The largest country in South America, Brazil has the greatest biodiversity of any nation on Earth. Its wilderness areas encompass both the gigantic Pantanal wetland (almost ten times the size of the Florida everglades), as well as 60% of the Amazon rainforest (which is home to more than one-third of all species on earth). As a result, Brazil is home to a huge variety of spectacular wildlife, including such mega-fauna as jaguar, giant otter, giant anteater and Brazilian tapir, as well as more than 1900 species of birds.
The Pantanal stretches across the Brazilian border into Bolivia and Paraguay, but 80% is located in Brazil. This vast wetland is bisected by the Cuiabá River and this, together with the varied topographies, mean that both the southern and northern parts of the Pantanal have much to offer the wildlife-watcher, with different habitats and different wildlife. To enjoy this variety we spend time in both sides of the Pantanal, looking for everything that the area has to offer.
In addition to the Pantanal, there is a pre-tour extension to the “Lost World” of Chapada dos Guimaraes and the remote Cristalino Jungle Lodge in the southern Amazon basin. Cristalino Lodge is set in its own 46 square mile private reserve, bordering the 450,000 acre Cristalino State Park, and is home to a staggering variety of mammal and bird species, not to mention some fabulous reptiles, amphibians and insects.
Following the main tour to the Pantanal, a post-tour extension takes us to the spectacular city of Rio de Janeiro, and to the critically endangered Atlantic Forest in search of the some of the endemic birds and mammals that can only be found there. Less than 2% of the primary Atlantic Forest remains intact, making it the second most endangered biome on the planet, as well as one with the highest endemism.
This itinerary offers a wildlife-watching bonanza. Starting with Chapada dos Guimaraes and Cristalino Jungle Lodge, and then focussing on the best wildlife-viewing areas in the Pantanal in our quest to spot a jaguar, as well as the many other mammals, birds and reptiles that live there, and ending with one of the most glorious cities on earth, Rio de Janeiro, and the Atlantic Forest.
Pre-tour extension: Chapada dos Guimaraes & Cristalino Jungle Lodge
Day 1; July 4th
We arrive in Cuiabá, capital of Mato Grosso State, and transfer to the spectacular plateau of Chapada dos Guimaraes.
Day 2; July 5th
This morning we explore Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park, which covers more than 80,000 acres, and is a stronghold of the endangered harpy eagle. If we are lucky, our visit will coincide with a nesting harpy eagle, and we may get a glimpse of this massive bird of prey. The region is also renowned for its wonderful scenery, towering waterfalls, and its wildlife.
Day 3; July 6th
After a last exploration of Chapada dos Guimaraes this morning, we transfer back to Cuiabá airport and fly to the small town of Alta Floresta in the middle of the southern Amazon. From here we transfer to Cristalino Jungle Lodge, beginning our adventure here with a night walk.
Days 4, 5 & 6; July 7th, 8th & 9th
We have three full days to explore the forest and rivers around Cristalino Jungle Lodge. The lodge is set at the meeting point of a white-water and black-water river which add to the variety of different habitats in the area, and the different wildlife we can find. During our time here we explore on foot and by boat, looking for red howler, brown capuchin and white-whiskered spider monkeys, giant otter, and some of the more than 600 species of birds, including the rare harpy eagle, hoatzin, scarlet macaw and Amazonian umbrella-bird. There is also a 160 foot high observation tower which gives us a bird’s-eye view of the forest canopy, and the opportunity for up-close encounters with birds and monkeys.
Day 7; July 10th
We bid a sad farewell to our lodge and transfer back to the town of Alta Floresta, for our flight to Cuiabá and the Pantanal.
Main tour: north and south Pantanal
Day 1; July 11th
We arrive in Cuiabá, gateway to the northern Pantanal. From here we drive into the Pantanal on the Transpantaneira, a raised dirt road that links the cattle ranches with the outside world, and which also gives us a great vantage from which to look for wildlife. This section of the road is great for spotting ocelot, crab-eating fox and crab-eating raccoon. On arrival we settle into our charming lodge before heading out for our first night drive.
Day 2; July 11th
The Pantanal is the world’s largest freshwater wetland, a seasonally flooded plain fed by the tributaries of the Paraguay River. These floods have created a hugely productive aquatic ecosystem, home to more than 260 species of fish, which in turn attract large numbers of birds and mammals. As well as being a wildlife paradise, the Pantanal is home to vast cattle ranches. Cattle live alongside jaguars, not always in harmony, but tourism is helping to persuade ranchers that jaguars are worth more alive than dead.
