Located on the Rio Negro just before it meets the amazon and with a population of over 2 million souls, Manaus is by far the biggest city in the Amazon rainforest basin and manages to be the biggest Amazon sea port even though it’s over 1,500 miles from the sea.
However, we bet you haven’t traveled all this way just to take in the zoo, opera house, and museum (all of which are worth looking into). You’ve come here to explore one of the amazing jungle tours that start from Manaus. But with so many options and such a wide variety of prices and companies it can be hard to figure out which tour to go for.
In this article we have a selection of the best Amazon jungle tours as well as the best tours for families, couples, those on a budget as well as what to bring and what to leave at home.
Tropical Tree Climbing Tours
80% of the diversity in the Amazon rainforest lives permanently in the canopy and what sets Tropical Tree Climbing Tours apart from the competition is the sophisticated pulley system they’ve put in place to get their customers up trees and into the canopy so you can have a view of the rainforest at leaf height.
They offer everything you can think of from a simple day tour to a fascinating 7 day tour tour and can even arrange longer if you prefer. They also offer photography specific tours for those who are happy to be patient and wait for animals and birds and, in addition, don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn!
Amazon Amazing Tours
These guys come highly recommended, partially because they offer such a huge range of tours (even a tour specifically designed for Jewish people) of various lengths, going to various different places, but also because they offer tours in English, Portuguese, Spanish and, when possible, German and French.
Amazon Eco Adventure Tours
Does the sound of swaying in a hammock on a riverboat as you float down the amazon river appeal more than hiking through the mosquitos on a jungle tour? Amazon Eco Adventure Tours may be just the people for you. They offer a few different tours, including a cave and waterfall tour, but specialise in tours up and down the Amazon in riverboats.
River tours may sound like you’re going to be far from the action, but being on the water has a few advantages. Lots of birds and monkeys will come to the river’s bank to feed, so as long as you can get your hands on a pair of binoculars you can see into the canopy in a way that’s impossible from ground level. In addition you will also get off the boat for a hike through the jungle, so you can get the best of both worlds!
Maia Expeditions offer a good variety of higher end tours, including plenty of private tour options and riverboat tours, but what sets them apart are their fishing tours. The Amazon river may not be the first place you think of when you think fishing but they have a large number of different tours at different price points ranging from single day to 7 days and 6 night tours.
In addition riverboat tour and fishing tours, they also offer canoeing and hiking tours as well as jungle survival tours and day tours, so they really have all the bases covered. These guys are a bit higher end than some of the other tours so expect pricing to match.
Amazon Green Tours
These guys are a lot less imposing than some of the giant tour companies, but that’s because they are smaller, run by a couple who were born in the local area and have lived here all their lives. Paulo has been a local guide since he was 15 and he and his wife set up this tour company in 2011.
Some of the giant tour companies, almost all founded by non-Brazilians, or Brazilians from far-off parts of the country, offer up to 50 different tours. By contrast Amazon Green Tours only offer a handful of tours, but do them really well. However, what they lack in options they make up for in quality. If what they offer meets up with what you’re looking for, these guys are a really great choice.
Manaus Town – The City in the Rainforest
Although it’s not the most beautiful town in the world, this sprawling and friendly city does have a few interesting distractions to offer travelers, so it’s worth having a look around while you shop at different tour companies or wait for your departure date.
This gorgeous theatre was built at the height of the rubber boom by European designers with raw materials partially brought over from Europe and it’s a flamboyant testament to the wealth and optimism that characterized the early days of Manaus. Even now there’s a Opera festival in April and May – you can hire a guide to tell you all about it’s history and construction.
Meeting of The Waters
Rio Negro means “Black River” in Spanish, and the water really is very dark (think filter coffee, no milk), a fact you can’t avoid when you see it meet the much lighter (think latte) Amazon river. Although seeing this spectacle doesn’t sound exciting, it really is remarkable especially on a clear day with not too much wind. Potentially worth it just to get out of the city and onto the water with a nice breeze.
Jungle Tours – What kind of trip would you like?
Most tours consist of between 3 days to 5 days and range from $75-125 per day including travel days and vary primarily based on how luxurious the accommodation you’re choosing is. Most tours involve staying in a jungle lodge or river boat with a variety of activities such as hiking, canoeing, piranha fishing, visiting the local tribes in their villages and night-time caiman spotting. Some operators also offer ‘jungle survival tours‘ which are spent traveling from one jungle camp to the next and where you mostly, or exclusively, sleep in hammocks and use a shared pit toilet rather than a normal western toilet.
So, the first question you should ask yourself is, how much do you want to rough it and what kind of trip do you want? Would you rather stay in a comfortable lodge and do day tours from there, or be out in the jungle, sleeping in a hammock? Would you rather sleep in a riverboat or jungle camp? Once you know the answers to these questions you can start to narrow down your options.
There are two main areas your tour will be located. It is possible to go to other areas, especially if you take one of the 6 day+ tours, or you can look into having a tour specially organised by your tour company.
Rio Negro basin – Has the most impressive selection of vegetation and there’s a real lack of mosquitos compared to on the Amazon, but there are fewer animals to be seen.
