The first two questions people ask in planning an Amazon cruise are:
Which country? Which vessel?
How to make these choices? It is not easy! After all, 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 in terms of experience, there are very important differences between Amazon cruises. In the ways that really count, our trips in Brasil are very different, and better, than the all of others offered in the entire Amazon. Cruises on the Motor Yacht Tucano are expedition cruises and this expedition experience is really the only real way to unlock the fascinating beauties of the rainforest. Our ship is very comfortable, fully air-conditioned, and our staff provides an exceptionally high level of service, but we do not try to provide luxury accommodations - that's not really the way to experience the Amazon. Below are some cruise comparisons, but be sure to take a look at what really makes our cruises exceptional, the Tucano Experience. And the most basic reason for travelling on our expedition cruise is addressed by Why Travel with Us?
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 ours are continuous cruises. Some companies publicize longer cruises, six or more days, but these are almost always a combination of two short cruises ---- with a lost day in between in port. Our cruises in the Brasilian Amazon, because they are continuous, are able to journey far up one of the most remote and unsettled rivers in the Amazon, deep into a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, a vast and largely uninhabited area. Only in Brasil is there such a vast rarely visited area and only our vessel, the M/Y Tucano, explores deep into in the region.Travelers on our voyages have a sense of true wilderness.
Another way in which our cruises offer more time exploring is that there is wild rainforest quite close to where the trip begins, in Manaus, Brasil. In just a few hours from where we embark on the M/Y Tucano we are able to explore rainforest that has very little or no human settlement. In contrast, cruises departing from Iquitos, Peru can take up to two days of river travel to reach wilderness rain forest. Likewise in Ecuador where the rivers are shallow and mostly heavily settled. Cruises departing from Iquitos, almost exclusively travel to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, which is 114 miles from Iquitos. The riverbanks for most of that distance have quite a lot of settlement and the forest is mostly what is called secondary forest, forest that has been cut down and re-grown many times. This is secondary forest and even within the reserve there is a very substantial resident population. Cruises in this region are simply unable to spend much time in wild rainforest because it is so far away from the point of departure.
In choosing an Amazon experience, travelers should also consider the travel route to the cruise embarkation point. We embark in Manaus, Brasil which is the most readily accessible city in the Amazon. The international airport well served by national and international air carriers and most travelers are usually able to arrive in Manaus without having to spend any nights in a gateway. In contrast, the majority of travelers to Iquitos, Peru must spend one or two nights in the city of Lima and then fly again from Lima to Iquitos. With this additional flight leg, these Amazon these 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. On many Amazon cruises the travelers consume the first and last days travelling distances on the boat instead of time in the forest. And there is usually included in these itineraries some days visiting theme-developed tourist sites in the embarkation city. The inescapable reality of Amazon travel is that more time travelers spend in the forest the better the experience.
The vessel course of the Motor Yacht Tucano is devised to maximize our opportunity to observe wildlife. But because we are exploring, often modify the itinerary to enhance our ability to observe interesting flora and fauna. There is nothing routine about our voyages. Unfortunately, many tour companies operate their same itinerary week after week. A fixed and rigid itinerary makes the trip routine for the crew and the travelers. 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 travelers and the guides.
Many Amazon tour vessels offer travelers a small number of excursions off the vessel, often as few as two per day. On our cruises we explore in the forest four and sometimes five times each and every day of the trip. We scout in the M/Y Tucano’s launches, there are guided kayak excursions, we walk in the forest, we visit local settlers, or we swim and fish in some of the cleanest water in the world. It is important for us to go for a walk in the tropical forest every morning - which is unusual among Amazon tour operations and in most areas near Peruvian cruise itineraries not at all possible for six months of the year due to the seasonal flooding.
Our trips are devoted to observing both flora and fauna and understanding the rainforest environment and the only way to do this is to 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 quite active, our trips are not necessarily strenuous. On almost every excursion we divide into two small groups, each with a guide so that those that prefer a rigorous experience can have it and those that would like to travel at a more leisurely pace can do so comfortably. 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.
Our expedition cruises have a tremendous geographical advantage over those operated from Iquitos, Peru. This is because we the places we explore have a much greater variety of habitats and different kinds of terrain. 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 towering forest of the Terra Firme. It is because of this variety of habitats that UNESCO has named this region a Natural World Heritage Site. Because there is high ground year round, 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. There is high diversity in the Varzea forest, but the secret to the fascinating experience of the Amazon is the diversity of flora and fauna, and there are fewer places on earth with greater diversity.
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 travelers, 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. On our daily excursions we divide into smaller groups, each with a skilled bi-lingual guide and a woodsman, 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 and we are able to propel them with our electric motors and 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 is comfortable, elegant, and is a very capable expedition small ship, and it is at the same time small enough to be able to explore 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 of this wild wilderness.
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.
Our cruises are thoroughly Brasilian! On board our deep technical expertise is joined to the fun, passion, friendly, and relaxed style of Brasil. Brasilian culture is simply fun.. there is an "alegria da vida" a basic joy in living that our companions in travel really enjoy. Just mix in lush vegetation, wildlife, and stunning scenery, and the result is poetry....
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 residents have been encouraged to imitate traditional 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 travelers, 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.