Location: S 4 deg 38′, W 73 deg 45′, Mara?on River, Peru Vessel: MV Aqua, 400 GRT, 24 passengers.
The 7000km long Amazon River is full of fish – more species than the entire Atlantic I’m told – including that most bizarre of voracious feeders, the piranha. Here in the wide flat plains south of the Peruvian outpost of Iquitos in the headwaters of the world’s largest and most famous river system, locals live by the bounty it provides. The enormous catfish, many over a metre long are the prize catch. 500 species alone dwell in the deep and turbid waters including several with nasty spines waiting to inflict a painful wound. But it’s these tiny terrors, the piranha, that have come to typify the wild and savage land of the Amazon basin first sailed by a European, Spaniard Francisco de Orellana, in 1542
We’re fishing for these little beasts on one of the thousand or so tributaries that feed the main river stream. Simple tackle here, just a piece of line tied to a slender stick with a hook and chunk of last night’s tenderloin. “Stir the water with your stick and then drop in the bait,” Victor, my guide tells me. The vibration attracts them – and he’s not kidding. In seconds, the line is shuddering from the attack of tiny razor-sharp teeth and it takes several applications of prime Argentinean beef before one is brought flapping and snapping into the launch. “Ola!,” cries Victor, “this is the big boy!” Carefully he holds the cranky critter, a short-nosed red belly variety, for us to see and reveals the telltale rows of serrated teeth that can reduce an entire animal to bones in just a matter of minutes.
Piranha fishing is just one of the activities offered aboard MV Aqua, a high-end river river cruiser with just 12 cabins, sorry, suites, catering to 24 well-healed adventurers wanting to sample the amazingly complex and wild lands of Amazonia. Our complement includes Spanish, Canadians, Australians, Americans and a local couple. Built in 2007, MV Aqua operates from the remote port of Iquitos in the NE corner of Peru, primarily on the Yarapa and Yanayacu Rivers immersing travellers, so-to-speak, in the mind-boggling diversity of the Amazon biosphere. Unlike former British soldier, Capt Ed Stafford, who walked its length in 859 days recently, we’ll be here for just seven, and shorter itineraries of just three and four are offered too. The schedule to come includes the Pacaya Samiria Reserve with its abundant wildlife, village visits, jungle treks and more.