Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to visit the Amazon… I saw this movie called “Where the River Runs Black” when I was seven… and thinking back, all I can really remember about the movie was two boys playing with pink dolphins in the river and how remote, peaceful and pristine the whole environment looked. The movie definitely had an impact on me. So to say this was a vacation that made all my dreams come true… is quite the understatement.
Visiting the Amazon River is one of the top experiences of my life. I hope you enjoy the pictures and candid moments I am about to share with you…. including all the AMAZING super foods I ate while I was there…
After spending a night in Lima, Peru, we headed straight to Iquitos – the gateway to the Amazon and the one of the most heavily populated cities that can only be reached by airplane or boat. On the way to board the Aqua Expeditions MV Aria (a 147 foot river boat that would take us deep into the Amazon), we had a few moments to experience the city. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and we stumbled upon the most remarkable manger scene I’ve ever seen. The scene included all the animals from the amazon jungle – like the sloths, anteaters, and caimans…
I asked our driver to make a special stop at the local grocery store to grab a few things – like lemon for my daily habit.
I LOVE exploring grocery stores in foreign countries… I swear I could spend my whole vacation there, if my husband let me… We bought a few awesome new fruits to try like Chirimoya… I had never tasted or seen this fruit before.
This was our boat – the MV Aria. Yes, we were spoiled. The boat is brand new and very modern, clean and just freaking beautiful. We were handed a Camu Camu berry drink as soon as we stepped on board.
Our room was on the bottom level right by the river, with floor to celling windows and a very spacious bathroom.
The boat even had a small gym…. with large windows that overlooked the river while we were cruising by. I saw a few pink dolphins one day while on the spin bike. Wow…playing that back in my head just sounds ridiculous… but it’s true! The Amazon is the only place in the world to see pink dolphins in the wild.
Here’s a panorama of the top deck, were we hung out the most… They had many books about the Amazon (and the food) to read while on board. I learned much more than I ever thought I would hanging out up there.
Every morning and every afternoon we had excursions on a small personal skiff that would go deep into the tributaries off the river. The trips were very well organized and included a nature specialist guide to point out all the awesome flora, fauna and wildlife. A doctor was also always present with us too…with an emergency kit just in case. This of course made us feel extra safe, considering we were pretty far from civilization for most the trip. Although, if we really got in trouble, it was nice knowing that several medicine men live in the communities along the Amazon. I learned a lot from the guides on how they holistically treat and heal the people of the Amazon without pharmaceuticals.
This little girl here is just precious, isn’t she? This is what kids do on the Amazon (when they are not in school)… they ride around by themselves in boats or with Mom and Dad to catch fish… which is pretty much breakfast, lunch and dinner!
We visited some awesome giant lilly pads.
Rose apple growing high up in a tree… one of the most delicious fruits. They also grow in Asia quite abundantly.
My new favorite fruit – Camu Camu berry. So sour and so good.
I ate Camu Camu right off the tree… yes… I’m crazy and no, I didn’t get sick. And if I did… I learned there’s a tree bark for that… ?
Camu Camu berry has the most vitamin C out of any fruit. The only way I can find in the United States is powdered through Navitas Naturals. I know Harmless Harvest showcased a raw drink from this berry last year at Expo West – but I have yet to see it on the market… but boy, when I do – I’m totally on it! I have also seen it in JEM nut butters – in the Maqui Camu Super Berry Butter flavor.
These are bats, do you see them?….Right after I took this photograph, they flew right up into my face. No joke. It was scary.
One day a snake almost fell into our boat, so the guide caught it instead and showed it to us up close and then released it back into the wild.
I found out that I am an expert at piranha fishing. I caught 10 and honestly, I’ve only been fishing once!
Piranha is a staple for breakfast in the Amazon…check out those teeth! (FYI – We threw them all back after catching them.)
Oh…hi there. Yes… this is my new friend, Mr. Sloth. It’s hard to tell, but these slow moving creatures have some serious claws to hang onto tree branches way up high while noshing on leaves.
We were able to get really close to this guy (and touch him!) because he happened to come down for his weekly restroom break…. yes – sloths only come down to the ground to go once a week!
