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Critters and Caipirinhas in Brazil


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Brazil Day 15 - Rio


"Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand".  How can you be in Rio de Janeiro and NOT get that Duran Duran song stuck in your head?  Well, I certainly couldn't get it out of my head after we woke up today. It was a picture perfect morning.  Looking out the window, the Copacabana was pretty much deserted:


Copacabana Beach in the Morning



For our two days in Rio, we booked Ricardo Barbosa from Pica-Pau Tours.  Ricardo is a birding guide but grew up in Rio and knows the city like the back of his hand.  So, he was also going to take us to a couple can't miss tourist sights and we hired him to take us to the Golden Lion Tamarin reserve outside of Rio.


The plan for today was an AM visit to see the Golden Lion Tamarins (GLT) and a PM visit to Sugarloaf Mountain.


The breakfast buffet at the Arena hotel was very good.  The scrambled eggs were very creamy which isn't my style so I didn't finish them but everything else was fine. So, after some good food and coffee we were all ready to go at 6:45AM.  Ricardo was right on time and we piled into his truck for the 1.5 hour drive out of Rio to where we would meet the GLT project representatives.


The meeting place was at a gas station and we had a few minutes to kill while we waited for other guests to arrive so I naturally took some pictures.


Savanna Hawk building a nest:

Savanna Hawk Building a Nest


Common Tody Flycatchers:

Common Tody Flycatchers


Soon we met Junior from the GLT project and we proceeded to take a short drive to the forest where we would search for these animals.  I liked the logo on his truck:


Golden Lion Tamarin Association Logo


The Golden Lion Tamarin is a fantastic looking primate and I have wanted to see them for a long time. But, the process to book a trip to see them is quite difficult these days. For the details on how this worked for us, see this post on MammalWatching.com.


The work that the GLT Association has done is amazing.  There were only about 200 GLTs left in the wild in 1970 and they now have over 3,200.  There are still lots of problems including the GLTs living in fragmented forest but the association is working with private land owners to try to connect the forests as much as possible.  So, I feel optimistic that this project will continue to see good results moving forward which is great because it is really hard to feel optimistic about anything nature related these days.


Of course, to do what they need to do, the association needs money.  One of the biggest money makers is eco-tourism.  So, they have an area of forest that is home to 3 GLT families.  They "Sacrifice" (their word, not mine) these families for eco-tourism.  That means that they are radio-collared and at times given bananas to ensure that the groups coming to see them actually see them.  Because of this, I would call the group we saw pretty habituated to people.  I don't necessarily see anything wrong with that given the circumstances but these are not 100% wild any more.


So, with that information out of the way here is how the visit went.  We had about a 20 minute hike through some forest and pasture to a fence line at the edge of the forest.  There waiting for us were a couple association team members and some primates.  Besides the GLTs, Common Marmosets also can be found here and since people like seeing them they have not been removed even though they compete with the GLTs for food.


Anyway, the Golden Lion Tamarins were just as fantastic in person as I hoped and the Common Marmosets were great as well.


Golden Lion Tamarin


Pregnant Female:

Pregnant Golden Lion Tamarin


Golden Lion Tamarin


Some of the GLTs had black on them like this one:

Golden Lion Tamarin


Here is one of the radio-collared males:

Radio Collared Tamarin


As I mentioned, the GLTs were very used to people and even groomed in front of us:

Self Grooming


Golden Lion Tamarin


The GLTs have a very high-pitched call and would call back and forth a lot:

Tamarin Calling


Common Marmoset:

Common Marmoset


Common Marmoset


Common Marmoset


While we were watching the tamarins, this gorgeous Brazilian Tanager was spotted:

Brazilian Tanager


As was this Yellow-lored Tody Flycatcher:

Yellow-lored Tody-flycatcher


There were over a dozen tourists with us and the picture taking and talking got a bit out of control.  I do have some video coming later but it was hard to find any I took without LOTS of talking going on.


Anyway, despite the GLTs being habituated I was glad that we did this tour.  There is really 0% chance of seeing wild ones since they don't give out the locations of other families. So, if you want to see them you need to do this tour.


