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Another Non-African Safari Report


Atravelynn
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Brazil Safari Report: Macaws, Marmosets, Monkeys,

a Myriad of Mammals, and Many Jaguars

 

If you made it all the way through the title, I can understand any skepticism with the claim of many jaguars. I would expect suspicions that my jaguar sightings were the result of too many Brazilian Caipirinhas, a tasty concoction of limes, sugar, and Cachaca liquor. Or you might figure I must be geographically challenged and only thought I was in Brazil when I was actually at the Belize Zoo.

 

But I did honestly see 8 wild jaguars in a 3-week trip, 7 of which were along the Paraguay River in or near the Taiama Ecological Station, with 6 spotted in one unbelievable afternoon, and photos of 5 of them. Jaguar sightings are not that rare on the Paraguay River because the jaguars have become habituated to the sound of boats, as this river is a major shipping route between Brazil and Argentina. The day-by-day itinerary appears at the end.

 

There is a daily Chicago O’Hare to Sao Paulo night flight on United that gets in midmorning. I spent that afternoon and night at an airport hotel as a buffer day, but you could launch into your trip or make a connecting flight upon arrival.

 

THE ROAD TO CARACA

The next morning I arrived back at the airport several hours prior to my 2-hour Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte flight. There were some frantic moments resulting from two gate changes, with only the first appearing on the monitors, my inability to communicate with the gate staff to track down my flight, and announcements that were sometimes in both English and Portuguese and sometimes in just Portuguese. I boarded the bus that takes passengers to the plane with two other stragglers as the announcement was warning “last call.” The flight arrived two hours late but Guide Fabricio was waiting, so all was well. And as I would come to learn, with Fabricio as the guide, all was much more than well.

 

I met Marcles the driver, (who also drove Brazilian rock stars when they were on tour!) and off we went through the winding roads into the hills of Caraca. Those roads were really winding and the hills were really rolling and we moved at a good clip, like 130 km/hour for normal cruising speed. As a result it was not long into our ride that I realized we needed to make a quick emergency stop on the side of the road. Immediately!

 

As my lower torso remained wedged in the vehicle and my upper torso protruded over the ditch and heaved, I had a flashback of a similar predicament one year earlier on a previous vacation. Different country, different car and driver, but the ditch was remarkably similar. I recall thinking, “I really know how to spend thousands of dollars and have a good time. Not to mention the first impression I am making.”

 

After a second less rushed and tidier visit to a gas station restroom and a Bonine pill (which I should have taken earlier) the rest of the motoring went well. From what I understood from Marcles, he had never experienced a similar performance with any of the Brazilian rock stars.

 

I was privileged to listen to some of those rock musicians because Marcles had their CDs and he would play them as we careened around curves at 96 mph. We also had Queen blasting and I was pleased I could contribute something to our cozy little group besides being ill on the side of the road. I was able to explain the meaning of “We will, we will rock you!”

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1ST LUNCH AND FOOD IN GENERAL

Our first buffet lunch was typical of most of our main meals, except this place included live entertainment with traditional Brazilian music and the barbeque pits were open and flaming. There was plenty of beef here as there was at every meal. Throughout the trip it was prepared many different ways from beef roast to habachi-flamed steaks to slabs on a skewer, sliced at your table. At one meal Fabricio ordered a pan of Filé a Parmesan for us all to share.

 

Chicken was common--from fried to Peixe á Milanesa, which was sautéed in cheese sauce. Beans that were a soup-like consistency were served at every meal with rice. I was never sure if the ever-present big pot of spaghetti noodles was eaten plain or not.

 

The root vegetable, manioc, often played a big role whether fried like a thick French fry, or as an entrée consisting of sausage mixed with dry manioc flour, or even as an herbed dry condiment. Fabricio told me that manioc was a locally grown staple eaten a lot by the poor, but if it were imported, then the rich would develop a taste for it.

 

A very good fish in white sauce was often available. It was catfish one time and I don’t know what kind of fish the other times, but not piranha. That was saved for the soup, served hot in a cup as an appetizer. The Baiazinha Hotel on the Paraguay River had fresh, catch-of-the-day fish each night that was outstanding.

 

For the vegetarian there were always several of the following: salads with lettuce and tomato and fresh salsa dressing, pickled beets, fresh pineapple, a spinach-like cooked vegetable, cooked cauliflower and broccoli, sweet potatoes, and bread, sometimes cheese bread. I was encouraged to have the cheese bread at the Seminary because Minas Gerais is known to have the best.

 

For our first lunch we did not partake in dessert but usually doce de leite was served. It was a creamy dessert and depending on the region could be caramel, coconut, chocolate, etc. Along with coffee beans, I brought back jars of doce de leite for gifts. Goiabada, a guava gel was also common, often served with white cheese.

 

It should be noted that the Jaguar Lodge boasted the only yogurt served in the Pantanal. From what I could tell, they were right.

 

I bought some pumpkin-coconut fudge to go from the restaurant and nibbled on that as a snack over the next couple of weeks. So I ate well at lunch that first day and continued to do so throughout the trip.

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CARACA SEMINARY

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Days were spent on foot bird watching, typically starting at 6:30 am and continuing for another 5 to 6 hours, halting for breakfast, lunch, and midday siesta. A list of all birds seen will appear at the end of the report. Fabricio did get to add a new personal tick—the red ruffed fruit crow. There were a couple of trails we used with one leading to a lake and another to a waterfall. We also did birding along the paved road. In fact we saw a White Tufted-Eared Marmoset along the road and followed it about 15 minutes as it swung through the trees, most likely in search of its troopmates.

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In three nights I had six maned wolf sightings.

 

Specifics of maned wolf sightings:

 

Night #1. Knowing the wolves were fed at 7:00 pm, Fabrcio had me out on the (wolf dining) patio atop the steps in front of the church at 6:30 pm to see if anything was going on in the dark. I peeked over the patio railing onto the grass below and there they were! Two maned wolves were nervously pacing! The priests promptly put out a pan of cooked chicken parts and the wolves ascended the steps to eat but did not seem to enjoy each other’s company. Unlike North American wolves that are pack animals, these wolves are mostly solitary and like it that way. I watched from one of the many wrought iron patio chairs for about twenty minutes until the wolves had finished. Then it was our turn to eat dinner. Wolf viewing could not have been easier!

 

Night #2. I waited with another two guests in the cold. The cement steps in front of the church retain the day’s heat until about 11:00 pm so they are a nice place to sit until then. After that they are just cold cement. With no wolves revealing themselves, one of the guests gave up at 11:55 pm and left. Just five seconds later a wolf showed up and ate for about half an hour. I felt bad for the guy who left but once the wolf was there I did not want to move and go after the guy and calling out to him would also have scared the wolf. The dark, massive stone church; the chiming of the clock at midnight; the wolf (even though it looked more like a fox); combined to produce a real gothic aura.

 

Night #3. A group of French birdwatchers waited along with me for the wolves and at 7:30 pm we were rewarded with sighting #1 of a single wolf on the patio for about 10 minutes. A little over an hour later, 80% of the French birdwatchers and I had sighting #2 on the patio of a single wolf for another 10 minutes or so. But wolf food still remained in the pan and that meant the wolf/ves would return. So I bundled up in a wrought iron chair because the other people had claimed the church steps. I waited and froze. The French birdwatchers dwindled down to two, then one, then just me. I would doze for a few minutes and then wake with a start. I fell asleep about 12:30 am and was awakened by one chime of the bell at 1:00 am and there was one wolf. With nobody else around, it looked like a really big wolf, but when I checked the photos, it resembled the other animals and was not a giant wolf. Anyway, wolf watching was not as easy as my first experience had led me to believe.

