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Finally, the Pantanal. It was Worth the Wait.


Atdahl

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Atdahl

First off, I have to thank all the other Safaritalk members who have posted such great Pantanal trip reports over the years. I learned tons of information from folks like Janzin, Cheetah80, Treepol, TonyQ, Bush Dog, and Atravelynn. I don't think that I would have pulled the trigger on this trip without their inspiration. I need to especially thank TonyQ who went out of his way to help me with the electrical adapters that I would need in the Pantanal.

 

Here was our Itinerary:

26 hour door to door travel on American and Avianco airlines

1 Night Hotel Prime Deville Cuiaba

2 Nights Pouso Alegre

5 Nights Hotel Porto Jofre

Chartered flight to Barranco Alto

4 Nights Barranco Alto

27 hour door to door on American and Azul

 

The two travel days were not fun. But, what was in between certainly was :) .

 

With that said, here is a link to day 1 of the report:

 

http://focusedonnature.blogspot.com/2016/09/pantanal-day-1-pouso-alegre.html

 

Alan

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Here is the report for day 3. This was quite possibly the best wildlife watching day we have every had...   http://focusedonnature.blogspot.com/2016/09/pantanal-day-3-porto-jofre.html

First off, I have to thank all the other Safaritalk members who have posted such great Pantanal trip reports over the years. I learned tons of information from folks like Janzin, Cheetah80, Treepol,

Thanks for the kind words all. I must say that seeing a Jaguar in the wild was extremely thrilling. They just have so much mystique and then when you actually see one in person and see how strong an

inyathi

@@Atdahl Great to see another Brazil report I shall read with interest. :)

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wow, what a great first day! Ocelot and Giant Anteater! :o

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Pretty incredible already - just the first day.

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michael-ibk

Extraordinary first day! Ocelot, Tapir, Giant Anteater, Coati, Capuchin, Crab-Eating Fox - that would be a good list for a whole trip.

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"For a few years now, the #1 trip on our bucket list has been a trip to the Pantanal in Brazil. We read trip reports and saw pictures of all the amazing wildlife that lives there and knew that we must see it for ourselves. We have planned trips in the past but the logistics are complicated and the costs high and all the past trips fell through for one reason or another." - same story also here. Just not (yet) with a happy end. Maybe reading your TR will be "the final straw"?

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I've been thinking of a Brazil and Pantanal trip for a few years now, but like you, logistics seem very complicated. Hope to learn more about that...where you stayed, how you found the guides, how you got from A to B, etc. from reading about your adventures. Day 1 was already amazing, great sightings and pics, keep them coming :)

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elefromoz

@@Atdahl, fantastic, what a day. Glad the "sickness" was brief, don't want that on your first day, or any day for that matter. I'm another one to keep looking at the Pantenal but then dismissing for one reason or another. Anyway, for the moment I shall savour your experiences instead.

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pedro maia

"For a few years now, the #1 trip on our bucket list has been a trip to the Pantanal in Brazil. We read trip reports and saw pictures of all the amazing wildlife that lives there and knew that we must see it for ourselves. We have planned trips in the past but the logistics are complicated and the costs high and all the past trips fell through for one reason or another." - same story also here. Just not (yet) with a happy end. Maybe reading your TR will be "the final straw"?

 

Alex, you planned and executed a self driving trip to Sri Lanka and say that the logistics for Pantanal are complicated <_< ?

 

It may be expensive but it isn´t that complicated, if I was able to do it everybody can do it :P .

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Thanks everyone. Day 2 is coming soon.

 

@@xelas, @@xyz99, and @@elefromoz - Now that I have been to the Pantanal I agree with @@pedro maia. In hindsight, I worried about logistics more than was necessary. Of course, we went all out cost wise to improve our logistics and lessen the risks. I need to add up the final # but I know it will be much more than we have spent on any trip before.

 

I will include logistics, guide information, lodge details, etc in appropriate posts going forward. All questions are welcome. So, fire away. The Pantanal really was worth the wait so if you are thinking about it now is the time to stop thinking and start doing... :) .

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All questions are welcome. So, fire away.