After seeing the GLTs, you drive another 20 minutes to the association's HQ where they give a tour to talk about the history of the project and show a film.  The tour was in Portuguese and the film room was being used for a meeting so this part of the day was underwhelming.  But, Karen did buy a cool T-shirt at the HQ.


On the way back to Rio we stopped for lunch at a buffet place for lunch.  We had also stopped at one of these outside Sao Paulo and I really love this whole concept.  You walk in and get a card with a bar code.  Then, you pick all the food you want and they weigh it and add a charge to the card.  So, you are paying by the Kilo.  Then you grab a drink and they charge it to the card.


Once you are done eating, you wind through some rows of stuff to buy (just say "No" unless you are an impulse buyer) to the registers where they take your card and you pay up.  I think paying by the Kilo is a great system.  We went to separate chains outside Sao Paulo and Rio but both were good and I would recommend them.  One was a Graal but I don't remember the other chain's name.


As I mentioned, in the afternoon we visited Sugarloaf which was surprisingly fun.  We tend to shy away from the touristy sights on vacations due to crowds, but this wasn't that bad and it was worth it for the view.


Here is Sugarloaf Mountain:

Sugarloaf Mountain


Sugarloaf Mountain


And, here are some views:

View from Sugarloaf


Yes, that's the domestic airport on the right edge of the picture:

More Views from Sugarloaf


Here is a view of Copacabana Beach from the top:

Copacaban Beach from Sugarloaf


While we took the tram up the mountain, Ricardo recommended walking down to do some birding.  We did see quite a few birds and this Common Marmoset:

Common Marmoset


The walk down is pretty tough on your knees though.  There are lots of stairs to climb down and some are awkward to negotiate. But, the walk down was nice and I am sure it was much better than walking up.


Before dropping us off at the hotel, Ricardo mentioned that there was a place right across the street on the beach that served great Caipirinhas.  So, we decided to go over there for a drink and then go back to the hotel for dinner.  Well, we never made it back to the hotel for dinner.  Story coming...


The place is called Costello and it's literally right on the beach.  Here is a shot from Google street view:




We sat right next to the beach which was great because we could watch people playing football and volleyball.  But, that also put us in a prime location for all the beach vendors that wandered by selling their wares.  Hats, jewelry, buttons, etc.  If you wanted it, they sold it.


Anyway, we order a round of Caipirinhas and they were REALLY good...and STRONG.  There was actually a live singer there who was really good too.  He sang mostly classic songs that people would recognize although for some reason he didn't play Copacabana by Barry Manilow.  This is probably good because THAT'S a song that easily gets stuck in your head.  You know the one...


"At the Co-pa...Copacabana.  The hottest spot North of Havana".  Now apparently the song is about a night club in New York and not the beach in Rio but I don't care.  And, your welcome for getting that song stuck in your head now too.


So, here we were enjoying Caipirinhas on the Copacabana Beach in Rio while listening to live music, laughing, and people watching.  It was one of those vacation moments that really stood out for me and was a highlight.  Wow, a non-wildlife related trip highlight.  What's happening to me?


Anyway, the first round was so good that we HAD to order a second round.  We also ordered some appetizers to try to absorb some of the alcohol but they really didn't work.  Somewhere halfway through round two Peggy decided that she needed to hear The Girl from Ipanema (which is the beach next to Copacabana)  I am sure my extra prodding didn't influence her decision at all.  So, she went up to talk to the singer who knew the song and sang it for us in Portuguese while Peggy danced around.  Add that to the highlight list.


Karen smartly decided to give away Caipirinha #2. I think Peggy and I split it.  It was at around this point that nature called.  So, Karen and I walked (stumbled?) back across the street playing Frogger with the traffic along the way.  We went into the hotel and Karen went in one bathroom door and I went in the other.


Quick tangent...the next morning Karen says to me "You know, the bathroom I went in last night had urinals".  Of course, I laughed at her until I realized that meant I went into the ladies room.   All I remember is opening the door she didn't open and looking for the first place to whiz which happened to be a stall.  Luckily, both bathrooms were unoccupied so no one is the wiser for our faux pas.