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Weather:

Upper-50s F in the early morning, rising to upper 70s, maybe 80 F midday. No rain.

 

Suggestions:

If you plan to wait up for the wolves, take some winter clothing like a heavy jacket, mittens and a wool hat, even if it is bought at a second hand store and left behind at the Seminary, since you don’t need that attire for the rest of the trip.

 

I arrived on a Sunday and there were lots of people. By Sunday night they had left to get back home in time for Monday. Fridays and Saturdays are not when you want to schedule your wolf visit. The wolf viewing area had only a couple of people Sunday and Monday night. Even the dozen French birdwatchers were easily accommodated on the patio on Tuesday night. But the rooms can hold about 100 people and that is too many to watch wolves enjoyably. I was also told that June and July are bigger vacation months for Brazilians and it was more crowded then.

 

If seeing a maned wolf was your sole interest, two nights would be enough. Maybe even one night but I think that is too risky, even though at least one wolf apparently shows up every night without fail. The French birdwatchers stayed only one night. Three nights was perfect for me.

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CARATINGA

Weather: Around 60 F in the early morning and upper 70s or 80 F by midday.

 

Caratinga was about a 5-hour drive from the Caraca Seminary. We stopped at the wooded home belonging to a couple who are friends of the owner of Focus Tours. The husband was at home when we arrived and he invited us in and up a flight of stairs to the second story deck with a wonderful view of the forest that was the backyard. There were numerous bird feeders and fruit was put out for the Black Tufted-Eared Marmosets. We saw several new birds and about 10 marmosets during our 45-minute stay. I wondered what they would charge me to spend the day on their deck and camp out on it overnight. It would certainly be warmer than sleeping with the wolves on the church steps in Caraca.

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That evening we went grocery shopping for food for the next two days’ worth of lunches and checked into Vind’s Hotel. The next two mornings we left at 6:00 am and arrived about 40 minutes later at the Caratinga Research Station. This whole swath of land was donated to conservation efforts by the owner, Feliciano Miguel Abdala, after he became aware of its environmental significance.

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There are several mammal species and loads of birds in the area surrounding the Research Station, but the big attraction is the largest primate in South America, the Muriqui, which used to be called the Woolly Spider Monkey. Only a few hundred remain and this reserve has a good percentage. The researchers are in constant observation of the Muriquis but guests can view them only when the monkeys venture near a couple of dirt roads. Usually they are in view for a good period of time during a two-day period, but we had more of a challenge during our visit. We saw none the first day.

 

The second day it took two scouts on motorcycles and several hours of scouring the accessible tree cover, but eventually a single Muriqui was found asleep in a distant treetop about 9:30 am. Through binoculars and a spotting scope, I observed this lone monkey asleep in a pretzel shape, wrapped around a tree limb. About 10:00 am it awoke (normal wakeup time for all the monkeys this time of year) and was joined by another four or five members of the troop, including one baby. For about 30 minutes I watched their large pot-bellied bodies swing through the trees as they fed. Then they took a midmorning nap and became invisible in the foliage. I am glad I did not miss this unique creature.

 

While we were watching the monkeys from an open field that was formerly ranchland, tiny muquins or black tick-like bugs latched onto us. The results were not evident until a few days later when I had about 250 itching bites between my ankles and belly button. I treated them with tobacco leaves and juice, given to me by a local. Fabricio had developed an immunity to the bugs so his infestation was mild compared to mine. These muquins do not carry disease and within 10 days of the initial outbreak, the bites were gone with no lingering side effects.

 

Other monkeys in Caratinga included the Black-capped Capuchin and I had a couple of sightings, concealed by brush. There was also the Brown Howler, which was more plentiful, visible, and vocal. I viewed them on low hanging branches and saw several descend from the trees to drink from a small stream.

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A Red Rumped Agouti sprang across our path one day. It looked like a giant rat with its butt on fire, tearing across the road.In addition to seeking out mammals, we spent much of our time walking the paths and bird watching. A list of all birds will appear at the end of the report.

 

Each day at Caratinga, Marcles was kind enough to put out a variety of sandwich items that he had brought and stored in the visitor center fridge, and we made ourselves a tasty lunch. Fabricio liked to put everything from chicken to turkey to tuna on his sandwich, which lead to an explanation of the Dagwood sandwich. I think that term is understood only by members of a certain generation, but now Fabricio can add that dated term to his English vocabulary.

 

After lunch on our second day at Caratinga, we departed by car for Belo Horizonte and a hotel near the airport. It is normally a 3-hour drive. A truck explosion on the road, which we did not see, resulted in a 5-hour drive. The standard itinerary would have had us depart a few hours later and overnight in Rio Casca, about two hours from the Belo Horzonte Airport. I made itinerary changes just days before departure to avoid landing or taking off from Congonhas, where the unfortunate airline crash had occurred.

 

An overnight in Belo meant I was able to meet Douglas Trent, the owner of Focus Tours, who lives there. Douglas and a friend of his met Marcles, Fabricio and me for dinner at a nearby restaurant with specialty pizzas on the menu. It was a delight to visit with Douglas and learn more about his organization and its worthy conservation goals while sampling numerous (too numerous) delicious pizza slices. I also learned that some Brazilians enjoy mayonnaise on their pizza and I was introduced to the tasty and smooth Caipirinha, made of limes, sugar, and Cachaca liquor.

 

A common phrase was explained to me during this meal that became the quote of the trip. When Brazilians do not like something, they say (in Portuguese of course) “It’s not my beach.” The phrase incorporates their love of the ocean and beaches. Even though “It’s not my beach” did not apply to anything on the trip, (except for one crazed individual who will cross my path near the end of the trip), I still found it culturally intriguing and worthy of Quote of the Trip.

 

Suggestions:

The dinner at Vind’s Hotel was excellent and one of the few non-buffet meals we enjoyed, but the service took one hour the first night and an hour and a half the next. Fabricio and Marcles explained that was not normal, or I might have thought it was. If you stay there and eat there, plan accordingly.

 

The bug bites might have been a fluke. I did have my trousers tucked into my socks. Douglas told us how his first encounters with the muquins resulted in much worse bites than his more recent encounters. There were no bugs in the forest, just out in the open land. If you are covered with what looks like hundreds of mosquito bites, don’t freak out. The product After Bite seemed to help but I used it all up in about two days.

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THE NORTHERN PANTANAL—LAND PORTION

I was given advice from reliable sources who work in the Pantanal to avoid a trip during the full moon if seeing mammals is a goal. Bird watching is unaffected by the moon.

 

Weather: 65 F in the early morning and 90s by midday. No rain.

 

Fabricio and I flew out of Belo Horizonte with connections through Brasilia and on to Cuiaba. Our first flight was about an hour late, which could have messed up our connection, but the Brasilia-Cuiaba was also late. Two wrongs made a right that time and we arrived into Cuiaba with about four hours to spare before my travel partners’ flight came in. This long layover was due to my change in flights to avoid Congonhas Airport. Fabricio called up a friend of his to join us for lunch and after lunch we all went back to the friend’s lovely home. A couple of hammocks were strung for our siesta and the next thing I remembered it was time to head back to the airport to pick up my travel partners. Their flight was 10 minutes early.

