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This unique trip is dedicated solely to discovering the rich ecosystem of the Amazon, journeying between the cities of Belem and Manaus by a variety of boat. We sail along the unimaginably wide Amazon River, as well as down tributaries along the Rio Negro. Don't expect high comfort levels - this is a trip for an active traveller who is prepared for heat, humidity and simple accommodation with the aim of experiencing something extraordinary.
Explore Tour Leader
6 nights simple boat
5 nights comfortable hotel
2 nights simple lodge
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Belem, the Amazon's port city, situated at the Guaraja Bay in the eastern part of the vast Amazon delta. In the late 1800s, the city owed much of its wealth to the burgeoning rubber trade, and we see this history played out in the number of colonial-era buildings found within Belem's downtown district.
Our Tour Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 5pm for your welcome briefing, and for those who wish there will be the option to have dinner together with the group this evening. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Belem at any time, and if you miss the meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Belem's Val de Cans International Airport (airport code: BEL), which is approximately a 20 minute drive from our hotel.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you could visit the Museu Goeldi, a perfect introduction to the culture, fauna and flora of the Amazon region.
Hotel Princesa Louca (or similar)
This morning, a local guide will navigate us through some of the city's main sights, introducing us to the portuguese-tiled houses and beautiful baroque churches of the city centre. One of the most noteworthy attractions is certainly the Ver-o-Peso market with its distinctive steeple towers and central position on the docks of the city. This huge public market stocks everything imaginable from meat, fish, and medicinal plants, to arts and crafts and even a specialised market selling only the endemic acai berry, a staple of the Brazilian Amazon populations. We'll also discover the main opera house (entrance not included), which is one of the city's most impressive buildings, built in the late nineteenth-century at a time that was known as the 'Golden Age of Rubber'.
The afternoon is at our leisure to wander around the shady streets of Belem. Belem is the Amazon's culinary capital, using many indigenous plants and fruits, as well as plenty of fresh seafood. During the evening, the Estacao das Docas is well worth exploring - this series of three historic dockside warehouses has been converted into restaurants, bars and even a small theatre, with views out to the river.
Rising early this morning we drive out of the city to the ferry port to catch our public ferry across to Marajo Island, a land mass in the Amazon River Delta that is bigger than the Netherlands. The ferry journey takes approximately two-and-a-half to three hours, and you'll be able to walk around freely and take in the views as we approach the lush banks of the island. Snacks and drinks are available on board. Upon arrival we will drive to our pousada (local inn), situated on a cliff overlooking Joanes Beach, a deserted stretch of Atlantic coastline harbouring fresh water, the influence of the mouth of the Amazon. This afternoon we may take the opportunity to take a canoe trip on the Rio Limao, or walk along the miles of deserted beaches.
Pousada Ventania (or similar)
The open grasslands of Marajo Island flood during the rainy months, creating a year-round wetland habitat that is excellent for wildlife spotting. It is particularly well known for its water buffalo - the story goes that some 150 years ago, a ship heading for the West Indies, carrying a herd of Indian water buffalo, sank off the Marajo coast. Most of the cattle were adept swimmers, and eventually reached the shore, making their home on the island, where they proliferate today in both a wild and domestic setting. They are used commonly in agriculture as well as being a form of transport around the island.
We'll start early with a drive to one of the many farms on the island - Fazenda Sao Jeronimo. The owner will take us on a tour of his land, which includes walks along forest and pastured trails, a canoe journey up the river that runs through his property, and a wooden walkway that will take us through the important mangrove habitat. While buffalos help out with the farming here, Sao Jeronimo isn't a buffalo farm. However, our next stop - the nearby Mironga Farm - is. Over 700,000 buffalos live on Marajo Island, more than humans, which is a testament to their economic importance. Here we'll have lunch and a tasting with items produced on the farm - butter, cheese and buffalo meat. We'll then make our way to the Bom Jesus Farm before returning to our Pousada. The dirt road between Fazenda Bom Jesus and the village of Vila do Céu offers plenty of opportunities to spot birds (including the characteristic scarlet ibis) and other wildlife.
