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Family Brazil: Wildlife adventures for pioneers

15 days from £4415pp

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Family Brazil: Wildlife adventures for pioneers:
Trip Dossier

If you are outdoor and nature enthusiasts, this private family adventure will delight every member of the family. There’s a stay in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most exotic and lively cities in the world, with its mountains and jungle right in the heart of the city. Even the ways you get around are exhilarating: cycle along the beaches, whizz up the Sugar Loaf in a cable car and climb Corcovado mountain in an open-topped jeep.

But before that, you’ll all thrill to the power of the Iguazú Falls, which crash over cliffs through tropical jungle filled with toucans and monkeys: but you won’t just look, you’ll explore close up by boat and on foot, and get wet. On safari in the wilderness wetlands of the Pantanal you’ll be punch-drunk on the volume of wildlife on display from giant guinea pigs and lofty storks to basking alligators.

The holiday ends with a few days down the Emerald Coast from Rio where you’ll be based in a private villa. You can be self-contained, cooking your own meals, swimming, kayaking and hanging out in hammocks, or venture into the colonial port of Paratí with its huge choice of restaurants.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Brazil. Connect with domestic flight to Foz do Iguaçú.

Day 2

Guided visit to the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls with Macuco safari.

Day 3

Full day guided exploration of the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.

Day 4

Transfer to airport and fly to Cuiabá in the Pantanal; transfer to lodge.

Days 5-6

Guided Pantanal expeditions.

Day 7

Fly to Rio de Janeiro, transfer to hotel in Copacabana.

Day 8

Guided bike tour of Rio’s beaches.

Day 9

Jeep tour of Corcovado mountain and Santa Teresa.

Day 10

By road down the coast to colonial Paratí.

Days 11-14

At leisure in bay-side private villa, Casa Cairuçu.

Day 15

Transfer to airport.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Brazil. Connect with domestic flight to Foz do Iguaçú.

Connect with a domestic flight to Foz do Iguaçu in the southeast of the country, on the frontier with Argentina and Paraguay. Transfer from the airport to your hotel. You might like to pop into the quirky bird park next door, it’s British-founded and gives you the chance of seeing up close exotic birds which are normally shy in the wild.

Toco toucan, Iguazu national park

Day 2

Guided visit to the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls with Macuco safari.

The Iguazú Falls are unquestionably one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world. A total of 275 falls thunder over a 60m high, rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. The U-shaped Devil’s Throat is the most dramatic sight, here the frothing water of the Iguazú river crashes over a 1.5km-wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward. Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest, breaking up into dozens of smaller cascades. You can usually spot toucans and many other exotic birds perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.

On the Brazilian side you have a guided tour to get a broad panoramic view of these colossal falls, and there are some excellent opportunities to photograph the full sweep of the water. 

Later, there’s an exhilarating adventure in the national park – the Macuco boat safari. Join an open safari truck for a ride through lush sub-tropical forest full of orchids, tropical birds and lizards.  Next is a guided walk down into the Iguaçu Canyon, formed over millions of years through erosion by the receding waterfalls. Upon reaching the banks of the river, the real fun begins: a ride in open boats up the canyon towards the base of the falls. Ahead and above is the main cataract of the Devil's Throat, and the dozens of smaller falls as they cascade over the precipice. It can be a thrilling ride along the rapids and up-close to some of the more benign waterfalls: prepare to get very wet indeed!

Macuco safari

Day 3

Full day guided exploration of the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.

Private guided tour of the Argentine side of the falls. You will be driven across Fraternity Bridge, which links the two countries. Begin with a visit to the National Park Visitor Centre, where there is a display that illustrates the biodiversity of the region’s tropical rainforest, and from here a little natural gas-powered train transfers you to Cataratas Station where the Upper Walk begins. 

This sequence of causeways and passarelles links dozens of tiny basalt islands at the top of the sheer rock face, and the walkways cross the myriad of streams as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. The train then continues to Devil’s Throat Station and from here a kilometre-long walkway leads across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, The Devil’s Throat. From this spectacular vantage point you can feel the incredible power of the water as it plummets into the vortex below.

If you enjoyed the Macuco boat safari, there is also an optional boat trip out to the base of the Argentine falls; it’s an exhilarating ride that takes you within touching distance of these thunderous cascades and your clothes and hair are soaked with the spray; it is a truly invigorating experience. Light clothes and trainers are recommended. A visa may be required if you do not hold a UK passport.

