On expeditionary cruises on the Peruvian Amazon, paramedics like Marcos Rocana provide a vital service for river cruise guests in case of medical emergencies.

The Amazon River and its rainforest are unique in their magic, mysteries, and wildlife. It is one of the world’s largest and, perhaps, most exotic yet largely untapped destinations. But, the jungle is also alive with hidden dangers and special environmental considerations. Plus, the Peruvian Amazon is located in a remote part of the world that lacks infrastructure and might be hours or even days from the nearest hospital.

Zafiro on the Peruvian Amazon

Zafiro on the Peruvian Amazon

It’s for these reasons and more that an onboard paramedic is essential to safe expedition cruising on the Peruvian Amazon. This is especially true on the waters of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, one of the best-preserved yet remote areas of the Amazon.

An onboard paramedic is essential to safe, expedition cruising on the Peruvian Amazon.

“A paramedic is essentially an emergency medic,” explains San Diego fireman and paramedic Carol Redford. “Their job is to get you from point A to point B while keeping you alive and stable.” The job, she adds, becomes even more challenging in remote locations like the Amazon.

Meet Marcus Rocano: A paramedic on the Peruvian Amazon

The Zafiro was my first expeditionary cruise ship with a trained paramedic on board. Our assigned paramedic was Marcos Rocano, an experienced onboard medical professional with Jungle Experiences for the last two years. A fellow brother in arms, he is a retired male nurse from the Peruvian Navy, still on call for activation until the age of 65, while I am retired U.S. Navy.

Paramedic Marcos: emergency medicine

Paramedic Marcos

Paramedic Marcos never parts from his emergency medical backpack, weighing in at a hefty 8 kilos – about 18 pounds. Stuffed with emergency medical equipment and supplies, he accompanies guests on all skiff (small boat) outings and land excursions for one simple reason: He is the lifeline for broken bones, sprained ankles and whatever else may present in the Amazonian jungle.

The Peruvian Amazon offers thousands of miles of enticing lifetime experiences that easily qualify as bucket list travel.

Snake bites are among one of the top three causes of fatalities in the jungle, and paramedic Marcos is armed with anti-venom to ensure quick and life-saving action. Ever the consummate professional, he performs his responsibilities in a selfless manner, one that reflects the spirit of first-responder service.

I saw him attend to sprained ankles, upset stomachs, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and infected insect bites, while always assisting those who needed extra help on stairs or extra assistance embarking and disembarking from the skiff.

“This is all part of my job, and I, along with my coworkers on board, work hard to ensure we are providing the best possible service for everyone on board the Zafiro,” Marcos said.

Attending to passengers

Paramedic Marcos in the Peruvian jungle

Paramedic Marcos in the Peruvian jungle

Passenger Susan Finkelstein described Marcos as “Absolutely lovely, kind and professional.” Christie Michael, a previous guest, had this to say: “Marcos does great work. He helped me when I got stuck in quicksand in the Amazon and my ankle got hurt being pulled out of it. He really looked after me, and I think he is overlooked for all the great work he does.”

A spider monkey in the Peruvian Amazon

A spider monkey in the Peruvian Amazon

My own personal experience with paramedic Marcos was perhaps a tad more light-hearted. It started when I had to go ashore after our breakfast feast on the boat. Nature was calling me. So, one of the naturalists took his machete and cut a path, pointing to a tree I could use for privacy.

On my way back, I lost my footing on the steep, muddy embankment, fell, and slid right into a massive tree trunk.

It wasn’t one of my finer moments.

At this point, they wisely assigned me two guides to help me down the remainder of the slippery trail, before passing me off to paramedic Marcos. He assisted me on the final leg to board the skiff.

Paramedic Marcos helps the author after a stumble

Paramedic Marcos helps the author after a stumble

But, fate struck again as I was being passed off. A bit off balance, I slid once more, but this time took the paramedic down with me. We both were blessed with a bath of mud. Fellow guest and friend Elaine Green managed to capture the moment just before my fall. Luckily, the only thing injured was my pride.

River cruising on the Peruvian Amazon

As many travelers increasingly seek a combination of upscale, authentic and yet adventurous opportunities that are off-the-grid, the Peruvian Amazon offers thousands of miles of enticing lifetime experiences that easily qualify as bucket list travel.