South of Rio Amazonas – Better for animal spotting, but also with better chances of seeing monkeys and tapir there are also more mosquitos and more evidence of people encroaching on the jungle.
There are only two seasons in the Amazon. The hot season (June – November) when temperatures in September can hit 40º C (104º F) and the wet season (December – May) when it rains every day. Regardless, make sure you bring light clothes and an umbrella to protect you from the heat and/or rain.
Other Things To Bear In Mind
- Any local guide will be able to point out the animals for you, but do you want a guide who can speak English (or any other language you speak)?
- Is there a particular activity, such as hiking, or canoeing you really want to do?
- How do you feel about mosquitos? If you really want to avoid them consider a trip to the Rio Negro basin rather than going south of the Amazon river
- Even with a skilled local guide it can be hard to see the animals tucked away in the Amazon rainforest. You stand a good chance of seeing sloths, river dolphins, monkeys, tropical birds and caimans. You probably will not see jaguars, manatees or anacondas due to how elusive they are
No matter who you go for make sure your tour operator has a valid Embratur (Brazilian Tourism Board) registry.
What to Take on Amazon Jungle Tours
Your packing list for the Amazon jungle will almost certainly be long. If you forget something speak to your tour company. If you’re in Manaus they can tell you where to go to pick up the pair of hiking boots you forgot and if you’re already on tour it’s possible they may have a spare of what you need.
- Insect repellent with DEET
- Long socks you can tuck your pants into
- Light coloured long sleeve shirts and pants
- Wide brimmed hat
- Waterproof shoes/boots
- Hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes
- Digital camera with zoom lens and extra memory cards
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Quick drying waterproof jacket
- Umbrella to keep the sun/rain off
- Plastic zip-lock bags – it can rain hard in the amazon. Keep some bags on hand to keep electronics dry
- Some loose fitting cotton clothes to wear in the evenings and on the plane ride home
What Not to Take on Amazon Jungle Tours
- Black clothes – black attracts mosquitos as well as soaking up the sun’s heat
- Laptop or any high-end electronics . Your lodge almost certainly won’t have Wi-Fi but you will get rained on
- Chocolates and candies – these will probably melt in your bag before you’re able to give them to anyone. If you want to give something to the local people consider school supplies.
- Jewelry – you may well find your arms and fingers swell up in the heat, plus the amount of water and mud means you stand a good chance of losing your expensive ring on a hike
The biggest problem when figuring out which tour to take is the sheer number of options. Everyone will have a different preference but here are our final thoughts:
- If you can afford it the boat tours are a great option – in addition to often being more comfortable than lodges, you can see birds and monkeys in the trees on the riverbank. Plus the boats are able to go to many more locations than you can by foot so you will see a greater variety of flaura and forna.
- If you don’t mind heights the tree climbing tours are great – In the Amazon most of the activity happens up in the canopy so by getting up to that height you are much more likely to see a bigger variety of animals, especially monkeys and tropical birds.
- If you are happy to rough it the survival tours are an amazing, once in a lifetime experience – By spending all day and night under the canopy rather than tucked away in a lodge or boat you will have a super authentic experience. Yes you will have to share a pit toilet and yes you will get bitten by something at some point, but you’ll go home with amazing stories and if you choose one of the tours guided by the local people you can support the local community whilst getting to know some of the people whose families have lived in the Amazon for tens of thousands of years.
Try not so obsess about too much about picking the perfect tour. As long as you pick something that comes well recommended you’ll go home with great stories and an amazing experience.
Which is best tour in Manaus for kids and families?
As amazing as the Amazon river is, with so many snakes, spiders and creepy crawlies around it can’t really be called ‘kid friendly’ (if you didn’t grow up there anyway). It’s probably best to avoid the survival tours where your little ones may wander out of their hammocks in the middle of the night. Instead, consider a boat tour with Lo Piex you will be able to see a huge amount from the comfort and safety of your boat and you won’t need to worry about anyone playing soccer with a friendly tarantula (just keep a close eye on them when you go on hikes through the jungle). They offer a good range of tours from single day to 7 days and come highly recommended.
Best tour in Manaus for couples?
Sat on the banks of the Rio Negro, upstream from Manaus, Manati Lodge offers a slightly nicer option for couples who are not so interested in stomping through the mud or getting bitten day and night by mosquitos. It still offers hiking and canoeing as well as swimming with river dolphins.
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Best tour in Manaus for travelers on a budget?
For travelers on a budget then Amazonas Indian Tourismo offer one of the best tours for an affordable price and you can feel confident that you are supporting the indigenous local people who have been having a really tough time over the past few generations.
Tours with these guys definitely come under the heading of Jungle Survival tour, as their central camp is basic with latrine toilets and no electricity. This isn’t a problem as you will spend almost all of your time away from the central camp, hiking through the forest and sleeping in hammocks. All tour guides speak English.
Best Amazon tour for upscale travelers?
All of the upscale lodges offer the same kind of activities as the other tour companies, such as hiking, canoeing, piranha fishing etc, but with facilities and service that is more refined and high end and with a price tag to match. Juma Lodge has cabins on 15m stilts overlooking the Amazon river, as well as comfortable motorized boats for tours and a shady deck to sip your cocktail.