In truth, the list of South America’s best boat trips and cruises could be very long indeed. This is down to not only the variety of landscapes, wildlife and scenery to be found across the continent, but also the array of fantastic luxury cruise vessels, explorative routes and world class guides onboard each of them. From otherworldly wildlife and azure waters to be enjoyed while cruising the famous Galapagos Islands, to the icy waters of Patagonia, known for their giant icebergs and towering glaciers, Penguin colonies and exciting zodiac boat trips, not to mention the endless photo opportunities and unforgettable views; and, if that weren’t enough, sunset city boat tours in Lima, Rio de Janeiro and even Hanga Roa on Easter Island – among many others – boat tours and cruises are the perfect way to explore South America. Here, we take a look at some of our absolute favourites, in no particular order of preference; just a few ideas before you Discover Your South America and see it all first-hand.
When it comes to wildlife watching cruises, South America has plenty up its sleeve. However, one of the most extraordinary ways to embark on a wildlife safari is on an Amazon boat tour or cruise, where sightings of monkeys, Pink River Dolphins, kaleidoscopic birdlife and many more creatures are the everyday norm. One of our favourite Amazon cruises is the Delfin fleet in Iquitos, Peru, and the Anakonda in Ecuador, which carry passengers along the Amazon and its tributaries to encounter miraculous creatures that dwell in the lush rainforest and get up even closer on zodiac excursions. This is a really privileged way to experience the Amazon from the water, with both these vessels providing not just incredible guiding and insights into the jungle surroundings, but also luxurious accommodation onboard with even special touches like fine dining, Jacuzzi tubs and much, much more.
Boat Trip to the Rosario Islands
Think of Colombia and many people imagine the busy streets of Bogota or Medellin, thick jungle, coffee plantations, and a raft of beautiful colonial towns. However, this emerging South American travel destination has even more to it than that, and one of the highlights of Colombia simply must be a boat trip around the Rosario Islands. Firstly, this is one of Colombia’s most important national parks, meaning there is not only an abundance of wildlife and marine species on show, but the protected crystalline waters which surround these islands are also immaculately clean, while preserved and fully protected, which makes a visit here all the more enjoyable.
This natural wonder of Colombia is, of course, best explored under water. As such, there is a snorkelling or scuba diving adventure available for those of all levels of expertise and experience, and once there you will be treated to both kaleidoscopic marine life and pristine coral reefs, a world away from the hub of nearby Cartagena. For those seeking an altogether more relaxed experience of the Rosario Islands, fear not, as this archipelago is also home to white sand beaches and wildlife hiding between the foliage and flourishing trees. Some of these desert island bays are perfect if looking for your own little slice of paradise! With spellbinding Colombian coastal sunsets, private yacht tours or the simple pleasure of open sea kayaking available, there is a day trip from Cartagena awaiting one and all in the Rosario Islands.
South America is a continent of extremes, dramatic landscapes and the full range of climate conditions. This fact can be glimpsed in its entirety during any Patagonian cruise. Whether taking to the high seas and circumnavigating the most southern tips of land on earth surrounding Ushuaia, crossing the Beagle Channel on a cruise in search of the Antarctic itself, or heading slightly north on a Whale watching tour, whatever it is that takes your fancy while in deepest Patagonia – you will not be disappointed. For us at Surtrek however, it is an inland cruise around the fjords of Tierra del Fuego or the waterways dissecting Torres del Paine which stand out as some of the most accessible, varied, enjoyable – and therefore best – Patagonian cruises available.
With many fantastic and professional boat operators leading voyages into this icy world, you’ll be left with little to do aside from charging the battery in your camera, sitting back, and preparing for more truly jaw-dropping South American landscapes. In the case of Tierra del Fuego, your vessel will tentatively make its way between sheer ice cliffs and alleyways, passing bobbing icebergs, deserted islands and – with any luck – the occasional Penguin colony! These ever-popular birds are known to inhabit the barren cliffs of the archipelago in great numbers, though they are not always easy to spot. Along the way, as passageways tighten or a particularly spectacular site just needs to be seen up close, take to the adrenaline-packed fun of a Zodiac boat, for an even more intimate exploration of this seemingly impenetrable landscape.
If you find yourself in the Torres del Paine National Park, then a visit to the famous Great Grey Glacier is simply a must. Covering an area of 270km² and standing at over 30m tall, the Grey Glacier is one of the largest in South America. Not only is the voyage (or trek if you prefer) to get there stunningly beautiful and of course isolated, but witnessing this particular natural wonder first-hand can only be done from the comfort of an explorative cruise vessel or, if brave enough, an individual kayak.
Galapagos Cruises and Boat Trips
No surprise, yet no shortlist of best boat tours in South America could possibly be complete without mentioning the unique Galapagos Islands and the many cruise highlights which can be enjoyed while sailing here. At Surtrek, we know the Galapagos archipelago extremely well, having run cruises and explorative adventures there for many years, though there is still no escaping the all-natural magic of these remote islands. This is thanks to a range of factors, from their protected position and age, to the mineral-rich volcanic soil, climate and, importantly, little interference by the hand of mankind across the millennia. As a result, Charles Darwin’s backyard is a place of untouched coastline, crystal clear waters and deserted highlands, as well as an abundance of both native and endemic species on land and sea, bewildering biodiversity throughout the Galapagos Archipelago and a real fragility to this complex ecosystem.
So, to cruise here is a gift, one which can be enjoyed from any number of world-class cruise vessels, small ships, catamarans and yachts, your explorative base between Zodiac boat tours, wildlife walks, volcano hikes, snorkelling and scuba diving, to name just a few of the many Galapagos highlights. Typically, with cruises ranging from 3 to 14 days, you won’t be short of options, with a 5 to 7-day tour usually topping the list if looking for the full range of Galapagos wildlife, the native Tortoise, Dolphins, Blue-footed Boobies, Sea Lions and Seals, Tropical Fish, and so much more…
These are just a handful of the many amazing boat tours and cruises in South America that you can enjoy on a Surtrek vacation. Add a cruise or boat trip using Discover Your South America, Surtrek’s innovative platform that allows you to create your holiday, your way. Start building now by clicking this link or call our travel team on 1 866 978 7398 (USA and Canada) or 080 8189 0438 (UK) to talk to the experts.