Naturalist Segundo educates guests about the Anaconda

Naturalist Segundo educates guests about the anaconda

The potential is definitely here in the Peruvian Amazon, according to Claudia Rodriguez, CEO of  Iquitos-based Jungle Experiences. Her company was named 2019 South America’s Leading River Cruise Company by World Travel Awards. Rodriguez so believes in the region as an up and coming destination that her company operates three ships from Iquitos: Zafiro, La Perla and Amatista. She also owns the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Iquitos, the only four-star hotel in the jungle gateway.

There’s nowhere else on the planet that can compare to the grandeur and biodiversity of the Amazon River.

Other than several private yacht charters, only three companies (with a total of seven boutique ships) currently operate in the Peruvian Amazon, the previously mentioned Jungle Experiences, Aqua Expeditions and Delfin. Aqua Expeditions will be introducing the Aqua Nera as the newest entrant on the Amazon scene in August 2020.

The amazing Amazon

A Peruvian Amazon sunset

An Amazon sunset

There’s nowhere else on the planet that can compare to the grandeur and biodiversity of the Amazon River.

As the world’s largest river and biggest rainforest, it is also the largest source of freshwater on our planet. It contains 10% of the world’s animal species, 20% of the world’s plant species and 450 bird species within the 4,000 miles the Amazon river and its tributaries traverse. Originating in the high Andes mountains of Peru, the Amazon wends its way through six South American countries before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.

Paramedic Marcos and the author with a piranha catch in the Peruvian Amazon

Paramedic Marcos and the author with a piranha catch

Wildlife discoveries may include three-toed sloths, toucans, macaws, kingfishers and monkeys leaping from branch to branch in the jungle canopy. Some of the more dangerous sightings might be the green anaconda, bushmaster, black caiman, tarantulas, red-bellied piranhas, Amazonian giant centipede, jaguar, and poison dart frogs.

Goliath birdeater, part of the tarantula family

Goliath birdeater, part of the tarantula family

Having a qualified paramedic on a Peruvian Amazon river cruise is a necessity rather than a luxury.

Without a doubt, people like paramedic Marcos Rocano substantially add to the overall safety and enjoyment of the Amazon’s amazing river, its people, the rainforest and the exotic wildlife.

Zafiro at night

Zafiro at night

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • Expeditionary river cruises on the Peruvian Amazon appeal to those who enjoy soft adventure, wildlife, birding, culture and the opportunity to taste Peruvian flavors and Amazon fusion cuisine.
  • With understated European-style contemporary luxury and an emphasis on authenticity and wildlife, Zafiro offers one of the best cruising experiences on the Peruvian Amazon. This type of cruise is particularly appealing to sophisticated travelers looking for an exotic and immersive experience of the Amazon River basin.
  • The vessel has 19 spacious, air-conditioned suites with a maximum passenger capacity of 36 guests. The small group size maximizes the opportunity for intimate and immersive experiences in Amazonia unparalleled to anything a bigger ship can offer.

Take note

  • Amazon jungle experiences present environmental and wildlife dangers unique to the region. These can  include heat, humidity, poisonous frogs, tarantulas, black caiman, anacondas and piranhas.
  • The Amazon essentially has two seasons: wet and dry. But don’t be deceived, as even during the dry season, it can rain substantially. Be prepared to deal with heat and humidity.
  • The Amazon is a magical place and is the only place in the world where you will see the legendary pink river dolphins.
  • This Peruvian Amazon voyage is representative of small group, luxury, expeditionary travel at its finest. Before booking a cruise to this region, it’s prudent to find out about the company’s provisions for emergency medicine.
  • Talk with your doctor and check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines about precautions and recommendations regarding vaccines and medications. Although Peru does not require any immunizations for entry, it recommends vaccination against yellow fever. Take note, according to the CDC: Yellow fever vaccine availability in the United States is currently limited. If you need to be vaccinated before your trip, you may need to travel some distance and schedule your appointment well in advance.

    All photo credits: K.D. Leperi with exception of photo of paramedic Marcos and the author, provided by photographer Elaine Green, and photo of a spider monkey provided courtesy of Marcos Rocano.


    International Expeditions organizes exotic small-group adventures for travelers.

    Disclosure: The author ‘s Peruvian Amazon cruise aboard Zafiro was hosted by International Expeditions. Any opinions expressed are strictly those of the author.


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