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Atravelynn

The color coded sections are:

 

 

Muriqui Monkey Mania

Pantanal Pumapalooza

Itinerary

Agents, Accommodations, Arachnids

Fazenda Barranco Alto

How I spent my 6 nights at Fazendo Barracno Alto

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Muriqui

Muriqui Monkey Mania

 

The Muriqui or Woolly Spider Monkey is the largest primate in the Western Hemisphere. It is one of the most endangered monkeys in the world with a remaining population of about 1000. Muriquis live in the Atlantic Forest area of Brazil, an environment with 40 times the biodiversity of the Amazon basin.

 

In 2007 I visited the Caratinga Research Station in the Feliciano Miguel Abdala Reserve, located in the state of Minas Gerais, to observe Muriquis, among other species. As luck would have it, I saw only a few of the approximately 320 resident Muriquis, and those were only visible at a great distance through a spotting scope.

 

Hoping for a better encounter, I returned to the research station in Sept 2013. A Caratinga researcher/tracker accompanies all guests now, an excellent policy which increases not only the odds of Muriqui sightings, but of Brown Howlers, Black capped Capuchins, and Buffy headed Marmosets. Our brief marmoset sighting (no photos) took several hours of hilly hiking, but the other species were easier to find.

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Black Capped Capuchin Brown Howlers, adult and juvenile

I was particularly thrilled with the relatively close views from 8:00 am to 9:00 am on our first day, where about 30 members of one of the four Muriqui groups residing in the reserve, were very visible. Since Muriquis prefer upper canopy or mid-canopy, it can be difficult to see them clearly.

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Muriquis

Piece of Advice: For anyone with neck or back trouble, get your neck in shape before going by looking straight up, binocs resting your face, for a couple of minutes at a time. I’d suggest 3 sets of 6 reps. ^_^

 

Only about 350 people visit the 2,365 acre reserve annually and that includes local school groups of 40-ish at a time. In fact I was told that there would be 40 kids visiting the day after I left. School visits are on scheduled only on days not booked by others visitors, so no chance of inadvertently becoming a member of a 4th grade field trip.

 

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Mother and baby muriqui

Edited by twaffle
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The color coded sections are:     Muriqui Monkey Mania Pantanal Pumapalooza Itinerary Agents, Accommodations, Arachnids Fazenda Barranco Alto How I spent my 6 nights at Fazendo Barracno Alto

(3) 15 Sept Afternoon and night drive with 4 other guests. Hugo Drove and Carol spotlighted. We had a “capybara crossing.”   Not quite as exciting as wildebeest crossing, but a group entrance

Below are photos from my 2013 Caratinga outings on foot, though we sometimes drove to the spot where we would walk. We were in the field about 3-4 hours each morning and again after lunch. Var

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Atravelynn

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Black Capped Capuchins jumping from tree to tree

Other than the researchers, I saw only two other visitors for a few moments. One day before lunch I was photographing “flying” capuchins jumping from tree to tree a few feet from the research station. Two ladies drove up and shouted through the car window (in Portuguese) to me, “Where’s the restaurant and what’s there to see around here?” I fetched Guide Fred, who could understand and answer them. He later translated for me.

 

There is no public restaurant, although visitors like me ate meals in the staff building with the researchers. The ladies had little interest in the capuchins. The forest walks require advance booking, so they promptly sped off, concluding my only visitor sightings at Caratinga.

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Muriqui, big Stretch Me at the Caratinga Research Station Brown Howler

 

The Sept 2013 issue of Smithsonian magazine has a good article on Brazil’s Hippie Monkeys, as the Muriquis are known because they are rarely aggressive and they enjoy physical contact with each other, especially group hugs. Looking up, sometimes it was hard to tell where one furry being started and the next ended; it was one big fuzzy mass.

 

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Muriquis like to maintain close physical contact while eating

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Muriquis Hanging Together

Below are photos from my 2013 Caratinga outings on foot, though we sometimes drove to the spot where we would walk. We were in the field about 3-4 hours each morning and again after lunch. During the hot midday downtime, I could lie on the cool cement benches outside the research station and look up at Muriquis in the canopy high above, when they cooperated.

 

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Hugging Hippie Monkeys, en masse, as seen from the ground, looking up One up, One down Baby Muriqui Hanging Tight to Mom

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Atravelynn

Below are photos from my 2013 Caratinga outings on foot, though we sometimes drove to the spot where we would walk. We were in the field about 3-4 hours each morning and again after lunch.

