The Pantanal is considered the easiest place to see a wide variety of tropical animals on the South American continent. Open areas facilitate the spotting of animals such as the rare Marsh Deer, Giant Anteater, Capybara, Black-and-Gold Howler, Yellow Anaconda and Jaguar. While this impressive cat occurs over a wide range, the Pantanal is the only place where one has a reasonable chance of seeing a Jaguar. In fact, we saw at least one Jaguar on over 90% of our tours here in 2001! Here, the giant subspecies, Panthera onca palustris, dwarfs its Amazonian form. Weighing over 135 kg (300 lb.), a paw print in the dirt can be 18cm (5") in diameter. Its head is the size of a basketball.
While the mammals are impressive, it is the amazing abundance of birds that gives the Pantanal its fame. It is a destination of three major South American migratory routes. The shrinking of vast flooded areas in the beginning of the dry season concentrates fish for waders such as Jabiru, Maguari and Wood Storks, Great and Snowy Egrets, numerous herons, five species of ibis and Roseate Spoonbills.
Four species of kingfishers, Snail Kite, Black-collared and Roadside Hawks and several other raptor species, many parrots, parakeets and macaws and an array of other interesting birds make this a favorite destination for bird watchers the world over. Some of the specialties we'll look for include Hyacinth Macaw, Nanday Parakeet, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Long-tailed Ground-Dove, Buff-bellied Hermit, Guilded Hummingbird Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Toco Toucan, Plumbeous Ibis, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Unicolored and Scarlet-headed Blackbirds, Chaco Chachalaca, Bare-faced Curassow, the endemic Chestnut-bellied Guan, Rufous Cachalote, Mato Grosso Antbird and many, many others. The ease with which the birds can be seen is equally a bonus for the experienced birder and first time nature tour participant.
The cliffs and strange rock formations of the Chapada present a distinctly different habitat from the others on this tour. Chapada National Park sits at the division of the Amazonia and Parana River basins on the western edge of the Cerrado grasslands of the Planalto Central. Clear Water Rivers and rich gallery forests cut seemingly endless grasslands. Where the red soils turn to sand, strange twisted trees and scrub undergrowth create another habitat. Nearly 90% of the species of the Cerrado are found in the gallery forests, and here the species represent Amazonia as well as the Planalto Central.
Recent tours have seen Black-tailed Marmoset, Puma and Giant River Otter, but the most memorable aspects may be the scenic canyons with rich tropical forest and screaming macaws. Bird specialties here include Stripe-tailed Yellow-Finch, White-rumped and White-banded Tanagers, Coal-crested Finch, Band-tailed and the endemic Helmeted Manakins, Dot-eared Coquette, Cinnamon-throated Hermit, Blue-winged, Red-shouldered and Red-and-Green Macaws, King Vulture and others.
Day 1: Cuiabo to the Pantanal
On arrival in Cuiabo this evening embark immediately for the Pantanal, the world's largest wetland and the easiest place in the Americas to see a large diversity of animals. The first 100km of good paved road cross a disturbed cerrado transition ecosystem, featuring examples of cerrado vegetation, gallery forests and a unique tall cerrado forest. The pavement stops in Poconu and we continue on dirt road another 7km to our first night’s accommodations. We will arrive around midnight, perhaps after seeing some wildlife on the road to the comfortable lodge. Tours in 2001 saw Margay, Crab-eating Raccoon, Crab-eating Fox and Marsh Deer by spotlight on this road at the same time of day, and we'll have a good chance of seeing something interesting. Included: (B), (L), (D)
Day 2: To the Jaguar Ecological Reserve
Enjoy a relaxed breakfast this morning enjoying the herons, storks, Roseate Spoonbills, kingfishers, ibises, Limpkins, cormorants and other waterfowl in the region. Leave the hotel after lunch, continuing south another 120km into the richest and lowest area of the Transpantaneira. The plant and animal diversity increases, and herds of Capybara, the world's largest rodent (more like a guinea pig than a rat), are likely to be seen. Keep your eyes open for endangered Marsh Deer, South American Coati, Brown Capuchin, Yellow Anaconda, Crab-eating Fox, Greater and Collared Anteaters and a host of other animals. It is also possible to see the Hyacinth, Blue-and-Yellow, Yellow-collared and Red-and-Green Macaws.