 

Donna, Kimberly, and I got acquainted on the 2-hour drive in an air-conditioned van from Cuiaba, south to Pocone. I could tell we would be a fine team by the time we switched to our open “safari vehicle” in Pocone, with Jueno as the driver. Not long after leaving Pocone, the paved road turned to unpaved and the sign appeared indicating that we were on the Transpantaneira Highway. This is the only road through the Northern Pantanal and it would take about 6 hours if we were to drive to the very end. There is another highway through the Southern Pantanal that is paved, but the northern and southern roads do not join up to form one continuous route.

 

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When Fabricio said that it would be on Transpantaneira Highway that the vast majority of our game drives would take place, I was suddenly distressed that I had somehow missed this crucial detail--wildlife viewing from a highway with fenced ranches on either side!!?? But it turned out not to be a big deal for these reasons:

 

There were very few other vehicles on the road, some occasional big trucks transporting goods, very light local traffic, and just a couple other tourism vehicles. We never saw one other spotlighting vehicle at night. Fabricio had told us that most other companies do only one night drive during their entire trip, and with the lack of night-time traffic that seemed to be the case. The fences were not intrusive, maybe because a lot of what we were looking at were birds in trees and the wire fences were only a couple of feet high. Or maybe because at night, when most of the mammals were seen, you could not see the fence anyway. As the itinerary progressed south toward Jaguar Lodge either there were no more fences or they were covered by thick brush because I didn’t notice any. A couple of our accommodations (Pousada Alegro & Rio Clara) had a mile or so of non-fenced private road. (No off road driving was allowed on these roads.) Finally, a lot of our time was spent on foot or in a boat away from fences.

Pousada Rio Clara.

So as dusk progressed into a moonless night we had a mammal-abundant drive to Pousada Clara Rio, our first Pantanal accommodation. We started off with a bang—the elusive jagarundi (brown form), about 40 meters away and I am thrilled to have made that sighting, though I didn’t know what I was looking at until Fabricio came to the rescue. Our sightings in list form:

 

1 jagurundi

8 crab eating fox (including 1 mother and 2 juveniles)

5 crab eating raccoons (including 1 mother and 2 juveniles)

1 lesser anteater

1 red brock deer

many caiman, visible across the swampy areas because their eyes lit up (I said it looked like Las Vegas)

many capybara, again visible by their eyes—one memorable view was a common rat in the foreground and a capybara (the largest rodent) in the background. The vehicle was charged by a capybara at one of the caiman sightings. In reality I believe it was just a case of the critter wanting to cross the street without delay and we were there.

flocks of sleeping herons

3 collared peccaries

1 ocelot

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Our first morning in the Pantanal we were up for a 6:30 am bird walk. A lovely white cat joined us for the entire walk through field and forest, so we’ll never know how that may have detracted from our bird sightings. But a highlight was three chestnut eared aracaris on one branch.

 

The wildlife abundance can be illustrated with this specific sighting: A couple of white collared peccaries were trotting around and I was trying to take their picture together, then as they frolicked with the white cat, who seemed to be an accepted playmate. The other people were excitedly announcing the aracaries up in the tree and I can remember being almost annoyed at the amount of stimuli, thinking, “The aracaries are going to have to wait. I don’t care if there are three of them I have my hands full with this pair of peccaries at the moment.” That was not the only time I experienced nature overload.

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After breakfast we went for a 3-hour motorboat ride and saw numerous birds such as the black crowned night heron, cocoi heron, rufescent tiger heron, Amazon kingfisher, ringed king fisher, jabaru, black collared hawk, etc. A complete list of birds will appear at the end of the report. We also saw:

 

many adult caiman in groups and alone

our first view of a couple of capybara in the daylight

several baby caiman

two groups of at least a half dozen fruit bats sunning on a tree

3 brown capuchin monkeys

several jabaru storks

2 black and gold howler monkeys (males are black, females are gold)

2 giant river otters

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Shortly after the otters were spotted, the boat captain handed each of us three ladies a fishing pole (no reel, just a pole and string) baited with beef chunks and instructed us to begin fishing for piranhas. We were slightly shocked and individually had zero to little angling experience, but when the captain says “fish” you fish. There would be no mutiny on our boat. The piranhas were biting like crazy. The only challenge was preventing them from just stealing the bait.

 

When we had caught about 15, (we never handled the dangerous piranhas, the crew did) the captain began tossing the piranhas to the otters to attract them. Unfortunately these giant river otters were not too hungry and did not linger.

 

After our half hour fishing expedition we understood how this experience has a bonding effect because for much of that 30 minutes at least one of us was laughing hysterically at our own ineptitude or that of the person across from us.

 

The captain and crew also went fishing for caiman but this time the idea was to feed the caiman with a fish. The caiman seemed to know the routine well and put on a show, opening their jaws for the fish dangling from the pole. They were rewarded in the end with the fish.

 

Another incident of nature overload occurred on the boat. As the sun rose in the sky and I shed some layers, I knew it was time to apply suntan lotion to my exposed skin. But I was having trouble finding a 2-minute interval of down time when binocs or camera were not needed. Eventually, I just made a mad dash of squirting and slathering the SPF 45. Unfortunately I was not quick enough and missed out on a photo op of a rufescent tiger heron with a fish in its mouth. “Can’t I just have a moment of peace to put on some lotion, for crying out loud?” was my thought.

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Jaguar Lodge

We left Pousada Rio Clara about 3:30 pm and headed south for the 3 ½ hour game drive that would turn into a night drive, ending with our arrival at Jaguar Lodge. A lot of our daylight was spent observing:

 

several different jabaru stork nests with chicks

at least three marsh deer

a little red brocket deer (different from just a red brocket deer).

2 coatis, with the only face shot I got of this animal

 

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After dark we saw:

 

1-2 crab eating foxes

 

Our arrival at Jaguar Lodge in the Jaguar Ecological Reserve was a homecoming for Fabricio. It is owned and operated by his cousin, who also guides for Focus Tours. Focus Tours was instrumental in providing financial support for turning this ranch into a tourist destination and jaguar reserve.

 

We did a pair of morning walks, punctuated by breakfast, until 11:00 am. A bandana that I soaked from my water bottle provided cool, helpful relief toward the middle of our last walk. We saw two groups each of brown capuchins and black and gold howlers. We watched one of the capuchins trying to open a nut by banging it on a tree branch overhead for a long time. There was a point where I was torn between watching the monkeys and searching the nearby foliage with my binoculars for the enchanting pale crested woodpecker. We’ve got monkeys, we’ve got woodpeckers in yet another incident of nature overload.

 

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That afternoon we went to a ranch of a family friend where many hyacinth macaws dwell in the abundance of palm trees. For half an hour we enjoyed watching about half a dozen of these brilliant blue birds through a spotting scope, through binoculars, and with the naked eye. There are around 30 hyacinth macaws that hang out near the ranch and in June and July they spend more time in a large flock. By August they are in smaller groups. So our daylight viewing encompassed:

 

6 hyacinths

1 coati

brown capuchins

black and gold howlers

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The area surrounding Jaguar Lodge had much thicker forest with a better environment for monkeys and mammals seeking protective habitat than the region further north. The result: a higher density of animals with more difficulty viewing them due to the terrain. For the land portion of the Pantanal, I think this region is the best bet for jaguar. The research I had done before the trip, included information such as: 25% of guests on a typical 2-night stay see a jaguar here. When I talked with the owner of Focus Tours in the winter of 2006, he indicated that unfortunately some of the jaguars that had produced those good odds were no longer being seen.

 

Our second evening at Jaguar Lodge, we went out on two separate night drives in search of jaguars or other animals and had a nice view and photo op of a screech owl, but no other big sightings.