So, back at Costello's I think Bill and Peggy ordered round 3.  And, despite Bill yelling "Alan!  Come on Alan!  Alan!  Al..an!" multiple times, I resisted round 3.   It kind of reminded me of this:



I was at least smart enough to realize that 2 1/2 strong drinks on an empty stomach was my limit.


The acts of getting back to the hotel, getting ready for bed, and falling asleep is all a bit hazy but we must have done all three successfully. 

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The Golden Lion Tamarin is one thing I really want to see, and you’re right: It’s hard to schedule a visit. Thanks for the link and additional information on that. 


And now I need to go soak my head in bleach to try to get that damn Barry Manilow song out of my brain. Thanks a lot.....:blink:

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Brazil Day 16 - Rio and Home


So, Karen and I both woke up a bit fuzzy today.  I wonder why...


The plan was to meet Ricardo at 7:15AM but we were moving pretty slowly.  We figured that Bill and Peggy must be feeling the same and since they drank more may not make it on time.


We wandered down to breakfast and not 5 minutes later Bill and Peggy showed up bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  I guess they can hold their liquor a bit better than we can.


We didn't quite make our 7:15AM departure time with Ricardo, but we were close.  We had originally planned to go up to the Christ the Redeemer statue in the AM and Tijuca National Park in the PM.  However, since the view from the statue was similar to that of the one we had yesterday we skipped that and just spent all our time in Tijuca National Park.


We actually had a pretty good place for a view on the way up to the park:


Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon


Unfortunately, the easy route to the park was closed so we had to take the long way which meant an extra half hour on windy roads.  I wasn't feeling so hot during this drive but I held it together and my mini hangover eventually passed later in the day.


Tijuca National Park is actually in Rio and there is lots of wildlife and some great scenery there:


Tijuca National Park Waterfall


Brown Capuchin Monkey:

Brown Capuchin Monkey


Brazilian Squirrel:

Brazilian Squirrel


South American Coati:

South American Coati


Now, while we don't consider ourselves "birders", we do like exotic looking and colorful birds.  Tijuca National Park had lots of both of these.  It's tough getting good pictures of back lit birds but I managed a few decent enough to share.


Spot-breasted Ant Vireo:

Spot-breasted Ant Vireo


Eared Pygmy Tyrant:

Eared Pygmy Tyrant


Scaled Antbird:

Scaled Antbird


Green-headed Tanager:

Green-headed Tanager


Maroon-bellied Parakeet:

Maroon-bellied Parakeet


Red-crowned Ant Tanager:

Red-crowned Ant Tanager


Blue Manakin:

Blue Manakin


Red-necked Tanager:

Red-necked Tanager


If seeing birds like that doesn't turn you into a birder then nothing will.


When we were done in the park, Ricardo took us on the scenic route along the beaches back to the hotel.  Since this was a Saturday, the beaches were packed.  I have never seen so many people on beaches before.  Ricardo said that they were likely all locals because that is what they do on the weekends. In fact, after dropping us off, he was going to the beach to play volleyball.


Ricardo was an excellent guide and is highly recommended to anyone coming to Rio for birding or any general tourist needs.  As we got out of the car at the hotel, we starting talking about how much we owed him since we prepaid for the statue activity but didn't end up going.  So, money started to come out and Ricardo rightfully said that we should get back in the car for this.  Once we calculated how much we owed Ricardo we paid him, said our goodbyes and left.


It was about this time I noticed the hotel doorman was watching us.  I think it might be pretty easy to think that we were up to no good from his point of view which was probably something like this:


- 4 doors opened from this car and 5 people got out

- They huddled at the back of the car and some money came out

- Then they looked around and put the money back in their pockets

- Then all 4 doors opened again and they went back in the car

- Then they all handed something to the driver while looking around again

- Then all 4 doors opened again and they went to the back of the car, shook hands, and left


So, I made sure to wink at the door man as we went back in the hotel.


Yesterday, we had arranged to book day rooms at the hotel for today since our flight leaves at 9PM.  This turned out to be a great idea because it gave us a place to securely store what we didn't take on our tour with Ricardo and allowed us to shower right before our long international flight.  It was great that the Arena Copacabana provided this option.