We head back to Belem this morning, this time taking the smaller boats direct to the hidrioviario in the centre of Belem. The faster journey gets us into Belem in just under two hours and we have lunch before returning to the port to board our second boat of the trip for the journey to Santarem. This public boat is a huge passenger vehicle, serving predominantly local Brazilians who use it as a functional journey to travel upriver. The standards here are not equivalent to a western overnight ferry, and you should expect basic accommodation levels. We have simple twin cabins with air conditioning, a shower and WC. Buffet-style meals are all served on the boat with a limited variety of food available. You will need to bring a lightweight sleeping bag liner (a sheet or two will also suffice) and a towel, as not all bedding is provided. This first evening we watch the vanishing lights of Belem as we set off on our way to Santarem.
Overnight boat from Belem to Santarém (or similar)
This first day on board takes us through narrow waterways with abundant rainforest, and typical 'caboclo' dwellings on stilts, built to cope with the fluctuating water levels. Caboclo communities are descended from the mixture of the indigenous populations and the white adventurers, such as rubber tappers and prospectors. We have a look into their lives on the riverbank as we travel, seeing them wash clothes, fish and travel to school by canoe or boat. Throughout our journey from Belem to Santarem, we will be stopping (but not disembarking) in various locations in the Amazon Basin to see the busy ports and the loading and unloading of cargo. Part of the fun of the journey is watching the frantic port activity as crates of alcohol, food and supplies are quickly unloaded at each town.
This morning we awake on the mighty Amazon proper, 10-15km wide in parts, finding ourselves observing both banks at a distance and taking in the atmosphere. One of the highlights of this trip is the sky at night - away from city lights, we have unparalleled stargazing opportunities. Out on deck is the best place to watch the sunset, and also gives us the perfect chance to mingle with our fellow travellers, enjoying a game of cards or chatting about our mutual travel experiences. This is slow travel at its best, so bringing a book or activity for the boat is essential.
We leave the boat this morning in the port town of Santarem, and drive immediately 35km south to the laid-back town of Alter do Chao. Best known for its beautiful white-sandy beaches, visible at low tide, and transparent waters (an unusual site for anyone expecting the muddy brown Amazon), it is also idyllically situated on a blue lagoon and flanked by forest reserves. The town has attracted many beachside dwellers, and there is a lively feel to the town with Carimbo (Amazonian folk music) being played by many of the small local bars. This afternoon is free to explore, swim and relax in these surroundings. You may wish to head to one of the open-air restaurants, where chairs and tables are placed in the warm water of the lagoon, with only the table above the water level, and fish swim around you as you eat. For those who wish, there may be time to take a trip to the Lagoa Verde (green lake). During the wet season (Feb-Aug) you can enter the Enchanted Forest by canoe and explore this labyrinth of trees that are home to birds and monkeys. During the dry season (Sep-Jan) the low water levels allow us to walk along the canals, bathe in the cool waters of natural springs and enjoy sunset at Ponta de Cururu beach on the Tapajos River (pink dolphins are often spotted here). This trip is approximately 3 hours in length.
It's worth noting that a six-month period of low tide starts from late June, which is the best time to see Alter do Chao's white-sand beaches at their fullest.
Pousada Belo Alter (or similar)
Today we have a full day trip to the FLONA (National Forest) nature reserve. A massive protected area of primary rainforest, FLONA gives us the opportunity to learn about the delicate ecosystems that exist in the Amazon, as the passionate local guides give an in-depth view of the many different plants and bird species living here as well as a history of the rubber trade in the area. We'll take a boat ride along the clear waters of the Tapajos River flanked by forest, to the Jamaraqua Community Centre, where we'll be welcomed with a coffee before setting off on our jungle walk. This 10 kilometre / 6.5 mile walk will acquaint us with medicinal plants and the flora of the forest. Active people will find this trail fairly easy, but the weather is hot and humid which can make it more challenging. The walk will take us approximately four hours, with plenty of stops for photos and explanations of the nature around us. We'll also have some swimming opportunities while in FLONA.
We return to Alter do Chao by boat, arriving around 7pm.