The gardens and forest around our lodge are home to many species of wildlife, including Azara’s agouti, black-and-gold howler monkey and Pantanal marmoset. There is also a canopy tower which gives spectacular views over the surrounding area, as well as providing a wonderful vantage for viewing wildlife in the nearby marshes. Night drives are also very productive in this area, and we will make the most of our time as we look for ocelot and crab-eating raccoon.
Day 3; July 12th
This morning we continue our drive southwards on the Transpantaneira, looking for and photographing wildlife along the way. The drive takes us through beautiful marshlands where we hope to see the uncommon marsh deer. After a few hours we reach the end of the road, at the Cuiabá River, where we find our comfortable lodge. The lodge is set in beautiful grounds on the edge of the river, including a large wetland which is home to the world’s largest waterlily, Victoria amazonica. The gardens are also frequented by hyacinth macaws which make their home there.
Days 4 & 5; July 13th & 14th
The Cuiabá River and its tributaries offer one of the best chances for us to see jaguar, with regular sightings being made along the riverbanks. To maximise our chances of spotting this elusive beast we have two full days here, with plenty of time spent cruising on the rivers. In addition to jaguar, we also look for a variety of other wildlife, including giant otter and Brazilian tapir.
Day 6; July 15th
This morning we drive north on the Transpantaneira, to a comfortable lodge set on a 7,000 hectare ranch. We spend our time here exploring by boat and in our game-viewing vehicle, including spot-lighting at night looking for a variety of wildlife, such as Brazilian tapir. This is also a good area for puma, and we have our best (though still slim) chance of seeing this magnificent cat here.
Day 7; July 16th
Early this morning we take a boat cruise looking for giant otters: at over six feet long the largest otter on Earth. The river is also a wonderful place to look for water-birds, among them sungrebe, sunbittern, and several species of herons and storks, including the New World’s largest, the mighty jabiru stork.
Day 8; July 17th
Today we leave the northern Pantanal to journey to the southern Pantanal. No roads connect the northern and southern portions of the wetland, and so to explore both parts of this vast wetland we have to fly from the northern city of Cuiabá to the southern city of Campo Grande. From Campo Grande we drive into the southern Pantanal, and to our comfortable lodge.
Day 9; July 18th
Our lodge is situated on a ranch in the heart of the southern Pantanal. This is one of the best areas in the Pantanal to see both ocelot and giant anteater, and we will explore the tracks and rivers by game-viewing vehicle and boat, by day and by night, looking for these charismatic mammals, as well as giant otter, capybara (the world’s largest rodent), marsh deer, Brazilian tapir and, of course, jaguar; as well as Yacaré caiman, yellow anaconda, and a huge number of birds, including the rare and range-restricted hyacinth macaw.
Day 10; July 19th
After breakfast we bid this amazing wetland farewell, and drive to the city of Campo Grande for our flights home, or to Rio de Janeiro for the post-tour extension.
Post-tour extension: Rio de Janeiro and Atlantic Forest
Day 1; July 19th
We fly from Campo Grande to Rio de Janeiro, one of the most beautiful cities on the planet; where the Atlantic Ocean breaks on golden beaches, against a backdrop of forested Tijuca National Park and Sugar Loaf Mountain, while the massive Christ the Redeemer statue towers over the city from the top of the 2,310 foot Corcovado mountain.
Day 2; July 20th
Today we being our explorations of Rio de Janeiro. This morning we visit the Botanical Gardens, founded in 1808 when the Portuguese King Dom João VI fled Napoleon’s invasion and set up his Court in Brazil. With its 200 year history this garden is considered one of the most important worldwide. It is a an oasis of calm within the city, and is home to white-tufted marmoset, brown capuchin, Guianan squirrel, and birds such as channel-billed toucan, slaty-breasted woodrail and the fabulously colourful green-headed, brassy-breasted and red-necked tanagers. Leaving the gardens we take the funicular up to the top of Corcovado Mountain to visit the famous Statue of Christ and to get a superb view of Rio.
Day 3; July 21st
This morning we take the cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain, iconic landmark of Rio de Janeiro, to enjoy the wonderful view over the bay. After lunch we bid farewell to the city and head northwards to our charming lodge in the heart of the Atlantic Forest. The Atlantic Forest stretches from north-east Brazil southwards along the coast as far as northern Uruguay, into north-east Argentina and eastern Paraguay, and originally covered an area of 600,000 square miles. The Atlantic Forest is an area of forest and savannah characterised by its high species diversity and endemism. Sixty percent of the vertebrate species found here are endemic to the Atlantic Forest, as well as 40% of the vascular plants. Centuries of deforestation have made this the second most threatened biome after Madagascar, with only 7% of the original forest remaining (and only 2% of the primary forest).
