Join a Trip of a Lifetime

Expedition to the Fishery in the Brazilian Amazon!

Dates:  January 18 to 31, 2020

Now accepting reservations for spots on the boat!


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The trip includes:
– 2 weeks on a well appointed live-aboard boat
– Visit biological hotspots
– Visit Fishing communities
– Participate in the Aquarium Fish Festival of Barcelos
– Visit home aquarium fish export facilities

Create lasting memories and join us!

Contact Scott Dowd or Deb Joyce for more information and to reserve your spot for the next Expedition!
Scott:  SDowd@Projectpiaba.org  OR Deb:  DJoyce@ProjectPiaba.org.



Field work 2015 7.9 Oh, Black Waters - Eric Rassmussen

Detailed Itinerary and Information

Project Piaba 2020 Trip Itinerary and Information

(Saturday, January 18 – Friday, January 31, 2020)



**Plan to arrive Saturday, January 18**

If you arrive before the 18th, there is a local hotel where you can make reservations**


Arrival Manaus, Brazil — January 18, Saturday  

Most of the group will rendezvous in Miami (USA) for the overnight flight to Manaus (Brazil).  For those arriving with the group today, we will be greeted at Manaus Airport by our boat captain and staff with a bus to take us directly to the boat.


Day 1 (January 19)

In the wee hours of January 19th, we will depart up the Rio Negro.


We will likely take us out on a morning excursion for bird watching and fishing and snorkeling.  We will also visit the small riverside town of Novo Airao. There is a great sustainable development project based there and operated by very good friends.  We’ll see their accomplishments of establishing this foundation that has been educating and empowering the next generation of Amazonians to improve their quality of life while maximizing value of preserving the environment.  Also in Novo Airao there is a small population of pink river dolphins that has become habituated to people.  We will be able to interact with them for a very unique and memorable experience.



Evening Lecture:

The Project Piaba team will provide an overview of the beneficial Rio Negro Fishery and summarize the work that has been done and is being done to study and support the fishery.  Question and Answer session to follow.  This discussion also includes a work plan for the week.

*(See Bios at the end of this itinerary) *


Days 2 – 6 (January 20 – 24).  

We will travel the remaining 450 km (nearly 300 miles) to our destination of Barcelos. The captain will break up the journey with multiple excursions into the jungle and small streams, both day and night. We’ll also spend at least a day on the Rio Branco – a large tributary of the Rio Negro with very different water chemistry. There will be a noticeable difference in the flora & fauna as a result of the higher nutrient load and pH of the water. Here, we will experience the insects that people often associate with the Amazon, so the difference in wildlife viewing will come at a bit of an expense (it’s worth it though). We’ll get back to the acid water of the Rio Negro soon enough to get away from the mosquitoes & no-see-ums.


Work by Brazilian scientists joining the Expedition will include water sampling, fish population studies and other biological work in the field.  Participants are welcome to help with this work reporting and gathering additional data to assist the scientists.


Brazilian aquatic veterinarians will also be doing work ups on fish samples from collected fish as well as those in the aquarium supply chain from the community fishers and exporters.  This work includes some of the assessments of the Best Handling Practices training work that is being done as well as other effort to help the fishery.  Expedition participants are welcome to help collect this data and assist in fish with various tasks.


Evening lectures will include detail overviews of the work on the fishery including briefings by international experts, scientists, veterinarians, zoos, aquariums and the commercial industry leaders as well as members of the Project Piaba Brazil Team.  These international experts and Brazil experts will share their work on the Fishery including research and plans for socio-economic, forestry and carbon storage assessments, fish population survey work, animal husbandry work and other topics the technical to broad work that is being done on this fishery will be covered.



Closing each night, the captain will go over the next day’s plans.



Day 6 (January 24)

We will arrive in Barcelos, the heart of the Rio Negro aquarium fish trade and center of Project Piaba’s more than 25 years of study and fostering the fishery. We will be able to explore the little town & interact with residents. Recently, Barcelos established wi-fi on plaza, so you can give a go at getting reconnected with the outside world if you choose. There is also spotty cell phone reception and wifi, so you may be able to phone home.


During these two days in Barcelos, those on the Project Piaba Team deeply involved with the Fishery, will be busy in meetings.  As a result, most expedition participants should plan to spend these days seeing the town, interacting with locals, getting in touch with home and relaxing.  The Project Piaba Team will meet with the local fishers Cooperative (ORNAPESCA) and usually has multiple meetings with local stakeholders and fishers.




