Amazon Riverboat Voyage with World Wildlife Fund November 2007 photos and text by Elissa Leibowitz Poma (unless noted)
La Amatista Our home for six nights was the teak riverboat La Amatista. Twenty-eight of us (plus crew) spent our time relaxing on the observation deck, enjoying pisco sours at the bar and having excellent Peruvian dishes in the dining room. How wonderful to find private bathrooms with hot water and air conditioning in our cozy cabins.
Naturalist guides George Davila (left) and Robinson Rodriguez (with book) have lived along the Amazon their entire lives. As a result of their lifelong experience and specialized training, they can spot birds miles away and name them merely by flight pattern or silhouette. They were excited to see the ornate hawk eagle and umbrella bird—two species they said they hadn’t seen in years.
Daily outings During our daily or twice-daily skiff outings, we spotted 139 different species of birds, including macaws, toucans and hawks. We won’t soon forget forget the day we went into Pacaya-Samiria Reserve and spent 1½ hours motoring back to the Amatista in heaving downpours!
Rain forest hikes With socks pulled up over pant legs and rain gear on, we trekked several times through the jungle in search of tucked-away villages, verdant flora, hidden monkeys and more. George showed us how the orange paste inside achiote tree seeds acts as a natural mosquito repellent, among other medicinal and culinary purposes.
Piranha fishing Following an impressively prepared picnic breakfast aboard our skiffs, some passengers fished for piranha in a shaded corner of a creek. The chefs prepared the fish for sampling that evening—not the tastiest fish, but interesting to try nonetheless!
Flora of the Amazon
Wildlife Thanks to our eagle-eyed naturalists and expert passenger-birders, we spotted 139 avian species. Saki, howler and squirrel monkeys jumped from branch to branch, and George captured a caiman during a nighttime outing. We even saw a lime green iguana camouflage itself right before our eyes! Top: Io moth; bottom: sun bittern; left:: black shimmers. Courtesy Stephen and Catherine Daubert) Left: white-lined bats; right: scarlet macaws. Courtesy Stephen and Catherine Daubert. Top: Frog, by Elissa Poma/WWF; bottom: George Davila with caiman. Courtesy Allan Kroznek Our top five bird sightings: 1. Ornate Hawk Eagle 2. Hoatzin 3. Amazonian umbrellabird 4. Scarlet macaw 5. Red-and-green macaw
Giant water lilies We took a gloriously muddy hike to an oxbow lake, where we encountered the giant water lily called Victoria Amazonica . Several feet wide, the lilies are found only along the Amazon basin. In this photo, full-grown “adults” surround a two-day-old flower and a dying specimen.
Ribereños children We stopped at the river villages of Uracocha and Vista Allegre, where we met dozens of enthusiastic, wide-eyed children.
A magical moment During our visit to Vista Allegre, guest Allan Kroznek performed magic tricks for the children at their school. Even the teenagers were captivated by his tricks—and charm!
Local handicrafts Village artisans set up handicraft markets for us; passengers showed their thanks for letting us visit by purchasing their handmade paintings, jewelry, carvings, baskets and other crafts.
Water’s edge Notice the dark line across the trunks of these trees. It shows just how high the water level can get.
Onboard diversions Each evening, our naturalist guides and crew members performed songs for the pisco sour-loving guests. Who’s ever going to forget the “Amatista” rap by our multi-talented naturalists? Meals in the panoramic dining room included Peruvian specialties such as lomo saltado, rellenos, chifa, fried plantains, tropic fruits and that delectable lucuma ice cream. Dining room photo courtesy Allan Kroznek
Our guests WWF staff rep Expedition leader Elissa Poma Jorge Salas
Street Scenes: Iquitos
Rafael Larco Herrera Archeological Museum
Brazilian Futbolista The Brazilian soccer national team—including Ronaldinho (left), arguably the top player in the world—stay at our hotel in Lima. The outside entrance and lobby were mobbed with fans, paparazzi and lots of security.
