Frequently Asked Questions
About Our Trips to the Amazon
1) How are these trips different from other tours?
Our visits to the Amazon rainforest take place with small groups. Larger groups scare away wildlife and dilute contact with the guides. We also go to intact pristine rainforest. Most tours in the Amazon go only a short distance from cities or other settled areas. Many tours only ever visit disturbed forest--some tours actually visit the same places week after week. Our trips go far away from settlement into beautiful natural rainforest.
Another major distinction of our trips is the quality of guiding. As tropical forests are extremely complex environments, without knowledgeable guides it can appear to a visitor as one great green blur. We take a thoughtful approach to natural history. Our trips are guided by skilled naturalists who help us spot wildlife and offer our guests an informed narrative on tropical forests. The trips are detailed and full, and also fun!
2) Are these trips fun?
Our trips are aimed at observing wildlife, but we also want to have fun! The best kind of nature trip is good humored and light hearted. We try to be precise about nature and enjoy ourselves at the same time. We have a cocktail hour on the top deck with hors d'oeuvres every evening and sometime during the trip will have "Caipirinhas" the national drink of Brasil with perhaps some samba music.
3) By traveling in a group does that mean we can visit only touristy areas?
No, our group size is small and the places we visit are natural areas. Our itineraries are flexible so that we can explore interesting places we encounter en route. We are very careful not to disturb the places we visit or the lives of the people we contact in the forest and or along the rivers. We are almost always the only visitors, often the only people to travel to these magnificent natural areas.
4) We are going to South America, can we join the trip there?
Yes! Many of our passengers join the group in the field. We will work with you to coordinate your travel plans to other parts of South America. Many of our guests after the Amazon trip will continue on to The Pantanal, a little known but very interesting grassland south of the Amazon. We can also arrange visits to Rio or São Paulo or Machu Picchu in Peru.
5) What is the best time of year to go? Isn't there a rainy and a dry season? Is it hotter in the Summer?
The best time to travel is really dependent on your own scheduling considerations. Our trips take place in the very middle of the Amazon in the State of Amazonas. In this region the rainy season runs roughly from late January through early May. There are some advantages of traveling between January and May. Since most riverine plants fruit and flower during this period, it is one of the best times to see birds and monkeys at the waters edge. Though it can rain slightly more in the rainy season, it usually rains some every day in the dry season too. For more information, consult our page on Seasons and Weather. We operate our expeditions year round and the trips are wonderful any time of year.
6) Do we get a chance to actually go into the forest?
All our Amazon trips spend a considerable amount of time in the forest. We use the Motor Yacht Tucano mostly to travel and to sleep; the main part of the natural history program takes place off the vessel in our small boats or walking in the forest. We stop several times a day to explore.
7) Are the walks in the forest strenuous?
Our forest walks are primarily to spot plants and animals and are not particularly strenuous. The best way to spot wildlife is a quiet stalk along the forest trail, not crashing through at a sprint. Since different passengers would like to walk at a different pace, we usually divide into two groups, each with a guide. If you would like to get out into the forest for a vigorous HIKE and work up a sweat, one of the groups will forge ahead through the forest, going for distance. In addition, passengers can remain on the boat at any time, and many will choose to relax on the observation deck with a cold drink, binoculars, and a good book.
8) What is the risk of catching a tropical disease or attack by wild animals?
There is very little risk of catching a disease on our trips. We are in the wilderness, far away from areas where diseases are mostly found and far away from people. Our cook’s standards of cleanliness are very high and his splendid cuisine is designed for American digestion. Most wild animals are extremely wary of contact than humans. All walks in the forest are accompanied by our experienced guides.
9) What are the accommodations like? Does the vessel become claustrophobic after a few days?
Our Amazon exploration boat, the Motor Yacht Tucano, is a wonderful boat. It is cool and comfortable and designed specifically to explore the most remote corners of this magnificent forest. There is space enough for guests to have privacy. All of the cabins are air-conditioned and have private baths. We make several stops each day for our excursions and swimming so that guests do not get "cabin fever". There are also quite large group spaces to enjoy at any time of day. There is an open sun deck, a dining room for lounging and meals, and a covered balcony around the front of the boat.
10) Does the boat go close to shore or does it stay in the middle of the river?
The course of our expedition boat hugs the shore line. We are constantly on the lookout for interesting wildlife which frequently congregates at the river’s edge. We make numerous stops to investigate and explore with our launches. Though we remain comfortable, we do not become insulated from the forest. The river itself is interesting to watch since we often see large fish jumping, freshwater dolphins, countless birds, and strange gargantuan trees with hanging vines.
11) Are the areas where the trips take place over-visited?
