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Barranco Alto and Pantanal, a yearly appointment


Bush dog
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I am just back from a 10 days stay at Fazenda Barranco Alto (FBA), my favorite place in the Pantanal, north and south mingled.. It was my 8th (3 only dedicated to FBA) trip to this fantastic region of Brazil and once more, I was not disappointed.

 

As I only joined ST lately, this trip report will include pictures and impressions of the previous 7 other trips also. I would also like to show that the Pantanal is not only the jaguar, but also a lot of other fascinating species and I think in particular of the magnificent macaws.

 

I will not repeat datas, already mentioned exhaustively, last year, by Lynn in the report she made on account of her September 2013 visit ; things did not change dramatically in one year.

 

I arrived, with my wife, at Campo Grande (CGR) airport, on September, the 4th. Lucas, the husband of Marina, owner of FBA, was waiting for us. We went by road to Aquidauana and then flew (about 30 minutes) to the farm.

 

You can see this from the plane, on the way to FBA, the yellow trumpet tree (ipeh).

 

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We left FBA on the 13th with Vavah, their main subcontractor for road transfers. It took us about 6 hours to reach CGR. As our flight was scheduled for the next day, we stayed at Vale Verde Hotel.

 

The transfer by road is termed an adventure, because of the bumpy dirth part section between the farm and the gravel road. This is proved when it is made in awful weather conditions, like we had last year in October, on our way back. Indeed, soon after we left the farm, a thunder storm broke and it did not stop raining until we reached CGR. The brave Vavah had to open and close the some forty gates under pelting rain. Luckily, he was well equiped, he had rubber boots.

 

There has been some changes since last year. In the main building, the wall between the common library and the computer room was demolished. A new construction with 2 new rooms was built. There is a small entrance hall with one room on the right and one on the left. The rooms are a bit bigger, as well as the bathrooms, and especially more luminous, with a great view on the pool, behind the lodge.

 

The following pictures were taken from the gate next to the lodge, at dawn. The new rooms are now between the gate and the 2 caranda palm trees in the foreground

 

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The beautiful taruma close to the gate

 

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During the 9 days I was there, I mainly participated to game drives and only 3 boat drives, because I wanted to increase my chances to see a puma. Talking about cats, chances to see a jaguar are little, because the range of activities offered is wide, and jaguars are mainly seen on the river banks.

 

And yes this time, I saw the puma. We were coming back from a bush dinner, it was about 9.30 am. We were just out of the forest and there he was, in the car lights. It was a very relaxed young male. The 2 other cars arived but he remained relaxed and walked to the fence and sat there facing the cars. Lucas and another person came out of the cars and walked slowly to him to get a better picture but that did not affect him until the step forward too much, made him slowly walk away in the forest. We think that it might be one of the cubs that Lynn saw last year during a walk.

 

The picture is far from excellent and is posted to document the text.

 

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What makes this place so attractive for me (it was the love at first sight, the first time I went there in 2006) ? Principally, because it’s remote and pristine. The river Rio Negro is a kind of captive river that flows from a marshy area to another, without being directly linked to the hydrographic system to which it belongs. As a consequence, it’s little or non polluted. There are no fishermen boats. Rio Negro can almost be considered as a private river, especially since the recent closing of Embiara Lodge and some years ago the stopping of the tourist activities of Fazenda Rio Negro. Furthermore, there are no similar place, with that many lakes and pools (less than 10% with salt water), in the Pantanal. This unique type of habitat encourage a huge diversity of species, resident, and migratory.

 

The rainfall in July was abnormally high. As a consequence, the September level of water in the river, lakes and pools followed the same trend. During my stay, this year, there was a thunder storm at around 12 a.m.

 

Before the storm

 

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There is a difference of 90 minutes between those 2 pictures

 

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After the storm in the opposite direction

 

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After the storm, the temperature turned cooler. That's when the giant anteaters appear. I saw, then, giant anteaters on almost every game drives

 

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@@Bush dog

I am looking forward to reading your report. You clearly know Barranco Alto exceptionally well - and I can see why you keep going back. It is fascinating seeing the impact of the storm and it will be interesting as you compare experiences over time. When we were there, Hugo mentioned that you would be coming soon and that they looked forward to your regular visits.

 

That is still a good puma shot! and I like the anteater scratching its ear.

Edited by TonyQ
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For me, there are at FBA, three zones :

 

The first one is the surroundings of the ranch and the lodge that goes from the river to the forest, including the salina Lindoya and bahia Japao, the lake behind the lodge and in between a wide open space with scattered trees of different species. The puma was seen in this area, three times, when I was there. I consider this area to be the most productive in terms of photography chances and it’s the best place to see parrots, parakeets and hyacinth macaws. The latter are present in great number

 

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The second one is the river.

 

The third one is the rest of the property, the forest and all the lakes and pools.

 

Until further notice, all the following pictures were taken in the first area.

