On a boat-tour package, the experience is similar to that of a lodge; there are excursions on the small side channels, a sunset and sunrise tour, caiman spotting, piranha fishing, and a visit to a caboclo (river peasant) settlement. The difference is that in the time you're not on an excursion, you're moving on the river. There is always something to see, even if it's just the vastness of the river itself.
Viverde, Rua dos Cardeiros 26, Manaus (tel./fax 092/3248-9988; www.viverde.com.br), can arrange boat voyages or charters. Their website has photos and descriptions of the better Manaus-based touring boats.
Amazon Clipper Cruises (tel. 092/3656-1246; www.amazonastravel.com.br/amazon_clipper_i.html) has three old-style Amazon riverboats -- the Amazon Angler, Selly Clipper, and Selly Clipper II -- that make regular 3- and 4-day trips departing from the Tropical Manaus. The boats have cabins with bunk beds and private bathrooms, and in the evening the cabins have air-conditioning. The 3-day tour stays on the Amazonas River; the 4-day tour goes up the Rio Negro. Both tours include a visit to Janauary Park and the Meeting of the Waters. The price for the 3-day Amazonas tour is US$535, and the 4-day Rio Negro tour costs US$695. Children 12 and under receive a 20% discount. A newer and more luxurious boat has recently been launched, the Amazon Clipper Premium. The main differences are that the boat has a number of pleasant common rooms and the cabins come with real beds, not bunk beds. Rates, however, are at a premium; the 3-day Amazonas package costs US$750, and the 4-day Rio Negro tour US$950.
Swallows and Amazons, Rua Ramos Ferreira 922, Manaus (tel. 092/3622-1246; www.swallowsandamazonstours.com) is run by New Englander Mark Aitchison and his Brazilian wife, Tania. The company's core trip is an 8-day adventure program that includes 2 nights in Manaus and then sets off up the Amazon and Rio Negro to explore the territory around the Anavilhanas Archipelago. Transportation is on company-owned traditional wooden riverboats, while exploration is done either on foot or by canoes. Accommodations are either on the riverboat (hammocks) or on a houseboat (with A/C and cabins). Prices range from US$1,350 to US$1,650 per person (includes all meals, transportation, and activities). These trips run year-round; check the website for timing and availability.
Riding The Riverboats
The old-style wood or steel-hull riverboats that ply the Amazon basin are about transport, not seeing wildlife. They stick to deeper channels, taking passengers and goods up and down the Amazon. The most popular routes are Manaus-Belém and Manaus-Santarém. Most boats have small cabins, though it's more fun just to sling your hammock on deck. Good, simple meals and filtered water are supplied on the boat at no extra cost.
Boats depart from the new Hidroviaria do Amazonas (Riverboat Terminal; tel. 092/3621-4310) in the middle of downtown at Rua Marquês de Santa Cruz 25. An information desk inside the front door provides information about arrival and departure times, and numerous kiosks sell tickets. By purchasing here, you can be sure you will not be cheated. Boats for Belém normally depart Wednesday and Saturday at noon. The trip downstream takes 4 days. Delays are not uncommon. Cost of a first-class hammock spot (on the upper deck) is R$275. Hammocks are not supplied. Buy one in Manaus. Cabins cost R$750 to R$850. Boats for Santarém normally depart Tuesday and Thursday. The cost is R$125 for a first-class hammock, R$98 for a second-class hammock, and R$325 for a cabin. The trip takes about 40 hours.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.