Haha… but so cute. Look at that little face… I think sloths look like a mix between an ewok and E.T.
We saw LOTS of monkeys too. This black spider monkey in particular tried to spring his way into our boat shortly after taking this picture and below him…check out that owl monkey – they live in hollowed out tries and are nocturnal – it was incredibly rare to see one like this all the way out of a tree in the middle of the day.
My husband straight up grabbed this caiman out of the river and then tried to hand it to me…. This guy was so tame and did not try to bite us. I am in love with alligators, crocodiles and caiman…
We even got to feed manatees… what beautiful rubbery (that’s what they feel like) loving creatures.
When we booked this trip – I had no idea what I was in for in terms of food…. I knew I would get to try incredible local foods from the Amazon – but I had no idea the food on the boat would be so unique and so deliciously fancy! Fine dining, deep in the Amazon jungle, whaaaaa!? But that’s exactly what happened… Executive chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, one of Lima’s culinary stars, designed the entire menu with both Peruvian and European influence.
I was so busy before taking off for this trip, that I didn’t even know this detail before getting on board… it was so nice to be surprised with a gourmet menu.
This was my typical breakfast… Granola with chia seeds, fruit and plantains. There was an option to get fresh to order pancakes, omelets, and waffles every morning… and other local varieties, but I couldn’t get enough of this granola – It was made with some of my favorite grains like quinoa and amaranth.
For lunch, it was always served buffet style and there were always fresh mixed greens available – a variety of greens I have never tasted before. Some of the leaves reminded me of dandelion but with a more subtle flavor.
Lots of very fresh ceviche made from local fish was served at almost every meal…. I ate more fish on this trip than I have all year…
This was my favorite lunch on the boat…. This soup was to DIE for… it’s a “typical” amazon corn based soup with chicken. It was insane.
This reminds me that I need to get the recipe from the chef to recreate it to share it with you!
Rice and beans cooked in banana leaves…
Snacks were also wrapped in banana leaves (love this!) to enjoy on the river. I loved trying the famous Sacha Inchi – which is like a peanut but with a better nutritional profile, because it contains a higher value of Omega 3 fatty acids. That huge nut in the center is a type of brazil nut that grows wild only in the Amazon too.
Dinner was served as a 4-course tasting menu – all of the dinners were absolutely incredible… and featured a wide array of items I had never before tasted in my life…
Above is a serving of fresh brazil nut cheese (they typically don’t have access to dairy on the Amazon), paired with fresh local flavorings – like catfish caviar and shredded hearts of palm. This was a WOW dish I wish I could have again.
Dessert was over the top each day (and then followed by petite fours (truffles, meringue cookies, etc.). This was Golden Berry creme brûlée…fresh golden berry! not dried! … Fresh golden berries taste so different than dried, they almost taste like an unripened cherry tomato. Oh… and btw, if you use the term golden berry, the folks from the Amazon have no idea what you are talking about – they call this fruit by the name “Aguaymanto.”
I wanted to see it growing in the wild so bad and kept asking my guide about it…. I even had some dried ones with me to show him – I think I totally confused him with the dried version, but he finally figured out what I was talking about and this dessert ended up being served that night- coincidence – I think not!
Camu Camu pie. This tasted like key lime pie – but better. Another favorite of my trip. Camu Camu would be such a great substitute for red food coloring, no?
Cashew fruit and white chocolate mousse with mangos… Cashew fruit was another new fruit to me – it actually is attached to cashews before they are harvested. It literally feels like all the water in your mouth is being sucked out when you take a bite. It’s the weirdest feeling I’ve had eating anything in my whole life…but so cool nonetheless!
Before we disembarked, we had the opportunity to visit a local school. We sang songs (they asked us to sing Madonna, we opted for twinkly twinkly little star), conversed with the children (in broken Spanish – I’m still learning!) and brought some supplies from the United States to donate to the school. Aqua Expeditions also makes a conscience effort to give back to the community, and brought huge boxes of Christmas cakes called “Panettones” to the children. To be part of the excitement was totally priceless.
I hope you enjoyed the recap.
If you are thinking about going to the Amazon or Peru – let me know – I’m happy to answer any questions about my itinerary, this boat or anything else!
Back to day dreaming…