 

While our group saw no jaguars, here is what the other guests saw: An Englishman researching bats had seen a jaguar during the afternoon of the day we arrived. I believe he was on an escorted walk, but he had such good digital photos of it that I may have misunderstood when he saw the jaguar. (I must admit a twinge of jealousy when he was showing off the pictures on his camera.) A guy from Belo Horizonte had spent a two-week vacation at Jaguar Lodge and left a few days before we arrived. His purpose was to see a jaguar and he did get to see one. The day we left there was excited banter about a Brazilian couple’s excellent jaguar sighting. These were the only other guests at the lodge, so our group was the only one of the visitors during my stay that did not spot a jaguar.

 

Fabricio’s cousin was considering devoting a whole wall to jaguar pictures taken on the reserve and sent back to the lodge by the guests who took them, so the jaguar is obviously seen there. Currently hanging on the wall were about six pictures of a variety of wildlife.

 

Earlier in the trip, at Caraca where the maned wolves are, dinner conversation had drifted to the Pantanal. Another guide made the comment that in the hot months he did not like the fact that Jaguar Lodge shuts down the generator in the middle of the night, which shut off the A/C. But he added that--despite this bit of discomfort--for mammals Jaguar Lodge is THE place to go. He did not know Fabricio’s cousin owned the place and that a family member was sitting across from him. Fabricio did not enlighten him either.

 

I asked Fabricio how often he saw a jaguar on his land Pantanal trips and his response was about every three trips. Jaguar Lodge is the most logical place to see the jaguar as they are rarely sighted in the more open areas surrounding the other lodges. Luckily, we would have one of those rare sightings!

 

Our last morning at Jaguar Lodge was spent heading further south on a morning game drive, followed by a walk, then we turned around and headed back up north, past Jaguar Lodge and on to Best Western Hotel Mato Grosso-Pantanal. We saw:

 

many caiman sunning themselves

1 cayman lizard

many capybara, including my first decent photo of one

Pantanairo cowboys herding cows

 

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I thoroughly recommend this report and it's even better with photos.

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Thank you Nyamera. A recommendation from you holds more weight than one from 4 out of 5 dentists. You may have had to watch TV in the US in the 70s for that comment to make sense.

 

 

Hotel Mato Grosso-Pantanal (A Best Western)

 

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There was a lot of activity on the grounds. There was the bird-filled giant fig tree in front of the dining room, the many bird feeders that attracted yellow-billed cardinals, and the caiman that sunned themselves on the boat dock.

 

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The afternoon drive game drive produced:

a couple of marsh deer

1 caiman lizard

3 coati

 

After sundown we saw:

1 jaguar

1 marsh deer

 

The jaguar sighting was completely unexpected in this location. In fact, Fabricio stated that he had never seen a jaguar in that region. He felt the area around Mato Grosso Hotel had enough of a tourism rather then ranching focus so that jaguars may feel comfortable coming into the area and remaining without a threat. It was nice Kimberly got a glimpse of a jaguar because she was doing only the land portion of the trip.

 

The sighting was not a pristine one. We were clipping along at a decent pace, heading back after a night drive and were within site of the hotel and the cement bridge in front of it. A large truck had just passed so I had my head turned away with my eyes squeezed shut to avoid the dust. On previous but infrequent occasions when this happened, I actually thought to myself, “If a jaguar comes by now, I won’t be able to see it.” How prophetic that thought was. Fortunately Guide Fabricio and Driver Jueno were not cowering from the dust. Fabricio announced in a loud whisper, “Jaguar,” and turned the light on it then reminded us to be quiet with “Shhhh.” Jueno simultaneously slammed on the breaks. In 5 seconds it was over as the huge jaguar slinked into thicket. Had I not hidden my head, it would have been a 7 second viewing.

 

Moments later, we had another very brief and obscured view of it with the spot light through the leaves. Then we noticed something else—a marsh deer that was frozen in its tracks. Fabricio attributed that behavior to the jaguar’s presence and not to us. We waited for several minutes to see what the jaguar might do, but there was no more sign of it.

 

When we arrived back at the hotel, Fabricio was announcing the victorious sighting to the other guides and staff before the vehicle even stopped. The atmosphere turned to instant fiesta and Fabricio was The Man. I had caught a hint of such a celebratory air at Jaguar Lodge when the other jaguar sightings had occurred. But Fabricio had us out in the vehicle and on foot so much, that it was hard to tell what all was going on at that lodge.

 

After dinner we went out a second time and found the tapirs we had been searching for. We observed a mother and a subadult son for about 10 minutes. So night drive #2 resulted in

 

2 tapirs

1 marsh deer

5 red brocket deer

5 crab eating fox

 

The next morning after our 6:30 am bird walk and breakfast we had the opportunity to cruise another section of the Pixiam River. This time we saw, in addition to the birdlife:

 

2 iguanas

many caiman

several capybara

1 giant river otter that was much more obliging with photos. We did not provide it with fish but another boat did.

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Pousada Allegro

About 4:00 pm we set off for our last and northernmost stop in the Pantanal, Pousada Allegro. Along the way in the daylight we saw:

 

8 coati (including a mother and 5 young)

huge groups of capybara

1 white collared peccary

1 large ocelot that crossed the road in front of us. We even jumped out of the vehicle for possible further views (so keep your shoes on at all times), but could not locate it.

 

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After dark we saw:

2 crab eating foxes

1 giant anteater rear, the front end was in the forest

more capybaras, visible by their shining eyes

many caiman, also visible by their eyes.

 

 

Our morning walks pre- and post-breakfast at Pousada Alegro included sightings of the Pantaneiro cowboys who worked on the ranch. We also saw:

 

a dozen hyacinth macaws that live in the palms on the ranch

1 agouti

20 capybara about 300 meters away, migrating to the water

a dozen coati foraging, so the view was mostly of their raised tails

a savanna hawk on the lower branches of a tree with an eel

lots of caiman

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BAIAZINHA HOTEL ON THE PARAGUAY RIVER OF THE PANTANAL

Weather: About 5-10 degrees cooler than the land portion of the Pantanal. The river is always slightly cooler, but a cold front came through on our second day, which made it even colder. On the river any breeze really cooled things off.

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We left Pousada Alegro around 10:00 am for the 2-hour drive in the open safari vehicle back to Pocone. A tegu lizard was our final sighting. We stopped for lunch in Pocone and said goodbye to Kimberly and hello to Rikki, our new third companion. Donna, Rikki, and I had a 2 ½ hour trip by air-conditioned van to the city of Carceres. Upon arrival we met Captain Gilson and hopped into his boat for the 2-hour trip on the Paraguay River to the Baiazinha Hotel.

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It was a long travel day and I was grateful for the opportunity to relax in my lovely room when we arrived at Baiazinha at last. I had not rested long when I heard loud shrieks, yips, and screams that indicated there must be several children at the lodge. I thought to myself, “As long as they are quiet at night and don’t disturb my jaguar viewing, I can tolerate their noisy, rambunctious behavior now.” It’s not like the only other sounds were those of nature. A stereo serenaded us with catchy Brazilian tunes most afternoons and about 500 meters down river was a giant dredging machine that dredged about 10 hours a day.

 

Turns out there were no juvenile guests. The sounds were coming from my neighbor and travel mate, Donna. She had discovered a huge spider in her room and was not at all fond of those creatures. What I found so humorous was this contrast in behavior exhibited by the normally composed and confident Donna, who traveled internationally for both pleasure and business. She was really beside herself. Since there was not much else going on, we watched Fabricio do a live trap and humane transport & release of the spider. Later in the trip I could only wish for some noisy children as opposed to one particular adult guest at the hotel.