Ricardo had booked a transfer for us to the international airport which was on time.  24+ hours later we were back at home listening to the endless crying of our spoiled cat and reminiscing about another great trip.


We did manage to take some video here and there through out the trip and I edited it together:




This trip exceeded our expectations with all the great wildlife we saw, the beauty of Rio, and of course the fantastic Giant Anteater encounters.  For those keeping track here is a taste of what we saw:


28 Mammals (9 lifers in bold):

  • Buffy-tufted Marmoset
  • Hoary Fox
  • Black-horned Capuchin
  • Capybara
  • Azara's Agouti
  • Giant Anteater
  • Six-banded Armadillo
  • Southern Tamandua
  • Crab-eating Fox
  • Crab-eating Raccoon
  • Pampas Deer
  • Gray Brocket Deer
  • South American Coati
  • White-lipped Peccary
  • Collared Peccary
  • Proboscis Bat
  • Big Brown Bat
  • Greater Fishing Bat
  • Giant Otter
  • Neotropical Otter
  • Black Howler Monkey
  • Red Brocket Deer
  • Leaf-nosed Bat (exact species unknown)
  • Brazilian Rabbit
  • Brown Capuchin
  • Golden Lion Tamarin
  • Common Marmoset
  • Brazilian Squirrel

8 Herps (1 lifer in bold):

  • Cane Toad
  • Chaco Frog
  • Lesser Snouted Tree Frog
  • Warty Snouted Tree Frog
  • Giant Ameiva
  • Guarani Spiny Lizard
  • Spix's Whiptail
  • Amazon Lava Lizard



  • We saw well over 200 bird species but only counted the 129 lifers
  • That list of lifers can be shared upon request

The End!

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It was a joy to follow yet another excellent trip report, great details and excellent photography! I still remember your first ones when you have started with the web site ... a long way and many great destinations from those days, eh?! Anyway, thanks for sharing, and looking forward to read next one!

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@Atdahl Your video at the end was for me like just being again in Baía das Pedras and Barranco Alto. I loved both places - familiar, les guests, the different in landscape. I hoped you captured this nice sound from the "Formula 1" froggs at Barranco Alto but couldn't hear it.


Thanks for bringing me back to Brazil through your Eyes.   

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Thanks @xelas and @Botswanadreams.  We never really heard any frogs calling.  Maybe it was too dry while we were there. But, we get enough of that at home so we didn't miss it :).

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What a catch of the rearing Tamandua!  Good eats with those desserts you describe.  Six letter B words, what a fascinating observation!  When are you going to Bhutan?


Ornery mule, ha ha!


Thanks for the enlightening list of Giant Anteater facts from Lydia and you.


Looking forward to  reading the rest.


I just read some more and did not realize what a major role a dessert would play in your trip.  Oops!


This trip had so many memorable moments.  And I don't just mean the caipirinhas.  Birds, mammals, the tegu, so many great shots of all those critters.  Lots of youngsters too.  But you had to be a little panicked near the start when you had to bypass the goal of the trip--the Giant Anteater--because you were on the highway.  I know the feeling because I had a similar experience trying to get a Giant Anteater photo from the backseat of a vehicle when the window would not roll down. 


From the wilds of the Pantanal to the managed habitat of the golden lion tamarins (beautiful creatures and you managed to photograph some non-collared ones) to the loos where you did not belong, your trip was a success.


I remember inquiring about visiting the golden lion tamarin and being told it was cost prohibitive unless you went with a group but there was no group going when I could go.  You managed a visit, and a great one.  Thanks for providing some info in the mammal watching link.  Will check it out.


Edited by Atravelynn
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  • 2 weeks later...

I got busy and fell behind on this report @Atdahl, but finally finished.  Thanks so much for sharing, what a great trip!

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An excellent end to a great report, and some really nice bird photos.

Thank you for posting- I have really enjoyed it.


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@Atravelynn, thanks for the kind words.  If you make it back to Brazil I do think it's worth seeing the Golden Lion Tamarins even though they are habituated and not 100% wild.


@Zubbie15, thank you!  We did have a great time.


@TonyQ, thanks to you as well.  Now that it's over (including the TR) I need something else to do...researching Madagascar now :)

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