’s an experience that employs locals, sources local food, uses local materials and immerses you into a local understanding of what life in this fantastical world is all about.
Words Nick Stanziano, photos Christian Declercq.