TRIP REPORT: AMAZON 2023 Riverboat Cruise Adventure
PRIVATE TOUR OPTION
This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.
There is something appealing about heading to a destination that provides a primeval experience; yet, still provides much of the modern comforts to which we have become accustomed. The Peruvian Amazon Riverboat Cruise Adventure fits that description perfectly. Once you board your skiff to then head up a small Amazon River tributary, you understand you are no longer walking down the sidewalk in your local home town or city. Encountering natives who reside full time in the Amazon jungle, seeing the pink and grey river dolphins as they exhale at the surface of a blackwater tributary, and hearing the raucous calls of macaws and parrots as they fly overhead all add to this primeval experience. That is just part of the experience you will have on this workshop, and it doesn’t even consider the amazing images you will take back home to share with your friends and family. Many of which will never have the fortitude or perhaps the means to share in this experience and will rely on you to relay the sensation of each day.
Rather than a day-by-day journal of this workshop, I want to try to paint an experiential picture for you of what we experienced day-by-day. Now, to provide a point of reference most of this workshop takes place up and down river from where the Maranon River and the Ucayali River come together to form the Amazon River. We do have one excursion in the white sand forest between Iquitos and Nauta, Peru; and, we have a day trip to the Peruvian coast south of Lima. Hiking through the Amazonian jungle, walking along a Peruvian beach and wetlands, riding in a small wooden boat searching for Humboldt penguins, blue-footed boobies, and Inca terns are all a part of this immersive photographic experience.
The main riverboat serves as our home base but each excursion we take two skiffs so we can maneuver up and down the small tributaries to the rivers. One skiff was focused on photography with myself and Dawn Wilson serving as photography instructors. The other skiff had Tom Stephenson, author of many books including The Warbler Guide, and Edison Buenaño to guide the birding skiff! Tom and Eddie are birders extraordinaire and that skiff has an obscene number of total birds seen and heard. On the photography skiff, we focus more on finding outstanding photography subjects and spending more time with them.
This adventure encountered a wide variety of lighting conditions and weather conditions all of which yields a beautiful diversity of images for your portfolio. The two longer hikes we do on this adventure, one in the white sand forest and one in a typical forest along the river, both produced some spectacular macro subjects and birds for the participants. I know some of my personal favorites included a leafhopper that always has its wings spread out; one of the largest species of tarantula and an arboreal species of tarantula were quite cooperative; a nice selection of poison dart frogs, a cooperative green anaconda, and a glowing dragonfly!
A good pair of knee pads, a flash with an AK Diffuser, a great macro lens, and a heaping dose of patience will reward the diligent photographer with some amazing images. Of course, the beauty of each hike is that regardless of how many times I have made them, while we do see a couple of repeat species, each hike yields mostly all new subjects! Every year is different, my images are variable, but always fulfilling!
We did exit the skiffs on a couple of unplanned excursions as word came in too our local guides that there was an almost extinct wattled curassow roaming around a local village and at another small encampment, a bald uakari was hanging around a residence. This is one of the most unique monkeys in regard to appearance and the local guides told us how far they normally had to travel to try and see this species of monkey. We knew we had to grab the fantastic opportunities as they were presented before us, who knows when or if such opportunities will ever come again! We can only hope they are waiting to greet us in 2024!
Another outing we came upon a dugout canoe with two young boys who had been checking their fishing nets after a night of having them out to catch some food and acquire items they could possibly sale. Our local guide asked them if he could get in their boat and share the species they had with us. The boat held 12 species of fish including three piranha species, several catfish species, and one fairly unusual species. After sharing their bounty for our education purposes, we gave them some Peruvian money, candy, smiles, and words of gratitude.
This adventure immersed us in primates with a total of seven (7) species of primates! This was just two shy of the all time high! Memorable moments include watching a pygmy marmoset cling to the side of a tree while taking us all in; saddle-backed tamarins lounging on tree limbs along the river’s edge; and Titi monkeys up high in a large tree foraging in great light. Primates are certainly a highlight on the trip and we had a crazy number of squirrel monkeys taking flying leaps from one tree to another.
One of the challenging aspects of this workshop is getting great images of flying birds and I had one particularly satisfying challenge with success. A large Amazon kingfisher was flying alongside our skiff as it was traveling at near full speed down a fairly wide tributary. The bird was flying in the same trajectory as the boat. As the boat bounced along, I pointed the M.Zuiko 150mm – 400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO at the kingfisher and the AI tracking autofocus quickly picked up the bird. I took some images but the background was a bit cluttered. Suddenly and without warning the bird began cutting directly across our path and was backlit. I quickly adjusted my shutter speed to allow a bit more light and kept firing away. With the warm back light and the lovely green reflection of the surrounding forest on the water, I was able to capture a wonderful image thanks to the advanced AF of the OM System OM-1 camera body paired with the best lens I have ever owned.
I still have many images to process from this particular workshop including a delightful day on the Peruvian coast. The wind off the ocean provided numerous opportunities to photograph a huge flock of Franklin’s gulls as the landed in a protected portion of the beach, nesting oystercatchers, and a peregrine falcon as it swooped through the large flocks of birds seeking prey. Inca terns are one of my favorite species of birds in Peru and the waves and small wooden boat that took us out provided some truly challenging conditions but I captured some great in flight shots as the birds banked and turned into the wind and waves.
The Amazon is a photographer’s delight as the subjects, weather, food, and accommodations all combine to provide you with the trip of lifetime. Kevin and Wildside have developed an itinerary to expose you to the best of the Peruvian Amazon, and to ensure you head home with the memories and images to go along with the experience. 2024 will no doubt be just as exciting and image heavy as 2023!