 

After deciding on a destination, my 1st decision is about "when to go". So when did you go, what season, how did you decide on that, was it a good time, would you do it differently? Whew....lots of question, but I'll be patient :)

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@@pedro maia

The traffic in Sri Lanka is hugely overrated; most of the days it was less complicated than some days driving in Costa Rica. But yes, the logistics are not the main factor, but costs are. So I am looking forward to see how much was the budget by @@Atdahl (and hopefully Alan will make a comparison with Costa Rica). Anyway, this summer we will only have up to 2 weeks left for travelling, and I have already started to implant the idea of visiting Pantanal into Zvezda's brains :D !

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@@xyz99, we went the last two weeks of September. For Jaguar viewing in the Northern Pantanal the dry season is best. That is July through October typically. Once the rains come, the waters rise flooding the banks so the Caiman and Capybara leave the banks of the rivers. The Jaguar follows them making viewing much tougher.

 

So, you should shoot for July through October. I think August and September are the "peak" visitor times. We had to book a year in advance with Julinho to get him and reservations at the Portal Jofre Hotel.

 

If you are not as interested in Jaguar viewing then you have more flexibility. But, many lodges close in the wet season unless they have an airstrip and the Transpantaneira can become unpassable. The government is in the process of replacing the wood bridges with metals ones. We saw lots of torn down wood bridges but few complete metal ones though. I hope they finish before the rains come.

 

 

@@xelas, the costs are high. I still need to figure out how much so remind me to do so if I don't mention it in a future post.

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Now, on to day two:

 

http://focusedonnature.blogspot.com/2016/09/pantanal-day-2-pouso-alegre.html

 

 

If you would like some information on our experiences at Pouso Alegre here is more information that might be helpful to anyone thinking of going there:

  • We booked through Julinho so I don't have any experience communicating with them other than an email I sent right before our visit that Luiz answered promptly
  • The room are bare bones. That's the best way for me to describe them. The beds were hard and there were some water stains in the bathroom in our room (#1). While the only places to sit were in the dining area or you could lounge around in the hammocks outside the rooms. You really can't see or here the outside from the rooms so we were just there to sleep, change, and shower basically.
  • But, we had A/C and we used it to take the edge off which was nice.
  • Biting bugs were a non-issue for us
  • The food was good. Simple and wholesome which works great for us. There was always a choice of meat, vegetable and some sort of starch. Of course, they always served delicious rice and beans too.
  • The have cold filtered refillable water right outside the dining area so bring a bottle with you. This was great.
  • Wifi was only available in the dining area
  • Our room had dual outlets such that a two pronged round plug (european style I think) and two pronged flat American plus both should work. I know all my American based gear plugged right in no problem. I did buy a two pronged round plug adapter but it had prongs that were too thick to fit.
  • They do have 22 rooms so I guess the place can get crowded but we had less than 10 people staying there while we were there
  • Our host was Jose Maria and he was great. Luiz the owner had to go to Cuiaba so we didn't spend much time with him
  • The grounds are filled with birds and lizards. We even had Agouti and Brown Capuchin around the lodge. There was always something to see day and night.
  • The road between the lodge and Transpantaneira is filled with wildlife. It's a great road for a game drive.
  • The had an honor bar with sodas and beer. You pay via cash only when you leave.

In short, we really enjoyed our stay. The hospitality, wildlife and food were all really good. Pouso Alegre seems like a great place to break up the long drive down the Transpantaneira and I appreciate that they don't feed the wildlife to attract them like some other lodges in the area do.

 

 

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If you are not as interested in Jaguar viewing then you have more flexibility.

 

Are you kidding me????? I would LOVE to see a jaguar!!! Hope you did!

 

We had the sticker shock on our trip to South Africa. I understand why some remote places/activities are expensive, and in the end, it is what it is. In the end you just feel grateful and privileged you had the opportunity ti experience it, and that's what matters. Then, start saving again for another adventure :)

 

Day 2 seemed even better than day 1....did you use anything longer than a 300 mm? Because that's what I have, and no plans to get anything longer, as I can't hand hold anything heavier.

