The Ayapua Riverboat
Steamboats were at the heart of the rubber boom trade, carrying hundreds of millions of dollars of raw rubber from the depths of forest to Amazon River port cities such as Iquitos, Peru and Manaus, Brazil. But, the steamboats are gone and virtually all of the original boats have rotted away or been taken apart for scrap. Fortunately, the M/F Ayapua has been restored to approximate it’s original splendor, and is now the only operating riverboat that transported rubber left from that era.
The Ayapua, named after Lake Ayapua in Brazil, was built in Hamburg, Germany in 1906 and transported rubber along the Purus, Japua, Jura, Putumayo and Yavari rivers in Brazil and Peru during the early part of the 20th century. Restoration work was undertaken from 2004 to 2006. While the majority of the ship is original it took some serious searching in Brazil and Peru to find some missing parts and all told there are pieces from eight different rubber boom era ships on the Ayapua. She has three decks and is 108 feet long and 20 feet wide. The original steam engine has been replaced by two marine diesels, but the smokestack remains as does the steam whistle (now run by compressed air.) In the wheel house one will find the original wheel and compass. The dining room, library and cabins are outfitted in period pieces, including pictures and drawings from the rubber boom era. All are now air-conditioned. There is no hot water on the Ayapua. It’s just not needed and the addition of such would require major alterations to the original structure of the ship. But... there is even a working Victrola in the dining room! The bar and both covered and uncovered observation areas are on the upper deck.
The boat has ten air conditioned cabins. All cabins have private baths, writing desk and wardrobe. There is a library and dining room, both with air conditioning. The bar serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as well as snacks. There are both covered and uncovered observation areas are on the top deck.
The Ayapua has two Caterpillar marine diesel engines, two diesel generators providing 220-volt electricity in the cabins and dining room at all times (there is a 110-volt converter in the dining room), treated water systems, and two kitchens. Most importantly, she has the ambience of a bygone century.
The Ayapua Amazon Cruises have a maximum of 19 travelers on board.
The Ayapua is a restoration project in a holistic approach that conserves Amazonian history and the Amazon rainforest. The Ayapua is now a scientific research ship utilized by biologists, school groups, university students, volunteers and ecotourists. Research is conducted on a wide range of subjects including bat population surveys, primate behavior, frog diversity, fisheries evaluations, caiman populations, giant river otter ecology, and more in order to assist conservation efforts. Expedition cruises travel to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve of Peru or the Lago Preto Conservation Concession on the Yavari River.
The Ayapua provides a unique experience and operates a program of authentic historic Amazon exploration.