All photos by Scott Sporleder

In early March, I set sail solo traveling in South America, a continent that has always promised me so much in terms of culture and landscape and has never once failed to deliver. During my trip, I was lucky to be offered the opportunity of helping a friend photograph and film in the Peruvian Amazon.

No words can describe the feeling I had when I first stepped on board the Aqua Expeditions boat in Iquitos, knowing I was about to be part of a 7-night trip cruise. The impeccable quality of service and professionalism of the staff made for the most luxurious trip I have ever had — and probably will ever have the chance of experiencing. The wall of humidity that hits you as you set out on daily river excursions is just one of many things that remind you of the exclusive comfort that the boat offers its guests.

When I reflect back on my impressions, some of my favorite moments were spent capturing the sounds of the wildlife, when the motorboat engines were cut and voices silenced. There was also a particular moment when I remember eating my breakfast and looking out across the Amazon to see four pink dolphins swimming alongside us. Finally, my visit to see an Amazonian shanty town — an entire community built on stilts — was an experience that I will never forget and a way of life that really shocked but inspired me. Whenever I travel, I always try to ask myself whether I could live in the places I discover and this is one that I was in two minds over – it’s beautiful and simplistic, but at the same time somewhat claustrophobic.


A baby Spectacled Caiman, caught by naturist guide, Billy, during a night tour with guests. Caimans live in rivers, swamps and forests throughout Central and South America.


A floating Shanty town on stilts in the middle of the Amazon, to me a shocking but inspiring way of life. For this remote community, the river serves as a mode of transport, a source of food, a backyard to play in and a bathroom.


Photo: Scott Sporleder


A Three-toed sloth, the world's slowest mammal, so sedentary that algae grows on its bristly coat, helping to further camouflage it. Spotted by guests with the help of our guides, who expertly mimicked the sound of the eagle, the sloth's main predator, in order to allow our guests to witness some rare sloth action.


A day excursion through the tributary fields of the Amazon. Plants such as these, adapted to grow on the water's surface, are just a snippet of some of the huge diversity of flora in the Amazon. The vibrancy of color and rich mix of greens makes for an incredible backdrop.


The black spider monkey, also known as the Guiana or red-faced spider monkey. This little fella was clearly used to an audience, staging an impressive acrobatic show for his invitees. Meanwhile, local Amazonian women set up shop to market their handmade products.


View from the interior air-conditioned lounge during a cooking demonstration led by our Executive chef, who taught guests how to prepare local delicacies such as the Tiger Catfish Cebiche. The attention to detail and quality of ingredients make for a particularly special guest tasting.


A fierce and determined Scott Sporleder (photographer) as he takes a ride in the driver's seat of the local bus, a hollow dugout canoe with real character. The locals make the long distances they travel in these canoes look easy. They're not!


An early evening shot of Aria Amazon -- our cruising vessel -- moored against the greenery awaiting the return of guests.


The squirrel monkey, spotted by guide Ricky, in the high canopy branches of the Amazon. Unlike many monkey species, they don't use their long tail to grip branches, but use it to help them balance when climbing at extreme heights.


Guests during a day excursion with naturist expert, Ricky, as they spot their first Blue-and-Yellow Macaw. They are considered amongst locals to be the most beautiful and intelligent of all parrot species in the Amazon.


Our photographer enjoying the comfort and exclusivity of the Jacuzzi on top deck as he effortlessly floats down the river.


It is hard to tell where the sky finishes and the ground begins in this reflection image. Guests are able to sit back and enjoy the incredible scenery, while our guides take them through some of the most exclusive parts of the amazon.


Guest speed-boats power down the river, awaiting the signal from a guide to communicate the sighting of a particular species or plant. The drivers then maneuver the boats in such a way to allow guests the closest view possible.


Here I proudly present my catch of the day, a red-bellied piranha which I caught with a hand-made wooden rod provided by the guides. The 'filet mignon' used as bait was without a doubt well received in the black waters of the Pacaya River.


The catch of the day from boat number 1, with over seven Piranha and a very satisfied guest. Having grown up on the Amazon and with years of experience, the guides know the best locations to fish and are happy to share their top fishing tips with the guests.


A beautiful remote house built amongst the trees and bushes. With few nearby towns, families such as these depend largely on the river.


A bird's eye view of the Amazon River, bringing to scale the enormity of the rainforest canopy and reminding guests that they are surrounded by wild jungle thriving with life. To the right, we see a glimpse of two pink river dolphins as they surface for air next to the boat.


The Aria Amazon as she moves gently down the river in true style. To the right are positioned the guest's rooms, each one equipped with a large glass window to allow us a unique cinematic view of the amazon from our beds.


The guests disembark the ship for a visit to an Amazonian village. The guests are greeted by children who welcome them with a local Peruvian song. The guests are also given the chance to exchange with these indigenous people and to spend some time exploring.


As the guests pull away from their village, nobody can resist taking an extra five minutes to absorb the views.


An extraordinary sunset view on the Amazon with the distant silhouette of a fisherman.


Some people have dogs as pets but in the Amazon, the local children have Toucans such as this blue-eyed black-billed baby, who was rescued by the family.


Local Peruvian sellers stop by at siesta hour in the hope of some last-minute window-shopping.


A spectacular view of the Aria Amazon from the air as she journeys through the Amazon with guests on board, covering the Maranõn and the Ucayali tributaries.


With the expert eye of our naturalist guides, the guests are able to enjoy an enormous array of wildlife from rare poisonous frogs to iguanas, beautiful birds and tropical butterflies, all differing in sizes and survival techniques.

[Samantha and Scott were guests of Aqua Expeditions. The tour they participated in was the 7-night Amazon River Expedition Cruise.]