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douglaswise

I have been much enjoying this thread and hope it won't be intrusive if I butt in with comments relating to a trip we made recently to the Southern Pantanal. Others claim that wildlife tourism in Brazil is expensive. In my experience it was cheaper than most of our African trips to such places as the excellent Porini Camps in the Mara. We stayed in only one place ( Barranco Alto) for 13 nights at a cost of US$160/night per person sharing. We arranged things directly with the owners without using a travel agent. We did not employ a separate guide because the guiding provided within the price by the Fazenda is good. I think things start to get expensive when an itinerary involves a lot of internal travel or when one employs a bespoke guide. However, I must add that we were not fixated on the wish to see jaguars. We could well have seen one at Barranco Alto (they have several and a research/conservation project), but didn't. However, most of the rest of our mammalian bucket list was satisfied. We went at the end of May when vegetation was quite high and made mammal spotting harder. I don't believe that Barranco Alto prices change seasonally. If one is really determined to see Jaguars and doesn't worry too much about competing with a flotilla of other tourists, it would seem that @@Atdahl's first two stops would provide fairly comprehensive wildlife coverage without the necessity of flying from North to South. This would, therefore, save on costs for those who are more budget-constrained (but I don't know by how much). I will be very interested in @@Atdahl's thoughts about the relative merits of Barranco Alto and Pouso Alegre. From what I have read so far, the accommodation at the former will prove much more comfortable, but I am particularly interested in the wildlife experience.

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Douglas,

Great different perspective, thanks for sharing.

 

I would also be interested in reading about North vs South Pantanal, in terms of accommodations, logistics to get there and wildlife. Can one experience both in a 10-12 days trip, or is it better to pick one area only?

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Since it seems like cost is a big factor for folks regarding the Pantanal (it was for us), you made me download my CC transactions for the last few months and reconcile them which is something I was putting off :) .

 

The word "expensive" is of course relative. I use that term for this trip because it was more than twice the amount we had ever paid for a vacation before. However, it was also just about double the length of previous vacations so if you break it down by day it wasn't that much more in retrospect.

 

For us, it was worth paying a premium for a private guide in the North (Julinho). He was exceptional and the experience he provided for us especially on the river was unmatched based on what I saw from other guides and boats. I don't want to get into lots of specifics now since that will be in upcoming trip reports.

 

We too stayed at Barranco Alto. That stay was also exceptional. They charged $R760 all inclusive which is about $235 per night per person. We hired a private guide here as well for $R250 ($78) a day. Our guide (Stefan) was absolutely great. So, we feel this was money well spent too. However, with that said the other guests at BA were great and very like minded. So, going on group activities with them would have been fine. If I compare this to the cost of other wildlife lodges we have enjoyed like Bosque Del Cabo in Costa Rica and Chan Chich in Belize, Barranco Alto is an absolute bargain.

 

We hired private guides for a few reasons and I ordered them based on our priorities:

  1. We have flexibility in the schedule and what to do that day. This is huge for us and alone worth the price.
  2. I like to photograph which means going places others may not want to go, staying longer than others, and carrying more gear than others.
  3. You never know who you will be grouped with. The odds are that you will be paired up with great like-minded people but if you are not it can be enough to ruin the experience. That's a risk we didn't want to take
  4. Having a private guide is more educational. We can ask whatever questions we want and discuss whatever topics we want. We tend to learn a lot more by doing this.

 

Now to the actual costs.

  • Northern Pantanal (Julinho) - $R 12,750 (~$4000), 2 Nights Pouso Algre, 5 Nights Porto Jofre, All meals and H20 on boat covered, Private boat. (~ $571 per day)
  • Charter Flight from Porto Jofre to Barranco Alto - $R 4800 (~$1500)
  • Southern Pantanal - $2200, 4 Nights Barranco Alto with private guide, all inclusive (wine and tips extra), 4% charge for paying with Paypal. (~$550 per day)
  • Flight from Barranco Alto to Campo Grande - $R 2800 (~$875)
  • Total Costs - ~$15,000 includes all airfare, tips, Cuiaba Lodging, Taxi, Airport parking and food, Pet sitter (yup, we spoil our cat)

So, to us $15,000 is expensive. But, we did splurge for Business Class airfare $5K for the long leg.

 

Can you do things cheaper? Absolutely. We pretty much did the most expensive options with air transfers and private guides. We did this because this was our #1 life trip and we wanted to do it right since we didn't know if we would ever go back.

