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Expert Review: Delfin I Amazon River Cruise

by Andrew Browning

I joined a 4-day/3-night cruise on the Delfin I as part of a larger Peru trip that also encompassed AdventureSmith’s Machu Picchu Explorer with some family members. The Delfin Amazon cruise experience begins upon arrival into the city of Iquitos, which has several flights arriving daily from Lima. 

The Delfin I carries just 8 passengers, which makes it the most exclusive and intimate cruise one can take in the Peruvian Amazon. I flew in a day earlier than the other passengers so that I could also go aboard the 28-guest Delfin II for an inspection. It is nice to see as many boats as possible so that we can help our clients choose the best options for their trips.

On the day of embarkation I met our guide from the Delfin I at the airport as well as the travelers who were joining my cruise. The staff from the Delfin helped us with our luggage, and we boarded the luxury transport that the Delfin uses for bringing passengers to the vessel, which is docked downriver in Nauta. Our transport was air conditioned and they had drinks and snacks for us en route to Nauta. We left the moto-taxi-filled city of Iquitos and drove through the countryside to Nauta where the Delfin I was awaiting. 

We were greeted by the crew and shown to our incredibly spacious suites. With only 2 suites on each deck, holding a total of 8 passengers onboard, the Delfin has the absolute best accommodations for traveling in comfort along the river.  Every suite on board has the same general layout and they are huge! They can be configured with 1 king or 2 twin beds and there is a sitting area and large bathroom in each cabin. The entire side of the cabin that faces the patio has floor-to-ceiling windows giving passengers a great view of the scenery.  The Deluxe Suites (the two on the lower deck), have little plunge pools on your private balcony. These refreshing pools are perfect for two passengers and are incredible when you return from jungle excursions.

After getting settled, we all met on the open-air top deck for a briefing on safety and vessel amenities. We also met all of the crew who would be with us during the voyage. Our guide explained what we could expect in the next couple of days as we set sail down the river and enjoyed welcome cocktails before dinner. 

Meals on the Delfin I feature locally sourced ingredients that are prepared according to a menu made by a renowned Peruvian chef. Since there are only 8 passengers onboard, the large table is filled with sharable plates of various fresh fruits, meats, cheeses, juices and bread. They also have eggs made to order and additional dishes that change each day. Lunches are 3-course meals that are lighter than what is served at dinner. The 4-course dinners are healthy with excellent presentation. Many dishes feature exotic fruits from the tropics as well as fish and protein choices. Passengers who are accustomed to eating in fine restaurants will be absolutely thrilled with the meals on this cruise.   

During the next three days we explored the Pacaya Samiria Reserve by skiff, on foot and by kayak, covering different sections of the Marañon, Ucuyali and Amazon Rivers. Daily excursions occurred in the early morning when the birds and wildlife are most active. We would embark by skiff up small tributaries as the forest would awaken around us. We spotted a wide variety of birds from the water, and our expert guide was knowledgeable and patient as he helped everyone see what he was spotting among the jungle foliage. Each day, we would return to the vessel as the daytime heat increased, and the crew would always have fresh, ice-cold juices waiting for our arrival. The captain would then set course for our next location along the rivers as we enjoyed some downtime to relax before lunch. 

Afternoon excursions also happened daily and usually ended with us coming back to the Delfin I around sunset. My favorite afternoon excursion was when we took a skiff up a calm tributary to find that the crew had launched kayaks for us to paddle with the current down a calm and reflective section of river. We could take our time paddling in the shade of the jungle as birds settled in for the night and amphibians emerged from resting in the day. I loved paddling around and checking out the shoreline, pausing to take photos of my fellow travelers as the current gently brought us downstream to meet the skiff and crew. 

Highlights from our 4-day voyage were spotting primates during the jungle walks, fishing for piranhas with basic poles with pieces of meat as bait, shooting amazing reflection photos and visiting the small village of Pedro Miguel. 

The final day of our voyage brought us back to Nauta where we boarded our transport back to Iquitos. We were sad to say our goodbyes to the friendly crew who had taken such good care of us, but it was time to depart and explore other parts of Peru. Before heading to the airport, we had one last stop to make and that was a visit to a Manatee rescue and rehabilitation center. All passengers who take the Delfin I get to experience this, regardless of the cruise length chosen. We were met by the scientists and volunteers at the facility and were shown the different tanks and areas that the manatees are held in as the are treated for re-entry into the river system. Some of the manatees are in bad shape when they arrive so they need to be in their own little pools as the staff nurse them back to health before joining the big pond with the others. Since our group was small we were able to each feed the manatees from a bottle and also feed them some bananas and leaves.  This was an amazing experience and one that I will never forget. Delfin Cruises donates to this project, and visitors can also make donations while at the facility. The work done here is helping the manatees repopulate and thrive in the Amazon basin. It was an amazing way to end the Delfin cruise and it left us all inspired for the future. 

I have read several books about the days of jungle exploration and the heat, bugs and perils that explorers faced as they searched for the riches of El Dorado, rubber trees and spices. I have also traveled extensively in the rainforests of Central and South America, both as a backpacker and as a traveler on some high-end lodge based trips. I thought about these varied experiences one day as I watched birds and river dolphins from the cool waters of my private plunge pool while the captain steered the Delfin I to our next destination. I conclude that this is the perfect trip for those seeking a jungle experience in the most comfortable accommodations. I can highly recommend this cruise to AdventureSmith clients, and I would be happy to discuss Amazon cruises and Peru travel with you today. 


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