By definition, the Upper Amazon comprises a series of major river systems in Peru and Ecuador that flow down from the Andes into the northeastern Amazon lowlands.
Originating in the snow-crested Andes high above Lake Lauricocha in central Peru, the headstream of the Marañón River rises in the glaciers in what is known as the Nevado de Yarupa and flows through west-central to northeast Peru before it combines with the Ucayali River, just below the provincial town of Nauta. The Río Ucayali (together with Apurímac River, Ene River, and Tambo River) is today considered the main headwater of the Amazon River from the source of the Apurímac at Nevado Mismi to the confluence with Marañón Rivers where it forms the “Amazon River.” In Ecuador, the Upper Amazon includes the river systems of the Napo river valley which join the Amazon below Iquitos in Peru.
Our Upper Amazon cruise visits the area where these two mighty rivers, the Marañón and Ucayali, join to form the renowned Amazon River. The Pacaya–Samiria National Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Peru, is bordered by the Marañon to the north and the Ucayali to the south. It is the largest protected seasonal flooded forest in South America made up of three hydrographical basins: the Samiria River drainage, the Pacaya River drainage and the Yanayacu-Pucate drainage. Our Amazon South America cruise travels up both the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers in order to access the Reserve from both sides. Using the Pacaya River and the Yanayacu-Pucate, we explore by skiff into the interior of the reserve which is comprised of habitats considered the most biodiverse on Earth.
The Upper Amazon is a dynamic ecosystem, constantly changing with the seasons. Visiting this area is best done on a vessel well-equipped to explore a seasonal flood-forest in all its endless variations. The climate in a rainforest can be unpredictable, with short rain-showers arriving unexpectedly followed by hours of sunny skies. On our Amazon cruise we travel in comfort, prepared for any eventuality, rain or shine, and with the flexibility to choose the best times and locations for an excursion, early or late. Our ship is a shallow-draft vessel that can slip into areas that give us access to the best of the smaller rivers and lagoons. In fast skiffs we can skim upriver searching for wildlife, or sit quietly watching as parrots, sloths or monkeys move in the canopy overhead. Mobility is the greatest advantage one can have when visiting the Upper Amazon where life is constantly on the move, rivers change course, young islands form and disappear, wildlife rarely stands still, and river levels change.
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