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Various Brown Howlers

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Various Baby Brown Howlers Black Capped Capuchin

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Howler Mothers and Babies

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Adult Male Brown Howler Younger Brown Howler Muriqui


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Muriqui

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Baby Black Capped Capuchin

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Mother Brown Howler and Baby

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Muriqui

Edited by Atravelynn
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Atravelynn

Some Interesting Birds Seen in Caratinga

 

Black-cheeked Gnateater Black-necked Aracari Blue-winged Macaw Cliff Flycatcher Crescent-chested Puffbird Ferruginous Pygmy Owl Flame-crested Tanager

Lesser Woodcreeper Long-tailed Tyrant Plumbeous Ant Vireo Reddish Hermit Rufous-crowned Ringlet Scaled Antbird Serra Antwern Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper

Sooretama Slaty Antshrike Sooty-fronted Spinetail Violet-capped Woodnympth White-barred Piculet White-bearded Manakin

 

 

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Scaled Antbird, Black Cheeked Gnatcatcher, Crescent Chested Puff Bird, White Bearded Manakin

Edited by Atravelynn
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@@Atravelynn

It looks great - I love the "hippie monkeys" + the flying capuchins - great pictures

The howlers with babies are very appealing

It looks like an excellent start to your trip (with a pumapalooza to come!)

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michael-ibk

Seconded, you had fantastic monkey sightings! Love the jumping capuchins, are you still using your powershot? (I failed miserably at getting decent capuchin pics with it so I really admire what you got here.) I especially like the last howler pic. Isn´t it quite rare to see them on the ground?

 

Looking forward to Barranco Alto and the pumas especially!

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Zim Girl

Great howler monkey shots - can't wait for more!

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Atravelynn

@@michael-ibk, you are right I used the CanonSX50 Powershot. Monkeys are tough subjects because they move around high up in leafy, shady trees with sun behind them. Howlers, capuchins, muriquis are rarely on the ground, but the howlers come down to drink from the stream almost every afternoon.

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Atravelynn

Pantanal Pumapalooza

Pumas are occasionally seen in the Pantanal. Barranco Alto racks up a respectable share of those sightings, averaging about one a month. I must have been sending out good puma vibes because I saw a record-setting five.

 

Puma #1

Seen at night briefly, running across the road into brush, expertly sighted by BA Manager Hugo who was driving and spotlighted by Guide Carol. It was about 6 pm, dark, with clouds covering the nearly full moon. No photo of this big male was possible, not even a paw print photo because the sand underfoot was too loose.

 

Pumas #2,3,4

Mother and 2 cubs seen on a walk.

Quote of the Trip Trilogy:

 

First quote of the Trilogy, Pre-puma.

Hugo lamented that whenever he did not bring his camera there was a major sighting, but when he did bring his camera, nothing very exciting happened. As we left for the morning outing, Hugo was toting his camera. We agreed to trick the forces of nature by loudly offering up this fib, “Darn, forgot the camera today.”

 

After a short drive Hugo and I commenced our morning walk. There had been heavy rains the night before and everything was very quiet. My attention was focused walking without noise. Suddenly, Hugo whispered, “Puma and baby puma,” the second, adrenaline producing Quote of the Trilogy.

 

A mother puma and two cubs stood in front of us at a safe distance. Mother and one cub took one look at us and immediately trotted off but the other cub sat and observed us from behind brush for a moment. A couple of quick photos were possible by both Hugo’s “forgotten camera” and mine. Hugo and I were elated at the rare scene we had just witnessed. About 20 more minutes of walking and we were drenched by a downpour.

 

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Mother puma, with cub in front, seen on a morning walk at Fazenda Barranco Alto with Manager Hugo. Taking leave of us.

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Mother is stopping to check us out

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Curious cub that did not depart with Mom.

Puma #5

Similar behavior to Puma #1, except in the daylight. On an afternoon game drive three of us were photographing macaws in a tree. Volunteer (with plans for employment) Claudia did what a spotter should do and looked around while we were focused on the birds. When she saw a puma dash out of brush behind the vehicle and charge toward the forest, she quickly directed our attention to it. That was Claudia’s first puma spotted for her guests. No photos possible.

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Red and Green Macaws on a game drive captured our attention so that we nearly missed a puma

 

2 is company, 3 is a crowd, but 5 pumas are a palooza. Pumapalooza!!