Day 7 (January 25)

Rest up for this big event!  The evening of January 25th will be the biggest night of the year for the region: The Ornamental Fish Festival of Barcelos. It is a spectacular event and one you are sure never to forget.  You can see a video of one of the past festivals on You Tube look for “Barcelos Fish Festival”.  This festival usually ends after 2am so it is quite a night.



Days 8 & 9 (January 26 and 27)

We’ll continue our travel upstream to smaller communities; these communities are very reliant on the home aquarium fishery.  We’ll get acquainted with the people and their village life and will also accompany the fishery out in the streams to observe their fishing activities.


Again, we’ll look for expedition participants help with data gathering for the researchers on board and help with the aquatic veterinarians doing work ups and analysis on fish health, water quality, etc. 


Days 10 – 11 (January 28 and 29)

We’ll begin our route before sunset on January 28 and start down river for our return to Manaus.



The captain will continue to break up the long travel distances with stops along the river to see more spectacular sights.


The scientists and veterinarians will continue their work and continue to look for expedition participants to assist with fish surveys, fish health work ups, data gathering, etc.  There is plenty to do and it’s up to the participants what level they would like to volunteer and participate.


Evening Lectures:

As is true for our travel up to the fishing communities, as we return down river to Manaus, we’ll also have several of the international experts and Brazil experts share their work on the Fishery.  From socio-economic, forestry, fish population survey work, animal husbandry work and other topics the technical to broad work that is being done on this fishery will be covered.  This is an open format for those wanting to present can do so.


Day 12-13 (January 30 and 31)

We’ll aim to reach the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Amazon River for sunrise on January 31st.  We’ll see the “Encontro das Aguas” where the two rivers- of dramatically different color- meet & mix.


After breakfast on the boat, participants not deeply involved in Project Piaba will disembark and tour Manaus. We’ll visit the municipal market & see the giant fish market as well as many varieties of fruits & vegetables from the jungle and have an opportunity to visit the famous Manaus opera house.


Those deeply involved in Project Piaba will have meetings with the exporters in Manaus, meet with INPA and UFAM collaborators and usually a meeting with the Brazilian Fisheries officials is also held on this day.  A discussion of the research projects underway, progress and next steps is also usually held.


Most participants plan to depart on the evening of January 31st and arrive in Miami (or other international destination) on the February 1 st.


If you plan to stay in Manaus after January 31st, there is a local hotel where you can make reservations and stay at a reasonable rate.


**Photographs taken by Keith Heberling during 2015 Expedition**


Participant Cost:  $2,600 if paid in full before September 1st and $2,800 if paid in full September 2nd or later.

50% deposit to hold you spot

Expedition Participation includes:

  • 2 weeks on a well-appointed live-aboard boat (air conditioned, private in-room bathrooms)
  • Visit biological hotspots in small boats; view fish in the their wild habitat when you snorkel
  • Visit home aquarium fishing communities
  • Participate in the Aquarium Fish Festival of Barcelos
  • Visit home aquarium fish export facilities
  • All meals, mineral water, juices, coffee, are included

Expedition Participation does not include:

  • Bar drinks such as beer/alcohol, carbonated drinks, bottled water. You maintain a tab for this during the trip (honor bar) and pay the bar bill at the end.
  • The crew tip is not included and is usually pooled at the end of the trip.  We encourage participants to tip at their personal comfort level.  Most participants tip 10% of the trip cost. 
  • Roundtrip airfare is not included and we can give advice on arrangements
  • Passport and visa applications and costs are not included; we recommend you take this step early just after you book your flights.

Suggested Packing List:

  • Hat with a brim to shade face and back of neck.
  • Sun glasses, lots of sun screen & insect repellant are a must; this is the equator!
  • Small day pack for reusable water bottles, cameras, binoculars for canoe excursions.
  • Lightweight rain jacket or poncho and small towel; this is the rainforest
  • Sneakers or light-weight hiking boots
  • Light-weight, fast-drying long and short pants and long & short-sleeve shirts.
  • Sweatshirt or light-weight jacket
  • Swimsuit and Beach towel
  • Sandals/flip-flops and wet shoes or sandals
  • Binoculars
  • Mask & snorkel
  • Bleacher seat cushion with backrest for travel in canoes
  • Flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries (dive lights are useful and often inexpensive)
  • Drybag/Ziplock/plastic bags for camera, etc.
  • Journal/notebook, writing material
  • Books/reading material (very scarce internet)
  • Favorite snacks & candy
  • Most people bring $200 USD to $300 depending upon how much shopping you want to do
  • Money can be exchanged on the boat with no fees and an ATM is at the Manaus airport
  • There are few fishing rods and reels on board; you can bring your own if you like



