The Amazon Rainforest and its vast labyrinth of meandering rivers and tangled vines have for centuries been a top destination for intrepid explorers. Thanks to new and more frequent flight schedules to Amazonian cities, and in the case of Brazil, the increased awareness thanks to the press coverage of Manaus during and since the 2014 World Cup, the Amazon is becoming more and more accessible to the general public.
For those with disabilities, however, it is a different story. Accessible Amazon Tours for those less physically able are still very few and far between. However, for those adventurous enough, the good news is that there are options available, and the list is growing. We here at Rainforest Cruises have done the research so you don’t have to. Here is our comprehensive list of Amazon tours for people with disabilities:
Cruises on the Amazon River for people with disabilities are unfortunately currently limited, and as you might imagine in the rainforest, and jungle walks will take place on uneven terrain. You might have to walk over a tree, go up a few steps, or walk through muddy areas. It may also rain, causing the terrain to be slightly slippery.
The good news though is the beauty of an Amazon cruise is that many excursions are done by small skiff boats, especially during the high-water season when speedboats have the ability to cruise through small creeks and tributaries, so you can still enjoy the Amazon without having to trek through the jungle at all. Indeed if passengers are unable to move through the jungle by land, staff will always arrange speedboat excursions instead.
What’s more, fortunately, there are some riverboats that can cater to wheelchair users or those with limited mobility.
The Iberostar, a superior cruise vessel in Brazil, is the largest vessel on the Amazon and, as such, has the size, sufficient staff, and equipment needed to make the dream of an Amazon cruise a reality for those who use a wheelchair.
The boat is the only one in the Amazon to feature an elevator and has one specially equipped cabin with a private easy-access bathroom with a roll-in shower. It is comfortable to live onboard, but for someone in a wheelchair, you cannot consider the vessel as fully accessible. Doorways are too narrow, and there are lots of compartment barriers you cannot cross without assistance.
That said, any obstacle can be overcome when you have a caring attitude and willingness like that of the Iberostar staff. They will carry you over every barrier and load you into the skiffs for river excursions. When jungle treks and visits to native houses are scheduled they can make separate arrangements for you to be taken elsewhere, privately, in a boat with two of the crew to care for you.
Whilst not having dedicated cabins or an elevator, the small size of these vessels and the level of service aboard the Delfin boats mean those with disabilities can still have an incredible time in the Amazon. Be warned passengers will still have to navigate a few steps into the port lounge and take stairs to move from deck to deck, but there will always be helping hands from the exceptional ground staff and crew who will go out of their way to make your experience as comfortable as possible. Learn more about Delfin I Amazon cruise options.
From the port lounge, there is an accessible ramp that goes down to the speedboat which will take you to your vessel. The speedboat is situated at a walk-in level so no climbing in is needed, however when you reach the vessel there is about a 1 ft height difference between the speedboat and the vessel (it varies depending on water level). The water is very calm and stable in this area, so the speedboat does not move much when stepping out. Passengers will go through the same process every time they go out on an excursion, but Delfin III cruise staff will always be there to assist them.
This lodge is the Amazon’s only 100% accessible lodge for people with mobility impairments.
7 of her 20 beautifully appointed, traditional Kichwas-style bungalows are fully wheelchair accessible. Built to ADA standards with plenty of room for maneuverability and with special attention to the low positioning of amenities, they feature carpet-free flooring, widened doors, roll-in showers with padded, flip-down chairs, a roll-up sink, and several grab bars.
The entire property rests on one level with interconnecting, smooth concrete pathways that are at a slight slope (just under ADA specifications) to the restaurant, pool, and bungalows. There is even a special winch with a hammock seat to allow access to the swimming pool and Jacuzzi!
The friendly, specially-trained staff members are always available to give a helping hand or push. They can arrange tours with special off-road chairs for guests to enter their jungle path, see medicinal plants, visit an indigenous community and animal rescue center, and even go on a raft on the nearby gentle Napo River. For those with hearing and visual impairments, there are also activities, include cooking activities, frog concerts, and learning how exotic plant species differ in smell and shape.
Despite there being a public bus that can take you to Cotundo from where a taxi can be arranged to take you to the lodge, for clients using a wheelchair Huasquila Amazon Lodge strongly recommended arranging a private transfer from Quito Airport and can help provide accessible transport.
The Amazonas Sinchicuy Lodge is a rustic jungle lodge located 20 miles away from the city of Iquitos. Danilo Pena, the charismatic owner is committed to providing access for everyone to the Amazon and has developed a special 3D/2N program for those with physical disabilities. In this 38-mile trip through two ecosystems, the Sinchicuy and the Yanayacu watersheds, you will meet the Yagua tribe that calls this part of the Amazon their home, learning about their customs, traditions, and daily activities, and of course encounter some incredible flora and fauna. From catching piranhas to seeing pink and grey dolphins, and getting within touching distance of sloths, toucans, and anacondas – you can do it all.
Movable ramps are provided for easier access to boats for transfers and excursions and the staff is very well trained to handle wheelchairs, as well as in assisting people with other types of disabilities. Access to the lodge itself is quite tricky, with some very steep ramps to overcome when disembarking.
To date, only 1 of the 32 rooms is considered wheelchair accessible, although they are planning to renovate three additional rooms with accessible bathrooms and showers. It is quite spacious, with a wide front door (0.95m) and a bathroom door (0.89m). Distances between the room and social areas of the lodge, such as the restaurant, bar, and viewpoint, are not insignificant but they are all accessible with some help, which the friendly staff is more than happy to give. They will even carry you through the jungle!
Just a short boat ride from Manaus, the beautiful Amazon Eco Park, with its neighboring Monkey Rehabilitation Center, is the only jungle lodge in the region catering for people in wheelchairs. By no means fully accessible, it does have moderate facilities for those with disabilities.
We do not recommend visiting during the low-water season ( September to mid-Dec) as the activities (and the lodge itself) will be further away from the rivers, so it is best to go in high-water season, when the restrictions of being in a wheelchair will be less significant, with more activities being water-based, allowing greater participation and a better chance of seeing more wildlife. Not all tours will be possible, especially difficult jungle trails, but you can visit the Monkey Forest, see the spectacular Meeting of the Waters, take a night canoe tour to observe nocturnal species such as alligators, try your hand at piranha fishing and visit an indigenous caboclo house.
The lodge, set on an idyllic white-sand beach and stretching out into the neighboring jungle, has easy access paths and ramps throughout, 20 wooden bungalows with 3 apartments in each, and 1 brick bungalow with 4 apartments inside, 2 of which are considered wheelchair accessible with ramps and grab bars in the bathroom. Despite being rustic in design, all the apartments have air conditioning, electric showers, screened windows, lovely decor, and are very comfortable.
To book the Iberostar cruise or any of these lodges, or if you would like more information on any of our Amazon Vacations, please contact Rainforest Cruises.
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