 

Each of these sightings was in a different territory, so it was 5 different cats.

 

Final Quote of the Trilogy, Post-puma.

Knowing I had seen five pumas during a span of four days, Claudia translated a Portuguese expression to describe my exceptional luck. “You have warm feet.” She explained it means a person is lucky. I certainly did have warm feet with respect to pumas, though in reality my cold toes rarely are sock-less.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Atravelynn

Itinerary

 

Caratinga Research Station in the Feliciano Miguel Abdala Reserve booked through Brazil Nature Tours (BNT) http://www.brazilnaturetours.com/brazil-tours

 

Fazenda Barranco Alto in Pantanal booked directly http://www.fazendabarrancoalto.com/

 

2013

 

8-9 Sept Chicago to Sao Paulo GRU to Belo Horizonte CNF on United/Tam booked at 1 888 2FLYTAM (235-9826). Taxi to Ramada Lagoa Santa International Airport Belo Horizonte booked at 1-800-854-9517. Meals served at hotel.

 

Piece of Advice: There is a money changing station at the Belo Airport in addition to Sao Paulo. My debit card would not work at any machine in Sao Paulo or Belo Horizonte or machines enroute to Caratinga. I even got Guide Fred to assist, but no success. This same PNC bank debit card worked in India, Peru and Zambia just fine, and it worked when I got back home. On the cash machines the only familiar name to me was Citibank. Fortunately I always bring enough USD in case this happens.

 

When planning for tips, Fazendo Barranco Alto readily accepts US dollars (in fact their souvenir prices are quoted in US dollars.) Fred, the guide arranged by Brazil Nature Tours, said US dollars were fine for him as a tip and that the Caratinga researcher would take dollars as well. But I tipped the researcher in Brazilian Reals. And Brazilian Reals for the transfer driver to/from Fazendo Barranco Alto, as he is an independent operator, not BA staff. Reals are required for all taxis.

Black tufted Marmosets, the first sightings of the trip, enroute to Caratinga

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Baby Black tufted Marmoset on left and Adult on right

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Baby Black tufted Marmoset

 

10 Sept Guide Fred of Brasil Aventuras drove 6 hours, which included a 25 minute stop to look for Black Tufted Marmosets and a 30 minute stop for lunch to Vinde’s Hotel for o/nt. I was supposed to stay at the Caratinga Research Station the night of 10 Sept, but could not due to a mixup. D at Vinde’s Hotel

 

11 Sept After breakfast at Vinde’s, drove 1 hour from Vinde’s Hotel to Caratinga Research Station. Arrived at 7 am. Morning and afternoon wildlife outings, about 7 hours total. O/nt Caratinga Research Station. L, D at research station.

 

12 Sept Spent day at Caratinga Research Station. Morning and afternoon wildlife outings, about 7 hours total. B, L at research station. Drove 1 hour to o/nt at Vinde’s Hotel. D at Vinde’s Hotel. Three truckers who were strangers to the researchers arrived to haul away old telephone poles and were staying in the room across from where I stayed (where my door lock rarely worked) and where our rooms would share a sink/toilet. So it was back to Vinde’s Hotel instead of the research station that night.

 

13 Sept After breakfast at Vinde’s, drove 5.25 hours, which included a 30 minute lunch stop, to Belo Horizonte Airport CNF and flew TAM to Sao Paulo GRU. Part of multiple flight itinerary booked at 1 888 2FLYTAM (235-9826). Overnight at Hotel Panamby Guarulhos, with free airport shuttle. Booked at www.panamby.com.br. Meals served at hotel.

 

Piece of Advice: Even though the drive between Caratinga and the Belo Airport should take 5-6 hours, delays due to accidents or road problems can extend the time to 8 hours. Last time we were delayed 2 hours between Caratinga and Belo.

 

14 Sept Hotel Panamby Shuttle back to airport. Gol Airlines 7:35-8:25 am Sao Paulo GRU - Campo Grande. Gol ticket booked at no charge by Brazil Nature Tours because I was having trouble doing it myself. 5 hour road transfer to Barranco Alto in time for lunch and afternoon/evening activity. O/nt Fazenda Barranco Alto.

