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Visiting the Amazon Rainforest with Kids: Overnight River Cruise on the Rio Negro

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Last Updated on March 16, 2023 by Leslie Stroud

Most people believe visiting the Amazon Rainforest is out of reach when traveling with small children.  Well, think again!  We recently completed an incredible tour of the Rio Negro in the Amazon with our five young kids. 

We booked the tour through Gero Tours and cannot recommend them enough. Gero Tours is based out of Manaus, Brazil, and can assist you in making all the accommodations you may need when visiting with children.

Many trips into the Amazon include overnight land camping, but this can be a challenge with small children.  We are not big campers in general, so we opted for the more “glamping” version, which included sleeping on a boat.

How to Get To Manaus, Brazil

Access to Manaus certainly presents some challenges as it is surrounded by rivers.  The ONLY road from Manaus to another destination leads to Columbia.

To get to Manaus, you either need to take a boat ride, which is typically ferries ranging from 5 to over 40 hours long, or arrive by air.

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Flights can be a bit expensive but are certainly the fastest option.  We opted to fly, and the airport is actually a pretty decent size (you can search for flights here).

One fun fact about Manaus is that due to its remote location, the city supplies much of its own resource needs.  Therefore, costs are much lower than in locations that import everything.

For shopping flights, we typically start with Google Flights.  We also love Skyscanner!

Preparing For Your Visit to Manaus and the Amazon

Before you embark on your adventure to the amazon, there are some things you need to do:

Vaccines Needed for Manaus, Brazil

When considering international travel in general, it pays to talk to your doctor or a travel clinic beforehand to ensure you are prepared.  In Utah, we visit the local Health Department Immunization Clinic.  They have travel nurses on staff, and you can walk in to talk to them directly.

The nurses will search your destination and let you know what vaccines are recommended or required by that country for entry.

For Manaus, you’ll want to be up-to-date on these vaccines:

  • Yellow Fever
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A & B

You’ll also want to obtain Malaria medication.  There are several options for this medication with varying side effects.  We went with a generic form of Malarone, which I would recommend.  Even Grace, age 4, could take it.  I believe they offer a liquid version, but because we were rushed, we just taught her to swallow the small pill!

Items to Buy for Manaus

In addition to your regular packing list, I would recommend adding the following:

  • Strong insect repellent.  We went for both 40% and 100% deet options.  This was probably overkilled, but I also did not want to risk the wrong mosquito biting my kiddos.
    • That being said, deet is NOT good for you; it will even melt the plastic in your suitcase.  It’s pretty nasty stuff!  For young children, look for something else or simply opt for a safer alternative for everyone!
  • Long pants and long sleeve shirts. It’s SUPER hot, even in the winter, but full-coverage clothing is very important when walking around the jungle.  I wore some Athleta pants that I now love, and although I sweated through everything, I was grateful for the protection.
  • Closed toed shoes. Our guide recommended we wear closed-toed shoes when walking around. This is for your protection as there are many potential dangers within the jungle. If it’s not an option to pack these, socks with sandals are better than nothing.
  • Permethrin Spray.  Also gross, but a good idea to have in this area.  You’ll want to use this insecticide spray on your clothing. You can do it before you leave or while there.  If your rooms are not enclosed, you’ll also want to spray your mosquito net with this.  Permethrin can last through 6 washings, so if you spray before your trip, you won’t need to bring it.
  • Mosquito Net.  You’ll really only need this if you plan to sleep with windows open at night.
  • Binoculars.  When visiting the Amazon, you’ll want some binoculars to help you spot animals in the trees.
  • Insulated water bottle.  You won’t be drinking the water on the boat, so having a large water bottle that stays cold, like this Hydro flask, that’s very helpful to bring on boat rides and walks.
  • Playing cards or small games.  There are a lot of downtimes when sailing on the Rio Negro.  We played many card games and checkers and listened to audiobooks to keep us entertained. (View a list of our favorite audiobooks here).
  • Anti-diarrheal medication. In any third-world country, keeping some anti-diarrheal medication on hand is a good idea.  We didn’t have much trouble on this trip, but I did use it for a couple of days and was so glad to have it in my bag.
  • Waterproof camera. You’ll swim, explore, and adventure daily on this fun excursion. You’ll certainly want a waterproof camera to capture all your memories without worrying about ruining tech. We love our GoPro for this purpose!

How Long Should Your Tour Of The Amazon Be?

There are endless tour options when visiting the Amazon and you can make it whatever you’d like it to be.  You can choose from the following:

  • Overnight camping
  • Overnight boat rides
  • Day Trips
  • And more!

You can make your excursion as long or as short as you’d like!  Our tour was 4 days and 3 nights, and honestly, we felt like it was about a day too long.  Next time, I’d stick to three days with kids.

However, if you are a serious adventurist looking to dive deep into the Amazon, the opportunity is there. Our guide told us he had done tours up to 22 days long!  Of course, these extended tours include lots of hiking and camping in the Amazon.  This experience can really be whatever you want it to be.

Boat Cruise on the Amazon Rio Negro with Kids

Our boat had four bedrooms, with three on the upper deck and one on the lower deck. All bedrooms had a private bathroom. It’s important to know that the bathroom water comes straight from the river, so you’ll need bottled water to brush your teeth.

The beds were adequate, and all rooms included a bunk bed. The master bedroom had a queen bed and a bunk bed.

All bedrooms also have A/C, which was very welcome! The generator does have to run at night to power the A/C, which can be a bit noisy but well worth it.