 

Although not much was going on that evening, other evenings we watched two nonpaying guests—a pair of great horned owls. We also saw a tegu lizard and other lizards on the grounds, howler monkeys in the forest next to the property, and a flock of black hooded parakeets (a Pantanal special) on the bird feeder.

 

We spent 5 nights and 4 days at Baiazinha. Two of the days were 12-hour intensive jaguar hunts and we packed treats and lunch for the long day. We ate lunch on a sandy bank and then napped for 30-45 minutes. The other two days started with a morning bird walk (which produced a red and green macaw one morning) followed by an a.m. boat ride, then lunch at the hotel, and then a p.m. boat ride.

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We visited a ranch with palm trees and a resident flock of a dozen plus hyacinth macaws and enjoyed that area on foot. From the boat we viewed a fascinating wood stork rookery. Morning was a better time to view the wood storks due to the position of the sun. We would probably have done three 12-hour intensive jaguar hunts had we not been so successful early on and had we not tried to see a mother and cub jaguar on our last day that were in the vicinity of the hotel.

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Large transport boats were common on the river, as were the traditional canoes of the Pantaneiro fisherman. The capybaras would allow the boat--motor turned off--to drift right next to them along the shore. You could almost touch them. They were much less shy here than on the Pixiam River.

 

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We also saw rafts of caiman on sandbars; flocks of a variety of birds flying along the water; black and gold howlers in the trees; and numerous giant river otters, including one group of five. One slow afternoon out in the boat, Captain Gilson caught a fish with his bare hands, performing a catch and release for us.

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The reason the jaguars are easier to see along the Paraguay River than in other places is that they enjoy sunning themselves on the river’s banks and have become habituated to the sights and sounds of watercraft and the crews aboard them.

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Specifics of the jaguar sightings along the Paraguay River in and out of the Taiama Jaguar Reserve:

 

First day of jaguar viewing—

 

A cold front had come through just after sunrise providing unwanted cloud cover and poor jaguar viewing conditions until mid-morning, when the skies cleared. What followed was perfect conditions for jaguar viewing that afternoon.

 

#1 1:45 pm Two male jaguars were spotted together along the river bank. One promptly left but the other remained and maintained a relaxed demeanor during our 10 minutes of viewing. The boat motor was on low to keep us in position or we would have quickly drifted away and the jaguar would have become obscured by the surrounding foliage. There could have been safety reasons too that the boat was not shut off. All of the photos were taken with the motor running.

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#2 1:55 pm The other half of the jaguar pair was walking along the river bank, in and out of concealed brush. He was limping as he disappeared into the forest after about 30 seconds. Between his limp and Jaguar #1’s missing tooth (which is evident in the yawning photos), it was apparent these were two old boys who no longer were competitors for mates and instead just hung out together.

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#3 2:05 pm Nice unobstructed view of a male jaguar sitting on the sunny bank. He ran off after about 10 seconds.

 

#4 3:15 pm A male jaguar was spotted swimming across the river. He came out of the water in thick marshy vegetation and slowly disappeared in the foliage. Both water and land viewing lasted under one minute.

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The above observations were in the Taiama Jaguar Reserve. The remaining observations were not.

 

#5 5:00 pm The boat was speeding along when we all noticed the head of a male jaguar looking out from a thicket along the river. The Captain stopped the boat and turned around for a better view, but the jaguar left.

 

#6 5:30 pm A female jaguar was swimming in the sunset’s glow on the river. We watched her swim, exit the river, climb the bank, and run into the forest in a matter of 30 seconds. We were just absorbing the magic of having witnessed a swimming jaguar and sunset scene when four hyacinth macaws escorted us toward the hotel. More magic.

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It is common to see more male jaguars than females because the females are more elusive and may be watching over cubs.

 

Second day of jaguar viewing—

 

#7 5:00 pm The conditions had been good all day, except for some wind, but not a single jaguar until literally the 11th hour when we were speeding back to the hotel. I was resigned to being skunked that day by the jaguars. By early evening the wind had died and suddenly, Fabricio called out what we had been wanting to hear all day, “Jaguar!” We saw a youthful and inquisitive looking head pop out of the shadows on the river bank. The expression was identical to that of a housecat sitting in a windowsill just looking out and surveying the garden. Captain Gilson slowed abruptly and made a sharp turn back toward the jaguar, who was observing us, just as the housecat watches birds in its yard. We had started snapping photos despite being tossed about by the boat’s wake and we were slowing creeping back to a good vantage point to view our cat.

 

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That’s when we noticed another boat from Baiazinha, carrying a couple and their guide, racing toward us. We motioned silently and pointed, trying to get their attention so they would slow down and not scare the cat and so they could enjoy it as well. The female tourist on the boat began yelling. I remember making the most frantic wide-eyed index finger to pursed lip pantomime I have ever made. I looked like a librarian on steroids. Couldn’t she see the jaguar? Certainly her guide and captain could. This was no time for shouting greetings across the water!

 

We all figured we had better concentrate on the jaguar before it had enough of the noise on the river. Good thing we did because it soon slipped away as the shouting escalated to screaming. We were close enough to hear her. “You’ve ruined our day! You’ve ruined our day!” closely followed by, “I’m not sorry I scared the jaguar! I am not sorry at all! ” Then the boat sped off. I had just witnessed the most appalling display by a tourist in all my years of traveling. The other two widely traveled women with me concurred.

 

We did not know what the ranting by this crazy lady was about. The first reaction from us three US citizens was, “We’re just glad she isn’t American.” Next we acknowledged how thankful we were for our good jaguar fortunes the previous day because if this had been our only sighting of the trip, we would have all been sick. Then I explained to Fabricio why I had said we had not been “skunked” because he made the jaguar sighting, broadening his understanding of English expressions. Once it set in what had happened, we were collectively pissed! Finally, Captain Gilson, who had limited his conversation to pointing out jaguars or other animals, started laughing and chatting up a storm with Fabricio. That’s when he took off at full throttle for a nearby fisherman’s shanty where the local traditional fisherman would be gathered about this time of the evening. He had a tale to tell them.

 

Captain Gilson animatedly recounted the incident in Portuguese to the fishermen. I could make out the words “gringa” (darn, they all assumed she was American, I’m sure), “own-say” for jaguar and “de-school-pay” for sorry. There were roars of laughter from the men. No one could believe her actions--not tourists, not guides or boat captains, not fisherman.

 

Back at the hotel the guide for the crazy lady apologized and explained the nervous nature of her client and some vague psychological problems. She also thanked us for showing the jaguar to their boat.

 

The crazy lady then apologized to us. Her explanation for the behavior was that she thought their boat would be alone in the 35,000-acre jaguar reserve. When she saw us lounging on a beach in the reserve during lunch as her boat sped by, she realized she was not alone and became upset. She also was unhappy with the lack of jaguar sightings, as they had not seen any either during the outing. Her next comment made us realize she was delusional. “When you sped in front of us while we were finally viewing a jaguar, that was the last straw.” The reality was that we had found the jaguar and were trying to point it out to them. The night ended with her very cordial, normal husband holding and rocking the crying woman, as one would comfort a baby. They remained outside on the patio furniture while we ate dessert inside.

 

As a result of that incident, Focus Tours will be the exclusive provider of jaguar viewing trips by boat from Baiazinha. I was informed of this by the owner of Focus a couple of weeks after returning. FYI, there are no other accommodations closer than the 2-hour boat ride from Baiazinha.

 

Suggestions:

For big cats and big rats (the jaguar and the capybara) I would suggest the Paraguay River. For a chance to see the many mammals of the Pantanal and more diverse bird life, I would suggest the land part of the Pantanal, staying along the Transpantaniera Highway and doing morning or afternoon trips on the Pixiam River. A combo, as I did, is ideal.

