Manatee Amazon River Cruise in Ecuador
Itinerary 8 days / 7 nights
(Monday to Monday)
EXPLORE THE JUNGLE
This is a how-to of penetrating an evergreen mass of diversity spread out kilometers on end across the Amazon Basin: the spellbinding tropical rainforest. As we can see from above, nature tells us the best way is to travel its silt-clad veins into what may seem uniform, but is the epitome of change and diversity. This most inspiring journey will include a myriad unexpected possibilities and the surprising forest visions of magical flooded forests, untamed wilds within the Yasuni National Park (the largest national park in Ecuador), and the quiet stills of Limoncocha (Lemon Lake), where we will climb canopy observation towers, inch down black-water jungle streams, walk the understory through meandering trails and meet the sacred peoples of the Amazon forest.
DAY 1 - MONDAY: QUITO – COCA – NAPO RIVER – YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK Morning departure from Quito (a short 30-minutes flight) arriving at the city of Coca (Francisco de Orellana); transfer to the Río Napo port; journey by motorized canoe downstream (ninety minutes) to board the M/V MANATEE, all the while observing the ever-changing forest-clad riverbanks of the silty-brown headwaters of the Amazon River. Soon after boarding, the M/V Manatee will start navigating downstream, a great opportunity for observing from our sundeck the amazing flora and fauna of the region. After lunch, an initial outing on one of our trails will introduce you to the wonders of the tropical rainforest, an easy walk that will bring you to your first encounters with the Amazon Basin. After dinner, enjoy an optional nocturnal walk into the forest to discover the mysteries of this unique environment and see how life emerges in the dark right before your eyes.
DAY 1 - MONDAY: QUITO – COCA – NAPO RIVER – YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK
Morning departure from Quito (a short 30-minutes flight) arriving at the city of Coca (Francisco de Orellana); transfer to the Río Napo port; journey by motorized canoe downstream (ninety minutes) to board the M/V MANATEE, all the while observing the ever-changing forest-clad riverbanks of the silty-brown headwaters of the Amazon River. Soon after boarding, the M/V Manatee will start navigating downstream, a great opportunity for observing from our sundeck the amazing flora and fauna of the region.
After lunch, an initial outing on one of our trails will introduce you to the wonders of the tropical rainforest, an easy walk that will bring you to your first encounters with the Amazon Basin. After dinner, enjoy an optional nocturnal walk into the forest to discover the mysteries of this unique environment and see how life emerges in the dark right before your eyes.
DAY 2 - TUESDAY: PERUVIAN BORDER / YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK
After a delicious breakfast we will disembark to visit one of the local family homes. During the visit, we will have the opportunity of meeting representative members of the Amazonian community, learning from their culture, talents and ways of life. We will understand how these giving and joyful people live, utilize and protect their resources, and how the cherish the fragility of their ecosystem. After lunch, the Manatee continues navigation towards one of the most pristine black-water systems of the Amazon Basin, home to legendary Pink River Dolphins, Black Cayman and the enigmatic Amazonian Anaconda. We may also spot river turtles and a series of monkey species such as the Black-mantled Tamarin, Red Howler or Squirrel Monkeys, as well as Three-toed Sloths and the primitive Hoatzin, a bizarre bird locally called ‘Stinky Turkey’ (Pavo Hediondo). The canoe trip upstream will reveal the overwhelming beauty of this aquatic jungle world.
DAY 3 - WEDNESDAY: FLOODED FOREST & MONKEY ISLAND
This morning, we will explore a swamp forest from the comfort of a high rise board walk, a very good chance to discover the wildlife that frequents these “moretales”, or Morete palm forests, where birds, primates and different aquatic creatures congregate. Afterwards, we visit a local home where funerary urns from the XVII century have been discovered and excavated.
After lunch, and a short time to unwind as the MANATEE navigates upstream, we will spend some time exploring one of the large islands, where many surprises can be found.
For our more adventurous guests, we offer Glamping for the night. Please enquire.
DAY 4 - THURSDAY: KURY MUYO & CLAY LICKS
Breakfast is served on board. We will enjoy a cultural & ethnical encounter with the locals communities. We will spend some time at one of the communities to learn about their everyday lives. Here, you’ll be able to shop, a great opportunity to purchase local handcrafts. Later we head over to the Parrot Clay licks, where we will witness one of the most exciting wildlife spectacles in Amazonia.
In the afternoon, we visit the Limoncocha Biological Reserve, an incredible natural reserve with over four hundred bird species. Search for Black Caiman after dusk. Evening return to the Manatee.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY: POMPEYA & NAPO RIVER AT THE YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK
After breakfast we will visit an Archeological/Ethnographic Museum on the Island of Pompeya for a unique look at the ancient cultures that lived and settled in the area.
After lunch, we will enjoy an easy walk in terra firme forest and discover the animated forest understory of the Amazon Basin. After dinner, enjoy an optional nocturnal walk to discover the mysteries of this unique environment and see how life emerges in the dark right before your eyes.
DAY 6 - SATURDAY: VISITING A BLACK WATER LAGOON
We will continue our navigation downstream to the Pañayacu River delta; take a canoe trip up the river to experience the sights of this fascinating reserve. We will seek out Pink River Dolphins, Common Squirrel Monkeys and much more. Pañacocha (Piranha Lake, in Quechua) is an ecosystem flooded by white waters. The rivers and lakes here are the perfect habitat for the infamous Piranha, as well as the Water Monkey Fish (Arawana) and White Caiman. After a refreshing swim (for the courageous!), we will enjoy a delicious Amazon-style BBQ meal and refreshing beverages at a nearby camping site. In the afternoon, we will head out on exploration trails, and return onboard for dinner.