There is a shower in your room, but I found it easier to just shower off the back of the boat after swimming.

Our meals were fantastic and made fresh daily by the lovely cook on the boat. Each meal included very traditional, delicious, Brazilian food. There was always more food than we could eat, and we were never disappointed.

Breakfast is served fairly early, before getting ready for the day’s activities. There was plenty of downtimes, especially in the afternoon when we would all nap or play quietly. This time of day is extremely hot, so we would utilize the boat’s hammocks to relax and cool down. Sometimes we would even turn on the A/C and nap in the rooms.

At night, we would close the doors and try to play cards. However, you tend to adopt the schedule of the sun, so bedtime was fairly early. The wildlife and jungle noises may keep you up, but relish where you are and enjoy the amazing opportunity.

Each night before bed, we would review the itinerary for the following day with our guide and could dictate changes as we wished. We adapted many of the suggested activities to the children’s needs.

Activities to do in the Amazon with Kids

There are endless activity options when visiting the Amazon, which are incredible. The options we had on our boat tour included the following:

  • Visit the “Meeting of Waters”
    • For us, this was a must-see. The meeting of the Rio Negro and the Amazon River will blow your mind!  Even in very high water, which we experienced, it was astounding to see the two rivers meet but not mix.  Black meets tan for a truly breathtaking sight.
  • Alligator hunting at night
  • Boat tour looking for wildlife
  • Jungle walk and learning about local plants
  • Piranha fishing.
    • This was my favorite activity! Our guide provided rustic fishing poles with raw meat on the hooks. Although the piranhas stole the meat many more times than we caught them, it was a thrilling experience.
  • Visit a local indigenous village
    • For us, this included a short ceremony, a tour of the village, and shopping through their “goods.”  Be advised many of the items for sale are just from Manaus, so if you want something truly handmade, ask your guide for help.  However, at the end of the day, we were still happy to support these families!
  • Swimming in the Rio Negro
  • River dolphin experience
  • Canoeing on the river

What We Loved About Working with Gero Amazon Tours

While this was not a sponsored trip, we were offered a small discount for sharing our honest reviews.  Overall, we had a great experience working with Gero!

He was very kind in picking us up from the airport, showing us a local place for dinner, ensuring we had all we needed on the boat and more. The hospitality and extensive knowledge of the Amazon was obvious.

Gero himself does not go on the river tour with you but instead arranges the boat and the guide and buys the food.  He also helps with all arrangements in Manaus, including recommendations and transportation.

Overall, the tour was a bit more expensive than I would like, especially considering how affordable the rest of Brazil is.  We did pay quite a bit for our large group.

That being said, it was such a cool experience, and one I’m not sure could be replicated in another way on the same level. This unique experience felt very “once in a lifetime.”  Gero and his family were also very welcoming and kind, which helped make it very special for the kids.

I really loved our guide, Anselmo, and I’d recommend you ask for him if you book with Gero!

You can find more information and book your tour with Amazon Gero Tours here.

More Tips for Visiting the Amazon with Kids

  • Animal hunting and bird watching are adult activities.  Remember this!  It’s good to splice in some other, more active events, like swimming or canoeing.
  • Be aware of your surrounding.  Brazil, in general, requires some extra caution and attention.  There is a lot of theft that occurs, so be smart.  If you can use a guide in the city, that’s even better.  They tend to spot problems before you can and take you on local excursions.
  • Malaria medication can have some side effects.  I think it made some of my kiddos extremely tired and grumpy.  You will continue taking this after you leave that area, so it’s good to know of these side effects when you otherwise may be asking, “What’s gotten into the kids?!”

We had a fantastic time exploring the Rio Negro of the Amazon! If you are planning a visit, leave a comment with your questions and be sure to let me know how it goes! 

Leslie

Additional Reading

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RESOURCES-

FLIGHTS:

  • We always begin our flight search with Google Flights
  • Booking.com. You can accrue points and rewards when booking through them. They offer accommodation and flight bundles as well.
  • Skyscanner.  We love the “anywhere” feature to see where it is cheap to fly to.
  • Kiwi.com. They will arrange the cheapest connection, which may mean a few different airlines.  However, if flights change, they will find you a solution!
  • Expedia.  Since we fly so many different airlines, we love the Expedia points we can earn.  We also get better deals the more we book through them.
  • Other platforms we like: Priceline, Aviasales, Hopper, and Travelocity.

ACCOMMODATIONS:

ACTIVITIES:

TRAVEL INSURANCE:

As a large, full-time traveling family, travel insurance is a must for us. It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance in case something goes wrong. With the unpredictable state of the world, it is more important now than ever.
We love World Nomads for our travel insurance. They provide travel insurance to travelers from over 130 countries and have many policy options to fit your needs. (Coverage may not be available for residents of all countries, states, or provinces. Be sure to carefully read your policy wording for a full description of coverage)

TRAVEL NECESSITIES:

For a comprehensive list of all the 7 Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves, Click Here. 

Tip: If you are making an online purchase (airline tickets, hotels, clothing…basically anything you can imagine) be sure you are using Rakuten! You can either download the app if you are shopping on mobile or open a browser on a desktop. You then type in the store you are looking to shop at (ie: hotels.com, amazon.com) and shop like normal. The only catch…you get your money back! Each store is different, but you can get anywhere from 2%-35% cashback on every purchase! For us, it’s a no-brainer. We are shopping anyways, might as well get some money back!

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