For most of the world, the Amazon remains an intangible expanse of land and water, undoubtedly shrinking at an alarming rate, possibly holding the key to a number of life?s great mysteries. Much like the ambiguous notion of climate change, the average denizen relates to the Amazonian rainforest insomuch as a charitable donation Discovery Channel fascination. In the realm of constant gay impossibilities, a frightening image of this tropical terrain still prevails, one in which an individual may face resistant mosquitoes, hair damaging humidity, blood-thirsty piranhas, and cannibalistic savages descended from the Lost City of Z. Sadly, this impersonal relationship and overall ignorance prevents out travelers from experiencing one of the most majestic places on the planet.
The Amazon is—in a word—amazing. The land here exudes life and splendor; it exudes the essence of Earth, of being. Every moment will ambush your senses.
However, the Amazon circa 2010 is more than a land of spiritual mysticism, existential epiphanies, and extreme nature. It?s also the place for your next five-star vacation.
As home of the greatest biodiversity in the world, it?s no surprise that a new species of alternative luxury was recently classified in the Peruvian Amazon, re-inventing exploration and discovery for the intrepid gay traveler. Each week, the dazzling Aqua Expeditions transports 24 inquisitive adventurers into the depths of the South American jungle. Similar to the concept of a luxury African safari, the intimate five-star vessel focuses on providing once-in-a-lifetime interactive wildlife experiences. And similar to the world?s most exclusive small cruises, Aqua offers top-of-the-line creature comforts, immaculate accommodations, stellar service, and phenomenal cuisine from the kitchen of world renowned chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino.
By no means is this your typical gay cruise filled with random hookups, tempestuous queens, show-tune sing-a-longs, and special appearances by Charo and Debbie Gibson. Aqua tends to attract a more introspective and audacious personality, more interested in personal development or cultural bragging rights than concentrated queercapades. In fact, the innovative experience caters towards passionate couples gay or straight, equally intoxicated by the region?s landscapes, flora and fauna and the sexually inspiring floor to ceiling glass walls in the guest rooms, the perfect setting for an appropriate juxtaposition of primal sex and National Geographic panoramas.
The all-inclusive Aqua Expedition experience commences on either a Saturday or Tuesday, depending on the journey length (three, four, or seven days), in the gateway town of Iquitos, Peru. After deplaning the short hour-and-a-half LAN Peru for Peruvian Airlines flight from Lima or the three-and-a-half-hour journey from Miami (rumored to begin in September 2010), cruise staff escort passengers on a brief city tour and facilitate the embarkation process as bright-eyed newcomers marvel at the ship?s contemporary architecture and lavish demeanor. Indeed, the floating design opus appears fit for a future World Expo with its fierce glass and steel exteriors and hardwood accents. As the ship sets sail down the Amazon River, the first meal is served, delicately transitioning the Western palate from more recognizable cuisine the inaugural night to new taste sensations by day two, including fresh shaved hearts of palm, succulent river catfish, sumptuous river snails, fresh squeezed star fruit juice, and camu camu cocktails.
Five-star pampering notwithstanding, the true love affair with the Aqua Expedition begins early the second morning, surrounded by and immersed in raw nature. The towering Cecropia trees, the foreboding murky waters filled with river monsters, the dense tiers of green, the call of macaws overhead, the ubiquitous splash of Pink River dolphins—life is everywhere. Exploration via the ship?s small skiffs permits intimate interaction with the rainforests most elusive creatures, venturing down tributaries and small passageways to witness the footage of BBC's Planet Earth in real time and real life.
Just around the river bend await yet another four species of primate, a mother sloth with her baby, mating toucans, screeching macaws, anacondas on the prowl, and sunbathing caiman.
Nevertheless, the clever crew at Aqua recognizes the need to accomplish essential Amazon experiences beyond wildlife checklists. At some point in the journey, you will become an expert piranha fisherman, unhooking their fierce jaws from an overtly simple fishing pole.
With the help of indigenous on-board guides, you will meet their fellow villagers, in remote non-touristy settings, and learn about a vastly different way of life. You will indulge in a champagne toast at sunset, amidst lily pads and wild magnolias, synthesizing the beauty of your surroundings. You will visit a fledgling grassroots project set up to protect dwindling numbers of South America's manatees. You will down several Pisco sours from the ship?s open bar, mesmerized by the rhythm of native music. Intoxicated by the essence of the land, you will finally understand the power of Amazonia.
Though one-dimensional skeptics may still consider "gay" and "Amazon" diametrically opposed forces, Aqua?s Extreme Amazon Makeover has fostered a welcoming environment for the gay traveler. Truth be told, you hardly have to butch it up to endure the rainforest in style. Powerful air conditioning, high thread counts, haute cuisine, one-to-one staff to passenger ratio, and open bar dutifully compliment the unparalleled biodiversity and moving vistas that make the region so spectacular. Aqua Expedition's unconventional approach to Amazonia travel opens a brave, new world to the stylish and vanguard globetrotter.