Menu
Menu
Amazon Clipper cruises

Amazon Clipper Cruises.

REVIEWER

Elaine Andrews from the UK.

CRUISE LINE

Amazon Clipper Cruises.

SHIP

Premium by Amazon Clipper.

DESTINATION

Amazon and Rio Negro, Brazil.

# OF NIGHTS

5.

DEPARTURE DATE & PORTS

February 2020 from Manaus, Brazil.

OVERALL RATING

4 out of 5 stars (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating: 4

-Cabin Rating: 4

-Service/Crew Rating: 4

-Itinerary Rating: 4

HAVE YOU BEEN ON A SMALL SHIP CRUISE BEFORE?

I’ve been on 6 small ship cruises.

Amazon Clipper Cruises boat

The 16-passenger Premium of Amazon Clipper Cruises. * Photo: Elaine Andrews

REVIEW

Amazon Clipper Premium runs 3 cruises from Manaus, a 2 night cruise on the Amazon, a 3 night cruise on the Rio Negro, and a 5 night cruise which is a combination of the two. We did the combined cruise. The Amazon Clipper Premium is a traditional style Amazon riverboat with 16 cabins. There are 4 decks, including a sundeck on top. There is a bar, air-conditioned restaurant, air-conditioned lounge, and outdoor bar and seating area and two hot tubs. This cruise is aimed at those who have an interest in the wildlife of the Amazon.

The cabins are of a good size, with a big bed (or 2 twins), plenty of storage, a small safe, air conditioning, a big PVC framed picture window with river views, which slides open and a bathroom with toilet, washbasin and shower. Toilet paper has to go in the bin.

Free tea, coffee and water are available all day, breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the price and are all buffet style. The food was excellent, there was a good selection of food including plenty of local dishes if you were feeling adventurous. The bar was well stocked and the prices of alcohol and soft drinks seemed reasonable.

The crew was excellent and very helpful. Only the guides spoke English, but communication never seemed to be a problem. The boat was only half full for the second part of the trip, so there was plenty of space for everyone. We had 2 guides who were very knowledgeable, we were taken out on 2 canoes for the many opportunities to explore the Amazon and the River Negro. These included many early and night excursions to see wildlife (we saw lots!), we also went jungle trekking, piranha fishing and visited local communities. We saw the incredible meeting of the waters between the Amazon and the Rio Negro and had a number of opportunities to swim in the river.

The itinerary was pretty full on, we were woken at 5.50 or 6am every day, but if you want to see the wildlife, this is what you have to do. You can of course, skip excursions, but why would you? Our guides and canoe drivers worked really hard to let us see as much wildlife as possible. If I had a criticism, it would be that they were over enthusiastic and we sometimes disturbed the wildlife we were trying to see by getting too close. Also, there was a bit of duplication between the two combined cruises, but they try to minimise that.

Overall, if you want a cruise that combines the wildlife of the Amazon with the luxuries of modern life, this is the cruise for you!

QuirkyCruise Review

 

 

RELATED:  Off the Grid: Small Ship Amazon Cruising by David Cogswell

 

reader reviews logo hi resContribute to our pool of honest reviews by real passengers. QuirkyCruise wants to hear about your latest small ship cruise for our Reader Reviews, a growing reservoir of opinions by small ship cruise lovers around the world. We don’t edit or sugarcoat, we just present QuirkyCruise reader reviews straight from travelers to you.

Fill out a QuirkyCruise Reader Review FORM.

And here’s an INDEX of ALL our Reader Reviews. Have a look at what fellow travelers have to say and see what floats your boat.

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates & special offers!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

The 18-passenger Tucano.

Amazon Expedition Cruises.

By Anne Kalosh.

QuirkyCruise’s Anne Kalosh talks with Mark Baker, the founder of Amazon Nature Tours (www.amazon-nature-tours.com). Sailing in Brazil’s deep Amazon aboard the small, eco-friendly vessel Tucano, travelers explore the dense forests and small tributaries within the Central Amazon Conservation Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the planet’s richest places in terms of biodiversity.

Brazil map

Map: commons.wikimedia

Most of the four- and six-night journeys are spent on the Rio Negro, the least inhabited major river in the Amazon basin. Led by trained naturalists, these expedition cruises include kayak and launch excursions, hikes, visits to native villages, fishing for piranhas and beach outings.

The Amazon & Rio Negro map

The Amazon & Rio Negro.

Recently Brazil eliminated the tourist visa requirement for citizens of the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia, making it easier and less costly to travel to the country. However, there’s been an international outcry over fires in the Amazon, which have sharply increased this year. Activists say the anti-environment rhetoric of President Jair Bolsonaro has emboldened tree-clearing by farmers and ranchers since he took office in January.

QuirkyCruise: Given the Amazon fires and some calls to boycott trips to Brazil as a result, what would you advise mindful travelers?

Mark Baker: A boycott of travel to Brazil would have a very negative consequence on rain forest preservation. The travel industry is one of the strongest voices in conservation and has a very positive effect on public policy. By enabling travelers to experience the natural wonders of the Amazon, the travel industry helps generate international will to support conservation as well as serve in the vital role of environmental education, one of the most powerful forces for change.

Amazon Expedition Cruises' Mark Baker

Mark Baker, a boatbuilder from Rhode Island, fell in love with the Amazon and created a tour company in 1988. * Photo: Amazon-Nature-Tours.com

QuirkyCruise: Do your trips go anywhere near the fires?

Mark Baker: What may be hard for many of us to grasp is the grand size of the Amazon. It’s as big as the continental United States. While the pace of deforestation has increased this year, fortunately, the scale of the region is so large that it is not perceivable where we operate. We voyage in the state of Amazonas which, if it were a country, would be the 13th biggest in the world.

The forest in the grand extent of the Amazonas is not at all impacted by the fires. There is no smoke in the air. We are fortunate that the state of Amazonas is only about 3 percent deforested and where the cruises take place, on the Rio Negro, there is no commercial logging or agricultural development so we are able to enjoy the wild forest.

We absolutely support efforts for rain forest conservation, and one of the most important and necessary steps in this endeavor is environmental education. This is a mission of ours for our 30 years of operations and we remain dedicated and committed to sharing the beauties of the Amazon and the need to preserve them.

Amazon Expedition Cruises

A brilliant macaw. * Photo: Amazon Nature Tours

QuirkyCruise: What drew you to the Amazon?

Mark Baker: It’s truly a quirky story. There’s a family myth: My great great-great-grandfather was Daniel Boone. I’ve always been a lover of nature, since I was small, poking around in the woods. I had a coonskin cap.

I’m a boatbuilder by trade, in Rhode Island. I took a vacation in 1980. As a professional mariner, I took a position on a sailboat as a crew member. When I finally got to Manaus I was so captivated, I decided I was going to make a life out of this somehow.

I started a lumber company, importing wood from Brazil into the United States. I would fly all over the Amazon to zones where big machines were cutting down trees. I did that for eight years. In the end, I just could not do it any more.

I realized you can appreciate the nature of this place but not support the destruction of the forest. So in 1988, I transitioned to a travel company.

In the Brazilian Amazon, you’re surrounded by thousands of miles forest, but it’s almost impenetrable. The way to get into it is by boat. It is a perfect way to see it and explore. So this was a very happy meeting of my two passions.

QuirkyCruise: Your company promises “true expedition cruises.” What does that mean?

Mark Baker: It’s not a boat experience. It’s an expedition experience. We use the boat as a vehicle to explore. It’s really about getting us to where we want to be. We take four or five excursions a day, so we’re only on the boat 10 or 11 hours.

Our six-night cruises are 230 miles one-way. We go into a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’re pretty much the only regular boat. There are few people. No extractions of any kind are allowed. Fishing is limited. It’s a true wilderness.

When you come into a really remote place, you start to really understand what nature is like. There are no engine sounds. You have a true sense of the howling wilderness. You don’t walk off 100 yards on your own. We’d never find you.

It’s scary, thrilling and, in the end, captivating.

QuirkyCruise: What kind of experiences can people have on your trips?

Mark Baker: They’re very active. We offer four or more excursions every day. We divide into two groups, a science group and an adventure group. People can choose which one (for each excursion), so everyone’s happy.

The science group goes out in 10-meter launches, birdwatching, learning about plants and animals. It’s a wilderness experience but not physically taxing.

The adventure group goes hiking or kayaking. It’s a really physical experience.

The 18-passenger Tucano.

Passengers can kayak directly from the 18-passenger Tucano. * Photo: Amazon Nature Tours

The science group goes out first in the morning, at 6 a.m., when the birds are out, feeding. They come back and have a big breakfast. Everybody goes out at 10. Both groups walk in the forest for about an hour. These are really wilderness trails but travelers don’t have to use a machete. The adventure group continues for about two hours.

Everyone comes back at about noon, when it’s getting hot. We fire up the main engine and travel until 3:30 or 4.

In the afternoon, everybody goes out in the launches. They’re back around 6 or 6:30. The sun goes down. They have dinner.

At 7:30 or 8, they go out for the night wildlife, always by launch, to see the nocturnal animals. It can be a little bit scary.

sloth on an Amazon Expedition Cruise

A sloth in the Amazon. * Photo: Amazon Nature Tours

QuirkyCruise: What’s the boat like?

Mark Baker: We built Tucano. It’s been in service since 1997. It’s had four refits since then. You want it to feel new. Most recently it was out of service for a month. I am by profession a boatbuilder so we did it ourselves. We took it apart and put it back together.

We were really pressing on sustainability and made substantial modifications to make Tucano more thermally insulated, in order to expand solar energy use. We peeled off the exterior vertical walls and added double and triple insulation in the interstices and put in new windows that are thermally protected. Almost 25 percent of the energy used on board is solar.

We’ve replaced the exterior with a type of aluminum. We designed a method to not use wood. Our process is solar-powered electricity. There’s not a lack of it but we don’t want to waste it. We store the solar power because we have electric launches that we use every day. We’re making ice with it. Our galley refrigerator and freezer run on solar power. We heat the water for showers with it as well.

My goal is to make our main salon air-conditioned by solar power. This enables us to turn off all the machines and have absolute silence for four hours a day. The solar power hours are generally in the early morning and late afternoon when the boat is at anchor and most people are on excursions. The air-conditioning system does not operate during this time but because of the insulation, the boat stays cool.

These hours are a good time to enjoy the stillness and appreciate the sounds of the forest.

Iguana on an Amazon expedition cruise

An Amazon iguana. * Photo: Amazon Nature Tours

QuirkyCruise: Are people roughing it on Tucano then?

Mark Baker: Tucano has air-conditioned cabins with 700-thread-count Egyptian cottons, chocolates on the beds. It’s not a luxury experience but very comfortable, very sophisticated.

Each cabin has a private bathroom. There are two showers, one with solar-heated water, the other, diesel-electric-heated water.

At lunch and dinner, you get choices of entrees. It’s Brazilian cuisine. Lots of fruits, fish, quite sophisticated flavors and presentation. We have five kinds of fruit-flavored ice creams.

We carry lots of vegetarians and vegans. We ask everyone to fill out an information sheet so we can design the menus accordingly.

Our staff have worked with us for decades. We have eight crew members, all Brazilians. There are just 18 travelers.

Read QuirkyCruise contributor David Cogwell’s article about his week on the Tucano.

The Tucano's dining area.

Tucano’s ample salon has large windows and serves as the dining area and lounge. * Photo: Amazon Nature Tours

QuirkyCruise: Who are your customers?

Mark Baker: People from all around the globe. This notion of exploring the Amazon features in the dreams of people from around the world. There may be four or five languages or nationalities on our cruises. The common point is they all love nature. They have a sense of adventure.

One-third are from the U.S. One-third are from Europe, a lot from the U.K. and Benelux. We have people from as far away as India.

Some travelers take our cruise as part of a Brazil package.

There’s always a real affinity with the other travelers. We want to have a congenial group. Some people form lifelong bonds.

QuirkyCruise: Should people be fit?

Mark Baker: We ask that people be healthy. Some people will come and stay on the boat (and not take the excursions). We’re always at anchor and they can see interesting things. Good health is necessary but athleticism is not.

QuirkyCruise: Do you allow children?

Mark Baker: It’s absolutely appropriate for children. We have some discounts for them, too. They need to be at least 7 years old. It’s a lot of fun to have children with us. In July and August we have lots of extended families — grandparents, parents, children. They go swimming, catch piranhas and we eat them. We find all kinds of strange creatures.

QuirkyCruise: What kind of wildlife can travelers see?

Mark Baker: One hundred kinds of birds — pygmy kingfishers, hoatzins, harpy eagles, king vultures with a wingspan of seven feet.

The primates include big groups of howler monkeys, spider monkeys, two to three species of tiny marmosets.

amazon expedition cruises

See (and hear!) gorgeous howler monkeys in the Amazon. * Photo: Amazon Nature Tours

Collared peccaries are really unusual. Giant river otters.

It takes real discipline to see some things. We teach people how to watch in the forest. We’re quiet and use hand signals. We try not to wear bright colors.

Outboard motors make noise that scares off animals. We use electric motors.

Amazon Nature Expeditions

Part of Tucano’s Sun Deck is covered with a shade canopy. * Photo: Amazon Nature Tours

QuirkyCruise: Does the experience vary by season?

Mark Baker: We begin our voyages at about two degrees from the equator. There are rainy and dry seasons, but it doesn’t rain as much in this central part as in other places in the Amazon.

The rainy season is from about mid-December to mid-May. There’s really interesting bird life from February to April/May.

The dry season runs August to November. From June to September, the water depth is lower so it’s a really good time to see pretty much everything — lots of birds, primates, plants.

In September you start to see dramatic changes. The water goes down. It’s much hotter. There are countless fish. Lots of dolphins. Every kind of fishing bird. Caiman. It’s a really good time for raptors.

In October-November, it’s extremely hot.

QuirkyCruise: What does a trip cost, and what’s included?

Mark Baker: There are nine cabins. The daily rate is $600 to $650 per person, and the lower category rooms cost 30 percent less. There are two single cabins.

The cost includes excursions, meals, water. There are very few extras, with the exception of alcohol and soda. We’re sober naturalists, but we do have a party the last night with music and caipirinhas for everybody.

QuirkyCruise: How should people prepare for a trip like this?

Mark Baker: We send a 24-page pre-departure booklet that tells about some suggested equipment and the perspective travelers should have. We ask people to focus on the nature and history and think of themselves as explorers for knowledge.

Stay focused. That’s what hunters do. They are ecological hunters. Look and listen.

When people are focused, we see lots more than would be possible otherwise.