DAY 7 - SUNDAY: WHITE WATER RIVER & YAKU KAUSAY AT THE YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK
Breakfast served on board. We explore a white-water river in search of local fauna.
After lunch we stop at the Amazonian Water Museum (Yaku Kausay), and an optional night walk inside forest (depending on accessibility, river water levels, weather conditions, and wildlife behavior).
DAY 8 - MONDAY: RETURNING HOME
We head back to the city of Coca to take the morning flight back to Quito. The canoe ride upstream takes around two hours.
OUR PROGRAMS INCLUDE:
- Transfer In and Out from Coca’s airport to and from the M/V Manatee
- On board Accommodation
- Programmed visits according to itinerary with a certified naturalistic guide
- Unlimited water, coffee and tea
- All meals while on board
OUR PROGRAMS DO NOT INCLUDE:
- Air ticket Quito – Coca – Quito
- Transfers to and from Quito’s airport
- Communities entrances fees
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities
- Internet Wi-Fi
- Personal Expenses
- Any other service not mentioned herein
NOTE: Please note the detailed itinerary specified above is an example of our operation, due to technical and operational factors; Manatee Amazon Explorer reserves the right to change it without previous notice.
There is no need to embellish the marvelous reality of Amazonia in terms of birds. With over 580 recorded species, including raucous parrots, glorious eagles, patterned herons, blindingly bright tanagers and cotingas, peculiarly unique hoatzins and umbrellabirds —and everything in between —birds are always a highlight of neotropical rainforests. Ecuadorian Amazonia, as we’ve mentioned before, is quite attractive because of its accessibility… whereas other parts of Amazonian South America may take a day or more to actually reach, here, the wait to find yourself birding in some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth is much shorter! But one of the great things about birding with us at Manatee, is the fact that we can travel across the gamut of Amazonian ecosystems during a single trip, from the flooded forests of the Peruvian Border, the lake habitats of Limoncocha and Pañacocha, and extremely remote areas near the Peruvian border, to the record-breaking ever-diverse Yasuní, giving you the most complete version possible of bird life in the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin. We walk forests, climb observation towers, hide behind blinds, or silently canoe inside black water streams and out in open blackwater lakes, seeking out as many birds as possible: you’ll be amazed at the variety, beauty and fascinating singularities of hundreds of different species.
A lot goes on on the ground in the rainforest. So much, we couldn’t write enough books about it to describe it all. This realm, the easiest realm to actually explore inside jungle habitats, is so teeming in life not even the most expert scientists could wish to identify it all. Some creatures are perfectly camouflaged, like walking sticks, sphinx moths, dried-leaf katydids, and glass frogs, others are quite the opposite, bright and perky like rainbow katydids, orchid bees, Morpho butterflies or poison-arrow frogs… antbirds closely following army ants, leafcutter ants creating enormous highways from one point of the forest to another, sculptural buttress roots towering above the tallest humans, the most unbelievable colors and shapes of fungi growing on fallen tree trunks… We walk and hike the rainforests under towering trees —as towering as a city full of skyscrapers—, the light trickling down in layers, smelling the aromas of a million different plants, feeling the presence of innumerable creatures filling every corner of the forest. The understory is a world within itself… Every plant holds a universe. Imagine every tree… imagine the entire forest… We program different walks for both inside forest exploration or lounging riverbanks and lakes, on longer, shorter, harder or easier trails, depending on interest or difficulty level, together with guides that enlighten us with their knowledge on life in the forest, the faunal communities that inhabit them, the medicinal plants that grow inside them, and much more…
Observation towers are spectacular vantage points that give us a sense of the forest’s overall scale. We climb several hundred steps (over 50 meters) up one of the enormous emergent trees traveling through the vertical stratification created by the forest’s spectacular height and diversity. We move towards the light, reaching the subcanopy and later the canopy, noticing the different biological realities of each level, and then higher still, above the tree tops to a most spectacular view from where one can spot nesting birds, undulating mountain ridges, or monkeys swinging from trees. There is amazing activity up in this “neck of the woods”. Scientists have explored little of these upper areas of the forest, mainly because of the difficulty of getting to them: which means thousands upon thousands of hectares of undiscovered territory.
Perhaps the closest sensation to penetrating paradise when visiting the Amazon Basin takes place on canoe, inching down a black-water stream with the forest gyrating above you in a million sounds… These waters are full of vitamins and minerals, and like tea, they obtain their color from the vegetation that falls in them. You may suddenly surprise a pair of macaws preening each other, monkeys cackling while they feed or find enormous 2-meter long Giant Otters swimming up a creek with the entire family. The ancient inhabitants of these lands mastered the region’s waterways, surely the most efficient way to transport themselves and their necessities to and from their homes and communes, and you will be able to experience, with them, the inspiring, ageless practice of paddling in the midst of forest life. At night you can seek out caiman and in the day the spectacular Pink River Dolphins or our very emblem, the elusive Manatee… For special, remote exploration, we use motorized canoes to get to and back from the site in time to unwind and dine onboard.