Advice, guide, tips, hints, what to take, how much to pay
Visiting the Amazon is going to be an amazing experience and you can read all about our adventure in three separate posts starting here. However, booking and arranging the tour was not the simplest thing in the world so I hope to add a bit of clarity to the proceedings and share our experience.
We went into the Amazon from Manaus (Brazil), which is a fun place to visit in its own right. We went at the end of June 2015 and what follows is only our opinions of our experience. If you agree or disagree, leave your comment below.
First of all, price...
The cost of the tour is a hot topic on forums and it is difficult to know how much you should be paying. We did a 3 night/4 day tour and paid r$720 per person for a private double room. A dorm was r$600 pp. We booked through the hostel we were staying at - Local Hostel- who work with Iguana Turismo.
Before we booked, we had been in contact with several tour companies in Manaus (thanks to my amazing new Portuguese skills!) and the best price we got was r$1050 per person. As a last minute stab in the dark we emailed the staff at Local Hostel and were very pleased with the price they offered and the reviews that Iguana Turismo have online. Unfortunately we didn’t get the prices for other tours they offer. A can of beer/soda is around r$5 in the lodge btw.
Which tour company?
There are quite a lot of tour companies in Manaus and they all seem to be reviewed very highly on tripadvisor - two examples being Iguana Turismo (who we went with) and Amazon Jungle Tours (who we got a quote from). I was speaking with one of our tour guides to try and understand the process a little better. Here’s the inside scoop - the lodges are not owned by specific companies and the guides don’t work for specific companies. The tour companies have a preferred lodge that they work with but at busy times will move you to a different lodge if needs be. This is true for all the Juma lodges, although there are a few companies that go to specific lodges in the north. The guides work "freelance" for whoever has customers and can pay them.
So basically you have no guarantee that you will get the same guide or lodge that was reviewed so highly on tripadvisor, but luckily there seems to generally be a high quality of both available. So with regards to which company we recommend, I'd say booking the cheapest tour is fine and our research suggests that going through Local Hostel is a good option, even if you're not going to actually stay at the hostel. (Note: We have received no money or freebies from them for saying this, Scout's honour!)
How many days / nights?
We met and spoke to people who did 1 night, 2 nights, 3 nights (us), and 4 nights. Everyone that stayed less than us wished they had more time. The one girl who stayed an additional night loved it but said she had repeated a couple of activities. We didn’t repeat any activities and thought it was a perfect length of time. So we think 3 nights/4 days is best.
When to go?
If you do have the luxury of choice, May to September are the best months as the river is at its highest. This is what our two tour guides told us and they've been working there for years so we trust their advice. May is the tail end of the rainy season so might be a bit more hit-and-miss than the later months but since the Amazon is a rainforest, expect to get wet whenever you go!
Size of groups?
On day one, our group consisted of six people, including the guide. On day two there were five of us. Day three started as a group of five for the morning and then there were about eleven of us on the boat in the evening. Day four there were twelve of us in two separate boats. Smaller groups are definitely better, as the guide can cater the activities and tour more to your preferences. Our trip was at the end of the low season and we were told that July and August are very busy so that is something to consider when booking your trip.
What to expect?
Don’t expect to see a jaguar. You won't. Animals are harder to come by than on other wildlife tours, so I would lower your expectations and rely on your guides to spot what they can. Remember that nature isn't just about big animals; it's about the trees, birds, insects, sounds and smells. Take the time to really appreciate where you are. You might not be able to see them, but you will be surrounded by millions of insects, snakes, fish, birds, spiders and more. It's an incredible privilege to be able to visit their habitat so even though I didn't see a macaw, it was pretty cool being in their playground.
It won't be an activity soaked 4 days. You will spend time sitting around at the lodge, taking in the sights and sounds of the forest for a few hours during the day and if you ask me, that's great. The humid Amazon is not a place to be charging from activity to activity so it was nice to stop and breathe that freshly made oxygen. The evenings are as calm or as drunk as you would like to make them. Do wear mosquito repellent though.
Should I sleep in the jungle?
We were hesitant about this before going but it was definitely the best thing we did. We cannot recommend this highly enough. It was incredible and we actually preferred sleeping in the hammock to the lodge itself.
What should I take?
- Insect repellent, and lots of it. Use it like it gives you special powers. Or find these ants.
- Malaria meds. Hello, malarial zone!
- Yellow fever vaccination. You don't want a tropical disease...
- Long sleeve shirts that are thick and loose. Mosquitoes bite through everything, the fuckers!
- Long trousers that are thick and loose. See above for pesky mosquito reference. NO LEGGINGS.
- Torch (flashlight)
- Hiking boots
- Sandals / flip flops
- A book for the chilled out times
- A camera (as if you needed telling)
- Sleeping pills (always useful!)
- Waterproofs, just in case.
- A big bottle of water - you can refill it at the lodge
SLEEP IN THE JUNGLE. It is amazing and you won't regret it.
But what about food?
Most if not all tours provide you with three meals a day (you may want to bring some snacks – we didn't for fear of ants!) and the food was of a high quality. It was mostly fish (pirarucu) but we also had chicken and eggs as well. The food didn't blow us away but it was pleasant enough. Vegetarians shouldn't have a problem - there was plenty of rice, beans, salad and they might cater specifically for you if you ask. Photos of food are below and reviews of Amazonian food are coming soon.
|You can see the cabins in the background|
|We spent several hours each day just chilling looking around for wildlife. We saw dolphins one day!|