Arrive at the Jaguar Ecological Reserve at the end of the day for a two-night stay. Our lodge is located within the Jaguar Ecological Reserve and hosts the largest concentration of Hyacinth Macaws in the state. Recent tour participants have seen Margay, Brazilian Tapir, Giant River Otter and Little Red Brocket Deer on the hotel grounds. This is the only lodging in the Pantanal owned and operated by Pantaneiros living the traditional lifestyle, and the only one within miles. It is located in the richest habitat of the Pantanal. There are six rooms with very small private baths. We will enjoy excellent Pantaneiro traditional meals in a sheltered area. Included: (B), (L), (D)
Days 3 - 4: Jaguar Ecological Reserve
We will spend the next two days exploring this incredibly rich area on foot and by vehicle. Several areas of different types of forest are found alongside lakes, seasonally flooded fields and rivers. Look for bird specialties including Purplish Jay, Plumbeous Ibis, Red-billed Scythebill, Sunbittern, Toco Toucan, Bare-faced Currasow, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Nanday Parakeet, Blue-crowned Trogon, Cinereous-breasted and Chotoy Spinetails, Mato Grosso Antbird and a number of other bird species. Black-and-Gold Howler and Brown Capuchin also occur the forests we explore today, and it is unusual not to see them both.
One day we will have the option to explore the mighty Cuiabá River by boat (not included), where Jaguars are also frequently seen. Other days we will return to the hotel for lunch. The early afternoons can be spent discussing and updating our bird and mammal list, relaxing and/or enjoying a cold one at the bar. In the mid-afternoon start out into the field once again. Arrive back at the hotel after dark after looking for owls, nightjars, anteaters, Jaguar, Ocelot, Maned Wolf and a number of other crepuscular and nocturnal animals with a spotlight. Included: (B), (L), (D)
Day 5: To the Pixaim River
After breakfast begin a full day of exploration. After lunch we will leave of the Pixaim River, a drier and different part of the Pantanal. A late afternoon walk introduces the bird species of the area, the most elevated of the Transpantaneira. Look for Blue-fronted Parrot, White Woodpecker, Long-tailed Ground-Dove, Rufous Cacholote, Buff-bellied Hermit, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Campo Oriole, Greater Thornbird, and Pygmy Kingfisher, among other species. With a bit of luck, the resident Giant River Otters will pass by our hotel as we are out. Tonight we will spotlight this region, which is good for Marsh Deer, Crab-eating Fox, Crab-eating Raccoon and Ocelot. Included: (B), (L), (D)
Day 6: Pixaim to Chapada dos Guimarães National Park
Wake up early to the sounds of birds and Black-and-Gold Howler Monkeys roaring in the distance. After an early breakfast start the journey out of the Pantanal. Arrive in Cuiabá for lunch before continuing onward. Sixty kilometers later arrive at the base of the Chapada, the cliffs where the high plains of central Brazil abruptly end. Ascend on a road those winds through strange rock formations and patches of rich, cerrado forest. The bird life is quite different here, featuring species such as the Crested Black-Tyrant, Blue Finch, Helmeted Manakin, White-eyed Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Curl-crested Jay and Band-tailed Manakin. Accommodations are provided at a hotel outside of town for two nights. Included: (B), (L), (D)
Day 7: Chapada dos Guimarães National Park
After an early breakfast visit the Veu da Noiva, or "Bridal Veil", 80 meter waterfall. A road descends to a small parking area across from the top of the falls. In the morning this is an exciting birding area, situated in cerrado vegetation with water, cliffs and a rich gallery forest below. With the advantage of being on top, one can see many bird species that inhabit the forest canopy. Red-and-green and Blue-winged Macaw are regular visitors. From here one can see a bright orange spot on the Blue-winged Macaw's back, a spectacular feature not normally seen. In other surrounding areas we'll seek out the Dot-eared Coquette and other hummingbirds, Blue-crowned Motmot, Pheasant Cuckoo, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Band-tailed Manakin, Blue Dacnis, Thick-billed Euphonia, Guira, Swallow, White-rumped and White-banded Tanagers, White-eared Puffbird, Yellow-ridged Toucan and a host of other bird species. Brown Capuchin and Black-tailed Marmoset are sometimes seen as well and other times we've seen Giant River Otter and even Puma. The Red-legged Seriema and Red-winged Tinamou are common inhabitants of the open fields. In the late afternoon visit the geodesic center of South America, located on the edge of a cliff with a spectacular view of the valley below. From here we will enjoy the sunset before going to dinner, with the balance of the evening free. Included: (B), (L), (D)
Day 8: Chapada dos Guimarães to Cuiabo
An early morning return to the field is offered before breakfast for those wishing to take advantage of the exciting dawn bird activity. After breakfast leave the hotel heading for Cuiabo. Drive through a series of surreal rock formations and picturesque cliffs on the way down from the plateau. Continue on to Cuiabo for lunch, and transfer to the airport for your flight to your next destination. Included: (B), (L), (D)
This tour may be taken in conjunction with our Amazon tour from Cuiabo or with another of our tours starting in a different city, enabling one to create a complete Brazilian wildlife safari. Contact us for details.
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