 

15-19 Sept Morning, afternoon/evening (3-4 hours each) activities at Fazenda Barranco Alto 20 Sept 5 hour road transfer from Barranco Alto to Campo Grande for flight to Sao Paulo GRU, connecting to Chicago O’Hare. Tam/United

 

Sept 21 Arrive Chicago O’Hare before 6:00 am.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Far out! You're a Pantanal wildlife magnet now. Love the hippies and the howlers and the cool cats, all.

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michael-ibk

My debit card would not work at any machine in Sao Paulo or Belo Horizonte or machines enroute to Caratinga. I even got Guide Fred to assist, but no success.

I had the same problem in Sao Paolo, and tried all cash machines at the airport. Finally the Banca Bradesco machines worked for me.

 

Love the pumas! Don´t wanna know what kind of dark sacrificial offerings you gave to the Puma god for this. Must definitely have been more than just "vibes". ;)

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Atravelynn

Glad to know someone else had a debit card problem in Brazil besides me, @@michael-ibk. Sometimes I feel technologically challenged. You even offer a solution--the Banca Bradesco. I probably didn't find that banking machine. Don't recall.

 

There were no sacrificial offerings in exchange for puma sightings, but there were several circumstances that all fell together to put us in the right place at the right time for the mother and cubs. I was supposed to go on the walk with another couple that morning. But they had not yet even emerged from their room when I had eaten breakfast and was ready to go. "You snooze, you lose," I recall saying, along with, "Nature does not wait," as I was making my case to get going. I suggested the couple could join us later when they were ready. To the credit of Hugo, the Barranco Alto Manager, off we went. What happened next is a case of nice guys NOT finishing last. We drove to the spot where we would begin our walk. Hugo made another attempt by radio to reach the lodge and make arrangements for the couple to join us. It took several minutes of exchanges to learn the couple was still nowhere near ready. The result of that additional effort and delay to try to accommodate the late risers put us at the right spot at the right moment for the pumas to cross our path.

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Atravelynn

THE ALL IMPORTANT ADAPTER INFO

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Agents, Accommodations, Arachnids

 

John of Brazil Nature Tours (BNT) answered my numerous questions and worked with me on lots of potential itineraries that I ended up not choosing. He was very attentive even though hours of planning and communicating resulted in me booking a paltry 4 days through his agency. By agreeing to arrange room and board at the Caratinga research station instead of a hotel, John made the whole Caratinga excursion possible for me. Though I ended up at the more expensive Vinde’s Hotel for two nights, plus B&D, the lower research station room/board cost remained what I paid.

 

When dining in the restaurant at the comfortable Vinde’s Hotel, may I suggest the almond crusted trout? I had it twice it was so good and talked Guide Fred into it as well. He concurred it was delicious.

 

Arachnid bonding: The night that I spent at the research station I noticed a huge hairy spider on the window pane of my room. Concerned it might be poisonous, I tried to capture it by affixing a ziplock on the end of my monopod to scoop it up and then dump it outside. That didn’t work. I also contemplated using the monopod to stab the spider, but its substantial, squishy body gave me pause. Then I noticed why I had been unable to just shoe the spider out the door. She was courageously protecting her sack of eggs.

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My fertile room mate

I couldn’t bring myself to slay a protective mother so I opted for sleeping with the light on for about half the night and opening an eye often to check on the whereabouts of the spider. Eventually I turned out the light, but still jerked awake several times during the night to shine my flashlight on Mrs. Spider. The next morning she was still on the window pane guarding her future offspring. Later, when I found out that the truckers would be arriving and spending the next night, I hoped it did not spell demise for the spider and her babies.

 

Piece of advice: While it is always better to be in the jungle than in the city IMO, and saving on accommodation costs is my mantra, it is not necessary to stay at the research station for an excellent Muriqui experience. A crack of dawn start is not needed for Muriqui viewing, as these creatures like to start the day only after being warmed by the sun’s rays. So arrival at about 7 am was plenty early with no need to start scanning the canopy at 6:00 am to find the Muriquis. Howlers were up before daybreak, though I did not see any in the early morn. Some of my best Muriqui shots were at 8:00 am or later. On my previous trip in the month of August, we did not see any Muriquis until about 9:30 am.

 

If you plan on spending just one night at the research station, the ideal night is upon arrival so that you can also spend the late afternoon in the forest. Even if the researcher/tracker who must accompany you on hikes is not scheduled to escort you until the next day, there can be a lot of monkey action right at the center. I saw Muriquis, Capuchins, and Howlers without leaving the grounds of the research station. In fact almost every afternoon a troop of howlers comes to drink in the stream behind the center.

