On a four-day trip in the Amazon River Basin with Aqua Expeditions, each day is filled with adventure as naturalists guide guests into a variety of ways to experience the exotic eco-system. There are definitely moments when kids may become restless, as some of the skiff excursions are long, but the power of the experience overall far outweighs any and all slow moments.
There’s no kids’ club here and the physical space to run around is very limited. But kid-friendly doesn’t have to mean childcare or parks for older school age kids (ages 9 and up). On the contrary, the kid-friendly activities on our journey included five highlights that I’m certain my son will vividly remember for the rest of his life.
Piranha fishing involves a bit of skill, but mostly luck. You fish the old-fashioned way, with a stick and in this case, a juicy piece of meat. My son tackled the challenge with relish, only to discover that it was a bit harder than it looked to get the fish on the hook once they started to take the bait. I will not throw stones — I never caught a piranha after much effort!
We left empty handed the first day, but his reward was that much sweeter when he finally landed a piranha with awfully big teeth.
Swim in the Amazon River
Technically the swim was in a tributary of the Amazon River, not the Amazon River, but nonetheless, the magic — or terror — of the experience is the same, as the swimming took place not far from where we caught the piranhas! Our guides assured us that they stay near food sources, which is not in the middle of the river. My son and husband were happy to take a dip in the blackwater river were we stopped, named accordingly, as there are minerals in the river which make it as dark as a cup of black tea.
Imagine swimming where you can’t see your toes …
There is an evening on the trip where you stay in the skiffs for sunset and then take time to explore the river’s rich nocturnal life. Between the sounds and the darkness, this experience is thrilling and magical at the same time. This is where having exceptional guides that you trust with your life come in … Aqua Expeditions guides are the best and they grew up going down these rivers at all times of day.
The big prize of the evening came when our guide dangled himself over the side of our skiff and pulled a caiman from the river into the boat. I felt good about the fact that I screamed only once when I realized the caiman was coming inside the boat next to where I was sitting. My son, however, grinned from ear-to-ear during every single moment of this experience.
There’s only so much you can see from the river, as the jungle vegetation is thick along the shoreline. As a consequence, the opportunity to walk in the jungle offers an entirely different view of the Amazon. On our one-hour hike we were able to get close to all kinds of exotic plants used for medicinal purposes (locally and around the world).
A local who maintains the preserve where we hiked led this excursion and the good news is that he is a critter and snake catching expert. Within the span of just an hour we saw a variety of frogs and he caught three different snakes, including the one of the most venomous snakes in the Amazon.
This experience is a quintessential example of an engaging experience that captivates kids. My son will tell you that hiking is one of his least favorite activities — but he loved hiking in this jungle teeming with life.
By far, my absolute favorite experience on the trip was when we visited a river community and had an opportunity to see how people live and to interact with children in front of their school. Our guide bridged the language gap between us and made the encounter fantastic for all. We don’t share a language, customers, or a common culture — yet we shared countless smiles and belly laughs.
My son had an opportunity to distribute prized pencils and pens — something he takes for granted — and see how these items are treasured by these children who have very little material possessions. He taught this group of children to count to 10 in English. We’ll all smile every time we think of this afternoon across the world, now and forever.
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Editor’s Note: Ciao Bambino was provided a media rate to review Aqua Expeditions for families. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy