Manitou Explore 22 Switchback

MANITOU Boats recently unveiled its first model for Australian boaties – the Manitou Explore 22 Switchback.

Manitau is a US-based manufacturer of pontoon boats designed for family and leisure boating. The company has been around since 1985 and is part of the BRP family, the parent company behind Telwater, manufacturer of Quintrex, Stacer and Yellowfin.

The Manitou Explore 22 Switchback

The Explore 22 Switchback is the Australian debut from Manitou and features a tri-hull pontoon design.

Is it a fishing boat? Not really. These boats are designed for “day boating”. That means it’s a leisure boat or a boat to take your family and friends and cruise around. However, that’s not to say you can’t fish from a pontoon boat. In fact, in the US, there are many specialised pontoon fishing boats and for families seeking a versatile boat that covers all bases, a pontoon could be a good option.

There’s plenty of space for fishing and it’s incredibly stable. There’s also a large flat platform on the ransom that would make an ideal area to stand and fish, whether it’s casting lures or soaking a bait. More on that later.

The build

Manitou Explore 22 Switchback features an aluminium construction and, according to BRP, an innovative process of manufacturing the exterior. Manitou’s Garrett Koschak says this has typically only seen in luxury automative and involves an exclusive pressed aluminium process, different than stretch forming that you would normally see on other aluminium boats such as Stacer and Quintrex.

One of the benefits, besides the sleek look, is the ease of maintenance. It creates a clean and flat surface and is easy to maintain compared to traditional pontoon boats. Another interesting feature is individual panels can be removed and replaced. If you happen to scratch or damage part of the boat it’s far more simple to repair. 

Under the floors, there are cross members every 16 inches for strength and Manitou has gone from a marine grade timber flooring to a full composite floor, effectively eliminating any plywood timber in the boat. On top of that is a vinyl pad. It stays cooler than carpet and is soft under foot.

Meanwhile, all of the wiring is run above the waterline behind the exterior wall. This makes it more resilient and resistant to corrosion compared with other pontoon boats. Given many of these boats will be used on salt water in Australia, it’s a very clever feature.

What’s onboard?

At the helm, the dash comes standard with a 9-inch Garmin. Manitou is partnered with Garmin, although also offers Lowrance products in Australia. In addition, there are 13 USB charges for devices, plus an optional wireless charging pad for your phone. There’s a FUSION stereo with NMEA 2000 for integration via an app our the Garmin sounder screen. Garmin also offers other integration, even the option to control your boat through a Garmin smartwatch. 

When things heat up, as they often do in a hot Australian summer, there’s a sturdy bimini top. This is easy to set up, and at 12 feet long, provides ample shade and rain protection. It’s a very solid bimini and is rated to 55 miles per hour, the highest speed rating of any pontoon bimini. That’s a great option for leaving up all day regardless of the speed you’re travelling. We erected it and left it up throughout the boat test.

There are over 12 cup holders and these are capable of holding the large Yeti style cups. You can never have enough cup holders in a boat!

Interior configuration

The large and flat back deck area sits over the Rotax S engine. This is one of the advantages of the Rotax engine, which sits partially submerged under the water. Unlike a traditional outboard that takes up space at the back, or an inboard that takes up valuable deck space at the transom, the Rotax is literally hidden away under the transom in the water. This creates an enormous space at the rear of the boat. It’s coated with a non-slip decking and makes a fantastic platform for lounging around when anchored. You can trim the engine during driving and not alter the level of the boat. However, if you decide to fully trim the engine out ion the water, this back transom deck will raise and become unusable at the time.

The back deck is a unique benefit of this engine configuration and style. Manitou has mounted a cooler on the back via its LinQ System. It’s easily accessible at rest, but keeps it clear of your floor space inside the main section of the boat. The LinQ same system used is also used on BRP’s Sea-Doos and allows for accessories to be easily mounted. There’s also a wet storage box forward of the cooler that includes an oil filling port and flushing hose connection. Very convenient. 

Battery storage is on the starboard side under the seats. On that note, the seat configurations are flexible and cleverly designed. 

Overall, it has a cleaver and very spacious deck layout with ample seating. All of the seating is configurable depending on who’s onboard or how you prefer the layout. There’s also plenty storage under the seats, lounges and under the floor. 

With such a spacious layout, it would make a perfect boat for large families or entertaining a larger group of friends. 

Performance and power

As mentioned above, the Explore 22 Switchback is powered by BRP’s Rotax S 150hp engine. The Rotax engine was previously revealed onboard Quintrex’s Freestyler X, and served a similar purpose. The partially submerged engine allows for special extra space and provides an economical and reliable power source. 

BRP says the Rotax S offers 20 per cent more fuel efficiency than a comparable outboard. They’re quiet and smooth and easy to operate.

On that note, the Explore 22 Switchback is incredibly easy to drive. It won’t break any speed records. Manitou does have more options of boats with twin engines if that’s your preference. This boat, however, is ideally set up for cruising around calm water with family and friends. Literally anyone on board could take the helm at any point and drive the boat. Being such a stable platform, there’s very little lean while turning and the Rotax S doesn’t have any sudden and unexpected acceleration. It’s a safe, economical and easy boat to drive.

For the same reason, it would also make a great first boat for anyone new to boating. 


Without a doubt, boats such as the Manitou Explore 22 Switchback have a place for Australian boaters. If I was looking for a spacious boat capable of carrying an above average number of passengers for cruising around our beautiful waterways, this Manitou would be high on the list.

If you’re looking for a family boat that allows ample space for fishing, a pontoon boat such as the Manitou Explore 22 Switchback may be worth checking out.

Find out more at

Stay tuned for a full review in the Nautilus Marine Magazine.

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