 

 

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Dining in the building to the right. Rooms in building to the left. Caratinga Research Station My room at Caratinga Research Station

 

Piece of advice on spider roommates: Frederico offered a theory that spiders with long legs in proportion to their bodies were not poisonous as a rule. Stubby legged spiders were more likely to be poisonous. My spider roommate had very long Cameron Diaz legs, so I had been safe after all throughout that night of fitful sleep. I hoped the spider’s following night (with truckers on the premises) was equally safe. I’m not telling my husband about this theory of leg length correlating inversely with toxicity because I’d be considered a black widow by those standards.

 

My Caratinga guide, arranged by BNT, was Frederico (Fred) Tavares, owner of Brasil Aventuras. He did an outstanding job and is an excellent birder who leads international birding trips. Such enthusiasm and good humor! He was a riot of a good time and a good spotter

 

Fazenda Barranco Alto can be booked directly or via an agent. Through email I dealt directly with Hugo, the manager and “puma whisperer!” I paid by PayPal. Since Manager/Guide Hugo and Biologist/Guide Carol (husband and wife team) spend most of their time in the remote BA location, email exchanges can take several days or longer. There is no phone. Hugo arranged my transfers from the Campo Grande airport to/from Barranco Alto. The rooms are lovely and share a common library, computer room, and lounge area. More on Barranco Alto in the next section.

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Shared areas at Fazendo Barranco Alto

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My Fazendo Barranco Alto Room and a view of the back of the dining building

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Background: Building that houses the guestrooms at Fazenda Barranco Alto. Foreground: White lipped pecaries.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Wow @@Atravelynn, simply stunning photos! And that puma encounter is a chance of a lifetime. Congrats on such a productive trip.

 

I am waiting anxiously for the rest of the report. We are close to booking Barranco Alto for next fall and can't wait for more details.

 

Thanks for posting such a great report.

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@@Atravelynn

Thanks for really engaging writing, including lots of practical details (including debit card!)

Wonderful to see Puma, but to get such good photos - excellent

 

As you know, we have just booked to go to Barranco Alto (next August) so your report will help us through the long wait. (We don't expect to see Puma!)

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Atravelynn

@@Atdahl and @@TonyQ, you have given me more incentive to complete this report promptly.

 

 

Fazenda Barranco Alto

 

A comment on Trip Advisor described BA as a “personal wildlife experience.” Very accurate. Twice my special requests for personal service contributed to spectacular wildlife encounters. First, when two people who were going to do a morning walk with Hugo and me were still asleep after I had eaten breakfast and was ready to depart, I indicated my eagerness to get going and not delay. Our prompt departure per my request put us at the right spot at the right time for the mother puma and cubs. Thank you!

 

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The inset is an enlargement of the puma cub. Better puma photos are in post #9

My second request was to return to a vampire bat colony and a nearby Jabiru nest because the bats were so cool and because we had seen fuzz in the nest and I was hoping for a view of the chicks. Two nights later, back we went to the bats and when we pulled up in front of the Jabiru nest we saw the parents flying in with mouths full of water to cool the nest and water their 3-day-old chicks. Wow!

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Vampire bats that make their home in an abandoned shack & Me photographing the bats

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Watering the Jabiru chicks

 

Piece of advice: Do make your reasonable requests known to Hugo, Carol, or other staff members, who all are highly accommodating. I am so glad that I did.

 

I contrast the personalization of Barranco Alto with Caiman Lodge (which was lovely and I had a marvelous time with excellent wildlife). At Caiman I pleaded for an alternative to the scheduled “Adventure Day” of horseback riding and piranha fishing. A fast motorboat transfer (not good for birdwatching) could substitute for the fishing. Remaining back at the lodge or doing a non-game-drive road transfer to the lunch spot were the alternatives to horseback riding. At BA, I was asked if I would like to ride horses or fish. While these activities might be highlights of the entire stay for some people, I declined each in preference of more wildlife-centered activities. No problem. I did not have to mount a single horse or cast a single line for a piranha. I learned that the majority of cattle herding takes place in June/July. Should I be privileged enough to ever return to BA during those months, I think I’d go out on horseback to observe the Pantaniero cowboys at work.

