Duration: 15 days
Group Size: 2 – 8
Date Start: August 28, 2018
Date End: September 11, 2018
Tour Start: Cuiabá
Tour End: Cuiabá
This tour starts early in the morning on Day 1; therefore clients need to arrive in Cuiabá the day before.
Please note: On this Birding Tour Brazil 1.5 days will be spent searching for the magnificent jaguar.
Welcome to the first of our 2018 Birding Tour Brazil itineraries! In a country well known for its staggering biodiversity, the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso sets itself apart. Lying in the heart of South America, it encompasses three major biomes that together make this one of the most biologically rich regions in all of Brazil: the Cerrado, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Pantanal.
From Cuiabá we embark on our journey to the Cerrado, the first of the major biomes of Mato Grosso and the second-largest in Brazil by area, after the Amazon. This highly threatened mosaic of dry woodland, gallery forest, and grassland is home to its own unique subset of specialized birds, including White-eared Puffbird, Collared Crescentchest, and White-rumped Tanager. We explore this fascinating biome via the scenic Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, a landscape studded with beautiful rock formations and adorned with cascading waterfalls.
Next, we also include the Amazon Rainforest on this exciting trip, 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 eco-region than the vast reserve centered on Cristalino Lodge. Here an extensive network of forest trails provides opportunities to see over 40 species of antbird, 18 species of woodcreeper, 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 a 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 out for at one of the best birding sites in the world.
Finally we embark on our journey to the Pantanal, a vast, seasonally flooded wetland renowned for its incredible concentrations of birds at the end of the dry season. We schedule this tour during this time, when the fish trapped in the shrinking pools of water attract hordes of herons, egrets, storks, and other wetland species. The star of such huge concentrations is the massive Jabiru, towering over a diverse collection of South American waterbirds, such as Sunbittern, Plumbeous Ibis, and Southern Screamer. Raptors such as Savanna Hawk, Snail Kite, and Black-collared Hawk and up to five species of kingfisher also join the bonanza in one of the world’s great birding spectacles. The Pantanal also hosts a mosaic of forest islands and riverside forest, which is home to an interesting assemblage of regional endemics, such as Mato Grosso Antbird, White-lored Spinetail, and Pale-crested Woodpecker. And, of course, there is no better place in the world to see the enormous Hyacinth Macaw, the largest species of parrot in the Americas and one of Brazil’s great conservation success stories, or the elusive jaguar, the third-largest species of feline in the world.
For those wishing to continue exploring this magnificent country, this tour can be combined with our Brazil: Cerrado Endemics and Brazilian Merganser 2018 tour, our Comprehensive Southeast Brazil: Intervales to Linhares Part I 2018 tour, and our Comprehensive Southeast Brazil: Intervales to Linhares Part II 2018 tour for an overall 51-day Brazilian mega tour.
Itinerary (15 days/14 nights)
Days 1 – 3. Chapada dos Guimarães
We will transfer from Cuiabá to Chapada dos Guimarães National Park. Here, we will be sure to stop at the stunning and highly photogenic Veu de Noiva (Bridal Veil) Falls to watch Red-and-green Macaws come in to roost one evening (probably the first evening). Then we spend each morning exploring the various habitats present in the national park. Cerrado, a shrub-dominated landscape dotted with gnarled trees and tall grasses, harbors a wide variety of charismatic and often endemic species. At dawn, the plaintive calls of Red-legged Seriema and the rollicking duets of White-rumped Tanager add ambiance to this otherworldly yet beautiful habitat that is nearly endemic to Brazil. Feeding flocks and flowering trees right by the road often contain specialties such as the cute Checkered Woodpecker and the smart Coal-crested Finch. As the day heats up, we retreat into the shade of gallery forest, where we have opportunities to see Southern Antpipit and Saffron-billed Sparrow.