**People often bring along small gift items to local people and children. We will likely give any gifts to the fishing community of Daracua that will be hosting us for a couple days after the fish festival. If you’d like to do this, you might consider bringing some school & art supplies and small toys for children. New or slightly worn clothes are most welcome. Fishing line and hooks are always appreciated by local fishers. Basic health and first aid supplies can also be very helpful: tooth brushes, band aids, etc. It’s best not to give any items with English directions or that require batteries or power.**  

Additional Details

  • We’re happy to provide ideas on airline flights and look for you to research and book the flights that are best for you.
  • Be sure that your passport is up to date
  • Residents of the US need a Brazil Tourist Visa. This process is changing.  See here for some information:  http://www.vfsglobal.com/Brazil-eVisa/
  • We suggest you see your doctor or travel clinic for up to date immunizations and health resources for this area
  • You may want to consider travel insurance. We understand Insure My Trip has helpful information about travel insurance and also provides a variety of quotes from different companies:  Here’s the link for your convenience:  https://www.insuremytrip.com/

Project Piaba Team and International Experts Likely on the Expedition

Scott Dowd is a conservation biologist at New England Aquarium in Boston, MA, USA and Executive Director of Project Piaba. He received his M.Sc. from the University of Stirling in 2003; his thesis was entitled “Observations on the cardinal tetra fishery with an emphasis on the measurement of stress.” For more than 25 years, Scott has been actively involved in conservation of the cardinal tetra fishery in the mid-Rio Negro region of the Amazon, working along the entire industry chain of Amazonian fishermen, exporters, importers, retail stores, and hobbyists. He continues to be a strong proponent of the trade in environmentally friendly aquarium fish worldwide. Scott has recently established the Home Aquarium Fish Sub-group within the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Freshwater Fishes Specialty Group (IUCN FFSG).

Mari Ines Munari Balsan is a professor at University of Caxias do Sul, teaching for International Market and Administration, she is Director of Project Piaba – Instituto Piaba Brasil, Legal Responsible for “Indicação de Procedência Rio Negro” (Geographic Indication).  She is MSc en Sciences et Technologies mention Agronomie et Agroalimentaire, Spécialité Viticulture –Œnologie the ESA – Escola Superior de Agricultura d’Angers, Master Universitário Internacional em Viticultura, Enologia y Gestion de la Empresa Vitivinicola- Universid Politécnica de Valencia – Espanha, DNM (Diploma Nazionale di Mestrato) – en Sciences e Tecnologies, menzione Agronomie-Agroalimentare, espezialità Viticultura e Enologia – Università di Bologna UNIBO– Itália. Post Graduated in Marketing, and graduated in Economy. She wrote a Dossie to build a Geographic Indication (IP Rio Negro). Mari has been working with the Rio Negro region since 2008.

Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan is an Assistant Professor – Aquatic Animal Health, Extension Veterinarian at Oregon State University.  His primary focus is on providing educational programming and service to the aquarium industry in Oregon and beyond, to help wholesalers, retailers, and hobbyists succeed in the rearing, husbandry, and health care of aquatic animals in the aquarium or pond environment. He led the development of a new two-year Aquarium Science degree and one-year certification program at Oregon Coast Community College, and travels widely to educate aquatic pet owners, breeders, importers, and retailers about the proper care and handling of aquarium fish.

Arnold Lugo is a key member and leaders of the Fishery Field Trainers supporting the Rio Negro Aquarium Fishery.  Arnold is an accomplished fish biologist is involved with both University of Amazonas (UA) and the National Institute of Amazon Research (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil.  Arnold is generous sharing his time and expertise to help the Rio Negro Fishery and participated in the Train the Trainers program in the Summer of 2016 and has conducted multiple community workshops on Best Handling Practices to assist the Rio Negro Fishery.

Radson Rógerton dos Santos Alves is a Brazil government official and also a Fishery Field Trainer of the Rio Negro Aquarium Fishery.  Radson participated in the Training beginning in the Summer of 2016 and has continued to lead the community workshops on Best Handling Practices and to assist the fishery by collaborating with exporters, stakeholders and fishers to help the Rio Negro Fishery.