 

A little off topic…another Caiman Lodge reference, this time relating to ghosts. In 2009 I recounted this tale on safaritalk in the report “Adventures of a White Rumped Monjita”

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“On my first day at Caiman, several staff members had presented a formal and informal overview of what to expect. Somehow the topic of ghosts and spirits that inhabit the premises came up. I was told that several field guides had heard their names called out in the night; very often alarm clocks would sound at the wrong hour, despite having been set correctly; mysterious human figures would appear and disappear; and other strange happenings were common.

I am not superstitious and am clearly grounded in the tangible, verifiable, science-based laws of nature, though I have an open minded. A haunted refuge seemed to me to be just an intriguing story.

On my 6th night of a week's stay my alarm went off in the night, not repeatedly just a few notes. I sat up and looked at the clock—2:15 am. What the heck? It was still set properly for 4:45 am. Now why would it go off? Still groggy, the ghost stories I had heard the first night were the furthest thing from my mind.

I decided to use the bathroom since I was up and awake. After I had finished my task I heard singing through the open, screened window that was located near the high ceiling of the bathroom. The window led to the hallway, not to outside. The voice belonged to a young male and sounded as if he were recounting a tale in melodic form, but not in English. The accent sounded like Portuguese to me (but who knows?) and I could not recognize any words. The singing was soft and muffled, as if there were a barrier between the singer and me. “The chef must be up early,” I thought to myself, “and singing as he gets the meals for the day underway. ”

The serenade lasted about 20 seconds. As I made my way back to bed and started to assess what had occurred, I froze and turned as
white as the rump of the Monjita. The alarm going off, then the muffled singing--it had to be the ghost. None of this encounter was frightening or upsetting, so I just went back to bed with the intent of finding out if the staff had been singing in the night, which would mean there had been no ghostly goings on.

I was fully conscious and aware when I heard the signing by someone else. No dreaming or sleepwalking.

The next day I explained what had happened and asked Guide Daiani to inquire if there had been any singing staff members the previous night. I emphasized to her that I was not mad at being awakened because I was already up. I didn’t want anyone denying their actions for fear of rebuke for waking up a guest.

The answer was that while Daiani, a woman, shared accommodations in the same facility, the rest of the staff all were housed in the next building, where they could not be heard by us. The only music playing the night before had been through the headphones of the chef’s ipod at 11:00 pm before he retired in the staff facility. And I had heard voice only, not musical instruments.

So the ghost had paid me a visit. Lucky me! There was speculation as to who/what the ghost/spirit was. One of the theories involved the Paraguay War, as it is called in Brazil, or the Triple Alliance War, which lasted from 1864 to 1870. It was one of the bloodiest battles in Latin American History. Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil were pitted against Paraguay. In addition to massive deaths due to war, there were epidemics such as cholera. About half the population of Paraguay perished. Perhaps this was a lost soul who had died in battle or from disease. But the gentle song I had heard gave no indication of distress or anguish.”

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When I recounted that same story from 2009 to a staff member of BA in 2013, I was told that when they had worked at Caiman, the same alarm-going-off problem happened to them and others—repeatedly. They went on to describe other eerie happenings such as a mysterious woman in a white dress.

 

I finally got a photo of the White Rumped Monjita at Barranco Alto.

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White rumped Monjita on the grounds of Fazenda Barranco Alto Fernando and horses at the ranch

The quality of staff and all guides (I had Carol, Hugo, Fernando, and volunteer Claudia for guiding. Lydia was the Giant Anteater researcher who never ended up guiding me but she was a fascinating dining companion at lunch.) combined with BA’s unique habitat of both fresh water and salt lakes make Fazenda Barranco Alto a superb operation in every aspect, even if no pumas are around.

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Former fenceline. Late rains in June 2013 that equalled normal rainfall for the entire wet season were responsible for enlarging the cabybara swimming hole.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Atravelynn

Getting to Barranco Alto

From Campo Grande there are 3 transfer options: road, air, or a road-air combo. If the transfer is shared with other guests, the air options can be less costly than the road transfer. Since no transfer-mates were found for me, I opted for the road-only transfer, which consists of: 1.25 hours on paved roads/highways that included a 15 minute “stop for relaxing,” 1.5 scenic hours on gravel, 2.25 scenic hours on bumpy dirt paths through numerous ranches.

 

There were some nice photo ops on the transfer, including my only Plumbeous Ibis photo, my closest Toco Toucan, my only Jabiru nest shot with chicks and two attending parents, my only Jabiru reflections shot, and my only flying Jabiru photo--different Jabirus.

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Plumbeous Ibis seen on transfer drive Toco Tucan seen on transfer drive

 

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Jabiru Parents and Chicks seen on transfer drive

 

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Flying Jabiriu seen on transfer drive

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Jabiru reflection seen on transfer drive

 

After leaving the pavement and the gravel roads behind, the transfer can serve as quite an adventure. There are 42 gates belonging to all the other ranches that must be driven through. The frequent stops and getting out of the vehicle to open/close the gates plus the heavy dust kicked up by the vehicle (if it is dry) means air conditioning is not used. Instead, Vavah the transfer driver kept his window rolled down and I followed his lead to allow some ventilation during stifling midday heat and humidity. The sun can be menacingly strong through the open windows so to combat it Vavah brought a towel he used to cover his exposed forearm where the sun beat in. I grabbed a long sleeved shirt from my bag for my own sun protection. Vavah had plenty of water bottles in a cooler to keep hydrated.

 

After Vavah repeated several routines of stop the vehicle, get out, open the gate, get back in, drive the vehicle through the gate, get out, lock the gate, get back in and drive on, I offered to be the official gate opener and closer. With Vavah’s CD of traditional Brazilian music playing in his truck and my gate duties, a mere transfer became a cultural experience. Since I figured there would be no horseback riding for me, I appreciated being able to partake in the Pantanal ranching culture--at least very minimally--with this gate business. It shaves 30 minutes off the transfer time if the driver doesn’t have to do all the gates himself.

 

The other guests

About half the Barranco Alto guests are North Americans but I was the only one during the 6 nights I was there. During my stay, I met 2 Brits, 4 Australians, and 6 Swiss Germans.

 

A nice Australian couple shared about half of the activities with me. The gentleman of the couple often wondered out loud during our outings about what type of beans we would have at the upcoming meal. Then, in the dining room, he’d admit he could not help himself from sneaking a peek into the bean pot before mealtime to see what awaited us. At first I thought he was treating us to some quirky, sarcastic Aussie humor with his exuberance about beans. But his wife assured me his enthusiasm was genuine. I was pleased to meet someone who appreciated the legume family as much as I do and had no qualms about sharing his enthusiasm.

 

Piece of Advice: For those without all the gear, such as binoculars or wide brimmed hats, plenty of each are available at Fazenda Barranco Alto. Even if you have your own hat, you might want to pose for an authentic looking photo with a traditional Pantaneiro hat chosen from their selection. I ‘shoulda done that.gallery_108_935_62028.jpg

Note the hats on the right, just outside the enclosed dining room -- I took no photos of the binocular selection available to guests.

Edited by Atravelynn
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@@Atravelynn

Great stories and great photos

You make Barranco Alto very appealing!

I love the bats and the stork bringing water to the baby (and the flexibillity that led to this!)

I also really like capybara!

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Atravelynn

@@TonyQ, you are 8 months away from your own great photos and stories at BA!

 

 

Daily routine for guests at BA

Lucas Leuzinger, owner of Fazenda Barranco Alto was always present at the breakfast table where guests could enjoy their first meal of the day, beginning at 5:45 am. The first activity of the day began 30-90 minutes later, depending on guests’ digestion and eagerness to get going. Morning outings lasted about 3 to 4 hours.

 

Lucas joined us for lunch too and was an entertaining source of scientific information and fascinating tales about the Pantanal. Various other staff members also ate breakfasts and lunches with us and were fun to talk with.

 

During lunch time, the bird feeders were often filled, drawing in many species that could be observed from the dining room. The birds lingered long after lunchtime and made for nice photo subjects. Several of the endangered and skittish Bare-faced Curassows regularly hung out at the ranch and the bird feeder and would even march right past the two housecats, unmolested. In fact, Bare-faced Curassows were everywhere—at feeder, along the rivers, roaming the fazenda grounds. One day I stopped counting at 20.

 

 

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Bare-faced Curassow couple overlooking the bird feeder scene Female Bare-faced Curassow on fazenda grounds

 

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Bare-faced Curassow couple to roaming the fields of the fazenda Bird watching

 

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Male Bare-faced Curassow on fazenda grounds, channeling Little Richard

 

The housecats enjoyed viewing the birds as much as I did. The Plush-crested Jays have a special alarm call just for cats, as opposed to their call for snakes or raptors, etc. When a housecat arrived on the scene the jays issued their catcall. I had learned about that particular alarm call after our mother puma and cubs encounter because Hugo was able to keep track of where the pumas had run off to by the unique sounds of the Plush-crested Jays.

