Manatee Amazon River Cruise in Ecuador
Itinerary 8 Days / 7 Nights
(Friday to Friday)
DAY 1. FRIDAY: QUITO – COCA – NAPO RIVER Our adventure begins in the city of Quito, Capital of Ecuador. After taking a short 30-minute flight from Quito to the Amazon city of Coca, located in the Province of San Francisco de Orellana, we will transfer to the dock and board our motorized canoe to begin our journey down the river for approximately an hour and a half, taking in the first sights and sounds of the Amazon. Soon, we will reach the M/V Manatee Amazon Explorer and receive our welcome aboard. Once we have settled into the M/V Manatee Amazon Explorer, we will be joined by expert local naturalist guides who will provide us with a brief and informative introduction to the Ecuadorian Amazon, after which passengers will have their first opportunity to discover the exciting features of our cruise ship: spacious social areas, comfortable suites, and the observation deck that allows us to admire the changing rainforest landscape as we glide down the Napo River. After dinner, we will plunge straight into the Amazon by going for a night hike to observe the forest’s nocturnal activity and experience the thrill of the vivid noises and aromas that come from so much biodiversity.
DAY 1. FRIDAY: QUITO – COCA – NAPO RIVER
Our adventure begins in the city of Quito, Capital of Ecuador. After taking a short 30-minute flight from Quito to the Amazon city of Coca, located in the Province of San Francisco de Orellana, we will transfer to the dock and board our motorized canoe to begin our journey down the river for approximately an hour and a half, taking in the first sights and sounds of the Amazon. Soon, we will reach the M/V Manatee Amazon Explorer and receive our welcome aboard.
Once we have settled into the M/V Manatee Amazon Explorer, we will be joined by expert local naturalist guides who will provide us with a brief and informative introduction to the Ecuadorian Amazon, after which passengers will have their first opportunity to discover the exciting features of our cruise ship: spacious social areas, comfortable suites, and the observation deck that allows us to admire the changing rainforest landscape as we glide down the Napo River.
After dinner, we will plunge straight into the Amazon by going for a night hike to observe the forest’s nocturnal activity and experience the thrill of the vivid noises and aromas that come from so much biodiversity.
DAY 2. SATURDAY: PAÑACOCHA BIOLOGICAL CORRIDOR
We continue to travel downstream to the Pañayacu River delta, where we will take a canoe trip to experience the sights of this fascinating water reserve. Pañacocha Lake is an ecosystem flooded by blackwaters. Pañacocha means “Piranha Lake” in the native Quechua language. The surrounding protected Rainforest is home to 9 species of primates, 500 species of birds and more than 100 fish species. This is the perfect habitat for Piranhas, the Water Monkey Fish (Arawana) and the White Caiman.
In this little piece of paradise, we will participate in nature walks led by our local naturalist guides, and relax at a nearby campsite where we will enjoy a delicious Amazon-style BBQ and refreshing beverages.
After lunch, we will do some kayaking, and the bravest among us will enjoy a nice refreshing swim in the Piranha Lake! We promise it’s not as dangerous as it sounds!
Back on board the M/V Manatee Amazon Explorer, our guests will have the opportunity to attend a lecture given by our concierge and watch an educational documentary about the region.
DAY 3. SUNDAY: PARROT CLAY LICKS – AMAZONIAN COMMUNITIES & OBSERVATION TOWER
This morning, we will set out on canoes to observe one of the most incredible sights on this side of the Western Amazon – the Parrot Clay Licks. This unique place is rich in minerals and attracts hundreds of colorful parrots, parakeets and amazon birds, every day.
Later, we will visit a Quechua Cultural Center, where we will learn about Amazon communities and their ancestral culture, traditions, and cuisine. Members of the local community will teach us about indigenous lifestyles along the Napo River and we will have the opportunity to support the local community by purchasing handicrafts, local products, and souvenirs.
Before sunset, we will visit an observation tower in the rainforest canopy, which offers an astonishing 360-degree view of the Amazon basin and is the perfect photo opportunity! Birdwatchers and bird-lovers alike will especially enjoy this outing.
DAY 4. MONDAY: INDILLAMA & NAPO RIVER – THE NORTHER SIDE OF YASUNÍ NATIONAL PARK
We will begin the day kayaking along the Indillama River, one of the Napo River’s tributaries, which leads us into Yasuni National Park. Kayaks are smooth and silent, providing the very best opportunity to observe wildlife. Canoes can also be used to travel in search of more wildlife. The choice is yours! In these waters, you will find yourself surrounded by lush greenery.
After an adventure-filled day, you may choose to take advantage of our observation deck where you can relax and experience a magical view under the stars.
Our more energetic passengers may choose to unwind with a night walk through the jungle to observe nocturnal creatures.
DAY 5. TUESDAY: THE HEART OF YASUNI NATIONAL PARK (HOME OF THE LEGENDARY PINK RIVER DOLPHIN)
Early in the morning, we will visit Yasuni National Park. This is a pristine and relatively undisturbed region of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Our guests will be pleased to learn that this is the home of the legendary Pink River Dolphin! In this area we can also find anacondas, river turtles and various primate species, as well as the colorful Hoatzin, a unique bird that is known locally as the “Stinky Turkey”.
The afternoon will bring us back on board the M/V Manatee Amazon Explorer where we will relax, and be invited to try their hands at making traditional handicrafts, as we continue our cruise upstream.
DAY 6. WEDNESDAY: QUECHUA FAMILY & CANOEING IN A BLACKWATER LAKE
We will start the day off by visiting an authentic Quechua family located on the banks of the Napo River, where we will receive cultural immersion and the opportunity to learn directly from members of the local community.
We will then board the M/V Manatee Amazon Explorer for lunch and some leisure time as we continue our journey upstream. At this time, our guests are invited to participate in a cooking class with our chef who will share recipes and techniques for preparing exquisite traditional Ecuadorian food that you can replicate at home.
Later in the afternoon, we will go canoeing in a blackwater lake, home to giant otters and the magnificent, albeit elusive manatee. We will also enjoy a pleasant hike in the Riparian/Gallery Forest, where we have the chance to spot a flock of birds and marvel at the intricate organization of a colony of leaf-cutter ants by the “Giant Fig Tree”, a truly majestic tree that is home to an abundance of wildlife, much like the “Giant Kapok Tree” that we will be visiting tomorrow.
DAY 7. THURSDAY: FOREST ADVENTURE & OBSERVATION CANOPY TOWER
Our passengers can relax and enjoy the M/V Manatee Amazon Explorer during the morning and disembark to explore the nearby forest for a walk to discover a myriad of different animals and plant species that can only be found in the Amazon basin.
In the afternoon, we will visit a canopy tower, built against a giant Kapok tree. The perspective at the top of this observation tower is truly glorious, looming above the lush treetops and providing a view of the sheer vastness of the Amazon Basin.
In the evening, we will bravely venture into the river on a canoe to search for black caimans with the help of our flashlights.
DAY 8. FRIDAY: RETURN
This is where our adventure ends! Enjoy the last part of our return journey onboard and then disembark the M/V Manatee Amazon Explorer to take the motorized canoe back to Coca (a one-and-a-half-hour ride).
*For our passengers with a more adventurous inclination, we are pleased to offer a camping program, which is an alternative manner to explore this enchanting destination. Contact us for more details! (Optional activity for the 4&7-nights Itinerary)
OUR PROGRAMS INCLUDE:
- Transfer In and Out from Coca’s airport to and from the M/V Manatee
- Onboard Accommodation
- Scheduled visits according to the itinerary with a certified nature 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.
Day 1. Friday: Quito – Coca – Napo River