Amazon Cruises Compared: Brasil or Peru?
Which Amazon Cruises are Best?
Comparison of the Motor Yacht Tucano to Typical Cruises in Iquitos, Peru
How to choose the right Amazon cruise? It is not easy. After all, the marketing materials are all good and without actually going on all the trips, how to tell the difference from one trip and another?
What is most important to appreciating the Amazon rainforest is the actual experience in the forest and there are very important differences between Amazon cruises. While our vessel the Motor Yacht Tucano is not a luxury ship, it is comfortable and sophisticated. In the ways that really count in an Amazon cruise, our trips are very different, and better, than the all of others offered in the entire Amazon.
More Time in the Wilderness
Our cruises on the Motor Yacht Tucano spend much more time in wilderness rainforest than virtually all other cruises. One important reason is that our cruises are a full and continuous seven days long. Some companies publicize longer cruises, but these are almost always a combination of two short cruises with a lost day in between in port. Because it is continuous, Voyage to the Heart of the Amazon is able to journey far up one of the most remote and unsettled rivers in the Amazon, the Rio Negro. We are able to explore in the far reaches of forest that have little or no human populations.
Another reason our cruises offer more cruising time is that there is good rainforest close to where the trip begins. In just a few hours from where we embark on the M/Y Tucano in Manaus, Brasil we are able to explore rainforest that has very little settlement. In contrast cruises departing from Iquitos, can take up to two days of river travel to reach wilderness rain forest. Most of the cruises that begin in Iquitos travel to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, which is 114 miles from Iquitos. The riverbanks for most of that distance has quite a lot of settlement and the forest has been cut and re grown many times. Cruises to this region are simply unable to spend much time in wild forest because it is so far away from the point of departure.
Our trips mostly take place in the region of the Rio Negro, which is a vast and largely uninhabited area. Travelers on our voyages have a sense of true wilderness. We especially voyage within a new reserve known as the Central Amazonia Biological Corridor which is one of the world’s largest protected rainforest areas.
In choosing a cruise, travelers should also consider the travel route to the city from which the cruise departs. Our embarkation point is Manaus, Brasil which is well served by national and international air carriers. Travelers are usually able to arrive in Manaus without having to spend any nights in any other city. In contrast, the majority of travelers to Iquitos, Peru must spend two nights in the City of Lima. Because of the need to fly from Lima to Iquitos, the Amazon cruises departing from there usually embark in the evening which entails a lost day of travel. In analyzing an itinerary it is essential to study the embarkation and disembarkation times.
The day to day itineraries of our trips are full and we spend most of our time in forest areas. Many Amazon trip itineraries consume the first and last days in transit and usually include days visiting theme developed tourist sites. One reality of Amazon travel is that more time passengers spend in the forest the better the experience.
Our vessel course is devised to maximize our opportunity to observe wildlife and we often modify the itinerary to find the creatures. There is nothing routine about our voyages. But many tour boats make the exact same trip week after week. A fixed and rigid itinerary makes the trip routine for the crew and the passengers. One of the great pleasures of travel is spontaneity and on the M/Y Tucano we vary the itinerary so that the trips are interesting for the passengers and the guides.
More Active Cruises
Many Amazon tour vessels offer passengers a small number of excursions off the vessel, often as few as two. On our trips we explore off the main vessel four and sometimes five times each and every day of the cruise. We scout in the Tucano’s launches, walk in the forest, and visit local settlers. We walk in the tropical forest every morning which is unusual among tour operations.
The trips are devoted to observing wildlife and understanding the rainforest environment so we take every opportunity to get off the boat and explore. Our program is more intensive and we utilize our time to best observe wildlife in the early morning, late afternoon and some nights. While active, our trips are not necessarily strenuous. We divide into two small groups one that prefers a rigorous experience and another that would like to travel at a more leisurely pace. Travelers can choose to take some but not all of the excursions off the vessel so that they can themselves choose the level of activity they prefer.
