South America Natural Adventures

nature travel, wildlife tours, adventure travel and general travel to Chile, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Antarctica


About our Amazon Voyage

amazxon River map

The Voyage

This expedition voyage explores some of the most untouched rainforest in all of the Amazon. It is an eight day trip where we travel by riverboat far up the Rio Negro to an area very rarely visited, exploring the mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest and in the heart of wild nature. We visit quite remote forest that has very few settles so the flora and fauna is very little disturbed.

Our basic plan will be to first explore the Rio Negro upstream as far as the Rio Jauaperi, a very interesting tributary coming in from the north. We end the trip with a visit on the Amazon River itself. It is important to explore the tributaries of the Amazon, since the main river has many settlers along its banks. Over several days we will gradually explore the rainforests for up to 200 miles away from our starting point. This region has some of the most untouched rainforest in all of the Amazon and is the least inhabited place on the planet.

We will visit several kinds of forest including the strange and beautiful flooded forest known by Amazon Indians as the Igapó [ee-gah-poh]. In the Igapó, the dark water seasonally floods into the forest, at times for several miles. Orchids and bromeliads cling to the limbs of overhanging trees, which are home also to many fishing birds and iguanas. We will also explore the other two kinds of rainforest of the Amazon: the tall terre firme forest and the fantastically rich varzea forest. We will see amazingly colorful birds, magnificent rainforest trees draped with vines and carpeted with orchids, and occasional monkeys chattering and cavorting in the tree branches.

3-toed sloth Amazon
three-toed sloth

The rainforest in this area has unique plants and animals and our aim is to both observe them and describe their astonishing habits. We will get out into the forest and explore - not simply watch the river banks from the deck of the boat. We will walk in the forest and scout in our launches the small streams that radiate off the main river. We will swim off deserted beaches in water as pure and clean as rainwater and be treated to vistas of wild rainforest stretching as far as the eye can see.

On our walks in the rainforest we will observe magnificent plants of every imaginable shape and size. We will listen to the exotic calls of birds and mammals and watch them from the shaded forest trail. In the evenings we will have a brief discussion on creatures that we observed during the day and about the extraordinary ways in which these plants and animals have evolved to live in this ancient rainforest.Some nights we will explore the river's edge with flashlights and we will see caiman, close relatives of crocodiles. Their eyes have a reddish glow in reflected light.

The Rio Negro
The Brazilian Amazon has an area of over 2.7 million square miles. Though there are a few cities, the continental size floodplain is still almost entirely covered with primitive tropical forest. Within this vast watershed, the Rio Negro drains over 300,000 square miles, fully ten percent of the entire Amazon basin. From its headwaters in the Colombian foothills of the Andes, the Negro River flows southeast for over 1,020 miles. At its confluence with the Amazon River, it has over three times the volume of the Mississippi. It is the second largest river in the world - second only to the Amazon River itself.

ceiba tree amazon river
Ceiba tree

Despite the great length of the Negro, there are only a few small settlements large enough to be considered towns. It remains a true wilderness. Beyond the tangle of vines and limbs along the river banks are hundreds of thousands of square miles of primitive forest where the forces that shape plant and animal evolution continue on as they have for millions of years.

Three Different Rainforests
The three rainforest environments that we will observe on Voyage to the Heart of the Amazon are the igapó, terre firme, and varzea. The igapó has seasonal variations in water depth of as much as 40 feet. To adapt to this enormous fluctuation, plants and animals have evolved some of the most bizarre shapes and behaviors. Also due to these seasonal floods, the wildlife along the rivers is constantly changing and every trip we see creatures that we have never seen before. Above the high water mark lies the terra firme forest, roughly “solid ground”.

Terra firme is the forest most people have in mind when they think of rainforest. On the hills and stretching for thousands of miles away from the river banks, terre firme is dominated by giant forest trees with buttresses like the fins of rocket ships. Along the shaded forest floor there are wonderfully adapted plants and we will see the trails of wild pigs, agoutis, paca, jaguar, armadillo, and other large animals that live in the rainforest.

Though large forest animals are usually wary enough to stay hidden, one terra firme resident that insists on being heard is the largest primate in South America, the howler monkey. At dusk different tribes growl to one another and their howls echo across the trackless forest from stream to river to hill.

red howler monkey amazon river
red howler monkey

The third major type of forest we will observe is the varzea. This type is also a flooded forest, but the water that rushes through the trees is café au lait in color and is heavy with minerals and nutrients eroded from the Andes Mountains. In this tremendously rich system we will see large concentrations of birds, mammals, and a collection of plants entirely different from igapó or terra firme.

In addition to our rainforest explorations another important feature of the program will be our visits to the homes of deep forest settlers. We will visit with them and learn what their lives are like, living on the edge of this vast trackless forest. A walk through their gardens is always interesting and we will marvel at the skills they possess for living in the complex environment of the tropical forest. All deep forest settlers collect plants for medicines and we will talk with them about which plants they collect and their uses. Many of these settlers are of Indian ancestry and the breadth of their knowledge of the rainforest is enormous since it has been passed from generation to generation for thousands of years.

On the last day of the boat portion of the trip we will travel to the “Encontra das Aguas”, the meeting of the waters of the Amazon and the Negro Rivers. The volume of water is so great at their confluence that Brazilians consider the watercourse created by the joining of these two a completely different river. The light colored water of the Amazon and the dark water of the Negro do not readily mix and the two rivers flow side by side for many miles. We will explore the beautiful and fabulously rich environment at the confluence of these two rivers and visit the Lago Janauari Ecological Park which lies in a wedge-shaped delta that divides the Amazon from the Negro.

Our Guides
In addition to several crew members, all of whom grew up in the forest, the excursion will have a naturalist guide with many years of experience in the Amazon. The combined experience of these guides will help us make sense out of the great profusion of plant and animal life that we will see during the trip.

amazon guide

The Daily Schedule
Though the schedule will vary according to navigational and weather considerations, our days will have a basic outline of activities. We will get up with the sun every morning and board the launches in search of birds and wakening howler monkeys. In the late morning of most days, the boat will get underway and we will travel until the mid-afternoon. We will then do some exploring using the boat's launches or walk in the forest. Every evening we will have an informal talk about the flora and fauna that we have observed during the day. We will especially focus on the ways that plants and animals have evolved in the rainforest and the relations between the plants animals and their physical environment. This is the ecology of the forest - the most fascinating of all ways to look at the rainforest. Some evenings we will spot wildlife with powerful searchlights.

We will see and do a great deal in the forest, but there will also be plenty of time to relax and have fun during the trip. We will swim in clean and safe water, perhaps have a cookout,, and if there are anglers among us, spend a little time fishing some afternoons. Every afternoon we have hors-d'oeuvres on the Observation Deck and are treated to a magnificent sunset. After sunset guests often go to the Observation Deck to look at the millions of stars and constellations of the Southern Hemisphere. Because we are in such an interesting place with exceptional guides, the days are full and exciting.

Please call or email us for more information, with any questions you may have, or to secure your cabin on this special voyage.

1 877 285 1170