Manatee Amazon River Cruise in Ecuador
Itinerary 7 nights
(Friday to Friday)
EXPLORE THE AMAZON
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 - FRIDAY : QUITO – COCA – NAPO RIVER – YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK Departure from Quito. A short 30-minute flight takes us to the frontier town of Coca (Francisco de Orellana) – and transfer to the dock, where we will embark on a motorized canoe and navigate down river about 1 hour, to board the M/V MANATEE AMAZON EXPLORER. Throughout the journey we have a chance to admire the rainforest landscape and banks of the great Napo River. Immediately after boarding the M/V Manatee, we continue navigating downstream. Passengers will have their first opportunities to enjoy the exciting features of our cruise ship: the spacious social areas, comfortable suites, and an observation deck that offers spectacular views. An evening walk is organized after sunset; it gives us the opportunity to discover the forest’s nocturnal activity and listen to the incessant sounds of nature.
DAY 1 - FRIDAY : QUITO – COCA – NAPO RIVER – YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK
Departure from Quito. A short 30-minute flight takes us to the frontier town of Coca (Francisco de Orellana) – and transfer to the dock, where we will embark on a motorized canoe and navigate down river about 1 hour, to board the M/V MANATEE AMAZON EXPLORER. Throughout the journey we have a chance to admire the rainforest landscape and banks of the great Napo River.
Immediately after boarding the M/V Manatee, we continue navigating downstream. Passengers will have their first opportunities to enjoy the exciting features of our cruise ship: the spacious social areas, comfortable suites, and an observation deck that offers spectacular views. An evening walk is organized after sunset; it gives us the opportunity to discover the forest’s nocturnal activity and listen to the incessant sounds of nature.
DAY 2. SATURDAY: VISITING THE PAÑACOCHA BIOLOGICAL CORRIDOR
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 3. SUNDAY: CLAY LICKS – SANI WARMI & YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK
Breakfast on board. We set out to visit one of the most amazing spectacles this side of western Amazonia known as parrot licks, these unique pools of mud become rich in minerals and attract hundreds of parrots, parakeets and amazons every day. If weather permits, we will have a chance to marvel at this astonishing natural phenomenon.
Later we will visit the Sani Warmi Kichwa Interpretation Center, where a group of Kichwa women will speak of their customs, cuisine and everyday life. They have created the center in order to showcase their culture, and it is a unique opportunity to learn about Amazonian lifestyles along the Napo River. You will also have the opportunity to buy crafts, local products and souvenirs.
After lunch, we will make a stop at the Yakukawsay Kichwa Interpretation Centre, and end with an interesting evening walk through the forest (depending on accessibility, river water levels and weather conditions).
DAY 4. MONDAY: INDILLAMA & NAPO RIVERS – YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK
In this day you have the option to kayak trough one of the afluents of the Napo River that goes into the Yasuni National Park, the Indillama River. Great excursions for wildlife observation, kayaks are a great silent vehicle to flow down river.
Or you can choose to go tin a canoe ride in search of more wildlife through the Napo River. It’s up to you!
DAY 5 - TUESDAY: BORDER WITH PERU (THE HEART OF YASUNI)
After a delicious breakfast, we disembark on land for our first daylight close-and-personal tropical rainforest experience, where we will learn about the relationship between plants and animals while closely watching out for samples of Amazonia’s fascinating biodiversity at every turn.
After lunch, the M/V Manatee navigates to one of the most pristine and little explored sections of Ecuadorian Amazonia, home to the legendary pink river dolphin, black caiman and anaconda. We may also find river turtles and various species of monkeys, as well as the primitive Hoatzin, a one-of-a-kind bird locally known as "the Stinky Turkey". The only way to actually visit this flooded ecosystem is by canoe, a ride that will reveal the beauty of a lush jungle world.
For our more adventurous passengers, please inquire about our glamping program.
DAY 6 - WEDNESDAY: MEETING THE COMMUNITY - ACTIVITIES ON BOARD - ISLAND EXPLORATION
Breakfast on board. We visit a school located on the banks of the Napo River, where we will have the opportunity to interact with children of the area and learn about the educational system of a remote jungle community in Ecuador.
We return on board the M/V Manatee for lunch and a moment to relax while we navigate upstream. We will offer a lecture and documentary screening, and if time permits, learn about (and make) typical handicrafts of the area. In the afternoon, we explore one of the largest river islands of the Napo River.
DAY 7. THURSDAY: PARROT’S CLAY LICK – LIMONCOCHA BIOLOGICAL RESERVE
Breakfast on board. We set out to visit one of the most amazing spectacles this side of western Amazonia known as parrot licks, these unique pools of mud become rich in minerals and attract hundreds of parrots, parakeets and amazons every day. If weather permits, we will have a chance to marvel at this astonishing natural phenomenon. We will also visit a small community arts and crafts shop, an excellent place to find souvenirs to take back.
In the afternoon, we visit Limoncocha Biological Reserve, a fascinating protected area where more than 478 bird species and several monkey species have been recorded. This activity will extend into the evening, when we will have a chance to spot black caiman with the help of our flashlights. Return to the M/V Manatee for dinner.
DAY 8 - FRIDAY: RETURN
In the morning, disembark the M/V Manatee and transfer by motorized canoe to Coca (1 ½ hour ride); flight to Quito.
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.