Black-collared hawk snatching a piranha
Night hawks, en masse
Changing of the guard, Lima presidential palace
“ This is just the beginning …”
From the original checklist: Neotropic Cormorant Anhinga White-necked Heron (Cocoi) Great Egret (Common Egret) Snowy Egret Striated Heron (Green-backed) Capped Heron Rufescent Tiger Heron Jabiru Stork Green Ibis Horned Screamer Muscovey Duck Black Vulture Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture Greater Yellow-headed Vulture Turkey Vulture Plumbeous Kite Snail Kite (Everglades Kite) Roadside Hawk Gray Hawk Slate-colored Hawk Black-collared Hawk Great Black Hawk Ornate Hawk-eagle Crane Hawk Osprey Laughing Falcon Black Caracara Yellow-headed Caracara Bat Falcon Hoatzin American Finfoot Sunbittern Wattled Jacana Spotted Sandpiper Solitary Sandpiper Large-billed Tern Yellow-billed Tern Black Skimmer Ruddy Pigeon Plumbeous Pigeon Blue and Yellow Macaw Scarlet Macaw Chestnut-fronted Macaw Red-bellied Macaw White-eyed Parakeet Dusky-headed Parakeet Canary-winged Parakeet Cobalt-winged Parakeet Tui Parakeet Short-tailed Parrot Blue-headed Parrot Festive Parrot Yellow-headed Parrot Orange-winged Parrot Mealy Parrot Squirrel Cuckoo Greater Ani Smooth-billed Ani Ferruginous Pygmy-owl Great Potoo Pauraque Ladder-tailed Nightjar White-collared Swift Fork-tailed Palm Swift Ringed Kingfisher Amazon Kingfisher Green Kingfisher Green & Rufous Kingfisher Chestnut Jacamar White-chinned Jacamar Swallow-winged Puffbird Black-fronted Nunbird Scarlet-crowned Barbet Chestnut-eared Aracari Lettered Aracari Cream-colored Woodpecker Yellow-tufted Woodpecker Crimson-crested Woodpecker Long-billed Woodcreeper Pale-legged Hornero Purple-throated Cotinga Plum-throated Cotinga Bare-necked Fruitcrow Amazonian Umbrellabird Yellow-margined Flycatcher Drab Water-tyrant White-headed Marsh-tyrant Dusky-capped Flycatcher Lesser Kiskadee Great Kiskadee Boat-billed Flycatcher Social Flycatcher Tropical Kingbird Eastern Kingbird Masked Tityra Black-crowned Tityra White-winged Swallow Brown-chested Martin Gray-breasted Martin Southern Martin Black & White Swallow Southern Rough-winged Swallow Barn Swallow Thrush-like Wren Black-capped Mockingthrush Shiny Cowbird Giant Cowbird Crested Oropendola Green Oropendola Russet-backed Oropendola Yellow-rumped Cacique Solitary Black Cacique Velvet-fronted Grackle Yellow-hooded Blackbird Orange-backed Troupial Oriole Blackbird White-vented Euphonia Hooded Tanager Blue-gray Tanager Palm Tanager Silver-beaked Tanager Masked Crimson Tanager Grayish Saltator Red-capped Cardinal Variable Seedeater Chestnut-bellied Seedeater Others (not on original checklist): Yellow-hooded blackbird Band-tailed oropendola Yellow-crowned tyranulet Bank swallow Black-bellied whistling duck Sand-colored night hawk Pectoral sandpiper Black-crowned night heron Chestnut-bellied seed finch Red and green macaw Glittering-throated hummingbird Orange-fronted plush crown Lemon-throated barbet Wren Blue-crowned trogon Sungrebe Appendix I – Amazon bird sightings
Brown-throated Three-toed sloth Long-nosed Bat Wagner's Sac-winged Bat Fishing Bat Greater-Lined Sac-winged Bat Jamaican Fruit-eating Bat Saddle-backed Tamarin Night Owl Monkey Saki Monkey Brown Capuchin Squirrel Monkey Red Howler Monkey Pink River Dolphin Gray River Dolphin Yellow-crowned brush tail rat Green iguana Owl butterfly Piranha Appendix II – Other wildlife sightings Note: The bird and wildlife lists include only those species spotted in the Amazon and confirmed by the naturalist guides. Some guests may have seen additional birds and wildlife on their own.
Appendix III – Recipe for Juane from our onboard cooking demonstration Peruvians celebrate the Festival of San Juan each June 23-24 with this classic. Similar to a tamale, the dish uses the leaves of an indigenous rain forest plant called bijao . The leaves are probably impossible to find outside of South America, so substitute with banana leaves or cork husks, for a close match. 2 cups cooked rice (al dente) bone-in chicken thighs 1 small red onion, chopped 2-3 garlic cloves, minced 2 bay leaves 1 teaspoon dried oregano salt, pepper, tumeric to taste 1-2 tablespoon cooking oil (olive or vegetable) 3 eggs bijao leaves, passed over an open flame to soften * sliced black olives (to taste) 1. In a frying pan, sauté the onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, salt, pepper and turmeric in 1-2 T cooking oil until tender. 2. Put the onion/garlic mixture with the chicken in a pot of 3 cups of water. Boil for 20 minutes or until the chicken is half-cooked. Remove the chicken and onion/garlic mixture, reserving the broth. 3. Put the rice in a large bowl and add the eggs and broth. Stir until combined. 4. Scoop the rice mixture onto a leaf and top with one piece of chicken and the onion/garlic mixture. Twist the bijao leaf tightly until it resembles an overlapping head of lettuce and fold the top over. The goal here is to make each “package” water tight. Tie package tightly with a strip of the leaf or kitchen string. 5. Place each “package” in a pot of water. The water should cover the juane. Boil covered for 40 minutes. * can substitute with banana leaves (decide whether they need softening first) or corn husks (soaked first in hot water according to the directions on the package). If you use corn husks, you may need to remove the chicken from the bones first, as a whole thigh won’t fit in one husk.