Cruises based in Manaus have a tremendous geographical advantage over those operated from Iquitos, Peru. This is because we voyage on both the Rio Negro and the actual Amazon River. These two rivers have a much greater variety of habitats than cruises that begin in Iquitos. On our cruises we able to explore four very distinct environments, each of them with a different collection of wildlife. These are the Igapó black water flooded forest, the varzea white water flooded forest, the chevascal a strange low grassland, and the terra firme, the high forest. Especially important is that on our cruises we are able every day to walk in the high forest of the terra firme where the greatest diversity of flora and fauna can be found.
In contrast, the cruises that begin in Iquitos are mostly confined to a single forest type, the varzea flooded forest. While this is a rich environment, for much of the year it is almost totally flooded. This means that travelers are not able to find many places to actually go into the forest and that those few places are very heavily visited.
On our voyages we go into the forest on foot every day. This gives travelers the chance to experience the most fascinating and diverse environment in the Amazon and with more time actually in the forest, our guests have a much greater chance to experience the strange and beautiful aspects of the forest that are hidden to most travelers.
Small Group Size
While many Amazon tour vessels have groups sizes of 25 - 45 passengers, the Motor Yacht Tucano accepts a group size up to the capacity of our 9 cabins. With single occupancy this means that our groups usually have only 15-18 travelers. This small group size offers a vastly different and better experience than larger groups. When we go into the forest we are able to stay focused on nature and the trips are much more productive. Additionally, on our daily excursions we divide into smaller groups, so that generally while exploring we are with 9 or fewer others in a group. Small groups are more attentive and quieter and this gives us a greater opportunity to observe shy wildlife. Small groups in the forest enable the travelers to have close contact with the guides which is a much richer experience.
The small group advantage is also reflected in many of the logistical aspects of a trip which really enhance the experience. Our launches are smaller which means smaller and quieter engines. All those organizational events of a trip like baggage and meals are more simply completed. Getting on and off the launches is quieter, quicker and less regimented. All of our activities such as lectures, meals, and all of the group gatherings are more intimate and focused.
Another consequence of the smaller group is that the vessel can be more nimble. The Motor Yacht Tucano While is comfortable and certainly elegant, but is at the same time small enough to be able to enter deep into small tributaries where larger vessels simply cannot go. In these small wilderness tributaries we often see some of the most lovely flora and fauna.
Carefully Designed Program and Skilled Guides
On the Motor Yacht Tucano our entire staff, not just the guides, are devoted to examining and telling the full story of the Amazon. We see our task as not to just finding and seeing the signature fauna like primates or colorful birds, but telling the grand story of Amazon wildlife. We endeavor to inform the travelers of the variety of habitats that exist in Amazonia and place our wildlife observations in the framework of tropical ecology. Our objective is to help our travelers understand the dynamics of the environment as a whole, the scope and character of the diversity of flora and fauna, and also the culture and survival strategies of the people that live in the wilderness. Our voyages are vastly more authoritative, carefully conceived and executed than any other cruises operated in Amazonia.
Essential to the success of our program is our guides. They are highly trained naturalists who have worked with us for many years and in addition to exceptional forest skills, have a commitment to share the culture and nature of Amazonia with our travelers. Their knowledge of flora and fauna help us to observe and understand the secrets of the forest. They not only help us find wildlife, but they also share their knowledge of the astonishing habits of these fabulous creatures. Many cruise companies use free lance guides who are often better linguists than forest guides. But only with years of experience and working together as a team can an expedition cruise crew offer the kind of thoughtful and intensive exploration of Amazon nature that is found on the Motor Yacht Tucano.
Last but not least, voyages on the our vessels are a great deal more authentic than found on virtually all of the other vessels in operation.
We do not include in our voyages any “made for tourism” experiences. There are no visits to a shaman, no certificates of trip completion, and no feeding or photo opportunities of captive animals. We especially avoid visits to local communities where the inhabitants have been encouraged to imitate tribal dress and customs.
Instead, we take special care to present the people and natural history of Amazonia as they are without exaggeration. This true story of Amazonia remains very compelling and for most passengers, voyages on the Motor Yacht Tucano are a thrilling experience and far exceed their expectations. The remote places we visit, our frequent and intensive excursions, the training and quality of the staff, the exploratory itinerary and the environment itself combine to make the experience on the Motor Yacht Tucano an extraordinary and memorable one.