🦜

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

aturetours.com Upgrades Amazon Vessel Tucano

Naturetours.com Upgrades Amazon Vessel Tucano

By Anne Kalosh.

Naturetours.com, a small ship expedition company that sails further in to the Amazon than any other line, relaunched its 18-passenger Tucano following an extensive refit. The work enhanced the accommodations and public spaces while keeping Tucano one of the most sustainable ships around.

The company also tweaked its excursion program to enable greater customization.

Tucano underwent a four-week refit at a shipyard in Manaus, Brazil, its homeport. Naturetours.com CEO Mark Baker wanted to make the vessel more comfortable and elegant. The main salon and dining room were rebuilt, and walls of windows were replaced with glass panels that open by gliding into pockets, ensuring abundant interior light while also staying true to the company’s mission of sustainability.

Naturetours.com Upgrades Amazon Vessel Tucano

Tucano’s main salon and dining room now sport a more elegant look. * Photo: Naturetours.com

The nine outside cabins—consisting of five large double, two single and two double-berth rooms—were refinished and redecorated with new fixtures and furniture, yielding a classic yacht look with polished brass and highly varnished solid wood panels.

New artwork, including many original pieces commissioned for the vessel, were placed in the cabins, where amenities were upgraded to L’Occitane toiletries and 700-thread-count Egyptian cotton woven by Brazil’s premier luxury manufacturer, Artelassé.

aturetours.com Upgrades Amazon Vessel Tucano

Tucano’s shaded top deck is ideal for wildlife-viewing. * Photo: Naturetours.com

A significant portion of the energy used on board Tucano is generated by solar panels. This heats water for showers, provides galley refrigeration and ice-making, and powers the launches. Naturetours.com recently received the Latin American Travel Association Achievement Award for most sustainable tour operator. The company has also eliminated on-board plastic and now provides free, reusable aluminum water bottles.

In a programming change, travelers can choose to experience the rainforest at a leisurely expedition pace focused on the observations of the naturalist guides, or more rigorously with hikes deep into the forest and kayaking in remote streams. Which type of excursion they pick is up to them each day.

aturetours.com Upgrades Amazon Vessel Tucano

Passengers can explore on guided nature walks or more rigorous kayaking and hiking excursions. * Photo: Naturetours.com

Naturetours.com voyages explore deep into a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Central Amazon Conservation Complex, in the least inhabited major river system of the Amazon basin, the Rio Negro. This offers one of the Amazon’s most varied environments: high forest with towering trees, eerie flooded forests that stretch for miles upon miles of dark still water, grasslands where crocodiles rest in the day and, at a certain times of year, beautiful deserted beaches stretching as far as the eye can see.

Tucano sails four-night “Amazon Odyssey” and more intensive six-night “Voyage to the Heart of the Amazon” itineraries from Manaus year-round.

Naturetours.com is based in Jamestown, Rhode Island, with offices in Manaus.

➢➢Read QuirkyCruise Contributor David Cogswell’s article about his recent Amazon cruise aboard Tucano.

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

By David Cogswell.

The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is — marvels and mysteries acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state. — Joseph Conrad

Small Ship Amazon Cruising: The Mighty Jungle

The power of this jungle is beyond words. But you can feel it when you are in it. At the core of its profound silence you can sense the fine hum of the tremendous force of nature, about as powerful as it exists anywhere.

We cruise over the still surface of Rio Negro’s black water in a state of wonder, observing the magnificent spectacle of the jungle’s thick, voluptuous growth, its trees towering overhead, reflecting perfectly in the mirror surface of the river.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

The morning symphony of the birds and howler monkeys, and the perfect mirror of the black water. * Photo: David Cogswell

The junglescapes are scenes Gauguin would die for. The squawks and screeches of morning birds create a symphony that would charm and inspire Vivaldi or Beethoven. The skies display vast panoramas with great celestial dramas unfolding in the tall, gathering thunderheads and the sparkling nighttime constellations.

Edy, our wilderness guide, accelerates the canoe for a stretch then turns off the motor and we glide silently, listening to the sounds, mostly birds, but also the haunting sound of the howler monkeys.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

One of our excursion canoes on terra firma. * Photo: David Cogswell

In addition to the outboard gasoline motor the canoe has a quiet battery-operated motor for pushing it along quietly. And there are paddles as well.

Being quiet is an important part of our wildlife viewing excursions.

The sound of the howler monkeys is like a low roar that comes in long rhythmic sweeps, like a howling wind. The sound is huge. It seems too vast to have come from an animal. It sounds more like a larger natural phenomenon, like wind, or the roar of the ocean or a waterfall.

In the relative calm of the morning, the howlers’ low roar creates the sense of the earth breathing, wheezing like a huge bellows. This is the voice of the wilderness.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

The riotous growth of the jungle. * Photo: David Cogswell

Edy drives us into a cove, a black lagoon, and we lean sideways to avoid colliding with branches from the thick vegetation growing out of the water. We glide by the tops of trees that are submerged in 30 feet of water that will recede and vanish in the next couple of months as the dry season sets in.