This morning is free to enjoy the final hours along the river at Alter do Chao. In the afternoon we transfer to Santarem airport and fly to Manaus (taking into account the time zone change, this journey takes a mere 10 minutes!), before heading to the port to board our private boat. This really is the climax of our Amazon journey as we cruise down the Rio Negro for 3 nights, sleeping in hammocks under the stars. On board our boat is a galley, a small bar and basic washing facilities. We will be sleeping on deck, so be prepared for a certain lack of privacy. Hammocks are provided and your Tour Leader can tell you the right way to sleep in a hammock (diagonally) in order to get the best night's sleep!
Overnight Boat on Rio Negro (or similar)
During the course of the 3 days on board the boat, there are a whole range of excursions that will allow us to thoroughly explore this Amazon region. Throughout the boat trip we will be seeing the huge Victoria Regia water lily, birdwatching and hopefully spotting pink Amazon river dolphins playing alongside us in the water. We have motorised canoes on the boat with us and will be using them to explore the riverbanks as well as landing on the shore to do some jungle walking on foot. We visit a caboclo family as well as an indigenous community in order to learn more about how they live in this rainforest environment. One of the most interesting parts is learning about how they use the plants and trees around them - each one of them has a meaning and a use. We will be exploring jungle trails with our guides and Tour Leader, as well as discovering the huge river archipelago of Anavilhanas, which has more than 1000 islands and abundant aquatic life, including caimans and dolphins. In the evening we do night outings to spot dark caiman, or catch a piranha supper. This trip gives us a real expedition feeling while still travelling in the relative luxury of our boat.
Our final full day on the boat brings our Amazon exploration to an end, and hopefully we will have caught a glimpse of 'the real thing'. Our ideas of the Amazon are so often glamorised - weird and wonderful birds flying overhead, animals popping out of the forest canopy every two minutes and spear-toting indigenous tribes behind each tree. This journey is dedicated to discovering this incredible world region, and should defy some of the myths whilst giving us a sense of understanding and appreciation for this amazing ecosystem. Our guides and crew will make this part of the trip unforgettable. Tonight, we will be taking our hammocks off the boat and having a magical camping experience in the Amazon, with a BBQ meal cooked for us on the spot by our crew. This does of course depend on the weather - in cases of rain, we will sleep on the boat as normal.
This afternoon we disembark in Manaus, where we spend the rest of the day. Although Manaus is generally blown through by travellers who use it as the jumping off point for Amazon trips, it's worth staying for a look at one of the country's most impressive buildings - the Teatro Amazonas. This 19th Century neo-classical style opera house is quite simply a work of art. Built by cash-rich rubber barons who were trying to recreate a sense of European elegance in the wild Amazonas region, the pastel-pink, colonnaded exterior and lavish interior contrast sharply with the industrial grit of the rest of the city. Around the theatre, the central square starts to buzz after about 4pm when the bars and restaurants start filling up. It's a great place to try fresh fish (the region's most well-known fish is the 'tambaqui' - a large freshwater variety, delicious grilled) and enjoy the nightlife.
Blue Tree Premium Manaus (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Manaus.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Manaus at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel, and this is the perfect opportunity to spend additional time in Manaus.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Manaus's Eduardo Gomes International Airport (airport code: MAO), which is approximately a 30 minute drive from our hotel.
Due to its enormous size, Brazil has many different climatic zones which vary year round. There is no ‘best time’ to visit Brazil, but at different times of year your experience will vary. Temperatures rarely dip below 20° C, with Iguazu, Rio and Salvador dropping down there during the winter months of June to August. Evenings around the coast are cooler during this period but the sea is still warm and fresh, and the air is less humid. In Paraty, Belem, the Pantanal and the Amazon temperatures tend to hover around 30° C year round.
January to March is mid-summer across Brazil, but warm days on the coast are matched by the rainy season in the Amazon and the Pantanal. Parts of the Pantanal become flooded and it can be a very lively time to visit. The main characteristics of this season are the beautiful water landscapes and the prevalence of many water birds. Conversely, the dry season (July to October) in the Pantanal is a better time to observe larger wildlife such as the coati or giant anteater.