Our itineraries go to places very rarely visited. We are often the only groups ever to stop in the places we select. We go much farther than other groups and it is extremely rare for us to see any other humans except the occasional fisherman. Though our trips visit the same region the actual places visited differ from trip to trip because we prefer not to visit the same areas more than a few times a year. This minimizes our impact as well as offer a great variety of experiences for our guests and crew members alike.
12) Is the water safe to drink?
The water is perfectly safe. Our expedition boat is equipped with a large dispenser of bottled water, and we keep it full for the duration of the trip.
13) What are most of the participants on the tours like?
Our guests come in all ages and walks of life. The wonderful variety of their backgrounds enriches the experience for us all. The single thing that all passengers have in common is a curiosity for the tropical forest and the Amazon. Our passengers are some of the most interesting and nicest people in the world.
14) Is the Amazon dangerous? Are there lots of criminals? How are visitors perceived, do they like us?
The large cities of South America are no safer than large cities elsewhere in the world. In the Amazon however, there is much more a sense of community and our guests can be at ease. On the river and in the forest we are in one of the least densely populated areas on the planet and also one of the safest. There is virtually no risk of crime on the expedition.
Brazilians are fond of American and European culture which they garner from movies and from large immigrant communities in the Europe and the United States. Brasil is a large country with a significant immigrant population and there is an easy going nature to the culture no matter where you are in Brasil. In short, Brasilians are generally quite fond of visitors and when visitors get to know Brasil, the feeling usually becomes mutual. We are very careful to ensure that all our contacts with people in the field are respectful and positive.
15) Do the trips damage the wilderness areas we visit?
Ecotourism is one of the very few ways in which income can be generated from undisturbed rainforest. The presence of our groups has a very positive impact on the places we visit by providing income in wages and material and, as importantly, by involving a large number of local people in an economic relationship to forest preservation. On the trips we are very conscientious not to disturb the natural areas that we visit. We leave them as wild and undisturbed as when we arrived.
16) Are we going to see lots of large animals?
The Amazon has the greatest diversity of wildlife on earth and yet to the first time visitor the Amazon can be a blur—an opaque ocean of green. The Amazon actually is very like an ocean, but instead of dark waves concealing the great beasts that roam its depths there is an almost incomprehensible riot of plant life. There are jaguars padding through the forest very close to where the boat is anchored. There are monkeys too, and sloths, giant anteaters, leaf cutter ants, anacondas, tarantulas and all of the wonderful storied beasts of the rainforest. But the Amazon is an elusive place and these animals are very hard to see. They are hiding!
We will navigate within this great forest and on our walks dive into its depths, but we never know what we will encounter. A visitor expecting to see lots of large animals will be frustrated. We hope to see some of these large mammals, but without question, we won’t see very many of them. In this dense foliage and with their sharpened senses, large animals are very successful at hiding from us. This is a vast, elusive, and with the right perspective, utterly fascinating place. Our guides are always trying to spot large mammals but on the trip we will go one step farther.
Within this dense forest are a multitude of astounding stories. It is in the details of what its bizarre creatures eat, how they reproduce, and how they elude predators that the truly astonishing and beautiful aspects of Amazon wildlife are revealed. We will examine how the animals and plants relate with one another and also their physical environment. This environment is in some ways a paradise and in others brutally harsh. Creatures adapt by forming relations to these conditions and to their prey and predators in the plant and animal world. It is in these relations, evolved through eons of evolution, that the secrets of the Amazon are hidden and where a real understanding of this complex environment can be found. This way at looking at the forest, this perspective, is ecology.
While we are armed with ecological curiosity we should also become hunters. The great skill of hunters is that they are focussed on finding wildlife and try not to think or talk about other things when they are in the forest. They are very attentive to their surroundings and concentrate on observing changes in the forest around them. When we are on our excursions if we can stay focussed and not become engaged with topics unrelated to observation, we will be successful. Hunters are quiet. They use all of their senses listening for small sounds like the breaking of a branch or fruit falling from the canopy, sniffing for animal odors, scanning the leaves above and below for motion. With this heightened attention and care to make little noise, the chances of observing creatures large and small is greatly increased.
Expectations and Mammals
The Amazon has the greatest collection of life on earth, and so understandably, many visitors to the Amazon expect to see lots of mammals. But it should be kept in mind that the story of the Amazon is that it has high diversity, but low density. So on our trip we will see lots of kinds of creatures but not very many of each kind. But the beauty of this place is how the flora and fauna have evolved the wonderful and bizarre adaptations to thrive in this wilderness. With this perspective, travelers can directly experience and appreciate the infinite variability and magnificence of nature, for many, truly a gift.