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“GREAT WEEK ON THE NAPO RIVER”

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Manatee Amazon Explorer
Reviewed 19 February 2012

Since there are many reviews on this cruise, I'll try to confine this review to the things that perhaps weren't covered as much. My rating is a 4 overall, which places it between the 5 rating "toberua" (which seems a little overenthuiastic to me) and the 3 star
"Traveland Adventure" (which seemed a little low).

Organization: The trip was very well organized. All of the arrangements were smooth and all the connections worked without glitches. A hint -- they do take Amex in addition to cash. You just have to ask. It was fun to take a smaller boat to meet the Manatee where the river was deeper. This will take about 2 hours.

Demographics: Most of the people on the trip were older couples. On our particular cruise, the passengers were from Moscow, England, Ukraine, Netherlands, Germany, US. This made the trip extremely interesting and enjoyable. There were no children (I think kids would be bored).

Ship: The ship is now 10 years old. It's time for an update, but it is in acceptable condition and this didn't interfere in any way with our enjoyment of the trip. The rooms are VERY small, as are the bathrooms. We were on the top floor and had no problem with getting hot water whenever we wanted it for the shower. The AC works fine and is a welcome relief after being outside all day. There is a small outside deck to sit and enjoy the scenery on the top floor, a air conditioned lounge with TV and Internet, and a dining room for meals. On our particular cruise, there were only about 11 people. This worked out very well and made getting on and off the ship fairly efficient. The ship holds a maximum of 30 people. It seems as though they don't get this many people most weeks. My take is that it wouldn't be as comfortable with a full ship as it is fairly small.

Food. My husband and I thought the food was good. I was surprised that they had the variety of fresh foods, especially the variety of fruits and vegetables prepared in intersesting ways. They were very accommodating with preparing an alternate selection if you don't eat a particular food. A really nice touch was the fresh juice and snack that was waiting for us every time we came back from the excursions.

Staff. This is an area where they excel. They are all extremely accommodating and a pleasure to be around. The guides were knowledgeable and well educated. I do agree with one of the reviewers that one of the guides at times seemed to be ready for a break, but that could be no more than it was the at the end of his work shift.

Excursions. There are typically two excursions per day. Most of them involve walking, and some involve walking up and down stairs. It is hot. It is humid.Fortunately, they offered alternatives based on the passengers level of fitness. However, there is a certain base level of fitness that is required, as there is only one way to get on and off the ship. A couple of people on our trip that were not as mobile really struggled at certain times. You will spend a lot of time sitting on the small excursion boats. By the end of the week, most folks were talking about their sore rear ends. In addition to the nature, you will see a typical house that belongs to a staff member's sister (this was interesting), a government school on the river (also interesting) and a "typical" indigenous village (which seemed fairly contrived). One thing not to be missed is the tall tower that takes you to the top of a tree in the forest. It is over 200 steps and worth the climb.

What you see: Don't expect to go on this trip and see a massive amount of wildlife. The area of the river that is on the cruise is mostly inhabited with the exception of the area that is near the Peru border. We saw a decent variety of birds, a good amount of parrots on the clay lick, some monkeys, and one caiman. What you will see is absolutely beautiful flora and fauna as you go off the main river into the tributaries.

Overall Impression We had a great time. We found that several people (including us) included a Galapagos trip while we were in the country. Manage your expectations (this is not a luxury cruise but the price was a third of what we paid for the Galapagos cruise) and you won't be disappointed.

  • Stayed: February 2012, travelled as a couple
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7  Thank PeggyS148
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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86 - 92 of 130 reviews