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CHAPADA DOS GUIMARAES NATIONAL PARK

Leaving Baiazinhia by boat at 9:00 am, it was possible to drive to Chapada dos Guimaraes by about 4:30 pm, via Cuiaba. We dropped Rikki off at a Cuiaba hotel and Donna at the airport. Our Paraguay River adventure together had ended. It was back to Fabricio and me, plus our new driver, Paulo.

 

This resort town is about a 1 ½ to 2 hour drive from Cuiaba. It has many walking and bike paths, streets full of interesting shops, a dramatic waterfall, and cliffs and canyons that are most striking in the afternoon sun. There are also charming B&Bs like Solar dos Inglos, where I stayed. The owner was especially interested in our jaguar sightings along the Paraguay because he had alerted Focus Tours to this area. He had discovered it as a big game hunter, but had retired his gun for a lifestyle overseeing a beautifully appointed and elegantly catered B&B.

 

The center of South America is in Chapada dos Guimares and you can stand right smack on that point. We found several new species of birds in the area, including the ubiquitous burrowing owl. A complete list of birds will appear at the end of the report. No mammal sightings, but we saw some puma tracks that had been made the previous night, which was exciting. We also towed a motorcyclist out of the wilderness on his broken down bike.

 

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A highlight of the area is the red and green macaw. We could observe pairs flying along the cliffs, soaring over the forests, and nesting in the canyon walls. In fact a nesting pair of red and green macaws was my last wildlife sighting, and an appropriate one I thought--for a trip to Brazil.

 

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Suggestions: If you wanted to buy unique gifts or souvenirs, Chapada dos Guimaraes is the place, but to fully enjoy both the wildlife and spend quality time in the shops, you need more than the one night. There were no other opportunities for shopping during my trip other than the lodging gift shops, which were far and few between, and usually very meager when they were present. I was able to find postcards at only one lodge (forget which one) and never could find any stamps. You could get both post cards and stamps in Chapada dos Guimaraes if you had enough time. I had requested at the outset of the trip that I did not want to shop so I was pleased my time was spent on activities other than shopping.

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Itinerary

 

Day 1 Aug 3

Fly O’Hare to Sao Paulo, Guarulhos Aiport on United

 

Day 2 Aug 4

Arrive Sao Paulo and take shuttle to Melia Comfort Hotel, arriving around noon.

 

Day 3 Aug 5

Morning flight from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte and drive about 2½ hours to the Seminary, lunch en route, arriving late afternoon. Dinner. Night with wolves. Sleep in room at Seminary.

 

Day 4 Aug 6

Bird watch from 6:30 to 7:30 am, breakfast, bird watch and walk on trails or road 3 hours until lunch, bird watch and walk on trails or road another 2-3 hours in afternoon. Dinner. Night with wolves. Sleep in room at Seminary.

 

Day 5 Aug 7 repeat of Day 4

 

Day 6 Aug 8

Bird watch from 6:30 to 7:30 am, breakfast, bird watch and walk on trails or road until about 9:00 am. Drive 5 hours to Caratinga, lunch enroute. Stop about 45 minutes at a friend of the travel agent who has bird feeders and puts out fruit for marmosets. Bird and marmoset watch at their home. Dinner and overnight at Vind’s Hotel.

 

Day 7 Aug 9

Depart 6:00 am for 40 minute drive to Caratinga Research Station. Spend the day bird watching and looking for monkeys. Lunch fixings brought and stored in visitor fridge. Dinner and overnight at Vind’s Hotel.

 

Day 8 Aug 10

Depart 6:00 am for 40 minute drive to Caratinga Research Station. Spend the morning bird watching, looking for monkeys. Lunch fixings brought and stored in visitor fridge. At midday head to Mercure Hotel near the Belo Horizonte Airport.

 

Day 9 Aug 11

Early morning flight from Belo to Cuiaba via Brasilia.

From the Cuiaba airport, drive on a paved road in an air-conditioned van about 2 ½ hours to Pocone, arriving early evening Then switch to the safari vehicle and head toward the Pantanal on road that changes to unpaved. Drive about 2 hours into the Pantanal with spotlight, looking for animals. Overnight Pousada Rio Clara--approx 45 km south of Pocone.

 

Day 10 Aug 12

Morning walk starting 6:30 am, then breakfast, then boat ride on Pixiam River. Lunch, rest, depart in the afternoon for the Jaguar Ecological Reserve and Jaguar Lodge. Game drive while the light lasts, spotlight at night, arriving about 3 hours later. Dinner. Overnight Jaguar Lodge— approx 110 km south of Pocone.

 

Day 11 Aug 13

Morning walk starting at 6:30 am, breakfast and another walk lasting to 11 am, lunch, rest, afternoon game drive that continued into a night drive. Dinner, another night drive. Overnight Jaguar Lodge.

 

Day 12 Aug 14

Morning departure for a game drive, south, then turned around and headed north past Jaguar Lodge to Mato Grosso Best Western Hotel. Lunch and rest, then afternoon game drive that continued into a night drive. Dinner, another night drive. Overnight Mato Grosso Hotel—approx 65 km south of Pocone.

 

Day 13 Aug 15

Morning walk starting 6:30 am, then breakfast, then boat ride on Pixiam River. Lunch, rest, depart in the afternoon for Pousada Alegro on game drive that continued into a night drive. Overnight Pousada Alegro--35 km south of Pocone.

 

Day 14 Aug 16

Morning walk starting 6:30 am, then breakfast, then another walk until about 9:30. Game drive in safari vehicle of about 2 hours out of Pantanal to Pocone. Air conditioned van to Carceres, about 2 ½ hours. Immediately board boat for 2 hour ride on the Paraguay River to Baiazinha Hotel, a fishing lodge

 

Day 15 Aug 17

Morning walk at 7:00 am, then breakfast, then boat outing to a ranch with Hyacinth Macaws. Lunch, rest, afternoon boat ride.

 

Day 16 Aug 18

5:45 am departure for Taima Ecological Station which encompasses 35,000 acres. Day is spent in search of jaguars, returning before night (6 pm)

 

Day 17 Aug 19 Repeat of Day 16

 

Day 18 Aug 20

Since we had had such great jaguar success already, we gambled on seeing a mother and cub in an area closer to home. Despite great effort on the part of the guide and captain, even pulling our boat over sandbars in piranha infested waters, we were not successful. We also spent more time just looking at the caiman, capybaras, birds, etc.

 

Day 19 Aug 21

Morning walk starting at 6:30 am, then breakfast and boat transfer, about 2 hours back down the Paraguay River. Board an air conditioned van in Carceres and proceed to Cuiaba and on to Chapada dos Guimaraes. Late afternoon views of the sun on the red cliffs and mountains. Visit to the geocenter of South America. Overnight at Solar dos Inglos.

 

Day 20 Aug 22

Morning birding along a dirt road for unique species. Visit to cliffs where red and green macaws nest. Visit to the national park for views of a waterfall, valley, cliffs and to hike on trails. Lunch and hour and a half drive to airport for flight back to Sao Paulo. Overnight Melia Comfort.

 

Day 21 Aug 23

Day at hotel waiting for evening flight that departed Guarulhos Airport in Sao Paulo

 

Day 22 Aug 23

Arrive early in O’Hare

 

Photo links

Paraguay River portion of Northern Pantanal trip. This album has the 31 jaguar pictures.

