Keep reading to be inspired by Charles and his wife Judy’s extraordinary journey to the gems of Peru by THIRDHOME Adventures & Custom Travel.
I was fortunate enough to be the lucky winner of an incredible Amazon River Voyage at the 2018 THIRDHOME Member Appreciation Event hosted in Nashville. Although visiting the Amazon was never at the top of my bucket list, I was so excited and in total shock when Liz Bates emailed to inform we had won. We were in the midst of planning a family wedding but definitely couldn’t pass up this amazing experience. Now having been, I’d recommend that everyone add Peru to their bucket lists!
The voyage was operated by International Expeditions which is a first class and top-notch tour operator. Everything was handled impeccably, from escorting us through the airport to private transportation to the hotels and the ship. So, if anyone has any concerns about navigating a foreign country, they need not worry, as IE was on top of everything, getting us where we needed to be when we needed to be there.
Once we were on-board the ship the attentive guest services exceeded our expectations. The 24 staff members welcomed each passenger with open arms and fully immersed each passenger into their unique culture. We loved learning about each staff members’ personal story, each serving as its own testimonial for the great pride they all share for their country and its culture. One of the main highlights of the voyage was the extraordinary Peruvian musical and dance performances by the staff each night. The ship itself was beautifully decorated and completely renovated. The spa room had floor to ceiling glass windows so that one is able to look out over the river while enjoying your massage treatments. The main dining room was spacious, and allowed passengers to have flexible seating to dine with each other in small communal groups or privately as a couple for more intimacy.
If you love birding this is a must do experience for you! I was never a bird enthusiast but on this trip I became more and more invested into this unique hobby of feathered friends, as the majority of wildlife we encountered on this voyage were local indigenous birds. So, be sure to pack really good binoculars and a powerful zoom lens with your camera! I’d have to say that the educational aspect of this experience was most memorable. The on-board lectures were very informative and as passengers we were able to gain a well-rounded understanding of Peru’s culture, biodiversity, local communities and economy, and how these are intertwined with the annual rise and fall of the river during the rainy and dry seasons. Not to mention we were on-board with passengers from the Smithsonian, so many of our conversations yielded deep discussion of each lecture and education excursions, such as our local children’s school visit, a nature hike through the Peruvian jungle, and a unique encounter with a local shaman.
We also decided to add on a trip extension to Machu Picchu, which I highly recommend. It was a completely different experience that complimented the Amazon voyage perfectly, almost like visiting two completely different countries. The extension was also operated by IE and was all-inclusive, with five star accommodations and gourmet meals throughout the entire tour. The food was so delicious that my wife and I joked that we basically ate our way through Peru, even though were rarely eat 3 course meals breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We also were lucky enough to have an amazing private guide that escorted us to all the most incredible attractions including the Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes, Cusco, and the Maras Salt Flats. From the beginning to the end of the journey, especially the extraordinary Vistadome Train ride to the peak of Machu Picchu, we were truly unprepared for the rugged beauty of the valley and the awe-inspiring experiences we encountered.
Charles Stoopack is a longtime THIRDHOME member and frequent traveler with a home in Vail, Colorado.
Members in THIRDHOME’s Inner Circle recently returned from a river cruise down the Amazon River.
Inner Circle members went on a Peruvian Amazon Voyage aboard the elegant Zafiro riverboat to discover Earth’s Greatest Wilderness. They voyaged deep into the pristine Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, a 5-million-acre labyrinth of flooded forests, lagoons and peaceful creeks; traveled upriver from the inland port of Iquitos aboard the Zafiro to experience extraordinary wildlife, flora and fauna.
See what these THIRDHOME members had to say:
“The Inner Circle Amazon Voyage was an incredible, unforgettable experience. We would ride down the river and see the wildlife in their natural habitat and I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m here!’ The staff and all involved in our Amazon trip made it all so enjoyable. From piranha fishing to visiting the village was all laced with a special touch. Even our last night expedition included a glass of champagne and toasting to a great cruise while sitting on the skiffs in the middle of the Amazon river at sunset! It was all absolutely fabulous!! Thank you THIRDHOME!”- Rick and Vikki Desoto
“We would categorize The Inner Circle Amazon Voyage as a unique lifetime experience. To sample a slice of life on the Peruvian Amazon River, aboard the luxurious Zafiro River Boat, was truly a highlight of our forty year travel career. The boat’s amenities, staff, food and service were first quality. The International Expedition team coordinators and naturalists were indispensable in the full educational adventure. Our favorite day was visiting the small village and sharing school supplies with a dozen sweet elementary school-aged children. We can highly recommend this trip to anyone who has (n)ever thought about such an adventure.”- Sherry and Andy Harris
“I’ve just returned from the Amazon trip on board the Zafiro. It was wonderful…Everything and everyone was terrific. I am inspired to go on more trips with my family and the THIRDHOME family. Please keep me in the loop. Thank you! The Zafiro exceeded my expectations, as did the experience of being on the Amazon River. All the sights, the birds, the animals were thrilling. I had no idea what to expect. In addition, the other guests on board were all interesting, well-traveled, and fun to share such a unique experience with. I had such a fantastic time and looking forward to the next Inner Circle trip!”- Ronne Fisher
“The THIRDHOME Amazon trip was terrific—not only an excellent travel experience with all details planned to perfection, it was an opportunity to spend time with a great group of other THIRDHOME members with similar interests. Every experience was enhanced by being with a fun group to share it with. I highly recommend this new THIRDHOME travel program to anyone that enjoys unique travel opportunities.”- Stan Brading
Guest blogger and THIRDHOME member Lawrence Grossman, recently returned from an exclusive Inner Circle trip down the Amazon River, while on the maiden voyage of the Zafiro, a luxury river cruise ship. This trip was made possible by International Expeditions, an industry leader in adventure and travel partner of THIRDHOME.