In the vast central area of the Amazon, the climate is tropical, with warm to hot temperatures year round, and a rainy season as detailed above.
2 Pin Round
Predominantly Roman Catholic.
Marajo Island - Canoe trip on the Rio Limao US$20 (min 8 pers); Local Carimbó dance show US$100 for the group Alter do Chao - Lagoa Verde trip - US$40 (min. 4 pers). Addition of canoeing in high-water season US $10-$20 Optional excursions need to be paid in local currency, although some accept credit card
Lightweight clothing is essential for this trip. The air is humid and muggy, so you may wish to change your clothes more than usual. We recommend clothes that cover legs and arms in the evening and on any walks, in order to protect your legs against scratches from trees and biting insects.
Good shoes or walking boots are essential for the jungle walks, which can be muddy and slippery. A pair of sandals or comfortable shoes will be useful for walking around the boat.
Main bag - One piece of main luggage and a daypack Hard shell bags are not practical on this trip - a soft rucksack or holdall is the best option, as you will be expected to carry your own baggage throughout the trip, including on and off the boats. Bring plastic bags to keep things dry.
We recommend bringing the following equipment with you: - Headtorch with spare batteries - Water bottle (a Water to Go bottle is highly recommended, so that you can drink tap water safely throughout the trip) - High factor sunscreen - Insect repellent - A selection of dry bags to keep personal equipment dry - Travel towel - Sheet or sleeping bag liner - Lightweight raincoat - Game, book, pack of cards for the evenings on the boat - Travel wash if you wish to wash clothes by hand - Binoculars Mosquito nets are not necessary on the Amazon boat, but if you are particularly sensitive to insect bites then you may wish to bring one, or simply put some insect repellent on your face and hands before sleeping.
Bus, Boat, Flight
While in towns and cities we will be staying in a mixture of small lodges, bungalows and 3 star comfortable hotels. We have two boat trips of 3 nights each - the first is on a public boat, where we will be joined by many more passengers travelling from Belem to Santarem and the various stops in between. Here you will have a twin cabin with en suite facilities and bedding provided (except towels - please bring along a travel towel with you). You will be sharing with another Explore passenger of the same sex, and single cabins are available on the boat. In the second boat, which is our private Rio Negro cruise, we sleep out in hammocks under the stars. Sleeping mats can be provided if necessary, which you can use out on the deck, and these should be requested when you book in order to arrange them prior to travel. You will also need to bring a sheet or sleeping bag liner to cover yourself on the hammock - this is fully adequate for the warm Amazon nights. As part of the Amazon boat journey, we also aim to take our hammocks off the boat and camp out in the jungle itself, with a BBQ meal cooked for us by our crew. This will depend on the weather - if rain is forecast, we will sleep on the boat as normal.
Food on the public ferry from Belem to Santarem may be quite monotonous, so you can expect three days of eating rice and beans (or feijoada), a meat or fish dish, and perhaps some boiled vegetables. Fruit is available, as well as cereal bars or other snacks. Vegetarians will have a very limited diet and may wish to supplement this by purchasing additional food in Belem.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Brazil: Visas are not required for UK or New Zealand citizens. They are, however, required for Canadian, Australian and US citizens. Citizens from Canada, Australia and the US can now get their visa for Brazil online. Applications can be done here - https://brazil.vfsevisa.com/ Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. USA: If your flights pass through the USA, even if only in transit, you will require either a visa or an ESTA (an e-visa). Please read on for more information. Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ESTA under certain conditions. This applies if you enter the country by sea or by air, and this must be done online via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have a biometric passport to apply for an ESTA. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba since the 12th of January 2021, you will not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. Your ESTA application will ask for Point of Contact information. Please note that if you're only transiting through the USA then this is not required. If you're visiting or staying in the USA on an Explore trip, then our USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. Entry requirements for the USA can change regularly, therefore, please ensure you have the most up to date information before you travel by checking the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, polio and hepatitis A. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. There is currently an outbreak of Yellow Fever in Brazil. Yellow fever is recommended for those travelling to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Bahia, Iguazu falls and inland cities such as Brasilia.Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.