 

So, by reading the above hopefully folks can see where costs can be saved if that's what they would like to do. I hope this helps.

 

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douglaswise

@Atdahl:

 

Many thanks for your response on costs. I will look forward to the rest of your report. You certainly did things in style so I would assess your total costs as reasonable. I doubt you'd get away with less anywhere equivalent in Africa. We went to Barranco Alto as a group of 4. This meant we usually had a vehicle to ourselves - though sometimes our group splintered with some fishing, some walking and some swimming. The place wasn't full and Claudia and/or Fernando or both accompanied us most of the time. Stefan appeared towards the end of our stay and was guiding for the Fazenda as well, rather than privately. We flew in from Campo Grande (cheaper for 4 than 2) and drove back out (again, cheaper than flying and q

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douglaswise

Sorry, haven't come to grips with my new computer with its bl...y Windows 10 programme. I was about to say that the drive one way makes for a good game viewing experience. Actually, now I think about it, we didn't fly in from Campo Grande. We drove from Campo Grande to Aquiduana and flew from there (again, a cheaper option). I'm afraid that I'm too mean to fly business class on international routes, despite being over 250 lbs and 6" 2". Since I've already had pulmonary embolisms, I'm now permanently on warfarin and don't worry about deep vein thrombosis. However, I'm about to try out a powerful sleeping pill to put me out of my misery on long flights. My doctor advised that I shouldn't take one till seated aboard because, if I was a bit premature in dosing myself, I might elaborate signs of inebriation and not be allowed to board at all!

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offshorebirder

@@Atdahl - thanks for the specific price breakdown. Just to clarify - that's for two people, correct?

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Thanks for the breakdown, @@Atdahl ! For us, $15.000 is 3 trips, 6-7 weeks, basically our entire yearly budget for travelling. That is why it is to tough to take this decision: one trip or three trips.

BTW BdC is about the same price as BA (classic cabin and High Season). We must have been very lucky to pay only 1/2 of that cost in 2013 (classic cabin, Green Season, special event).

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pedro maia

Thanks for the breakdown, @@Atdahl ! For us, $15.000 is 3 trips, 6-7 weeks, basically our entire yearly budget for travelling. That is why it is to tough to take this decision: one trip or three trips.

BTW BdC is about the same price as BA (classic cabin and High Season). We must have been very lucky to pay only 1/2 of that cost in 2013 (classic cabin, Green Season, special event).

Alex, depending on the airfare, I'm sure you can spend half of that or even less for 2 people in a trip to Pantanal,at least to northern Pantanal.

 

The expensive part of the trip is the guide, but you only need one for the river stretch of the trip and in August you're almost guaranted to see jaguars in 2 days in in river, unless you're really unlucky and catch a cold front, so you even that cost can be limited.

 

The rest you can do by yourself, self driving the Transpantaneira and the lodges there aren't expensive, you'll pay a little more at Hotel Porto Jofre but the real issue will be to book that hotel and to get the guide for the river.

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@@xyz99, I realized I didn't answer your earlier question. While I carried a 70-300mm lens on one camera body I used it mostly on the wide end for landscape shots. 90% of the wildlife shots were taken with the D7100 and the Nikon 200-500 lens and they were hand held. I gave up the idea of using a tripod immediately on the rivers since it was just too difficult to manage with the animal moving, boat moving and turning, plus the engine vibrations. It is a bit tough to hand hold for long periods but I am super happy with the results. The lens really impressed me. The D7100 not so much with it's small buffer/FPS.

 

@@offshorebirder, yes this was for two people.

 

As @@pedro maia says, there are certainly ways to reduce costs. Our air transfers were one of the biggest expenses but there are ground transfer options.

 

I do want to point out that because we booked direct we had only two payment options; Wire transfer in advance or cash. I didn't want to take >10K Real in cash so we paid the entire Northern portion by wire transfer as well as the transfer from BA to Campo Grande to end the trip. BA gives a Paypal option with an additional 4% which we took. Everything else we paid for in cash. There was a bit of anxiety paying by wire transfer and carrying lots of cash but it all worked out just fine in the end.

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