Iguazu Falls, Argentine side

Day 4

Transfer to airport and fly to Cuiabá in the Pantanal; transfer to lodge.

Transfer to the airport and fly to Cuiaba in the Pantanal wilderness wetlands. Continue by lonely road to your wildlife lodge. This region is a paradise for nature lovers, especially for bird and other wildlife spotting. 

Unlike the areas of high jungle, the Pantanal is an open area of swampy grasslands, leaving some of the highest concentration of birds, mammals and reptiles in the continent exposed to view. The wildlife co-exists harmoniously with the cattle that breed on the ranches in the area. According to season, you might observe flocks of thousands of parakeets, rosy spoonbills, ibis, macaws and giant storks. 

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. Rainy season is 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 image.

You’ll be driven to your wildlife lodge deep in the countryside.


Days 5-6

Guided Pantanal expeditions.

The lodge includes a programme of activities that you may join in to spot the wildlife. This usually will include a hiking tour, visiting some settlements of the native caboclos with their palm thatched huts; horse-riding through typical Pantanal landscapes arriving at a lakeside farm for sunset; boat rides; an excursion by jeep or boat to view birds and reptiles in the crystal clear waters on a remote part of the River Mutum; an exciting opportunity to fish for piranha with their needle-sharp teeth; a boat trip to a small community of native fishermen on the Cuiabá river and a night-time safari by torchlight.


Day 7

Fly to Rio de Janeiro, transfer to hotel in Copacabana.

Transfer to the airport and fly to Rio de Janeiro, the most romantic, intriguing and beautiful city on the continent. Rio has an awesome bay-side location among near-vertical granite mountains. Here, tropical foliage swoops down to white-to-toffee coloured sandy beaches in turn battered by the huge waves of Atlantic surf. 

The street life is particularly entertaining here – Cariocas are famous for their good humour, their love for sport, singing and dancing. Volley-ball and football are played on the sands at dusk, families bike up and down the cycle lanes, joggers are out at dawn. There are beach cafés where you can grab a burger and an iced coconut milk while downloading your emails with the free Wifi which is available all along Copacabana’s shoreline promenade. Your family will be safely accommodated in the upmarket district of Copacabana, right next to the famous beach.

Copacabana at dusk, Rio de Janeiro

Day 8

Guided bike tour of Rio’s beaches.

Today there’s a guided 22km cycle ride through the city's flamboyant beach districts. Begin by cycling around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a vast inland urban lagoon overlooked by the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain. Entering the smart neighbourhood of Leblon, head towards the ocean and bike the entire length of two of the world's most fabulous beaches: first, glamorous Ipanema with its surfers and beach beauties; next, Copacabana, which welcomes a vibrant cross-section of visitors. 

The final stretch takes you through one of the road tunnels which burrow deep beneath the coastal mountains, emerging in the villagey district of Urca clinging to the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Return to your hotel by jeep or stay to go up the Sugar Loaf cable car independently. There’s a lovely, and safe nature trail around the foot of the mountain: spot monkeys, birds, butterflies and lizards.

Bike Tour

Day 9

Jeep tour of Corcovado mountain and Santa Teresa.

Take an exhilarating trip by an open-topped jeep through tropical fruit-laden vegetation up the sheer-sided Corcovado mountain. Drink in the heart-stopping views from beside the famous Christ the Redeemer statue on the peak.

Continue to Santa Teresa, the colonial heart of the city which sits on a hill close to the Cathedral in the busy centre. This is a popular residential area for artists and TV personalities who occupy the stately shaded houses lining its cobbled streets. There are plenty of old-fashioned bars, or bodegas. The streets are lined by high walls sheltering museums, parks, art centres, smart restaurants and one or two luxury hotels.

Day 10

By road down the coast to colonial Paratí.

You will be collected from your hotel for a drive down the Emerald Coast to colonial Paratí (4-4½ hrs). The winding road is bordered by steep mountains covered in lush Atlantic forest on one side, and the ocean on the other. 

You’ll be staying at an Anglo-Brazilian owned private house, Casa Cairuçu, on the bay side. It sits on a rocky cliff smothered in tropical vegetation, in a protected vehicle-free area dotted with clean beaches, time-resistant fishing villages and forest trails. 