Reviewed 11 February 2012

From the moment we first saw the Manatee Amazon Explorer we knew it would be an unbelievable experience. The ship just exudes what one would imagine an exploration of this famous and mysterious river to be. Three decks, with two devoted to cabins and the bottom deck to the dining room. The rooms are snug but very comfortable and afford all you need for a good nights sleep. The bathroom has the nicest shower I have ever had occasion to use, with the standard European held shower nozzle, and overhead nozzle which makes hair washing a breeze, and eight side jets to make it sort of a vertical Hot Tub. Fantastic. The crew could not be more wonderful, and led by the boats manager, Fausto, they are one step ahead of your every need. From the very humane approach to awakening you at ungodly hours in the morning, by playing some soothing music over the ships intercom, followed by Fausto voice 30 minutes later to inform you that breakfast is ready to be eaten. Every trek is met on your return with the impeccably clad waiters offering a different type cool fruit juice and some goody or another. Lunch and dinner are normally around 12:30 and 7 - 7:30 PM and served to you at your table which is seated family style. The food is impeccable,and fresh from A to Z. Fausto also makes sure he demonstrates with a real fruit or vegetable of whatever we are having that meal. Dinners are followed by a briefing on the upper deck of what we will do the next day, followed by a cold beer or an expertly made cocktail of your choice by the ever present and always smiling. barman.. The excursions are generally early in the morning and last until around noon, and then later in the afternoon around 3:30 or 4 PM. and back onboard around 6:30 and then dinner. There are normally 3 guides all totally university trained in all aspects of the tourist trade. You cover a lot of miles, and generally leave the moving ship, as it continues either up or down river, and then the motorized canoe catches up with it for the evening mooring. The ship never runs at night, as the river is much to dangerous with debris and shifting sandbars to travel in the darkness of night. Once moored for the night, WiFi is available at a very modest price of $10 US for the entire trip. Also, satellite TV is available when moored also, but who the hell wants to watch TV. I cannot say enough about the Manatee Explorer as it met and beat every expectation i had.

Room Tip: they are all the same and all extremely comfortable
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  • Stayed: February 2012, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank toberua
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 January 2012

3 of us spent 4 nights on the Manatee in January 2012. First, we could easily have rated this as 4 stars; we gave it three to point out some needed changes and encourage them to work on what is necesary to make this a truly great experience. A big problem with Trip Advisor rating is that 4/5 stars are positive, while 3 or less stars are rated negative. They really need to make 3 stars a neutral rating!

As for the Manatee, start with the key fact that the name of the boat is highly mis-leading. There are no Manatees to be seen, and you are NOT in the Amazon, you sail on a tributary river that eventually leads to the Amazon river hundreds of miles east. You are on the very western edge of the amazon baison. This means you will see lovely tropical foliage, plenty of insects and bugs (don't go if you can't handle some ugly crawling creatures on the walks!), lots of pretty birds and butterflies, but no animals of any kind you'd expect in the amazon. That said, the river is beautiful, amazing flowers, water, landscapes, the protected reserves you visit are wonderful. As long as you know going in what to expect, it's a very nice place to visit and a nice way to visit it.

The boat itself is generally comfortable, not the QEII but very nice for this kind of small boat (30 people) cruise. The rooms are surprisingly comfortable, with A/C that works and a decent sized bathroom and closet space. The staff is overall excellent. The two bi-lingual (England and Spanish) crew leaders both had an extensive knowledge of the local flora and fauna, (one was a botany teacher previously) and did thier jobs flawlessly. Ernesto was very friendly and made you feel totally comfortable from the start. Milton was totally capable but gave the impression he was a bit tired of doing this and/or wasn't crazy about the job. The rest of the staff, all young men, were polite and helpful and did thier jobs well. There were however, three problems that collectively reduced a 4 or 5 star review to the above three stars as follows;

1. Food. The food on board ranged from barely passable to totally inedible. Mostly canned goods, tasteless and unhealthy with strange combinations (try mushy beef stew with canned beets and radishes for one memorable dinner!). In a country renouned for fresh fruits and vegatables grown locally everywhere, this was inexcusable. Breakfasts were simple and fine, one lunch at a site away from the boat was simple and good (grilled chicken and nice pasta), the rest of the meals were horrible. On the plus side, if you want to go on a diet, this is the place, you won't want to eat much and there are no restaurants to go to!

2. Delayed maintaince. The boat is 10 years old and really needs some updating. The floors in particular bang and pop they are so warped, making incredible noises when someone gets out of bed above you. Some showers leak, etc. Hey, its the jungle, things wear out fast, but they aren't keeping up with needed repairs.