The sound of the howler monkeys envelops us. We are hearing an eerie primate symphony. The sound is not just random, as the din of a crowd at a cocktail party. It is a group activity and the sound has a definite, organized structure. It’s not noise, it’s a choir of monkeys.

I hear a bass voice in an alternating rhythm to the main group sound, like a call-and-response structure. After a long while the rhythmic roar builds to a crescendo and then stops dead, all together, a sudden, synchronized cessation and then silence.

It was like the final cadence of a symphony.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising: Cruising the Jungle

If it’s true, as some say, that some experiences “take years off your life,” here is one that might add to it. If it doesn’t actually add years, it could surely add depth and enrichment. I was fortunate at last January’s New York Times Travel Show to run into Mark Baker, the founder of Amazon Nature Tours. The 20-year old company conducts river cruises through the Amazon Jungle on a jewel of a riverboat called M/Y Tucano that carries only 17 passengers.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

Tucano on mirror. * Photo: David Cogswell

For me traveling to the Amazon was the fulfillment of a lifetime dream. As a child I inherited an old hardback edition of Tarzan of the Apes and read it a few times during my childhood. The story of the human boy raised by apes in the jungle captured my imagination, and I spent much of my childhood in a jungle of my imagination. Finally I was going to see the real thing!

I always wanted to go to the jungle. And the Amazon is the real thing. Once you have been there, you know you have seen the ultimate tropical rainforest, and everything else can be evaluated from that perspective. I thought that the experience of the Amazon would set the broadest possible parameters of nature in my experience. From the Amazon to New York City about covers the whole of range evolution from the primordial jungle to the height of modern civilization.

I was also driven by the sense that we humans often get so wrapped up in the bells and whistles of our civilization that we lose the sense of the natural world upon which it is built. We let our walls and fences block us from experiencing the full dimensionality of life.

Like Narcissus we lose ourselves in our own reflection.

I wanted to go to the Amazon, to recover those roots, to get as close as I could to experiencing the fundamental nature of life that underlies all our human creations and distractions.

The Amazon preserves for us that primordial reality. It is in many ways unchanged from millions of years ago, from even before there were human beings. This is a real encounter with the eternal, or as close to the eternal as life on earth can claim.

The Amazon is Eden unspoiled. After a few days I realized that this was not the kind of trip one should expect to return from exactly the same as when you left. You would not want to go back and pick up exactly where you were before you left. No. This is a transformational experience.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

Sunset on the water.* Photo: David Cogswell

Small Ship Amazon Cruising: Instructions Included

Mark Baker gives his guests a small booklet called “Useful Information for Expedition Travel: The Motor Yacht Tucano,” in which he has compiled a rich depository of information and lore gathered from decades of exploring the Amazon jungle by riverboat. The text is peppered throughout by pull quotes from literature about the joys of the wilderness.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, “to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Yeah! I could sign onto that. A company that puts something like that in its booking documents would be a good one to go with, I thought. And my original instinct bore out through the trip. I couldn’t imagine a better introduction to the Amazon.

One more quote from the Tucano instruction manual:

“Come, my friends. ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

A page from Mark Baker’s helpful Amazon guide. * Photo: David Cogswell

Small Ship Amazon Cruising:  Incomparable Amazon

Here’s some perspective. The Amazon Basin, the area of South America that is drained by the Amazon, is almost as large as the continental United States. It occupies half of the South American continent, including 75 percent of Brazil and parts of Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Suriname and Guyana. Amazônia is the world’s largest rainforest, covering 2.5 million square miles.

The Amazon River system is the largest body of fresh water in the world, containing one fifth of all the river water on earth.

Up to seven miles in some places, it gets so wide that it is impossible to see one shore from the other. Marajó Island in the mouth of the river is larger than Switzerland. The Amazon empties more than 12 times as much water into the ocean as the Mississippi. It carries five billion tons of sediment into the ocean annually and muddies the ocean water for hundreds of miles from the coast. We’re talking big stuff. The Amazon is The Chief.

The industrialists always saw the Amazon as a great reservoir of resources to plunder to make themselves rich. But the Amazon has resisted them to a remarkable degree. It is untamed wilderness.

Lieutenant William Herndon gushed in the journal of his survey of the Amazon for the U.S. Navy in 1851: “Its capacities for trade and commerce are inconceivably great. Its industrial future is the most dazzling; and to the touch of steam, settlement and cultivation, this rolling stream and its magnificent watershed would start up into a display of industrial results that could indicate the Valley of the Amazon as one of the most enchanting regions on the face of the earth.”

But, as Peter Matthiessen wrote in Cloud Forest in 1961, “The Amazon remains as sullen and intractable as it ever was. Indeed, it is startling to find how exactly the descriptions of Herndon and such contemporaries as the great naturalist H.W. Bates and the botanist Richard Spruce correspond with the appearance of the river as it is today. The few large towns excepted, the traveler on the Amazon sees almost precisely what these men saw a century ago.”