 

The hyacinth macaw is considered to be endangered but now it seems that, due to the protection measures taken by the authorities, their population is stabilized and perhaps slowly rising. When you are looking at them, it’s often showtime !!!

 

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Couple at their nest

 

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Couple living in the taruma, some meters from the river. That couple is there since at least 7 years

 

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Beautiful, Mike ....... One year I must sacrifice atleast one African safari and go to the Pantanal ...... ;)

 

Ok - very silly question. In Africa terms, is seeing a Puma as difficult as say a Pangolin/Aardvark? or more like Leopard in the non-touristy areas? ;)

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Your shots from above are great. Nice going on the puma! You stated 9:30 am, but it looks dark when you saw it. The storm produced dramatic results, along with the wet giant anteater. Cooling temps and and giant anteaters seem to go hand in hand. What a nice annual tradition! Maybe someday we can cross paths there if I do a trip #2. It would probably be your #22!

Edited by Atravelynn
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@@Bush dog : some seriously great light you have captured! Great details on macaws. Regarding the weather, would second half of August be a viable timeframe to visit this place?

 

@Atravelynn: do here on SafariTalk members organise a GTG sometimes? I am absolutely interested to visit Pantanal in the near future. Would love to be in company of some experienced ST-ers while there.

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@@madaboutcheetah

Yes, Hari, you should do that one day, but do not wait too long, I would like to do it with you.

If I refer to my personal statistics, puma is easier to see. Indeed, I never had the opportunity so far to see an aardvark or a pangolin.

More seriously, puma is easier to see of course, it's like you said, similar to a leopard in non-touristy areas.

 

@@Atravelynn

Of course, you are right, I should have written 9:30 PM. It would be nice to cross paths, but I sincerely hope that it will not be at my #22

 

@@xelas

The second half of August is certainly a nice timeframe to go. It's not as cold as in July and not yet too warm.

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Absolutely fantastic landscape pictures, and love the action shots of the Macaws!

 

Giant anteater on almost every game drive - fantastic!

 

I´m curious about Puma, I was under the impression that they are very hard in the Pantanal (saw one at night at the Transpantaneira, though). When you are saying "similiar to leopard in non-touristy areas" does that mean very rare or reasonable chances? How often have you seen them at Barranco Alto? Is there a "best time" for them there?

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@@Bush dog

Your Hyacinth macaw shots are absolutely beautiful - I love that last one in particular!

 

Re Puma - Barranco Alto keep a log of mammals seen each day. During August, Puma were seen on 5 days. (It doesn't say how many people saw it) All of those 5 were clustered together at the end of August - and obviously here for Mike at the beginning of September as well. So possibly they move in and out of the area?

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@@michael-ibk @@TonyQ

Thank you to both of you, for your comments about the pictures.

 

There are reasonable chances to see puma. I do not really think that there is a best time for them.

 

A few years ago, my wife saw a female and cub, far away in the distance. The time she gave me her binoculars, it had already disappeared in the forest.

Two years ago, Hugo saw one at dusk. The time he said puma, it was already gone in the bushes. So this one was my first puma.

 

The same puma was seen three days before by other guests, earlier in the evening and the day after, at about the same time by Lydia, the giant anteater researcher, and by Lucas, from their house. They were both alerted by the alarm calls of the capibaras.

 

I saw it, this time, because I mainly did game drives, also because I was still out later in the evening and do not forget I stayed 9 nights.

 

I must also say, that I think that puma sightings increased those last three years. So perhaps their population also increased??? Not much is known about pumas. Lucas told me that he is thinking of puting a collar on one of them, to learn more about their habits and the size of their territory.

 

What is sure is that their population is bigger than the jaguar population. They are everywhere on the property. So they do not move in and out of the area. If sightings clustered together, it's just a normal succession of a same event.

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Great pictures, the hyacinth macaws are really photogenic.

 

 


What is sure is that their population is bigger than the jaguar population. They are everywhere on the property. So they do not move in and out of the area. If sightings clustered together, it's just a normal succession of a same event.

 

You mean in Barranco Alto no?

 

In northern Pantanal it seems to be the opposite, considering that in the wet season is fairly easy to see jaguars and puma sightings are much scarser.

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The following giant anteater sighting was made last year at Lindoya. We did not even have to walk, he came to us, went along the car and up to the forest.

 

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The following pictures were made 7 years ago at salina Lindoya. The fur of the capibaras is grey because of the salt. There are no grey capibaras anymore. Around Lindoya, they are golden blond. During the great floodings, Lindoya received a supply of water of the river, with as a result, the decrease of the salinity. In the future, if there are no more transfer of water from the river, the salinity rate will again reach its original level.

 

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@Atravelynn: do here on SafariTalk members organise a GTG sometimes? I am absolutely interested to visit Pantanal in the near future. Would love to be in company of some experienced ST-ers while there.

