Dates: 30 August-15 September 2024
Price: £5,295 not including flights (single cabin: £1,500)
International flights: £1,000 (approx)
This exciting and unusual holiday spends two weeks exploring one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, the Brazilian Amazon. While many visitors to the rainforest base themselves at a single lodge and then visit the surrounding area, this trip is very different, as participants will travel on a comfortable river boat which has just 10 air-conditioned passenger cabins.
Sailing from Manaus, the home of the famous 19th-century opera house, most of the trip will be spent exploring the side channels, larger tributaries, river islands and forests of the Rio Negro, which is one of the two rivers that meet at Manaus to form the Amazon.
One of the areas we plan to explore is Anavilhanas which is one of the world's largest freshwater archipelagos with 400 river islands and a maze of channels and waterways. Only accessible by boat, the region is almost entirely uninhabited and home to many interesting birds.
We hope to see many spectacular species including the gorgeous red, black and yellow Wire-tailed Manakin and extraordinary Amazonian Umbrellabird, as well localised specialities such as Klages's and Leaden Antwrens.
Further upstream, we visit the Jaú National Park which is one of the most pristine reserves in Brazilian Amazonia where we will cruise by mile up mile of untouched forest and hardly encounter any other people. There is plenty of wildlife here too including Harpy Eagle, Sunbittern, Blue-and-Yellow Macaw, Capuchinbird and Pompadour Cotinga, as well as rare species such as Rufous Potoo and Nocturnal Curassow.
We will also go exploring after dark and these trips can be really fascinating giving us a completely different perspective on the forest. We hope to find both Crested and Spectacled Owls, the bizarre Great Potoo, and a selection of mammals with the possibilities including Jaguar, Common Silky Anteater, Grey Four-eyed Opossum, Brown-throated Sloth and Spotted Paca – all of which have been seen previously.
The list of potential birds runs into the hundreds and includes some of the most colourful on the planet including macaws (Red-and-Green, Scarlet and Blue-and-Yellow), toucans and aracaris (Channel-billed and White-throated Toucans, Green and Black-necked Aracaris), trogons, cotingas, and tanagers, as well as the more cryptically coloured antbirds, woodcreepers and flycatchers.
This trip is, however, not just about birds, and we expect to see both the Amazon (Pink) River Dolphin and the less well-known Tucuxi on a regular basis. Indeed, we visit an excellent eco-tourism project where it is possible to stand in the water as wild dolphins gently swim around us – a truly unique experience and one which previous participants have described as comparable with visiting the Mountain Gorillas in Africa or Grey Whales in Baja California.
We can also expect to see a range of monkeys with over twenty species possible including Guianan Bearded Saki, Humboldt's White-faced Capuchin, Pied Tamarin, Humboldt's Squirrel Monkey, Guianan Red Howler and Spix's Night Monkey, so irrespective of your wildlife interests, this trip has plenty to offer.
Days 1-2: FLY TO MANAUS
Our holiday begins with a flight to São Paulo and then onwards to the Amazonian city of Manaus, where we arrive on the afternoon of day 2.
If flight schedules allow, there will be a trip to a remnant forest patch where we will look for our first birds, primates, and other wildlife. This site is one of the best for the Critically Endangered Pied Tamarin and we could also find sloths and Red-rumped Agoutis.
The area is also home to some great birds and will be a good introduction to some of the species we can expect to see with possibilities including Little Chachalaca, White-throated Toucan, Black-necked Aracari, White-eyed Parakeet, Black Nunbird and Yellow-rumped Cacique. Night in Manaus.
Day 3: MANAUS CANOPY TOWER, BOARD IRACEMA AND SAIL
We will depart our hotel before dawn to be at an impressive canopy tower on the outskirts of Manaus as the first rays of the sun break the horizon. This 42-metre-high structure is located in a forest reserve on the edge of town and while we will have to climb the two hundred steps to reach the top, the views and the wildlife opportunities make this well worth the effort.
We will have forest surrounding us on all sides and the range of birds is very impressive. With the top of the tower being higher than most of the nearby trees, we will be looking down on canopy species making this a very special experience.
We can expect to see a range of parrots and macaws and species we have seen previously include Caica Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot and Red-bellied Macaw. There may also be roving flocks moving through the treetops which could include the appropriately named Turquoise Tanager, as well as toucans warming themselves in the first rays of morning sun.
After returning to our hotel for breakfast, we will make the short journey to the wharf where our home for the next 13 nights awaits us, the comfortable river boat Iracema.
After an introduction to our vessel and crew which will probably be done while we sip a delicious caipirinha (the Brazilian lime cocktail), we will leave our moorings and begin our adventure. Night Iracema.
Days 4-15: EXPLORING RIO NEGRO, ANAVILHANAS, JAU NATIONAL PARK AND MUCH MORE
We will keep our schedule as flexible as possible but over the twelve days we have aboard Iracema, we plan to explore side channels, larger tributaries, river islands and varzea (annually flooded) and terra firma (never flooded) forests looking for birds and other wildlife.
Our air-conditioned vessel comes equipped with three comfortable motorised canoes to give us maximum flexibility and while Iracema can carry 24 passengers, this cruise is limited to just 18 participants with three expert guides.
Cruising the Rio Negro and its tributaries is certain to be a very special experience, with mile after mile of untouched forest and we will spend some of our time wildlife watching from the top deck of Iracema as we travel along the river. Some of our previous clients have described this experience as akin to "birding from a floating canopy tower" and, on one occasion, we found an extremely obliging Harpy Eagle which we watched for an hour at 20 metres range, with another found in 2022.
With great food, comfortable accommodation and the opportunity to reach areas which are truly remote and only accessible by boat, this wildlife holiday appeals to both the adventurer and someone wanting an incredible wildlife experience.
Day 16: DISEMBARK IRACEMA, FLY TO UK
During our final night aboard our helpful and expert crew will navigate Iracema back to Manaus and after breakfast, we will reluctantly disembark.
It is only a short drive to the airport, and we will fly to São Paulo where we connect with an overnight flight to the UK.
Day 17: ARRIVAL IN UK
Arrival in the UK where our birds and wildlife tour to the Brazilian Amazon concludes.
This tour is operated for Birdwatch and BirdGuides by WildWings (www.wildwings.co.uk) and Limosa Holidays (www.limosaholidays.co.uk) who are fully compliant with the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018.
It is fully inclusive of accommodation and meals, transport, park entrance fees and permits, guidance, tips and taxes. Not included are international airfares, insurance, drinks and items of a personal nature. For more information or to make a reservation, call WildWings (0117 965 8333) or Limosa (01692 580623).