The Aria Amazon offers three excursions daily. As well as early-morning bird watching from the skiffs, we take slow saunters through the jungle to discover armies of leaf-cutter ants, the tiny 1cm poison dart frog, the leaf-shaped lizard, and spider monkey. We discover giant water lilies, the Victoria amazonica, a member of the Nymphaeaceae family, with wattled jacanas picking their way across the huge lily pads to fiercely and noisily guard their territory and chicks. As I have no mosquito repellent on my hands, I’m permitted to hold a pink-toe tarantula. It’s all too reminiscent of the chilling moment in the James Bond movie Dr No, where Sean Connery has one advance across his hairy chest. I feel like an intrepid explorer as the tarantula makes its way up my arm. Dávila assures me that they are not aggressive and, although they can bite, are not venomous — take that 007!
The brown-throated, three-toed sloth lives up to its reputation as the slowest animal on earth. We watch it descending with excruciating exactness from a leafy arboreal perch on its way to the ground to defecate, which it does once a week.
With the engine of our tender turned off, we listen to the rising chorus of birds — including scarlet macaws — as they fly over the jungle canopy toward their roosts. Singing cicadas, the deep guttural growls of howler monkeys, and the sonic emissions from leaf-nosed bats add to the symphony.
It’s a moment of utter bliss in this remote region of our planet, as the river reflects the melted vermillion of the sunset. Heading back to the Aria Amazon, we pass through thick clouds of swarming mayflies— a phenomenon that draws swooping fishing bats. We stop to watch a family of capybaras — square-headed and awkward looking, the largest rodents in the world — as they forage for grass and water plants.
Boarding the Aria Amazon, we are met by Robinson Bollet, the barman — always a popular crew member — who has freshly squeezed juice ready for us. I change from my drenched jungle outfit into a dress after a strong, hot shower in my cabin, and breeze up to the indoor lounge on the top deck, to join fellow passengers for a pre-dinner drink. Each evening I taste a different South American wine, which is an adventure, as Argentine malbec is the only varietal I know. The bar has a glass wall, so the view — of passing villages, small fishing boats, and vast cloudscapes — is our ever-changing backdrop. The lounge is a hub of activity, where cooking demonstrations are given by our chef, Cousteau delivers his conservation talks with video snippets, and passengers browse coffee table books on the Amazon.