he ‘Ayapua’ is a rubber boom epic vessel built by R. Holtz in Hamburg Germany in 1906 and worked the rubber boom trade along the Purus, Japua, Jura, Putumayo and Yavari Rivers in Brazil and Peru during the early part of the 20th century. The ‘Ayapua’ was commissioned by the Brazilian navigation firm J.A. Leite & Cie based in Manaus. The ship is named after a large lake in the lower Purus River, which means ‘heart’ in the local indigenous language. In the 1960’s the ‘Ayapua’ was bought by the Noriega family who used it as a passenger ship between Manaus and Santarem. In 2004 AmazonEco purchased the ‘Ayapua’ and brought the ship up to Peru as a research boat and as a historical restoration project. In April 2014 the ‘Ayapua’ was the inaugural ship creating the Historic Boat Museum in Iquitos.


The elegance of Victorian opera and superfluous wealth of the rubber boom period are relished throughout the ‘Ayapua’. The original steam whistle would echo through the forest in harmony with the howls of monkeys and screeches of macaws. Dolphins would swim along the bows and swallows flutter through the masts as the ‘Ayapua’ would gracefully steam up the mightiest river on Earth.

Natural rubber from the Amazon was extremely valuable for the industrial period of Europe and America during the late 1800’s and early 20th century. This rubber boom was by far the most important economic era throughout the entire history of the Amazon basin. Great wealth was created and the rich enjoyed extravagant lifestyles of opera and caviar, while atrocities of local Indians resulted in madness, murder and cannibalism within the deep, dark recesses of the forest.

Steam boats were the heart of the rubber boom, transporting hundreds of millions of dollars of rubber balls from far reaches of the forest to cities, such as Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon. This rich history was portrayed in the classic film ‘Fitzcarraldo’ by Werner Herzog.  The ‘Ayapua’ portrays the rubber boom period, and its ambience recalls the elegance and opulence of times past. The Victorian details reflected against the tropical forests highlight the harmony of steam navigation in the Amazon. Sailing on the ‘Ayapua’ through the blue mist of a moonlit Amazonian night makes one realise that every day life is just an illusion behind which lies the reality of dreams.