The Amazon, certainly on each world-birder’s wish list of destinations, is a vast forest deserving of many superlatives. With its astonishing list of nearly 600 bird species there are few better places to explore this incredible ecoregion than the vast reserve centered on Cristalino Lodge. Here an extensive network of forest trails provides opportunities to see over 40 species of antbirds, 18 species of woodcreepers, and foliage-gleaners, forest falcons, and manakins. The forest’s most colorful denizens can be seen from the lodge’s two canopy towers, including Spangled and Pompadour Cotingas, Scarlet and Blue-and-yellow Macaws, Paradise and Opal-rumped Tanagers, and maybe even Harpy Eagle. Numerous hard-to-find or highly localized species are easier to find here than anywhere else: White-browed Hawk, Tapajos Hermit, Black-girdled Barbet, Crimson-bellied Parakeet, Kawall’s Amazon, Glossy Antshrike, Bare-eyed Antbird, Cryptic Forest Falcon, Tooth-billed Wren, and many more to look for at one of the best birding sites in the world.
This pre-tour to our Birding Tour Brazil: The Best of Brazil can also be booked as a stand-alone tour.
Itinerary (6 days/5 nights)
Day 1. Alta Floresta to Cristalino Lodge
You should arrive by 2 p.m. at the latest in Alta Floresta. From here we travel by van along a dirt track to the Teles Pires River, stopping at a palm swamp along the way to look for Point-tailed Palmcreeper and Sulphury Flycatcher. Once we reach the river we board a motorized canoe and slowly work our way up a tributary of the Teles Pires, the Cristalino River. Flanked by beautiful primary forest, this section of the Cristalino River serves as an excellent introduction to the southern Amazon. White-winged and White-banded Swallows skim the surface of the water right by our boat, Lowland Tapir often lounges lazily along the riverbank, and Scarlet and Blue-and-yellow Macaws may make a synchronized flyby overhead before we reach the lodge.
Overnight: Cristalino Lodge
Days 2-5. Cristalino Lodge
Although birding is rather challenging at Cristalino Lodge, the rewards will be great. We will take full advantage of our four full days of birding here to explore trails that sample all the various habitats at the reserve:
Varzea and Igapo Forest – Seasonally-flooded forests that harbor various difficult and rare species, such as Flame-crested Manakin, Bronzy Jacamar, and Long-billed Woodcreeper. The lower height of the forest canopy provides easier viewing of feeding flocks as well as our best chance to see the recently described Cryptic Forest Falcon. Nearby river islands in the middle of the Teles Pires River provide our best chances at seeing Restinga Tyrannulet, Glossy Antshrike, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Ladder-tailed Nightjar on its day roost, and many more.
Terra Firme Forest – A staggering diversity of birds inhabits the understory. Although they are often not easy to see we will spend plenty of time walking the trails in search of a nearly endless list of potential species: woodcreepers such as Red-billed Woodcreeper and Tapajos Scythebill (a newly described species not yet recognized by all authorities), antbirds such as Bare-eyed Antbird and Black-spotted Bare-eye, jacamars such as Paradise Jacamar and Blue-necked Jacamar, foliage-gleaners such as Para Foliage-gleaner, and Chestnut-winged Hookbill, etc. Patches of bamboo contain localized specialties such as Rose-breasted Chat, Manu Antbird, and Rufous-capped Nunlet. The two canopy towers at Cristalino will give us a chance at seeing a host of colorful species that are often hard to see elsewhere; Pompadour Cotinga, Red-fan Parrot, and Gould’s Toucanet are just a few of the many tantalizing possibilities.
Serra: The reserve at Cristalino includes several weathered, geologically old, rocky outcrops that rise above the forest. These rocky knolls function as islands of deciduous dry forest. Thus they also contain their own unique subset of birds, including Natterer’s Slaty Antshrike, Spotted Puffbird, and White-fringed Antwren. When the trees here are in bloom they attract a variety of rare hummingbirds, including Fiery-tailed Awlbill and Tapajos Hermit.
Finally we will spend time cruising the beautiful Cristalino River in the afternoon and into the evening in search of both birds (Razor-billed Curassow and Green-and-rufous Kingfisher) and mammals (Lowland Tapir, Giant Otter, and Paca).
As you can see, there will be plenty to observe and experience during our time at Cristalino Lodge!
Overnight: Cristalino Lodge
Day 6. Final birding and departure
We transfer to Alta Floresta, from where you will either start your flights home or fly to Cuiabá to join our The Best of Brazil tour.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides, and other factors.
Thank you for your interest in the outcome of our tour. It is not possible to answer you in one note, so I will try to do so in a few ‘to the point’ remarks.
Yes, the trip met all our expectations, and more! We saw and experienced the Cerrado, the Amazon forest, even better than previously at Tambopata, and the Pantanal with its amazing variety and volume of wildlife. For me the sight of a Hyacinth Macaw, which drew me to the Pantanal, already made it worthwhile. Then, of course, come the excellent sightings of the Jaguars and the Otters and then all the birds for which Eduardo made special efforts to find for his goals.
In the Cerrado we stayed in an excellent farm-lodge where we were lucky to experience the sighting of the Maned Wolf and the Burrowing Owl (which was on Elzine’s bucket list), apart from a number of colourful specials like the Motmot and Jacamar.
In the Amazon we were also very lucky to find another of Elzine’s target species, the Anaconda, and also another member of South America’s big five, the Tapir. We had an excellent session of forest birding on one of the towers where we could really appreciate the advantages of our private tour which, we think, was good value for the additional cost. Together with the Cristalino guide we had the tower for ourselves, and with an excellent guide like Eduardo also with us, we experienced a feast of good sightings.
On EDUARDO: It was a pleasure to travel with him again and having him as a guide who showed his expertise even in the presence of other local guides. It is good to hear that he also enjoyed our company.
In summary, we came back as very satisfied customers of Birding Ecotours and wish to thank you and Lynn for the opportunity to experience the Heart of Brazil.
Jacques & Elzine Smuts — Pretoria, South Africa
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