3. Nickle and dimed to death. Once you get aboard, be prepared to be hit up for a number of "extras". $10 to rent binoculars (which are essential since most birds, etc are far away), $10 to use the Internet for the trip, no cold drinks except water with an added charge. It felt like we were being sucked for every dollar they could get! Far far better to have charged $50 more for the trip and included these things!

Aside from those three issues the expereience had much to offer. The scenery while not the heart of the amazon (think Amazon Light) was amazing, the day trips were well planned, the staff was mostly friendly and totally capable, the flowers and birds and butterflies and plants were a joy to see. Just the amazing sunsets and travels down hidden rivers and lakes by canoe made any inconveniences seem managable. No regrets for making this trip but with a few important (and simple to do) improvements it could have been a true 5 star trip!

Room Tip: Be sure you room has facilites that work properly, some are better than others!
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  • Stayed: January 2012, travelled with friends
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8  Thank TravelandAdventure
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 January 2012

What a great trip. Travelled with Saga and spent 7 nights on board. The on board guides Ernesto and Milton were fantastic and very knowledgeable on the wildlife and fauna (as was Carlos our Saga guide). Saga even provided a doctor for the trip.

If you go on this trip you must be physically fit not only for walking in the jungle, clambering in and out of the canoes, but for getting around the boat between decks. The trips out can be quite tiring due to the temperature and the humidity and sometimes getting very wet. It is the rain forest! Wellies and ponchos are provided.

The beds were comfortable. The air conditioning was good. The shower was problematic because we were on the top deck and everyone tended to shower at the same time and the lower decks got the water. As another writer said soft luggage would be preferable.

The food was good. There was no choice as such but you will not starve. If you have any culinary issues speak to the chef beforehand and he will conjure something up. Coffee, tea and water is available all day and night.

You can use a credit card to settle your on board expenditure (bar bill).

Don't forget your swimsuit, you wouldn't want to miss the swimming opportunities ( swimming towels provided).

An experience of a lifetime and whilst you are in Ecuador, you must follow up with a trip to the Galapagos. That will give you two experiences of a lifetime on the same trip.

Room Tip: For a better showering experience get a room on the lower deck.
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  • Stayed: October 2011, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank PooleyNorthampton
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 December 2011

We took the 5 day / 4 night trip on the Manatee. It's a unique opportunity to see a part of the world in relative comfort, that not many people get to see at all. It's a great way to extend a trip to the Galapagos, but be sure to start with the Amazon first. Otherwise, the Galapagos will spoil you for wildlife sightings, which on the Amazon are much more typical.

We were pleasantly surprised by 3 things on the Manatee: the food, the shower and the availability of WiFi. The food was typically Ecuadorian and very good. The futuristic new shower capsules are right out of the Jetson's. In the evenings after they tie up along shore, they provide WiFi access throughout the ship.

You'll want to take a lot of pictures on the walks and powered canoe rides. Be sure to bring your longest lens. I'm attaching a picture taken from the clay licks with a 300mm (6x) lens. I would recommend a mega-zoom camera with a 25x or 35x lens. To take movies at the clay lick bring a tripod.

Overall, I felt the crew and guides worked very hard to be sure we had a great experience!

Room Tip: Ask for a room with the renovated shower/bath.
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  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled with family
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2  Thank LarryUSA0
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 December 2011

We just returned from a four day trip on the Manatee Explorer. It is an experience which we will cherish for a very very long time.

Food - excellent. You will surely gain a bit of weight as the Chef makes some delicious food. We are vegetarians, so the options for us were a bit limited. The special yellow sauce is awesome and we even took the recipe for it from the Chef.

Cabins - are a bit small. Ensure that you have only the relevant clothing with you. It can take a while before the water gets hot in the shower.

Daily activities - your typical day starts early morning at around 5.00am and by around 6.30 you are out on the canoe. These guys know how to keep your day fully packed. The trip to the Cuyabeno reserve, Yasuni National Park were excellent. We saw a lot of wildlife (pink dolphins, parakeets, tucans, snakes, all kinds of insects and birds) etc. The weather changes quite suddenly and you have to be ready for it. These guys accordingly change the plans to suit the weather.