Overnight: Pousada do Parque, Chapada dos Guimarães
Day 4. Chapada dos Guimarães to Cristalino Lodge
After some more early-morning birding and a sumptuous breakfast we bid farewell to Chapada dos Guimarães to catch our midday flight to Alta Floresta. From here we continue by van along a dirt track to the Teles Pires River, stopping at a palm swamp along the way to seek out 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 5 – 8. Cristalino Lodge
Although birding will be significantly more challenging at Cristalino Lodge than elsewhere on the tour, the rewards will be far greater. We shall take full advantage of our four full days of birding here to explore trails that sample all the various habitats at the reserve, including:
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 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 9. Pousada Piuval
We fly back to Cuiabá and then transfer to Pousada Piuval, a working cattle ranch just two hours away from Cuiabá. The mosaic of wetlands, flooded pastures, and gallery forest at this lodge should provide excellent opportunities to see a huge variety of species more common in the drier northern portion of the Pantanal, including Greater Rhea, Red-legged Seriema, and Long-tailed Ground Dove. While birding in islands of gallery forest and scrub, we will target White-fronted Woodpecker and Great Rufous Woodcreeper, as well as having opportunities to see a host of more widespread specialties, such as Red-billed Scythebill, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, and Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant.
Overnight: Pousada Piuval
Day 10. Pousada Piuval to Pouso Alegre Lodge
After an extra morning of birding at Pousada Piuval we will continue our trip, exploring the great habitat on the way to Pouso Alegre Lodge, looking for species such as Red-billed Scythebill, Whistling Heron, Nanday Parakeet, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, and our first Hyacinth Macaw. The habitat here offers great chances for mammals like giant anteater, tapir, and even ocelot. During our time in the Pantanal we will make a few nocturnal drives in search of these elusive mammals.
Overnight: Pouso Alegre Lodge
Days 11 – 12. Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso
Today our journey will take us to the vicinity of the Pixaim River. We should arrive at our lodge around lunch, after which we will take an afternoon boat trip that offers a chance at seeing oddballs like Sungrebe and Boat-billed Heron, and maybe even giant otter. In the evening we will try for the seldom-seen Zigzag Heron, while Band-tailed Nighthawks feed over the river. Later a spotlighting session along the highway right by the lodge can be productive for Nightjars (Little, Spot-tailed, and Scissor-tailed), and large mammals.
The gallery forest trails behind our lodge can be alive with birds in the early morning. By exploring these trails during this time we hope to come across regional specialties such as Mato Grosso Antbird, Pale-crested Woodpecker, and Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant. More open areas around the lodge contain Red-crested Cardinal, Rufous Cacholote, Purplish Jay, and many more. In the afternoon we have the option to continue birding along the Transpantaneira Highway, including a stop at a nearby site for Nanday Parakeet.
Overnight: Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso
Day 13. Pantanal Mato Grosso to Porto Jofre
Wet set out early this morning from Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso to Porto Jofre at the southern terminus of the Transpantaneira Highway, one of the world’s great birding roads. Constructed in the 1970s, the Transpantaneira is less of a highway and more of a dirt track, crossing no less than 122 wooden bridges in various states of repair. However, an abundance of wetland birds feed right by the road across its length. It will be hard not to stop to enjoy our first elegant Maguari Stork, the bizarre Southern Screamer, and the striking Scarlet-headed Blackbird. Once we arrive at Porto Jofre we spend the afternoon searching the riverbank for jaguar.
Overnight: Hotel Porto Jofre
Day 14. Porto Jofre
We cruise the river by boat throughout the day in search of jaguar, our main target on this portion of the tour. All the boatmen in this area are in constant radio contact, maximizing our chances at seeing this largest of American cats. Bird species seen along the river can include Pied Plover, Large-billed Tern, and Black Skimmer loitering on the sandy riverbanks.
Overnight: Hotel Porto Jofre
Day 15. Back to Cuiabá
Today we transfer back to Cuiabá along the entire length of the exciting Transpantaneira Highway. We will be birding along the way and will sadly bid farewell to the wonderful Pantanal and its plethora of exciting birds. In the evening we will arrive back in Cuiabá, where the tour ends.
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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