The rubber boom in the Amazon was one of the greatest rushes to wealth the world has ever seen, but it is gone today. We visited one of the once-thriving rubber colonies and its neoclassical pillars have been retaken by the robust growth of the jungle, and now it is an overgrown ruin.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

The ruin of a rubber colony. * Photo: David Cogswell

Small Ship Amazon Cruising: Manaus, City in the Jungle

The trip began with a flight from Miami to Manaus, Brazil, on the Rio Negro about 25 miles upstream from where it joins Rio Solimões to become the Amazon. Manaus is the capital of Amazona, Brazil’s largest state. It has a population of only 3 million, and two thirds of them live in Manaus.

During the rubber boom Manaus became one of the busiest ports in the world, though it is 800 miles inland from the Atlantic.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

One of the few remaining vestiges of the riches of old Manaus, a rubber baron’s mansion. * Photo: David Cogswell

Manaus is still a bustling, vibrant international city, but the evaporation of capital when the rubber boom went bust left Manaus a threadbare remnant of the glory days.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

Today’s Manaus. * Photo: David Cogswell

We spent the night at the Hotel Tropical near the bank of the Rio Negro at the pastoral edge of Manaus, and at 7 a.m. the next morning we met our cruise director and wilderness guide Edivam de Lima Regis, or Edy (pronounced “Edgy”), who came to take us to board the Tucano.

Edy led the trip, coordinated all our activities and watched over us from beginning to end. We had other guides and supporters when we went on jungle walks or kayak or canoe rides. The boat had a staff of several cheerful, helpful and competent Brazilians.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising: Rio Negro and Rio Solimões

Our itinerary mainly explored streams and lakes that flow in and out of the Rio Negro, one of the Amazon’s principal tributaries.

Like the Yangtze, the Amazon has different names in different places. With 1,100 tributaries, the Amazon’s actual source is still a matter of debate. Geographers at least agree that the Amazon originates in the lakes of the Peruvian Andes. When it crosses the border into Brazil the river that is called the Amazon in Peru is renamed Rio Solimões.

Rio Negro is much older than Solimões and its water is clearer. It has washed away most of its silt over the eons and now runs over a rocky bed. Rio Negro’s water appears dark from humic acid left over from the incomplete breakdown of vegetation in the water. But it’s good, clean, fresh-smelling water for swimming.

The black surface is a perfect mirror surface creating dazzling optical effects as it reflects the dense, tangled jungle growth and the sky above. In contrast, Rio Solimões, the “white water,” is a newer river, dense withmicroorganisms and silt and has a milky brown color with little reflection.

At the point where the “black water” of Rio Negro meets the “white water” of Rio Solimões, the two streams are so different in temperature, viscosity, acidity and momentum that they don’t mix. They actually run as two separate streams for a dozen miles before finally blending and being rechristened the Amazon for the final stretches of its drive to the Atlantic.

Near the end of our trip we traveled back downstream past Manaus to see for ourselves the merging of the two vast bodies of water at the point where they came together. Each of the two streams was as wide as a huge lake. They contrasted clearly in color and repelled each other like oil and water.

We watched some of the first few eddies passing from one side to the other, the tentative beginnings of the vast merging process that would take place over the next 12 miles of rolling downstream. It was practically beyond human capacity to process what we were seeing. But there it was. Talk about traveling for perspective!

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

Where the black water meets the white water. * Photo: David Cogswell

Small Ship Amazon Cruising: Home Sweet Tucano

It was literally a five-minute walk from the Hotel Tropical to the dock where we first encountered M/Y Tucano, and she was a beautiful, charming little jewel.

Three levels, painted sparkling white with bright red trim, as inviting as you could imagine, the Tucano was sitting a short ways offshore. To get to the ship we boarded a bright green canoe with an outboard motor and a few rows of benches for passengers.

The canoe pulled alongside the Tucano and we climbed in. Mark Baker designed the motor yacht to emulate Amazon ferry boats. But it is a river cruise vessel, a sort of houseboat. It had that intangible quality of friendliness that made you feel immediately at home, part of the family.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

One of Tucano’s two canoes. * Photo: David Cogswell

The riverboat was specifically designed for deep forest exploration with a shallow draft, a small fleet of exploration craft, and cabins designed as safe and comfortable havens.

The Tucano is constructed mostly of wood in the early 2000s, so it is organic and breathes and bends. Instead of machined surfaces of stainless steel, formica and plexiglass, you are surrounded by handcrafted wooden paneling.

My cabin was small and cozy, about 150 square feet in area counting the bathroom at the end. It had a sort of cathedral ceiling with dark wooden beams over a white background. Twin beds lined opposite walls with a small end table chest between them. The windows along the walls provided great views of the river, but when the tropical sun was shining directly into the windows it was best to keep the shades drawn.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

Tucano cabin. * Photo: David Cogswell

The boat had a small dining area where we gathered for all our meals with small round tables covered with red checked table cloths. The top deck had lounge chairs, a hammock, clotheslines and a sun roof that kept the deck from baking too much during the peak heat of the afternoon. It was the main area where the passengers gathered outside of their cabins. The breeze kept the observation deck moderate in the daytime and cool at night.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

The dining room. * Photo: David Cogswell

From Manaus we traveled upstream on Rio Negro. Edy said we would be traveling about 300 kilometers (about 186 miles) out of Manaus. He said no other operator traveled farther than 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) from Manaus.