Our lodge is located in a private reserve, established in 2001 to protect the remaining forest in the Guapiaçu valley. We start our explorations with a walk around the lodge looking for our first mammals and birds. After dinner we take a night walk in search of giant snipe, tropical screech, tawny-browed and striped owls, common potoo and short-tailed nighthawk. Mammals encountered at night include crab-eating fox, paca, nine-banded armadillo and common grey four-eyed opossum. The hummingbird feeders around the lodge attract nectar-feeding bats.
Day 4 & 5; July 22nd & 23rd
Encompassing altitudes ranging from 30m to 2,000m above sea level, the reserve comprises lowland humid evergreen forest, montane forest and restored wetlands, and is one of the most important remnants of Atlantic Forest in terms of its biodiversity. The lodge is beautifully located, looking out towards the mountains of Serra dos Órgãos. More than 455 species of birds have been recorded in the area, highlights being white-necked and mantled hawk, black-hawk eagle, maroon-bellied parakeet, bare-throated bellbird, blue manakin, shrike-like cotinga, and tanagers including olive green, black-goggled and azure-shouldered. Mammals include capybara, brown-throated three-toed sloth, crab-eating fox, South American coati, brown howler and brown capuchin monkeys, common marmoset, and the rare southern woolly spider monkey (muriqui). There is also a chance of finding an orange-spined hairy dwarf porcupine sleeping in a tree tangle.
With two full days to explore this area we spend one day around the reserve, walking the trails in search of mammals and birds, while the other day we visit the Serra dos Órgãos National Park to look for higher elevation species, such as the gorgeous hummingbirds, plovercrest and Brazilian ruby, swallow-tailed and black-and-gold cotingas, rufous gnateater and hooded berryeater. Serra dos Órgãos was the third national park to be created in Brazil, back in 1939, and is a spectacular mountain range named after the organ pipe-shaped peaks that jut above 6,000 feet.
Day 6; July 24th
We spend our final day enjoying the wetland area and trails around in the reserve, before transferring back to Rio de Janeiro in time for our flights home.
Wildlife Quest trips are budgeted for small groups. To avoid having to cancel trips with fewer members, we charge more for smaller groups to cover the fixed costs of the trip.
Costs per person (USD):
Pre-tour extension: Chapada dos Guimaraes & Cristalino Lodge
|8 participants $ 4,095.00||4 participants $ 5,695.00|
|7 participants $ 4,395.00||3 participants $ 5,995.00|
|6 participants $ 4,695.00||2 participants $ 5,995.00|
|5 participants $ 5,095.00||Single supplement $ 995.00|
Main tour: north and south Pantanal
|8 participants $ 6,395.00||4 participants $ 8,795.00|
|7 participants $ 6,995.00||3 participants $ 9,395.00|
|6 participants $ 7,595.00||2 participants $ 9,995.00|
|5 participants $ 8,195.00||Single supplement $ 1,195.00|
Post-tour extension: Rio de Janeiro and the Atlantic Forest
|8 participants $ 3,995.00||4 participants $ 4,995.00|
|7 participants $ 4,195.00||3 participants $ 5,495.00|
|6 participants $ 4,395.00||2 participants $ 5,995.00|
|5 participants $ 4,695.00||Single supplement $ 995.00|
- All accommodation
- All transfers and transportation, including transfers to and from the airport for the group flight at the start and end of the tour, but not including domestic flights since prices change depending on when booked
- All park entrance fees
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
- Drinking water
- Services of Holly Faithfull and local guides throughout
- Tips for local guides, porters etc
- International air fare to and from Brazil
- Domestic flights (prices change on a daily basis, and so rather than overcharge we are happy to assist with booking these flights for you so that you pay the correct price)
- Beverages, other than drinking water
- Items of a personal nature, such as phone calls, laundry etc
- Airport departure tax
- Trip cancellation or interruption insurance
What is the trip like?
Brazil is a fairly easy place to travel, with just normal good health necessary. Flexibility, sense of humour, and open-mindedness are always required, since changes to the itinerary can happen. Wildlife viewing takes place during nature walks on forest trails, by boat and in vehicles. The walks cover a variety of terrain and are usually on well-marked trails. Accommodations range from luxurious hotels to comfortable lodges, all with private bathrooms, electricity, hot/cold water.
The temperature in Brazil is generally fairly hot and humid. We are travelling during the dry season, but Brazil is tropical and you can expect some rain at any time of the year.