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Exotic by Nature 

A cruise on the Peruvian Amazon River reveals one of the world’s few remaining vastly unexplored regions. This is where biodiversity is at its greatest and the rainforest is at its most incredible with thousands of indigenous plants and animals that call this jungle paradise home. Pink river dolphins, sleepy sloths, and acrobatic monkeys share this wildest of places with a mind-boggling kaleidoscope of butterflies and birds above the boundless number of creatures that crawl, slither, soar, and sing. 

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Fast Facts:

  • Countries: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia
  • Source: Peruvian Andes
  • Mouth: Brazil, Atlantic Ocean
  • Length: Approximately 4,000 miles
  • Animal Population: In the millions


The Amazon started to form over 200 million years ago when its highlands were formed. The new river flowed west to the Pacific. Then, 140 million years ago, the South American plate collided into the Nazca plate and the impact formed the Andes Mountains, which blocked off the former mouth of the Amazon River, creating a huge freshwater lake. Over the next 50 million years, the continent began to tilt, causing the lake to burst through its stony barriers and form the Amazon River Basin.


The Amazon River basin has been inhabited by indigenous tribes for over 10, 000 years and possibly even 15,000 years. But the area wasn’t “discovered” until the Spanish conquistadores arrived in South America. The first Europeans to explore the Amazon date back to 1541 when Francisco de Orellana of Spain led a group of men down the river’s length to the Atlantic Ocean. During this navigation, stories of fierce battles between the Spanish expedition and mighty tribes of female warriors emerged. These tall tales eventually led to the naming of the Amazon, inspired from Greek mythology. After the first navigation, Orellana returned to Spain where he received permission from the crown to return to the Amazon to found and settle what would be called, New Andalusia, in the Amazon basin. However, his second trip in 1546 to the Amazon was not as fruitful as his first. His four ships and men were lost at sea or to illness, desertion, hunger, and ultimately Indian attack.

The next three centuries brought numerous explorations of the area by the Portuguese, French, Germans, and the US. Along with the arrival of the foreigners came western diseases which in turn decimated the native Indian population by 90 percent. In the early 19th century, the missionaries and scientists arrived leading to vast development of the area. Steamship service on the river was introduced in the mid-19th century which led to the rubber boom of the 19th and 20th centuries. These ships made it viable to export the Amazon’s most valuable resource, rubber, to the rest of the world. Towns along the banks of the Amazon flourished during this period with populations increasing 400% and incomes 800%. During this time, the area was redefined – cities and states were put on the map, regional governments were formed, and territorial rights were defined. In essence, the Amazon region became a major stakeholder in the region’s economy and development for the future. Modern cities now existed along the banks of the Amazon with the development of Iquitos and Manaus.

Today, these cities remain as major cities in Amazonia and serve as the main ports to one of the world’s longest rivers, the Amazon.


Iquitos, Peru: Exploring the Peruvian Amazon begins in Iquitos, a remote Peruvian city that can only be reached by air or water. Once a booming rubber town due to its location on the Amazon River, Iquitos now enjoys a slower pace. Highlights of this lively city include a building designed by Gustav Eiffel in the main square.

Pacaya Samiria National Reserve: This protected wildlife area accessible only by water is found deep within the Amazon rainforest and jungle is one of the largest flooded forests in the world. The pristine wilderness spans more than five million acres and is teeming with the Amazon’s wildlife and amazing plant life, making it one of the most bio diverse spots in the world. 449 bird species, 102 mammals, 69 reptiles, 58 amphibians, 256 species of freshwater fish, and 1,204 varieties of plants call this area home. Local communities can also be found in the reserve making up a population of approximately 30,000 people. During your time here, you will encounter and have the chance to interact with local people living in villages along the Amazon River, as they have for centuries. When you arrive at Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, you will enter a world filled with birds in neon-brilliant colors, playful monkeys, graceful hawks and herons and millions of butterflies. You will have the opportunity to see hundreds of species, including the endangered pink Amazon dolphin, the three toed sloth—and perhaps, if you are very lucky—a sleek, black jaguar.

The Amazon River & Basin: It is in Peru that the Amazon River is born and where the Amazon River’s headwaters originate. Considered the Upper Amazon region, sail to the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers where the Amazon River is formed. At its widest point the Amazon River is 7 miles wide during the low water season, but during the high water season, when the Amazon floods the surrounding plains, the Amazon River can be up to 28 miles in breadth. Discover some of its 500 plus navigable tributaries where you will search with your Naturalist for Amazon monkeys, three-toed sloths and caimans at home in their habitat. See the sun rise and set over the Mighty Amazon, fish for piranha, and search for the world’s largest aquatic plant, the giant water lilies – these are just a few of the activities during your time in the Amazon.

Did You Know?

  • At more than 4,000 miles in length, the Amazon is the second-longest river in the world—only the Nile is longer.
  • Because it is so vast, the Amazon is sometimes called the “River Sea.”
  • Snowmelt that forms streams in the Peruvian Andes Mountains is the starting sources for the Amazon River.
  • No bridges cross the Amazon River.
  • Although it now empties into the Atlantic Ocean, the Amazon once flowed into the Pacific! The uplift of the Andes Mountains about 65 million years cut the flow to the Pacific and forced the Amazon to flow eastward.
  • About 1,100 tributaries empty into the Amazon.
  • There are over 3,000 species of fish in the Amazon River—everything from 700-pound catfish and electric eels to stingrays and tiny tetras.