98 photos total, the first 89 are scenery and wildlife sightings, the last 9 are of the hotel.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=k8fpf0...0&y=-gds1ze

 

Land portion of Northern Pantanal trip, flying into Cuiaba. Even though it was land based, there were 2 morning trips on the Pixiam River.

118 photos total, the first 95 are scenery and wildlife sightings, the next 18 are of 4 different accommodations, the last 5 are of our vehicle and some others we encountered.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=k8fpf0...=0&y=uo6uvo

 

Seminary where maned wolves are fed by the resident priests, located in Caraca in the Atlantic Forest of the state of Minas Gerais.

48 photos total, the first 21 are of scenery and wildlife sightings, the next 9 are of the Seminary and grounds, and the last 8 are the facililites/accommodations.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=k8fpf0...0&y=-qd4gtc

 

Caratinga Research Station, which focuses on primates, in the Atlantic Forest of the state of Minas Gerais.

18 photos total, all of the scenery and wildlife around Caratinga. No hotel photos.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=k8fpf0...=0&y=ffep8n

 

Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park.

18 photos total, the first half are of scenery and wildlife and the last half are of the inn

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=k8fpf0...=0&y=ddzgo3

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BIRD LIST

From what our guide said, the number of birds seen was not something to crow about. Pardon the pun. He felt there were many birds that did not show up for us in the Pantanal and that we should have seen a good deal more. He also was surprised in Minas Gerais that certain birds were not spotted, when days before they had been present. There were entire afternoons with hardly one singing bird and no sightings in Caraca. I ran into some avid birders who were a bit desperate to find certain species that were not cooperating.

 

There was no real reason for the below average bird count. The weather was normal and very nice and we had an exceptional guide, often accompanied by a driver with good eyes, plus 2 of my 3 travel companions were skilled birders. Just our luck.

 

But I consider that good news overall if it means 237 different birds was a poor showing. For many of the sightings we had attractive or colorful birds, sometimes in abundance, in fabulous settings, doing fascinating things, so I was very happy with the avian aspect of the trip. A flock of Roseate Spoonbills taking off in the sunset with half of the flock framed by blue river and the other half rising above the dark green forest is a sight I’ll never forget and worth dozens of ticks—that’s tick marks on the bird list, not the miniscule biting muquin ticks that infested my lower body in Caratinga.

 

The best bird book is All the Birds of Brazil by Deodata Souza. It had been going for about $150 before I left (and it is what our guide used). I bought an ok book that was somehow missing all the humming birds, Aves Brasileiras by Johan Dalgas Frisch. It is in Portuguese, but has English bird names. Also good was Brazil Amazon & Pantanal by David L person and Les Beletsky for the most often seen birds and other animals.

E = Endemic

M = Migratory

 

82 birds in Minas Gerais

Small-billed Tinamou

Red-winged Tinamou

Cattle Egrets

Black Vulture

Crested Caracara (all over, including mating)

Yellow-headed Caracara (all over)

Laughing Falcon

Dusky-legged Guan (all over Caraca)

Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail

Blackish Rail

Pale-vented Pigeon

Ruddy Ground-Dove

Squirrel Cuckoo (a personal favorite)

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (2 in one tree)

Planalto Hermit

Glittering-bellied Emerald

Fork-tailed Woodnymph

Violet-capped Woodnymph (got a photo)

White-throated Hummingbird

E Brazilian Ruby

Cinnamon throated Hermit

Green Kingfisher

Rufous-capped Motmot (personal favorite)

E Crescent-chested Puffbird

White-barred Piculet (saw mating pair—rare to see)

Green-barred Woodpecker

Robust Woodpecker

White Browed Woodpecker

Tail-banded Hornero

Rufous Hornero (all over)

Rufous-capped Spinetail

Pale-breasted Spinetail

Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper (very hard to find, seen creeping near a stream per name)

Streaked Xenops

Plain Xenops

Variable Antshrike

E Ochre-rumped Antbird

E Scaled Antbird (a personal favorite)

Red Ruffed Fruit Crow (a first for Guide Fabricio)

Blue (Swallow-tailed) Manakin (a personal favorite)

White-bearded Manakin (heard the wings beat first, which is part of the mating dance)

Gray-hooded Flycatcher

Sepia-capped Flycatcher

E Yellow-lored Tody-flycatcher

Greenish Tyrannulet

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

Sooty Tyrannulet

Swallow Flycatcher

Sooty Tyrannulet

Cliff Swallow-tailed Flycatcher

E Velvety Black-Tyrant

Masked Water-Tyrant

Long-tailed Tyrant

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Three-striped Flycatcher

Great Kiskadee (everywhere)

Chestnut-crowned Becard

Rufous-bellied Thrush (national bird and all over)

Pale-breasted Thrush

Chalk-browed Mockingbird

Blue-and-white Swallow

Southern Rough-winged Swallow

Golden-crowned Warbler

Bananaquit

Chestnut-vented Conebill

Magpie Tanager

E Rufous-headed Tanager

Ruby-crowned Tanager

Sayaca Tanager (a personal favorite)

E Golden-chevroned Tanager

E Brassy-breasted Tanager

E Gilt-edged Tanager (a personal favorite)

Burnished-buff Tanager

Blue Dacnis (a personal favorite, both the male and slightly less blue female)

Swallow-Tanager

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Yellow belliedSeedeater

Green-winged Saltator

Troupial (a personal favorite)

Red-rumped Cacique

Crested Oropendola

Uniform Finch

 

Though I have made no distinction on the bird list between the Paraguay River and the rest of the Pantanal, the biggest variety of birds was seen on the land portion of the trip that did not include the Paraguay River. Many great bird sightings were made along the Pixiam River that we visited as part of the land itinerary.

 

 

153 birds in the Pantanal

Little Tinamou

Neotropic Cormorant

Anhinga

Southern Screamer (really did scream, fascinating pairs)

M White-faced Whistling-Duck

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Muscovy Duck

Whistling Heron

M Little Blue Heron

Snowy Egret

Capped Heron

Cocoi Heron (all over, similar to Great Blue Heron)

Cattle Egret

Striated Heron (all over)

Black-crowned Night-Heron (all over)

Boat-billed Heron

Rufescent Tiger-Heron (all over)

Bare-faced Ibis

Plumbeous Ibis

Buff-necked Ibis

Green Ibis

Roseate Spoonbill (personal favorite, especially in flocks)

M Wood Stork (visited a rookery along Paraguay River)

M Maguari Stork

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

Osprey

Snail Kite (all over)

Crane Hawk

Great Black Hawk

Savanna Hawk

Black-collared Hawk (all over)

Roadside Hawk

Southern Caracara (Crested) (all over)

Laughing Falcon

Bat Falcon

Chaco Chachalaca (best bird name—no need for locals to wear watches because these birds call on the hour—and that was pretty close to true)

E Chestnut Guan

Blue-throated Piping Guan

Bare-faced Curassow

Gray-necked Wood Rail

Sungrebe

Sunbittern (a personal favorite in flight)

Limpkin

Red-legged Seriema

Wattled Jacana

M Lesser Yellowlegs

Common White-backed Stilt

Pied Lapwing

Southern Lapwing

Large-billed Tern

Yellow-billed Tern

Black Skimmer (huge flocks on the Paraguay River)

Picazuro Pigeon

Scaled Dove

Ruddy Ground Dove

Picui Dove

Long-tailed Ground Dove

White-tipped Dove

Hyacinth Macaw (trip highlight—present on land portion of trip and on Paraguay River)

Red and green Macaw (personal favorite)

