What’s the difference between the common and greater potoo? Or the Lesser and Great Kiskadee? More importantly, can you spot a sloth from 100 yards away?
Over 20 Wisconsin Alumni Association travelers journeyed to Peru in February 2011 to experience the awe-inducing beauty of the Amazon River, and returned home armed with answers to the questions above, as well as a priceless amount of knowledge about one the world’s greatest natural habitats.
We began our voyage in Nauta, boarding our home away from home for the next 8 days, La Amatista (the ship with its very own rap!). As we navigated along the Rio Ucayali, exploring the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, the Maranon and Yanalpa Rivers, each day added a new highlight to the trip. There were unforgettable moments: when we were welcomed like dear friends to the villages we visited, witnessing a shaman’s blessing ritual and the sheer volume of bird species (over 150!) and other fascinating wildlife like sloths, caymans and monkeys we got to enjoy up close and personal.
There were also the unplanned events like 'Tony' the Peruvian dog jumping aboard our boat to make friends, impromptu cooking lessons or everyone's favorite phrase, "only 10 more minutes!" which we quickly learned translated to approximately anywhere from half an hour to half a day.
Our fearless guides, Johnny, George and Angel bestowed their wealth of knowledge during the daily boat excursions and various lectures, teaching us an incredible amount about the history of the Amazon River and its wildlife inhabitants in a very short time. I think we were all in awe of their ability to spot a 2-inch hummingbird from nearly half mile away, not to mention their thoughtful and interesting responses to any question imaginable.
The outstanding crew tended to our every need, including those we didn't even know we had, from serving up delicious meals to serenading us nightly with beautiful Peruvian music and even docking so we could watch the Packers win the Super Bowl via satellite dish!
The Amazon Voyage was a truly unforgettable experience. And while some of us may still need to consult our guidebooks when referencing our photos, the memories and connections with fellow Badgers won’t soon be forgotten.