The Amazon River the world's largest. It's more than 6500km long and starts 100km upstream in the Andes. It proudly flows without a bridge crossing it and is home to more than 3000 species of fish.
Jason Dundas went on a Scenic Tours adventure down the Amazon, starting in the tiny town of Iquitos, a city isolated in the eastern corner of Peru, 105m above sea level.
This is the perfect place for lovers of eco-tourism who want close contact with the virgin nature of the Amazon forests. It's also the world's largest city which cannot be reached by road.
It's quite amazing to believe that all you see in houses, other buildings and vehicles were floated or flown in. Once inhabited by the wild Iquitos tribe, the city has been the centre of gold fever, cinnamon growing and rubber. Those three popular commodities made many people rich and splendid houses were built, some with tiles brought all the way from Portugal.
The markets are definitely worth checking out. They sprawl for blocks and vendors set up rickety tables to show their wares. Fruit, meat, bakery items, medicinal plants, aphrodisiacs, Western music, animals and many other things are available for sale. There is an almost tangible energy there as people not only go there to purchase their provisions, they go there to gather and musicians perform with their pan flutes and guitars.
On board MV Aqua
, the tour goes to some of the more remote parts of the river. The 39m-long luxury cruise ship was custom-built and has just 12 cabins accommodating a maximum of 24 guests. There are four master suites with ensuite, sitting areas and picture windows. Some interconnect to cater for families.
The vessel has comfortable lounge, à la carte dining room and bar and makes its way along the river with modern navigation technologies.
The Amazon Basin is home to an astonishing one-third of the animals on the planet and the majority of them don't come out until night.
Excursions deeper into the jungle are run twice a day and sharp-eyed guides spot wildlife most people might miss. More than half of the animals live below the surface and one of the rarest is the freshwater pink dolphin. Locals believe they are mermaids who have come to feed on the fruits of the jungle.
On Jason's journey he was lucky enough to see piranha, a baby caiman alligator which will reach 3m in length, a three-toed sloth and the Peruvian Amazon's largest butterfly. Called an owl butterfly, its large "eye-spot" confuses predators and protects it from being eaten.
Jason's adventure was in the middle of the wet season. The river's depth changes dramatically between seasons and while they were in 5m of water, in the dry season the same place would see hunters walking around.
Along South America's mighty Amazon River.
Scenic Tours has a 21-day Icons of South America Tour including the major sights of Peru, Chile, Brazil and Argentina, all accommodation, sightseeing, most meals and internal flights. They start at $10,845 per person twin share. You can add a four-day Amazon Cruise and Galapagos Islands extension to your tour.
Scenic Tours is offering a buy-on-get-one-free return ticket to South America with LAN Airlines. That's a saving of up to $3000 a couple. This offer is valid for various departures between February and May 2010.
Prices correct July 2, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 1300 723 642
Visas: Australians do not require a visa to enter Peru. They do need a passport and return ticket.
Electricity: 220V at 60Hz using plugs with two flat prongs.
Time zone: GMT -5.
Currency: The sol.
Telephone code: +51.
It is recommended travellers to South America see their doctor at least six weeks before departure. Prior to travel, travellers should be "up to date" with vaccinations for yellow fever, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis B. Depending on the time of year of travel and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions are recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au or www.welltogo.com.au.