Milton, our guide was great. He has a great eye and is a good asset for the Manatee Explorer. At the end of the trip, he made a CD of all the photographs that he clicked of us and not to mention, he had some fantastic shots as well.

Luckily for us, we were only 6 guests for the whole trip. We had the most amazing time with two couples from the UK and had some fascinating conversations.

Our regret - couldnt do the 7 day trip rather than the 4 day trip. Highly recommend that you should do the 7 day trip rather than the four day one. HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE TRIP!!!!

  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Madhurrao
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 December 2011

We have just returned from a Saga holiday on the Manatee. The cabins were small (as expected) but the shower was great and the beds comfy - which is all you really need on such a holiday. I would advise soft luggage which can be stowed under the beds as there is limited storage for clothes. Long sleeved lightweight cotton shirts and trousers and walking shoes/boots and waterproofs are a necessity (though rubber boots are supplied on board which are surprisingly comfortable, as are waterproof ponchos!) Bit of a shock to the system to have a 5 am wake up call and breakfast at 5.30 am for a 6.30 am start but well worth it! Unfortunately Amazon birds wake with the sun and therefore, if you want to see them, you need to do the same! You soon adjust to going to bed at 9 pm! The chefs on board are superb with local produce served daily and lots of fresh juices, fruits and vegetables (some of which we had never heard of - let alone tasted!) The crew are fabulous! The boat runs very smoothly and efficiently and nothing is too much trouble! The boat's propeller/engine had problems while we were on board, but we were taken on alternative trips and speedboats were laid on to get us back to Coca in time for our flight. I hope this problem is now resolved as the crew really tried hard to make sure it did not spoil our holiday. The guides are nothing less than superb - we had a temporary guide called Delphin who was absolutely amazing - together with Milton and Raoul who were both informative, helpful, amusing and could not be faulted!
I was a bit apprehensive about the 'canoes' but no need to worry - they are easy to get on and off - help is available at all times. We saw loads of birds, insects, dolphin, monkeys, sloth, snakes etc etc and one of my most enduring memories will be of the cacophany of sounds in the rainforest at 6 pm when all the tree frogs and cicadas wake up! Totally amazing!
Every day is planned out according to the weather/river conditions with a short talk the previous evening after dinner on what to wear, take and what the wake up time will be, and the length of the trip. Take a torch, plenty of 50% Deet insect repellent and high factor suncream and especially do not forget a good camera and binoculars.
If you like dressing up for dinner, looking glamorous, wearing make-up then stay at home! If you are prepared to muck in (literally!) and crawl under logs, get wet, look like no-one ownes you, then go ahead and book - I guarantee you will have a whale of a time.

Room Tip: Avoid the top deck if possible as the water pressure in the shower is low when everyone rushes back...
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  • Stayed: November 2011, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank Dunpubbin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Manatee Amazon Explorer

Address: Quito Office: Gaspar de Villarroel 1100 y Av. 6 de Diciembre Edificio Ritz Plaza, Yasuni National Park 17-11-6646, Ecuador
Region: Ecuador > Yasuni National Park
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Restaurant Spa
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 6 Speciality Lodging in Yasuni National Park
Price Range: $228 - $332 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 14
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Although expedition cruising by its very nature is characterized as adventurous, the safety of our staff and passengers is of paramount importance to us. The brand new Manatee Amazon Explorer is fully equipped and maintained in order to handle the most challenging conditions and circumstances, and is manned by experienced and conscientious expedition staff and crew. The canoes used for daily shore landings are rugged and versatile and are operated responsibly by experienced personnel. Onboard you will be fully briefed on all pertinent safety issues and concerns, as well as our environmental policy; passengers also receive appropriate and detailed briefings before each landing. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Manatee Amazon Explorer Hotel Yasuni National Park
Manatee Amazon Explorer Ecuador/Yasuni National Park

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