M Blue crowned Parakeet

White eyed Parakeet

Peach fronted Parakeet

Monk Parakeet

Yellow chevroned Parakeet

Scaly headed Parrot

Black hooded Parakeet

Blue fronted Parrot

Squirrel Cuckoo (personal favorite)

Smoothed billed Ani

Guira Cuckoo

Striped Cuckoo

Tropical Screech Owl

Great Horned Owl

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Ringed Kingfisher (all over)

Barn Owl

Great Potoo

Common Potoo

NacundaNighthawk

Pauraque

Rufous Nightjar

Cinnamon-throated Hermit

Black-throated Mango

Glittering-throated Emerald

Blue-crowned Trogon

Ringed Kingfisher (all over)

Amazon Kingfisher (all over)

Green Kingfisher (not many)

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Black-fronted Nunbird

Chestnut-eared Aracari (personal favorite)

Toco Toucan (personal favorite)

White Woodpecker

Little Woodpecker

Pale Crested Woodpecker (personal favorite)

Great Rufous Woodcreeper

Straight-billed Woodcreeper

Narrow-billed Woodcreeper

Buff-throated Woodcreeper

Pale-legged Hornero

Rufous Hornero

White-lored Spinetail

Yellow-chinned Spinetail

Greater Thornbird

Gray-crested Cacholote

Great Antshrike

Barred Antshrike

Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant

Common Tody-Flycatcher

Euler’s Flycatcher

Vermillion Flycatcher (personal favorite)

White-rumped Monjita

Black-backed Water Tyrant

White-headed Marsh Tyrant

Cattle Tyrant

Tropical Kingbird

Rusty-margined Flycatcher

Lesser Kiskadee (all over)

Great Kiskadee (all over)

White-winged Swallow

White-rumped Swallow

Brown-chested Martin

Blue-and-white Swallow

Black-capped Donacobius

Thrush-like Wren

Rufous-bellied Thrush (national bird and all over)

Creamy-bellied Thrush

Purplish Jay

House Sparrow

Rufous-browed Peppershrike

Bananaquit

Magpie Tanager

Silver-beaked Tanager

Palm Tanager

Sayaca Tanager (personal favorite)

E Coal-crested Finch

Red-crested Finch (personal favorite)

Blue-black Grassquit

Rusty-collared Seedeater

Double-collared Seedeater

Saffron Finch

Red-crested Cardinal (personal favorite, hard to tell from yellow-billed, uncommon)

Yellow-billed Cardinal (personal favorite, all over)

Grayish Saltator

M Black-backed Grosbeak

Unicolored Blackbird

Bay-winged Cowbird

Shiny Cowbird

Giant Cowbird

Epaulet Oriole

Troupial (personal favorite)

Yellow-rumped Cacique

Solitary Cacique

Crested Oropendola

Chopi Blackbird

 

11 Birds in Chapados dos Guillarmos

Pearl Kite

Campo Flicker

Burrowing Owl

Red and green Macaw (personal favorite and last sighting of trip)

Bisutate Swift

White eared Puff Bird

Collared Crescent Chest

Black crested Tyrant

Curl Crested Jay (personal favorite)

Coal crested Finch

Plumbeous Seedeater

 

There were some birds seen in more than one location so the total birds listed is more than the 237 unique species.

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An ideal Pantanal trip, in my opinion, would combine the Southern Pantanal, which is what Jochen did and the Northern Pantanal, including the Paraguay River, which is what I did. With international flights, the Northern and Southern Pantanal could be done in a 3-week trip easily. Jochen's report is at the link below.

 

http://safaritalk.net/index.php?showtopic=1885

 

I am hoping to go back to Brazil in Aug 2010 and do the Southern Pantanal to see how that compares to the Northern. I have been told that the wildlife is more prolific in the north, but I'd like to see the different places. I want to include Canastra in Minas Gerais. It is excellent Giant Anteater habitat. At Caratinga Research Station, where I spent 2 nights, it is possible to accompany the scientists for a few days and I think I'd like to try that.

 

I could easily spend 10 nights instead of 5 on the land portion of the Northern Pantanal trip and someday hope to do that with about the same number of days (5) on the Paraguay River.

 

If anybody is interested in Aug of 2010, let me know. It's always better to travel with people who have like interests. If you are interested, you can email me directly. Atravelynn@hotmail.com.

 

That's better than responding here, anyway, because there may be no more available bytes on the forum since I think I used them all up with this report and the supporting photo gallery. :rolleyes:

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  • 2 months later...
Brian's Art for Animals

wow..what a trip. That for sure looks like it would compete with an Afican safari. Love the Jag pics!

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  • 4 months later...
I am hoping to go back to Brazil in Aug 2010 and do the Southern Pantanal to see how that compares to the Northern. I have been told that the wildlife is more prolific in the north, but I'd like to see the different places.

If anybody is interested in Aug of 2010, let me know. It's always better to travel with people who have like interests. If you are interested, you can email me directly. Atravelynn@hotmail.com.

 

Couldn't wait that long. Make that June 2009, arriving in Brazil on the 25th. Itinerary: A week at Caiman Lodge and 3 nights Refugio da Ilha, which is on an island in a river in contrast to Caimain without any real rivers. Jochen did a lovely Brazil report that included Caiman. I don't expect the jaguar sightings of the Paraguay River, though.

 

Let me know if you'd like to go. I'm not an agent or making a profit off of the trip, just a solo traveler willing to team up with others of like mind.

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It would be fun to all avoid the World Cup together in 2010.

Your 2009 looks fantastic Sniktawk with some little publicized places to learn about.

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  • 4 years later...

Great trip report, and very informative for me, since I will visit the Northern Pantanal this year. As the links to Kodak galleries don´t work anylonger are your pictures online anywhere else now?

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Hi Michael,

 

You had to dig down deep to find this one. You have given me a mid-year resolution: Put in links to the new galleries with Shutterfly, which is who Kodak sold out to. Thanks to your request, five of those albums have now been posted.

 

Along Transpantaneira Hwy – 117 photos

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1EctGLhwxaung

 

 

Along Paraguay River, where jaguars are seen – 98 photos

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1EctGLhwxauvA

 

Chapada dos Guimaraes –18 photos

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1EctGLhwxau2g

 

Caraca, where the maned wolves are seen – 48 photos

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1EctGLhwxau-A

 

 

Caratinga – muriquis or wooly spider monekys, though there are none pictured in the album -18 photos

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1EctGLhwxavBg

 

 

When are you going and do you have your itinerary set? Whenever you go and wherever you visit, it should be a fabulous trip to this wildlife rich area. The Pantanal is often called "The Serengeti of South America." Jochen has been to the Pantanal too, and posted here.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Thank you so much, have just browsed through the Transpantaneira section. Beautiful! :)

 

We´re going in September, doing Fazenda Sao Sebastao at Rio Paraguai (4 Nights) and the Transpantaneira (with 2 nights each at Pousada Piuval and Pousada Rio Claro and 4 nights at Hotel Porto Joffre). Afterwards we move on to Iguacu and Rio after a stop in Brasilia.

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Sept, perfect! Looks like a wonderful itinerary. Rio Claro was really hopping with activity on land and water.

 

I'll be back in Sept too.--Caratinga Research Station and Barranco Alto. It would be fun to cross paths in Sao Paulo maybe, which I think would be the only possibility.

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Please do start new trip planning topics for these trips here.

 

Thanks, Matt.

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michael-ibk

I obey. Topic already started, Sir. ;)

 

@Lynn: Well, we have seven hours in Sao Paolo on Sept 21st before catching our flight to Cuiaba, so if you´re there I would love to cross pathes.

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