Check out Lawrence’s Amazon adventure below:
There it was scribbled on our daily schedule: “15:30 Fishing for Piranha.”
It was our second day of exploring the Amazon River on our Peruvian Amazon Voyage and the highlight was certainly going to be fishing for a 5-inch long carnivorous fish whose mouth is filled with razor-sharp teeth. Obviously, the trip planners had never seen the “River Monsters” Piranha episode (2009) or the 2010 campy horror movie “Piranha 3D” prior to arranging this outing. Our bait for this fishing expedition was small chunks of raw steak and we were cautioned to let our guides take the fish off the hook lest we risk losing a finger. 2 hours later we survived with all digits intact and a combined haul of over 35 piranhas were caught and released. Our guides informed us that piranhas don’t feast on humans, but rather insects, worms, crustaceans, and unfortunate small birds or reptiles who linger too long in the Amazon water.
Our Inner Circle Voyage was hosted by THIRDHOME Founder and CEO, Wade Shealy and Senior Vice President of Business Development, Roger Conner and took place aboard the elegant M/V Zafiro Riverboat. For starters, the Zafiro (Spanish for sapphire) was the perfect vessel to cruise down the Amazon River and its tributaries in Peru. With wall to wall panoramic windows, spacious cabins and large public areas inside and out, the boat was comfortable and luxurious. The Zafiro even included a small massage room, an outdoor jacuzzi and an exercise room. With a crew of 22 members outnumbering the 16 guests, we were truly spoiled for 4 days.
What I didn’t expect was some of the tastiest cuisines I’ve ever experienced termed “Amazon Fusion.”
Included were Amazonian fruits such as aguaje and carambola, Peruvian tamales and ceviche that rivals the best Mexico has to offer. There were also scrumptious dinner entrees with quinoa, chili peppers and sweet potatoes. Every meal was a culinary delight and was coupled with Peru’s Cusquena beer and their national cocktail, the Pisco sour.
Probably our most “decadent spoiled guest” moment was when our guides served us champagne on the skiffs while we sat and watched the sun set over the Amazon horizon.
When we weren’t eating and drinking we were out exploring in the 3 skiffs attached to the Zafiro.
You want wildlife? Here’s an abbreviated list of our best sightings while breezing through the Amazon:
Pink (yes pink!) river dolphins
Arguably the most rewarding and difficult sighting of all was the largest rodent in the world, the Capybara, a pig-shaped distant relative of the guinea pig. The Capybara has a face like a beaver, no tail and can weigh up to 175 pounds. That was a big “rat” we watched scurry into the jungle at night.
There were several highlights that made this trip unforgettable including:
1. Our visit to a local Amazonian village where the students sang to us, the Shaman healed us, and the village president welcomed us.
2. Our ride in the tik-tuks (3-wheeled motorized rickshaws) through the town of Iquitos on our way to the animal preserve.
3. The final night on the Zafiro when we were serenaded by our Peruvian band and ended up dancing the night away to melodic music we had never heard before, and very likely, will never have the pleasure of hearing again.
4. Exploring the river at night in our skiffs with more stars in the sky than seemed possible and experiencing close encounters with the Black Cayman Alligator.
I can’t say enough about the warmth, kind spirit and customer service of the entire Zafiro crew and International Expeditions’ staff members throughout the trip. The guides were so knowledgeable and informative about the Amazon Rainforest and the service staff on the boat were professional and helpful in every situation. It is simply impossible to have a better “people experience” than our THIRDHOME group had on this wonderful trip. Special thanks to Liz Bates from THIRDHOME for her organizational prowess and willingness to answer every dumb question I had prior to embarking. Now that this bucket list item is behind me please sign me up for the next Inner Circle adventure!
THIRDHOME’s Inner Circle program allows members (in the Chairman’s Club Preferred tier and higher) to travel with other members on exclusive group trips around the world. Be sure to contact Travel & Concierge Director, Liz Bates for information regarding The Inner Circle Member Appreciation Event on April 27th and 28th, 2018. If you are interested in upgrading to Chairman’s Club Preferred and accessing the benefits of a higher tier of membership, including future Inner Circle events, please contact Member Services.