Orchids of Rio Negro
This is one of the most popular of the Orchids in the Wild Tours. The boat trip begins and ends in Manaus. Participants should arrive no later than noon of the tour start date and leave no earlier than the late afternoon or evening of the tour end date. We recommend arriving the day before the tour starts so that participants can enjoy a tour of the Manaus Opera House and a hosted dinner at one of Manaus fine restaurants. This OCA trip features a relaxing voyage on the flooded waters of the Rio Negro with many orchids often within arm’s reach. The waters of this river are quite acidic and colored with tannins, and as a result, there are almost no biting insects on the river. Passengers will enjoy the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets from the SS Otter and partake in twice daily excursions on motor driven canoes into the flooded forests of the Amazon. There we will find orchids, bromeliads, gorgeous flowering plants, several species of monkeys, sloths, iguanas, macaws, and toucans. For the orchid lover or the bird lover, this is an amazing journey. The SS Otter features a small reference library, common room, bar, fantastic food accommodating vegetarians, and one of the quietest and most relaxing journeys you will ever have the opportunity to partake of.
Dates & Prices
Dates May 31 to June 10, 2024 (11 days, 10 nights)
- Price: $3550 per person double occupancy.
Single Room Supplement: $1300
Deposit: $1000 per person. Due by Feb 10, 2024. (Refundable up to this date)
Final Payment due: April 1, 2024
- Price of trip includes: meals, guides, accommodation on the RV Otter, entrance to Manaus Opera House tour, parks and reserves, tips for RV Otter crew.
- Not included: Round trip airfare (to Manaus, Brazil), travel insurance, alcohol, personal items, hotel accommodations in Manaus.
- Conservation Donation: A donation based on the profit (~$1000 per person) is donated to the Orchid Conservation Alliance. The Orchid Conservation Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization, and for USA residents, the donation may be tax deductible. A formal acknowledgement letter with the exact amount donated is sent to each participant at year’s end.
- Leaders: Peter Tobias (OCA) and Gilberto Castro (Captain of the SS Otter)
- Group Size: Minimum of 10 and a maximum of 17 (Including Peter Tobias). There are only eight cabins available on the RV Otter, each of which can accommodate two persons.
Day 0: Guests arrive in Manaus. Transfer to your hotel is provided by the OCA. The cost of the hotels is not included in the tour costs and we have two choices differing in price; see Hotel information page for details. Both are on the central historic square, within easy walking distance of the opera house. Dinner at a local restaurant courtesy of the OCA.
Day 1: If time before boarding permits we may have a tour of Manaus central market. Guests will then be transported to the dock and board the RV Otter for lunch. We then head upriver to the flooded forests of the Rio Negro.
Days 2-11: We make twice daily excursions (2-3 hr each) to the flooded forests, visiting different areas as we cruise the river. Participants can enjoy sightseeing from the boat, and lots of bird spotting. The boat is often followed by pink dolphins. Those who would like to go for a swim in the Amazon can do so nearly every day if desired. We will have an afternoon feeding the pink dolphins and the prehistoric, huge fish known as the pirarucu. We will visit one or more villages, have a picnic at Gilberto Castro’s camp (where Margaret Mee, famous botanical artist, stayed), and visit a rubber plantation museum. On the last day, we return to Manaus with a last lunch on the RV Otter. Passengers will be transferred to their hotel (not included) or to the airport. Expect lots of orchids, many of which will be in bloom, as well as bromeliads, flowering trees and other unusual sights such as bats, various lizards, many bird species, praying mantids etc. All meals and snacks on the SS Otter are included. Not included are alcoholic beverages and canned soft drinks. Typically these will include various Brazilian beers, common soft drinks, wines and (many) caiparinhas prepared at the bar. If you would like something in addition to this, please let us know in advance so arrangements can be made. Laundry service, for a tip, is available on the boat, and it is also easy to wash clothes in the room and hang them to dry on the top deck. Expect temperatures in the 80s to low 90s, but not really oppressive humidity. Evenings are a little cooler. There are few to no problems with insects on the river and thus malaria medications are typically not required, although if you stay in Manaus more than a day, you might want to add malaria medication. Rain is occasional.
Participants should plan on arranging their own round-trip flights to and from the city of Manaus, Brazil. This may require arriving a day early and leaving a day after the end of the tour. As of this writing – August, 2023 – the only non-stop flights from the US to Manaus are by Azul from Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Although all visitors from the USA to Brazil used to need a tourist visa, this requirement has apparently been dropped. However, all participants should double check as this can take 1-2 weeks to get.
All participants should be fully vaccinated for Covid. We are all traveling together in an enclosed space. Therefore, since our participants are often elderly, we strongly suggest all participants take a Covid test 1-2 days prior to departure. Please take every precaution to not arrive on the RV Otter with Covid. If you have a travel insurance policy that should cover the need to cancel if you are Covid positive. Currently Covid tests are not required for travel on the airlines to and from Manaus, but this can also change.
Cabins on the RV Otter all have air conditioning, openable windows, and en suite bath with hot/cold showers. The beds can be set up as two single beds or as a double bed. Soap and towels are provided.
Currency in Brazil is the Real (plural is Reis). In Manaus there are ATMs available, and most tourist facilities accept credit cards but not US currency. ATMs are not typically available outside Manaus.
Wi-fi is available via Starlink on the RV Otter for a small fee.
GUIDES: (Use the current images)
Peter Tobias initiated OCA’s Rio Negro trips in 2015 and has led six trips with Gilberto Castro on his boat the RV Otter. With that experience, and a few caipirinhas, he is able to identify many of the orchids you will see.
Gilberto Castro has been running the Amazon for decades as a biologist, nature guide, and boat captain. His boat, the Otter, regularly carries people for orchid trips, botanical illustration trips, and fishing trips, depending on demand and the state of the river. His encyclopedic knowledge of the Amazon and his intimate knowledge of its nooks and crannies makes him the go-to guy for our trips.
Hotels (pre and post trip):
Although the tour price includes accommodations and meals on the RV Otter, hotels in Manaus are not included in the price. You will probably want to arrive in Manaus on a day (or even two) prior to the date we depart on the boat, and depending on your flight schedule, we recommend that you include a night in Manaus before departure home. Our tour boat operator Gilberto Castro has recommended the following two hotels.
- Hotel Juma Opera-Manaus. This new hotel is just across the street from the Opera house. It has its own good restaurant, pool and other amenities. The price for two persons per room was approximately US$160 in 2023. Rooms can be booked directly (https://jumaopera.com.br/) or through third party sites such as Trip Advisor, Hotels.com etc.)
- Hotel Casa dos Frades. This hotel is on the square of the Opera besides the church. Although it is fairly new it used to be the living quarters for the friars of the church next door. The rooms are spacious, have air conditioning, and are significantly cheaper than Hotel Juma Opera-Manaus. We recommend rooms in the back; the expensive rooms in the front of the building facing the square are noisy. (https://casadosfrades.com.br/).