There have been several GTGs, usually in cities where people live. Members have also traveled in pairs or groups to various locations, myself included. That's another really great thing about this forum--you can find like minded people to travel with.

 

The hyacinths are real beauties.

 

You'll have to include some of your previous BA photos, whether in this thread or another. You have quite the portfolio!

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@@Atravelynn

 

I already did it, Lynn. The hyacinth macaws, except for the 2 last one, are from 2012 and 2013 (4 macaws together). The capibaras + cattle tyrant are from 2007. The anteaters on #14 are from last year and all the pictures on #1, except the first one, are from 2008 and 2009 (blazing sunrise).

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Wonderful photos of the macaws and the soggy anteater, thanks for posing.

 

The photos looking towards the river remind me of my 2010 visit, no pumas for us on that trip. Good to hear that the hyacinth macaws continue to do well, they certainly put on a show for you.

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Beautiful, Mike ....... One year I must sacrifice atleast one African safari and go to the Pantanal ...... ;)

 

Ok - very silly question. In Africa terms, is seeing a Puma as difficult as say a Pangolin/Aardvark? or more like Leopard in the non-touristy areas? ;)

 

MACheetah hello from "the other person" who walked up to the puma to get a clear shot. Firstly I want to thank Mike to point out this place. I would recommend Barranco Alto to anyone planning a Pantanal trip. The place is easy to include in a Pantanal travel plan and it holds a lot of unique and special surprises. - You ask about seeing pumas. While Mike was there I spent 11 nights at BA especially hoping to see a puma (and of course very much appreciating landscapes and wildlife, as well as farm life and the lodge at the same time). From what I know now Barranco Alto probably is the best or one of the best places to see the neotropical puma. Looking for pumas is very similar to looking for leopards. It is best done during night drives and therein lies the dilemma. Current BA management didn't really want to accommodate this. It was not like in a good African concession or a mobile camp somewhere in the wild, where if you book a private vehicle and guide activities really are shaped around your interest. So for 11 days I did "normal" private guided activities that ended at the dinner table. Only after we had come across this puma about 500m from the lodge (returning from a BBQ in the field at 21:30h) could I arrange two night drives, leaving out my afternoon activity. Had I known this earlier I would have tried for 7 or 8 nights out to look for the puma. It was there nearly every night, hunting capybara and peccaries within less than a km from the lodge. A bit further out we also found very fresh tracks of a female and two cubs. Again I think if the focus is on finding the cats, rather than on making it to the dinner table by 19:00h luck may change.

 

BTW before I moved up to Barranco Alto I stayed at a place called Pousada Aguapé where I went to look for ocelots and managed to get some fantastic photographic results. I also found a very obliging ocelot at Barranco Alto, but at Aguapé I could really focus on finding these cats in a stretch of riverine forest where my guide took me for 10 nights in a row.

 

So if and when I return to Barranco Alto I will again book private guiding & vehicle and I will try to arrange swapping afternoon activities for night drives. If you want to find a puma I suggest you do the same. All other wildlife and birdlife you can find during your morning game drives and in the afternoon you can just stroll down to the river, grab a canoe, paddle up river for a few minutes and go for a swim. Surrounded by fantastic scenery and the Pantanal birdlife (oh and the piranhas and cayman, but don't worry, you can't see them when you swim).

 

Hope this helps :-)

 

Best wishes, Patrick

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@@Treepol

Thank you for your comments. Hyacinth macaws always put on a show when they have an audience.

 

@@pme

Hi Patrick

Thank you, you perfectly explain what was implied in what I said in post #11.

"I saw it, this time, because I was still out later in the evening and do not forget I stayed 9 nights."

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The following pictures were taken in the gardens and around the lodge and Lucas house

 

Green-barred Woodpecker (2014)

 

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Feral Pig close-up (2014)

 

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Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (2006)

 

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Sayaca Tanager (2007)

 

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Palm Tanager (2007)

 

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Aplomado Falcon (2012)

 

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Greater Rhea (2012)

 

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Greater Rhea chick (2012)

 

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Some more pictures taken in the gardens and around the lodge

 

Scaled Doves (2013)

 

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Great rufous Woodcreeper (2013)

 

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Buff-necked Ibis (2013)

 

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Bare-faced Curassow (2013)

 

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Golden or Black Tegu (2013)

 

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Trush-like Wren (2009)

 

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Chestnut-eared Araçaris

 

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Wonderful trip report so far! Despite your modesty, I greatly liked the Puma photo. I have also never seen a Giant Anteater photographed scratching itself like a dog, with hind legs! You also did a great job with interesting photos of the Pantanal's Impala-equivalent (in terms of numbers, sighting frequency and everything eating them) the Capybara. Never seen them grey and grizzled, those were some very nice photos. Baby Rhea was very sweet too. :)

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@TonyQ@Big_Dog

 

Thank you very much for your nice comments.

 

@@Atravelynn

 

Yes, Lynn, indeed, as a lot of other birds' species in Pantanal.

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