Rivers, canals and waterways are interwoven with human existence, enabling trade, agriculture and the development of society and civilisations, and are often time capsules of history. They’re also at the core of biodiversity.
Serving more than 160 destinations around the world from their Doha hub, Hamad International Airport, Qatar Airways’ crew get to go lots of places, often. They shared some views about their favourite boat trips and cruises with me:
Burgundy, the Loire River waterway, France
The country’s longest river meanders through some of the world’s most beautiful winelands. The region has nearly 1200km of waterways to explore. Some visitors do so on foot or two or four wheels but hiring a pénichette – as traditional canal boats are known locally – is effortlessly enjoyable. They’re well-equipped, spacious, comfortable and user-friendly, so you need no boating experience. The leisurely speed at which the boats glide through the water – about 8km an hour – means you have no choice but to relax and enjoy the view of chateaus, vineyards, villages and lush woodland. The markets in riverside hamlets have abundant local produce, and there’s no lack of fine dining for the well-heeled. And of course, the wines are legendary.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve on the Amazon River, Peru
This 20 800 km2 reserve boasts many of the Amazon’s most iconic species, including the Amazonian manatee, red-faced spider-monkey, puma, Amazon river dolphin, capybara, tacuxi and white-lipped peccary. The decks of the graceful 164-foot riverboat Zafiro are the ideal vantage point to see these animals, as well as the Amazon basin’s spectacular birdlife while soaking in the open-air jacuzzi, sampling a local beer or enjoying a meal prepared with regional, seasonal ingredients. Cruises include guided walks in the jungle, and tours in the Zafiro’s two auxiliary boats allow close-up encounters with the denizens of the greatest rainforest on Earth.
Nile River waterway, Egypt
The river begins with outflow from Lake Victoria, which borders Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, and empties into the Mediterranean 6 600km away. Although the mighty, timeless river flows through or forms the borders of 11 African countries, it’s most closely associated with Egypt. For millennia it’s been a source of irrigation that transforms ostensibly arid sands around into rich agricultural farmland. It’s still a source of irrigation and a crucial transport and trade route. There are many cruise options available, including massive, multi-story liners, but the Qatar team suggests a more sedate option: Dahabiyas are traditional, shallow-draft, mostly sail-powered wooden vessels that combine comfort with quiet. If they look familiar it’s because they’re depicted on the walls of the pharaohs’ tombs. Sip a sundowner as you slide past temples of the Old Kingdom, with the murmur of water against the hull, the gentle creak of the rigging and rustle of canvas sail.
Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Described as a biological treasure trove for its staggering biodiversity, the delta is interwoven with the human history of Southeast Asia. Its distributaries, with the earliest inhabitants, are traced back to the 4th century BC. You have plenty of options for cruising vessels, from sleek liners to traditional wooden boats. You’ll see islands, mangroves, villages and mountain peaks. And the food? Oh, yes, the Delta has a cuisine that’s distinct from the rest of Vietnam, with a focus on citrus flavours, rather than the salty, spicier flavours of the north. Try canh chua ca, or sour fish soup, with tamarind, beansprouts, taro and freshwater fish, or bánh pía, a pastry with mung beans, durian and salted eggs.
** Pics sourced on Pexels and Pixabay
*** Published in partnership with Qatar Airlines.