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Plush-crested Jay on fazenda grounds Domestic cats

 

 

For afternoon activities, we gathered around 3:15 pm for a 3:30 pm takeoff that continued into a night drive, getting back at 7:00 pm or 7:30 pm (afternoon boat rides got back about 5:30 pm). A complimentary Caipirinha was offered each evening after the night drive, along with hors d'oeuvres.

 

The evening meal was served around 7:30-8:00 pm, attended by the guests, giving the staff a well earned break. Lucas joked the staff left us alone for one meal a day so we could talk about them. I can report only good things were said.

 

The food was great and it was produced right on the ranch. Like my Australian vehicle mate, I particularly enjoyed the various types of Brazilian beans. The homemade cheese served for breakfast was a favorite too. All meals were accompanied by delicious freshly squeezed juices that were also served as a refreshment after the morning outing. A bowl of fruit was always available for snacks.

 

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Storm approaching, backyard of Fazenda Barranco Alto Rhea on the grounds of the fazenda Flying Hyacinth Macaws on game drive

Edited by Atravelynn
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Great picture of Little Richard!

And yet more cats....

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michael-ibk

Barranco Alto looks like a very beautiful place indeed!

 

The coat colour of these capybaras looks nuancedly different from that of their more Northern conspecifics, a bit "blonder". (I thought the same of the capybaras in Iguacu, coatis looked a bit "paler" there, too.)

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Atravelynn

There are some more auburn colored capybara coming up @@michael-ibk. Might be the light and the soil that makes them look different.

 

 

A pleasant option at Fazenda Barranco Alto during down times was a walk around the expansive grounds that extend to the river and include a nearby lake.

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Buff necked Ibis with lake that is on the fazenda grounds in the background. Walking unescorted around the lake is safe and encouraged.

 

Piece of advice: A leisurely walk around the lake, stopping for bird pictures takes about 40 minutes.

 

There are several canoes and kayaks that you can take out on your own along the Rio Negro. It’s really exciting to approach a bank strewn with caiman for your own private show. My only cormorant shots, one capturing the beautiful aqua-marine iris of that bird, came from me paddling my own canoe.

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Reflecting on the peacefulness of caneoing the Rio Negro alone


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Medley of caiman shots I took while paddling one of the canoes for guest use. Unescorted river paddles on the Rio Negro are an exciting activity. med_gallery_108_935_123720.jpgmed_gallery_108_935_293156.jpg

These caiman were seen along the Rio Negro while out on my own in the canoes for guest use

 

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Cormorant spotted while paddling alone along the Rio Negro. Canoes and kayaks are provided for guests.

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These guys like the shade provided by the beached canoes.

 

Piece of advice: When canoeing alone, take a second paddle just in case something happens to the first one. But definitely take the canoe or kayak out! It’s best to go upriver first, which is harder, then flow back downriver with the current. Near the canoes on the riverbank is a tree and nesting box for Hyacinth Macaws. Good place for views of these birds.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Atravelynn

Interestingly, I was told that very serious birders are not frequent guests because the area around BA has virtually no endemics. Therefore twitchers in search of lifers concentrate elsewhere.

 

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Blue fronted Parrots on opposite corners, pair of Rufous tailed Jacamars, Rufescent Tiger Heron in reeds, Green Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee

 

For macaw enthusiasts, it’s a great place.

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Blue and Gold Macaw seen on a drive Red and Green Macaw seen on a drive

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Hyacinth Macaws seen on drive

 

These photos are all from wandering around the Fazenda Barranco Alto grounds.

 

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Buff necked Ibis on fazenda grounds

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Giant Cowbird fight on fazenda grounds

 

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Scaled Doves Vermillion Flycatcher Brazilian Teal

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Crested Oropendola on fazenda grounds Red legged Seriema on fazenda grounds

 

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Rheas on Fazenda Grounds

Edited by Atravelynn
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Good advice still coming!

I am not a serious birder - but the birds look fantastic there and you have some great pictures of them. I love the rhea

(I only recently came across the term "lifer" when I was reading birding trip reports on the pantanal)

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