For our week in the jungle we encountered no tourists. Once we got beyond the 100-kilometer mark, the only other human beings we encountered were a few local villagers and fishermen.

The Tucano has a capacity of only 17 guests, but the company guarantees all its departures, even if only one person is booked. On my departure there were only two couples besides myself. They were in their 50s and 60s, and were all committed travelers, explorers and nature lovers, though the trip has plenty to offer to a more mainstream, middle-of-the-road traveler, such as myself.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising: Off the Grid

Though the Tucano’s cabins have strong air conditioning that can give you relief from the blazing tropical heat, there is one modern convenience it does not offer and that is wifi. The trip goes way off the grid where there is no cell phone service and the only way of communicating with the outside world is by radio telephone. This is a highly significant element in one’s experience of the Amazon, and I think a positive one.

The effect of being off the grid is disorienting at first, then liberating. I have become so used to a stream of trivialities flowing through my consciousness, constantly popping up and interrupting my concentration, that escaping the internet for a week was like drinking manna from heaven.

I got more good book reading done in spare moments during that busy week than I have in years during my normal routines.

Having to go through cold turkey withdrawal from the internet was actually a big attraction of this trip. It set the stage for developing a quiet, receptive mind in order to observe wildlife and get in tune with nature.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

Tucano’s top deck. * Photo: David Cogswell

Small Ship Amazon Cruising: Activities

Every day the touring schedule included four excursions, but all were optional. You could always stay on the boat and relax, watch for dolphins, birds and monkeys from the boat, read in the hammock on the top deck, or take a siesta. But if you wanted to go, there was an excursion starting at 6 a.m. before breakfast, another after breakfast about 9 a.m., an afternoon excursion around 4 p.m. and a night-time outing about 8 p.m. after dinner.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

A remote fishing village. * Photo: David Cogswell

The excursions were canoe trips, kayak trips, jungle walks, visits to a village or historical sites. The trips were always highlighted by wildlife viewing, and Edy had an uncanny capacity for finding amazing animals and birds for us to observe.

We saw dolphins, caiman, sloths, monkeys, hawks, bright green parrots flying overhead and gathering in groups in the treetops, and the strange prehistoric greater ani, that looks barely evolved from the dinosaurs and is a huge flying presence.

Edy kept a daily list of our finds on a marker board and the list grew to tremendous lengths.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

Edy’s list of wildlife observed. * Photo: David Cogswell

My Own Inner Amazon

No matter what specific wildlife we observed and added to our lists every day, there was always the great spectacle of the jungle itself, with its towering trees, the dense, crowded growth of twisted, gnarly vines, everything seemingly clambering over everything else, and yet somehow all existing harmoniously in some kind of natural, renewing order. It was more than enough regardless of what specific animals we saw that day.

I was perfectly happy to sit back and take in the spectacle of the trees, thousands of species all tangled up with each other, and the rich clear skies.

The richness of the atmosphere is incomparable. The Amazon is called “the lungs of the world,” producing much of the world’s oxygen. And there we were, right at the source.

Now that I have experienced it, the Amazon will forever reside in my heart.

Small Ship Amazon Cruising

Rio Negro Sunrise. * Photo: David Cogswell

For more information go directly to Amazon Nature Tours or phone 800-688-1822.

READ our great interview with company founder Mark Baker!!

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

quirky-cruise-delfin-amazon-cruises-delfin-ii-observation-lounge

Delfin Amazon Cruises

Introducing a boutique Amazon cruise line that operates small to moderate size, high-end Amazon riverboats based in Peru. They sail from one of two Peruvian ports and into a vast national reserve that is best reached and toured by boat, additionally with sections also seen on foot in the dry season.

Delfin Amazon Cruises

Delfin II. * Photo: Delfin Amazon Cruises

Delfin Amazon Cruises began operating in 2006 and expanded from one to three riverboats under the guidance of a husband and wife team with a background in international banking (him) and art, interior design and international travel (her).

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

DELFIN I (refurbished 2010, 12 passengers); DELFIN II (built 2009, 30p); DELFIN III (b. 2015 as Amazon Discovery, refitted, upgraded & renamed in 2017, 43p)

Delfin Amazon Cruises

Delfin I. * Photo: DELFIN Amazon Cruises

Passenger Decks

DELFIN I, II & III (three decks, no elevator)

Passenger Profile

Couples and families during school holidays. Languages: English and Spanish. It pays to be reasonably active to get in and out of skiffs, kayaks and to take hikes. Children accepted from age 7.

Price

$$ TO $$$ — DELFIN I is the most expensive while DELFIN II & DELFIN III have the same rates for two categories, and DELFIN III has two categories with lower rates. Singles pay a 50% supplement. Ages 7-11 receive a 20% discount.

