View From The River: M/Y Tucano 8-Day Voyage
Here is a comprehensive review from Rainforest Cruises client, Reg Quinton:
'In brief, we had a wonderful adventure on the Motor Yacht Tucano Dec 8-15, 2012 voyage out of Manaus and up the Rio Negro. There were 15 passengers on board (4 in our Canadian party, 2 Swedes, 2 Brits and 3+2+2 US) and we all got along well. We were well served by the 8 on crew who worked long hours and were always cheerful.
Every day was chock-a-block full of adventures, starting very early in the morning with a 5:20 wakeup, a 6:00-7:00 canoe trip (it's a narrow motorized boat, not a "canoe"), then breakfast at 8:00, a 10:00 hike or shore visit, then lunch and a rest in the heat of the day, another canoe trip at 4:00-6:00, then dinner at 7:00; and finally an evening canoe trip (sometimes a talk instead).
The day ends with tired but happy folks crashing into bed and a sound sleep around 9:30 or so at night - no drunken evenings baying at the moon on this cruise!
The weather held. We had a few showers, some quite severe and entertaining to watch. We enjoyed a lightning storm one evening around dinner time. There was rain on some canoe trips where people got soaked, others where the weather was threatening but dry. But mostly it was sunny. And hot. And humid. Dripping wet humid.
Hikes at 10:00 were always a dripping wet affair - not from the rain, but from the sweat and humidity. I'd sometimes have a cool shower on return just to be refreshed.
We visited a fishing village (where we met lots of kids); the ruins and old town at Velho Airao (where we got a soaking rain storm and ate fresh mangos which fell at our feet); the town and shipyards at Novo Airao (where the Tucano was built) and several forest walks.
Our rooms were very comfortable and well tended by Teresa the housekeeper - rooms were tidied and beds made early in the morning when we were off on canoe trips.
Air conditioning at night worked well - I don't know if I could have taken the heat and humidity otherwise. The "hot" water showers were a bit of a waste of time and a bother for the ship to manage (you could have hot water, or you could have electricity and air conditioning). The river water was more than warm enough for showers.
The twin beds couldn't really be pushed together to make a double, didn't even try. Overall rooms were more than adequate. They're not luxurious, it's not a huge cruise ship, but more than enough. Especially when you compare with the cramped boats we'd see go by, ferrying people from town to town. There they slept in hammocks in the open with a shared bathroom. Each cabin has its own private bath with flush toilet. A palace really.
We would occasionally see other boats - locals fishing, ferry boats, tugs pushing sand-barges - but mostly it was a solitary affair. The mechanic, Flavio, kept things humming on board and sometimes accompanied us on canoe trips.
One thing we especially liked was the food. Vilma, the cook, kept us well fed with an assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, etc. Simply prepared, but very tasty (when we got home I ran out to buy a mandolin to slice cabbage and vegetables to make salads like Vilma's).
We had fish from the river several times and a couple of roasted turkeys. We learned to like manioc and experimented with different fruit juices - some of the local fruits are very tasty, others not so. And local fruit based ice creams. All good to try.
Perhaps the hiking and boating had us extra hungry. In any case we ate and slept well.
There was plenty of wine, cold beer and sodas for drinks at reasonable prices. We brought some pinga, rum and fruit juice of our own. I enjoyed the caipirinha evenings where we learned about mixing lime, sugar and pinga. I had brought some pinga that I got for R$4 at the Super Mercado in Manaus, another passenger was telling me about buying some at a bar where they charged him R$40 for a bottle!! The thing about pinga is it's all raw alcohol - it's a cheap white rum with tequila overtones. It's not a fine drink, so you shouldn't spend a lot.
Edivan and Souza were great guides with very good English. We enjoyed them both. The daily canoe trips to spot birds and animals were always fun and both guides have "eagle" eyes able to spot birds, flora and fauna at incredible distances.
Souza spoke at a couple of evenings (instead of a night time canoe trip). Once on the fruits and nuts (which we got to see on tramps through the forest) and another time on the beliefs and superstitions of the natives.
Both seemed to have good connections with the locals at the villages we visited. Locals would sometimes come to the boat to buy/trade for diesel fuel. One time we met some locals who needed some medicine for dysentery - everyone on board was well-equipped and more than happy to share.
None of us came down with bugs of that sort (although one of our group came down with a flu/cold which she brought with her).
The deck hands, Pakita and Chakal, would sometimes drive the canoes for Edivan and Souza. They were great guys as well, always helpful, quick to laugh and fun to be around. They both joined us swimming on the creek. But otherwise were kept busy tending the canoes, washing our footwear and tending the ship.
Two adventures dear to us were about swimming - Kate, my wife, is part fish! One day we took a canoe trip up a narrow tributary (where we saw a cayman, one of many on the trip) and swam in a narrow creek with clear swift moving waters - cool by local standards. Others continued up the river for a hike, Edivan and the Swedes stayed with us for the swim.
Another day we swam on a sand bar on the Rio Negro itself where the water is very warm - that same water we showered in.
The trip ends in Manaus with a morning spent fishing for piranhas. We caught some and ate them that night.
There was another forest tramp and this time we did get to see some monkeys high in the trees (often times on the boat we could hear howler monkeys in the distance) and a sloth up close - it had fallen from the tree.
And we saw the Meeting of the Waters where the black Rio Negro meets the cloudy grey of the Amazon. Some music, a singer and more caipirinhas to close off a perfect trip.
Some comments/suggestions for those thinking about taking this trip. Firstly, do go, it's well worth it. But be aware of a few things:
1) You're going to spend a lot of time bird watching. Be prepared with good binoculars.
2) If you want to see birds, animals, etc. up close and personal go to a zoo (eg. at the Tropical Hotel).
3) We were at the end of the dry season where the water is very low (some 17m lower than high water) with steep river banks exposed. At high water you're going to be able to canoe right into the forest. Perhaps the end of the wet would be the ideal time to go.
4) You are roughing it a bit, it's not luxurious. Don't expect hot water and hot showers. Do expect good food!
5) We stayed at the Park Suites which is right next door to the Tropical where the tour departs/ends. I'd recommend the Park Suites; it's a very short walk to the Tropical lobby.
Gosh, I've rambled far more than I intended! I hope this helps.'