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Brazil Wildlife: Deep Pantanal and Amazon

14 days from £7,278pp

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Brazil Wildlife: Deep Pantanal and Amazon


Private Journey


Day 1

Arrive Campo Grande and transfer to hotel.

Transfer to hotel in Campo Grande capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The city lies on the edge of the Pantanal and as such its airport is the major transit point for visitors to the region. Overnight.

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Day 2

By 4WD vehicle to southern Pantanal wetlands lodge.
The Pantanal wetlands cover a large basin half the size of France. This basin is seasonally flooded and is drained by the Paraguay River, which flows into the south Atlantic via the River Plate estuary. The result is a paradise for nature lovers, especially for wildlife observation. Unlike the areas of high jungle, the Pantanal is an open area of swampy grasslands, leaving some of the highest concentration of fauna in the continent exposed to view.

Transfer to Barra Mansa by 4WD vehicle (May-Oct only).  The 5-6 hr journey is in itself an opportunity to begin your wildlife spotting adventure. Lying 225km from Campo Grande the only way to reach it in the wet season is by light aircraft.

Barra Mansa is a small traditional lodge, simple but comfortable, located near the banks of the Rio Negro. This river it flows into a flood plain, which makes the area almost inaccessible, and therefore the natural environment untouched (See Places to Stay).

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Day 3-4

Guided safaris into the wildlife-rich savannah.
At leisure to discover the wildlife of the surrounding wetland. All excursions are included and offered privately, you will not be sharing your adventure with anyone else but your guide. You can choose what you want to do the night before in consultation with your guide.

Activities include horse riding, boat trips, dawn walks, bird watching and safari by jeep.  The horses are of excellent quality and proceed at a slow relaxed pace, ideal for beginners.  As at all the Pantanal lodges, excursions are made in the early morning, then again in late afternoon until sunset.  Wildlife is more active at these times.  If you are lucky you will spot giant otters, along with capybara, wild pig, and hyacinth and red-green macaws.

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Hyacinth macaw

Day 5

Return to Campo Grande, overnight.
Transfer back to Campo Grande for the night.
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Day 6

Fly to Cuiabá; transfer to lodge in the northern Pantanal.

Fly to Cuiabá, a major city in the heart of Brazil’s interior and the gateway to the northern Pantanal wetlands. Continue by road across the savannah to your lodge, Pousada do Rio Mutum. The lodge offers a programme of activities where you can view wildlife. Sun-seeking caiman (alligators) stretch out on the river beaches or observe you with a beady eye just visible above the water’s surface.  Gangs of the ubiquitous capybara -a giant rodent - stroll lazily across the road. Giant storks and roseate spoonbills wade through the standing water while agitated parakeets and clouds of snowy ibis take to the sky.

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Caiman in the Pantanal

Days 7-8

Wildlife-spotting expeditions from the lodge.

Depending on local conditions, daily expeditions may include boat rides, walking trails and horse-riding through the Pantanal’s watery landscapes. You could visit a fazenda (farm) on the banks of a shimmering lake for sunset, when birds congregate for evening feeding with a raucous cacophony of sound. You may set off on an excursion by safari vehicle or boat to view wildlife in the crystal clear waters on a remote section of the Mutum river; seize an opportunity to fish for piranha, or take a boat trip to a small fishing community on the Cuiabá river.

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Pantanal canoeing

Day 9

Fly to Alta Floresta; by road and boat to Cristalino rainforest reserve.
Fly from Cuiabá (90mins) to the tiny airport at Alta Floresta. It’s a 1hr transfer by rutted red-earth road to the Cristalino river, then 30mins by boat. You drive first through Alta Floresta town – it’s a small sleepy place, not the gritty frontier-type jungle town you might expect; modern but low-rise and, laid-back.  After a few minutes you realise how remote the region is: just isolated cattle farms and a few patches of forest here and there.

After 45 mins you reach the boundary of the Cristalino reserve and you are suddenly immersed in pristine rainforest. Depending on how much wildlife there is en route, it takes around 15 mins to reach the Cristalino river bank: you may spot red and green macaws and morpho butterflies .You then travel by motor boat (30mins) upstream to the lodge. It’s a beautiful trip: the river is wide with jungle foliage reflected in the still waters. Typical birds to be spotted include macaws, green ibis, tiger herons and kingfishers. As it is late afternoon, this is the perfect time to spot wildlife and the boat transfer is operated by excellent (Portuguese-speaking) field guides.

Guests are assigned to a small group with an English-speaking guide who looks after you from start to finish, and dines with the group in the evening (when briefings about the next day’s activities are given). The guides are all very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, usually biologists and each has his or her specialist field.

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Alta Floresta

Days 10-12

Guided wildlife-spotting expeditions.
There is a serious emphasis upon spotting and identifying wildlife, especially birds, in excursions. While nothing is guaranteed there is much wildlife to be seen here. This sets Cristalino apart from more mainstream jungle lodges. As no-one lives here there are no visits to ‘native villages’ and other gimmicks.

Dawn is the best time to spot wildlife, and floating downstream with the boat’s motor switched off is a magical experience. The early morning mist which rises off the river is lit by the dawn sunshine as the sounds of the awakening forest become louder and louder. Macaws screech overhead and you may see a neo-tropic otter poke its head out of the water.  As the reserve is uninhabited - there are no other boats or people about - you may feel like you have the jungle to yourselves. Look out for caiman, brown capuchin monkeys, otters, macaws, arassaris, green ibis, sun-bitterns and kingfishers.

Your second excursion could be one of the lodge’s 10 walking trails passing through a variety of forest ecosystems – flooded forest, terra-firma forest with ancient hardwoods, or deciduous forest.  Sightings of brown capuchin monkeys and agouti are common, and butterflies flutter across the path. One of the trails leads to a clay lick where you may see peccaries or tapirs taking a bath. All the trails are easy; only one has an uphill gradient which leads to a look-out point and a breathtaking view over the jungle.

Afternoon excursions usually depart once the heat of the day has passed. This might be to one of the 2 impressive  50m canopy towers.  You will usually visit both of them, watching the jungle from the top at dawn and dusk. Late afternoon to dusk is prime time to spot birds and animals: white-whiskered spider monkey, howler monkeys and birds galore: toucans, arassari, macaws, spangled cotinga and swallow-tail kites. You stay at the top for a couple of hours to watch the sunset and return just after nightfall to the lodge.

In the dry season, night-spotting excursions are offered on the river, with the opportunity to sight dozing caimans.

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Alta Floresta

Day 13

Fly back to Cuiabá, overnight.
Transfer to Alta Floresta airport and fly to Cuiabá, a large, modern city. Overnight.

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Flight from Alta Floresta

Day 14

Transfer to airport.

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