Delfin Amazon Cruises

Delfin II. * Photo: Observation Lounge, Delfin Amazon Cruises

Itineraries

Cruises are 3 or 4 nights for all vessels. Most cruises leave from Nauta, a port about 1.5 hours from Iquitos airport, giving good access to the Pacaya Samira National Reserve. Some departures leave from Iquitos. See Activities for the daily details.

Delfin Amazon Cruises

The 3 & 4 night cruises sail on the Amazon between Iquitos and Nauta, in northeastern Peru. * Photo: Delfin Amazon Cruises

Included Features

Excursions, panchos and rubber boots, coffee, tea, water, beer on all boats; aboard DELFIN I,  most alcoholic drinks and wine with meals. Transfers between Iquitos and the riverboat landing for those who take the designated domestic flights. Recommended gratuities $120 pp.

Why Go?

The Amazon Basin in Peru is home to a very wide variety of animals, birds, and fish and complex rainforest vegetation and dramatic scenery. Most of the river expedition time is spent in the vast Pacaya Samira National Reserve with various means of seeing the wildlife in skiffs and kayaks and on foot. Cultural history is also worked into the program.

Amazon in Peru

Bora Village along Amazon in Peru. * Photo: Ted Scull

When to Go?

Wet and dry seasons are much less pronounced in total rainfall figures than one would expect, given the river level’s enormous 23-foot rise and fall, making certain means of travel easier, harder or impossible depending on the conditions. The annual rainfall is 12 feet! November to May is the so-called flooded season with daytime high temperatures averaging 86F. June to October is the drier season with daytime highs averaging 98F. High water levels allow for more rainforest penetration using narrow creeks that would otherwise be inaccessible in the dry season. The latter allows for more terra firma walks and hikes, and fishing for piranhas will be much more likely to produce a catch.

Delfin Amazon Cruises

Fishing along the Amazon, Peru. * Photo: Delfin Amazon Cruises

Cabins

DELFIN I – 4 suites with 2 having a whirlpool, an extra berth, floor-to-ceiling openings to the outside. Wooden floor and decking. DELFIN II – 14 suites with 4 that interconnect for families. DELFIN III – 8 suites, 2 corner suites, 10 upper suites, owner’s suite.

Delfin Amazon Cruises

Delfin  III Suite. * Photo: Delfin River Cruises.

 

Delfin Amazon Cruises

Delfin I Deluxe Suite, WOW. * Photo: Delfin Amazon Cruises

Public Rooms

DELFIN I – Top deck enclosed lounge and an adjacent outdoor open bar and lounge, DVDs, Xbox (video games), rainforest reading materials. DELFIN II – Lounge that turns into a presentation room, media equipment, game tables, reading materials; open-air covered observation lounge, exercise room and spa.
DELFIN III – Top deck enclosed lounge and open lounge and bar, plunge pool, gym and spa. All three riverboats are decorated with Peruvian artwork and furnishings, and some items are available for purchase.

Dining

Food is a treat combining foreign imports with Amazonian fruits, vegetables and freshwater fish. Seating is open and mealtimes are set. The days often start early as it is cooler and the wildlife is stirring.

Delfin Amazon Cruises

Delfin I, dining area. * Photo: Delfin Amazon Cruises

Activities & Entertainment

Excursions will take place in 8-person skiffs, each with a naturalist guide aboard to follow Amazon tributaries and small creeks, and perhaps into a lagoon. Serious fishing is another popular activity with the catch including Amazon catfish, peacock bass and arapaima, and if successful, then released. Two-person kayaks (DELFIN I & DELFIN II), paddle boarding (DELFIN I only), and swimming with gentle pink river dolphins are additional water activities. Hiking is another way to see frogs, snakes, and birds, and if rain is forecast, rubber boots and ponchos are provided.

Occasionally night safaris on foot are offered to spot frogs, bats and black caiman. For those who can deal with heights and mild vertigo, a 1,580 foot (500 meter) wooden walkway can take you along at a level of 85 feet above ground to commune with what lives in the trees and even atop trees. Near Iquitos, a rescue and rehabilitation center takes care of endangered river otters, baby manatees and monkeys, some of whom were not well treated as pets.

On board after dark, the night stars are especially brilliant on the Peruvian Amazon.

Capybara, Peru's largest rodent. Amazon

Capybara, Peru’s largest rodent. *Photo: Ted Scull

Special Notes

While according to the line, malaria and yellow fever are not present, check with your country’s requirements if traveling to Peru’s Amazonia.

Along the Same Lines

There are many Amazon river operators and lots of price ranges, and this one is up there.

Delfin Amazon Cruises

Canopy Walk. * Photo: Delfin Amazon Cruises

Contact

Delfin Amazon Cruises, Av. Abelardo Quinones, KM5, San Juan Bautista, Iquitos, Peru; 1-844-4 DELFIN, delfinamazoncruises.com.

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.