The beautifully yet simply decorated home, full of the colours of the sea and sky, can sleep 6-8. Each of its 3 double rooms is en suite and has a sea view. Casa Cairuçu is ideal for families who’d enjoy the freedom of a self-catering villa: there's a fully equipped kitchen and assistance is provided with food shopping. The daily maid service includes the preparation of your breakfast each morning - a really nice touch. The house also offers a small library of CDs, DVDs, books and board games.

When you arrive at Paratí, you'll be met and accompanied on a boat ride to Casa Cairuçu by an English speaking representative who will acquaint you with your new surroundings and be available as a 'remote concierge' by telephone to answer your questions during your stay.

Paratí Ilha Grande and the Costa Verde

Days 11-14

At leisure in bay-side private villa, Casa Cairuçu.

While you are there you can relax in a hammock on the property itself and swim from its private jetty, but there's lots to do in the area: visit the nearby colonial port of Paratí, the delightful cobblestone town is choc-a-bloc with Portuguese colonial houses; or take a traditional schooner trip around the island-studded bay, with opportunities to swim with tropical fish.

Water sports enthusiasts will find snorkelling equipment (for two), two double kayaks and two fishing rods at the house. The nearest beach is a 5min walk from the house; other beaches are within kayaking distance or a hop by boat. If you want to explore further afield, daily boat charters are available.  And if you simply can't resist the urge to keep up with what's going on in the outside world, internet (modem) and Sky TV are available.

Casa Cairucu

Day 15

Transfer to airport.

Essential information


3 domestic flights; 4 road journeys (longest 5hrs).


On this tour we use colonial or modern hotels with well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and air-conditioning. The hotel in Iguaçú is large, but set in beautiful grounds with a nature trail and is low rise.  The Pantanal lodge has attractive white, red-roofed chalets with en suite facilities and mosquito screening. At Paratí you stay in a private villa on a self-catering basis.


Breakfast days 1-10, dinner day 4, full board days 5, 6.


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.

Included excursions

  • The Brazilian and Argentine sides of the Iguazú Falls 
  • Macuco boat safari
  • Safari expeditions from the Pantanal lodge.
  • Guided bike tour of Rio’s beaches. 
  • Jeep tour to Corcovado Mountain and Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janeiro.

Summary of nights

15 days, 14 nights: Iguazú 3; Pantanal 3; Rio de Janeiro 3, Paratí 5.

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, river 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).

Daily spend

A budget of around US$40-70 per person per day should cover the cost of meals, drinks, local transport, tips and the odd souvenir. Prices of meals and drinks in standard restaurants are more or less the same as in Britain, perhaps a bit cheaper.

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, 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, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). 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.


Tips are expected 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.

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 page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

There are some long days spent travelling (including a number of internal flights) and the heat can be tiring. The holiday is suitable for all reasonably fit families. If you have a disability requiring special attention please enquire. 

In the Pantanal, guides are well-informed and expeditions, which include kayaking on the river at sunrise, as well as nature walks and horse riding, are suitable for most ages and abilities.

The Rio cycle tour is almost entirely on one or two lane exercise track and suitable for anyone who can ride a bike. Although there are no challenging stretches, you'll need some stamina to complete the circuit on hot days. The minimum age limit is 8yrs.


In the tropical Pantanal, Rio and  Iguazú, December to March are the hottest and most humid months, with temperatures sometimes reaching 40°C, and rain which falls in brief, heavy showers. From June to September, temperatures are more moderate (18-23°C) and there is plenty of sunshine, but cold fronts can usher in periods of up to several days of cloud and drizzle. Paratí has similar weather to Rio, with perhaps a bit more rain.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should take loose-fitting, breathable clothes. Comfortable shoes are important and sandals are useful. A sun hat, sunblock and sunglasses are necessary, and you should take a light fleece for cool nights, as well as swimwear, a towel, insect repellent and a torch. 

At the Iguazú Falls you can get very wet from the spray. Some travellers like to take dry clothes in a bag. 

If you plan to go to good restaurants or out on evening entertainment trips, you might want to bring something a bit smarter as well (although formal attire will not be required).

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on yellow fever and malaria tablets.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.


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 relevant 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.
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.

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