A knock on the door at 5:00 a.m. and it was finally time to
get up and get exploring the Amazon River!
As I lift my coffee for a first sip I not only notice an absolutely
beautiful sunrise starting to unfold, but some large splashes in the
water: River Dolphins!
And that is how our first exploration went. After boarding our skiff we watched the sun
rise and the jungle come alive: Monkeys (Squirrel and Dusky Titi),
|Dusky Titi Monkey|
(even one moving!),
herons, hawks, cormorants, kingfishers, storks, terns and
Having been to the Amazon once
before I know what an “A” day is and we were having one!
We were back on the ship for breakfast at 8:00 a.m., which
consisted of tamales, scrambled eggs, thick bacon and fruit. A waiter comes around offering fresh juice
(noting that a wide variety of fruit juices are offered in rotation throughout
all meals). Towards the end of each meal
there is a very short briefing of what to expect, so the morning activities are
explained the evening before, the afternoon’s/evenings are discussed at lunch.
After a short rest it was time to reorganize and head back
out on the skiff at 9:30 a.m. for another exploration before heading back to the
ship (which moves when we are out exploring) for lunch, followed by a well-needed
siesta during the extreme heat of the afternoon in the Amazon. At 4:30 p.m. we head again with dinner to
follow around 7:30 p.m. There is no real
evening entertainment (though the crew does a 30 minute musical performance on
One afternoon we were at the confluence of two rivers where both pink and gray river dolphins frequent and feed. My last time to the Amazon was more downriver where the dolphin populations are, apparently, much lower. Here the challenge was not seeing them, but capturing them in a photo as they quickly rise and then dive. As frustrating as it was, the lighting was perfect and some decent shots were had (though betters once would come later in the trip!)
This is pretty much how the first three days of our Amazon
cruise went. Of course there were
variations, including an evening skiff exploration where we hunted for the red
glow of the eyes of caiman,
|The red glow of a baby caiman’s eyes at night|
|What a baby caiman looks like at night with fast ISO and a slow shutter speed|
a morning skiff exploration which included al
fresco breakfast served on our skiff,
a swim in the Amazon River with dolphins
a short paddle with a local a traditional canoe
and piranha fishing, as examples.
|It would have been a bit more exciting fishing for Piranha |
that could actually bite you!
Of course, there was just the beauty of the Amazon which, if you looked, surrounded us.
If my experience continued as it had it would have been far
better. However, this G Adventures
cruise is a bit more touristic than I would have liked as it as Day 4 an on
unfolded and there was a distinct “We are done with the wildlife, now let’s do
tourist stuff” approach. The signal was a morning “wildlife” walk that was literally right next to a small village where we had stopped for the evening. (Folks, animals don’t hang out where humans live. I think we all know that.) But nonetheless there was beauty and interest that was seen…if only fleeting (as this 1.5 hour stroll could have taken 3 or more hours so we could really see and understand the environment if not observe more wildlife).
Unfortunately, these tourist experiences were
made worse by some of the Canadian teachers/educators whose conduct was
off-putting even to my recent high school graduate son. With this relatively large contingent more
focused on this being a holiday rather than a nature/ethnic experience coupled
with them not being terribly respectful of the fact that others with different
interests were sharing the same small space, our trip took a definite turn for
That is not to say that “my” desired experience is more
important, but that when you are on a small boat with a single skiff courtesy
is truly a needed commodity. It also
made it virtually impossible for the full “educational” experience to be
provided both as to wildlife and indigenous people because talking about birds
or dolphin behavior or environmental issues would have been poorly received, if
not ignored or talked over. (Yes, it
should have been done regardless, and I am frustrated by that…more for my son
missing out on these things. G
Adventures should have done much better.)
For example, we had a visit to a local school where we were
supposed to – if we wanted – purchase school supplies for the children (but, of
course, with visits about once a week they would have years and years’ worth of
supplies; so what happens to them?) This
faux “interact with the locals” became a farce when part of our group decided
that their “feel good help the children” plans should be sidelined so they
could hold a pet baby sloth. Not good
for the sloth and not good for the children.
But, alas, for my fellow passengers it was all about them and not where
they were. Shameful.
|A far more touching photo is of a boy with his pet sloth |
than one of me posing with it
This was not dissimilar to when we were to go on a nature
hike and we spent almost 30 minutes while they swung on a vine…scaring away all
the wildlife. When challenged the
comment from the biggest mouth of them all…an administrator no less…was that it
was OK because it was fun. (My comment
that he should do that on a playground, not scaring wildlife was not warmly
received.) I have to wonder how many
students have gotten detention or were suspended by this guy for simply screwing
around in gym class! But again, there was beauty…if you looked.
Making matters a bit worse, those “skiffs” we were to have
was actually one skiff. And one night we
had a very intense rain storm and two of the scuppers (drains) on the side of
the boat poured even more water into the skiff sinking it. A day was spent hauling the boat and getting
the engines to work, if imperfectly. Thus, our visit to a shaman became a visit on the ship by a
shaman and a lunch with a local family was cancelled. These were not huge
losses for me, as I would have preferred to have preferred to have had more sort of authentic experiences. (I was baffled by the comments about how wonderful the skiff driver was repairing the skiff and how some wanted to tip him extra. I was thinking, “Why didn’t he cover the skiff or move it so that it wouldn’t have sunk in the first place as this was not his first tropical downpour?!”)
Anyway, through the frustrations and disappointments, there were some pretty spectacular experiences…with more to come! (Macaws, dolphins and more!)