Wildlife can be spotted on this holiday all year round. If there are brief cold snaps (e.g. in June in the Pantanal), fauna may hide away.
In the dry season, scores of caiman laze on the river beaches, capybara (a type of giant guinea pig) stroll across the roads, and you may come across armadillos, anteaters and howler monkeys. We recommend that you travel at this time when there are fewer mosquitoes and you will spot fauna throughout.
In the rainy season (December to April) roads are muddy and even impassable, excursions may be by boat: but the reflection of the tangerine sunsets on the flooded plains creates a rich and sumptuous tableau. In the months when the wetlands are flooded wildlife congregates on islands marooned above the water’s surface, so you will be able to observe birds and animals more sporadically but in greater numbers.
Here 3 protected areas form a biological corridor which provides for enormous biodiversity within the Cristalino Private Reserve (300m) with 612 species of birds, 1,370 plant species and a growing collection of endemic creatures including jaguars. Cristalino is considered one of the very best places in Brazil (if not South America) in which to appreciate primary rainforest and its inhabitants; the forest here has never been cut down and the density of enormous hardwoods testifies to this.
In the popular dry season, May – October - matching the Pantanal - lower water levels mean better chances of seeing mammals such as giant otters on the river. In the wet season there are intervals of blue skies between heavy downpours and thunderstorms, the jungle is more lush and the river as much as 3m higher. Trails are muddy but still viable and it is a good time to go for frogs, snakes and flowering plants. It is more humid and the beginning of the wet season (November) can be very wet. Night spotting excursions by boat are not possible in the wet season and there are no swimming beaches. Occasionally excursions may be disrupted or delayed by rain.
3 domestic flights, plus 2 others connecting from/to your international transatlantic flight; 4 road journeys in the Pantanal, two boat transfers.
For this holiday in each wildlife location we have chosen the accommodation which offers the best chance of spotting a wide range of wildlife in significant numbers, with the best guides and most varied excursions. Each is unique, but all offer a lovely setting, good food and comfortable rooms with private facilities. Cristalino Lodge, in the midst of pristine tropical rainforest and beautifully crafted, is one of Brazil’s best jungle lodges. Rustic Barra Mansa, one of the most remote lodges of the Pantanal makes up for its lack of luxurious accoutrements with a lovely intimacy and good service. Pousada do Rio Mutum has attractive, air-conditioned chalets and a delightful semi-open air dining room amidst bird-filled tropical gardens.
The city hotels are functional, mid-range options where you can rest before and after your explorations.
Breakfast daily, lunch day 13, dinner days 2, 6, full board days 3,4,7,8, 10-12.
We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.
• Guided safari expeditions from each of the Pantanal lodges.
• Daily guided explorations from the rainforest lodge in Alta Floresta.
Summary of nights
14 days, 13 nights: Campo Grande 1;southern Pantanal lodge 3; Campo Grande 1; northern Pantanal lodge 3; Cristalino Reserve 4, Cuiabá 1.
Included in the journey price
• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.
Not included in the journey price
• International flights to Latin America.
• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.
The unit of currency in Brazil is the real (plural reais).
It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$40 per day should cover the cost of the few meals not included in the holiday itinerary, tips, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the very best restaurants and you will pay considerably more. Drinks other than local juices, water, coffee and tea are charged in the wildlife lodges.
How to take it
Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip. You can withdraw Brazilian reais at the airport on arrival, and at the airports in Campo Grande and Cuiabá and In most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.
We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.
Credit cards are accepted in some of the lodges but you should not depend on their use as there may be problems with connectivity upon attempting the transaction.
Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.
Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.
You can tip the guides at the lodges in dollar bills or reais.
Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier
Travel insurance is essential.
Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel insurance
If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.
There are a few long days of travel on this trip for positioning at the lodges but there are many opportunities to spot wildlife and enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace so they are really part of the adventure.
Expeditions at the lodges, which include kayaking on the river at sunrise, as well as nature walks and horse riding, are suitable for most ages and abilities and families are welcome at the lodges. However we only recommend this holiday for those with older (teenage) children as some excursions and viewing towers are not suitable for young children.
The Pantanal excursions will include drives down occasionally bumpy unpaved roads, and there are walks and canoe rides in the wetlands, although none of these is compulsory. Horse riding is also offered but hard hats are not available.
Barra Mansa Lodge is 225km from Campo Grande and the only way to reach it in the wet season is by plane: this holiday is based on travel in the dry season (May-Oct) when access is by 4WD vehicle along a gravel road.
With its ease of access, good quality accommodation and excellent excursions Cristalino Lodge in Alta Floresta is suitable for a wide range of visitors. But those with a deeper interest in the rainforest will find it particularly rewarding for its biodiversity, intact rainforest, observation towers and ease of spotting wildlife. Bird lovers especially will appreciate the emphasis on locating and identifying birds during all excursions. General interest visitors will enjoy the comfortable accommodation but some may be surprised by the fairly intensive programme during their stay.
Clothing and special equipment
For day-to-day outdoor wear you should take loose-fitting, breathable clothes including long-sleeved shirts and light, quick-drying trousers for protection on jungle walks. Comfortable shoes or walking boots, a sun hat and sunglasses are essential. You should take a light fleece for cool nights and consider a Gore-Tex layer or rain cape and rain hat, as well as swimwear, insect repellent, sun-block and a torch. You should take your own binoculars for observing wildlife; the better the quality, the more rewarding the wildlife observation experience. Similarly you won’t regret taking a camera with a long lens, and plenty of memory.
Clothing at the lodges is informal but you might take one smart change of clothes to wear in the hotels.
Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A and yellow fever. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on malaria tablets.
You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health
Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the Brazilian consulate.
APIS and ESTA - important flight information:
ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.html
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.
APIS - many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.