At Journey Latin America we use cookies to give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on our website.
Find out more

2013 and earlier

Walk on the Wild Side

Rio has attractions that go far beyond its famous landmarks and the carnival, and these include some engaging and entertaining wildlife.

Tufted-eared marmosets, Guianan Squirrels, and agoutis are the usual suspects in the city, whilst egrets, cormorants and brown boobies grace the beaches. Magnificent frigatebirds and black vultures cruise over the sea and the city.

There is just enough time in a two-day visit to take a tour of the city and look for these birds and animals in the Botanical Gardens, Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açucar), Tijuca Forest, around the Statue of Christ and in a park called Campo de Santana. With longer to spare, and a car, the Itatiaia National Park, halfway between Rio and São Paulo is a must.

The Botanical Gardens is a quiet haven in an otherwise bustling city and provides a wonderful introduction to the richness of the South American flora. Most of the plants are labelled with their botanical names and country of origin. You can stroll around in an hour, but I would recommend much more. With long enough in the gardens, you should see marmosets feeding in the trees, scrounging food, and even running along telegraph wires! These marmosets are more tolerant of the close proximity of man than their close relatives, the endangered golden lion tamarins which live in the nearby rainforests along the Atlantic coast of Brazil.

If you miss the marmosets here, try the peak of the Sugarloaf Mountain. Guianan squirrels vie with the marmosets for titbits. They are much smaller than the grey squirrels in Britain and North America, and somewhat less bold. The birds are approachable and often spectacular. There are hummingbirds, several tanagers, and if you are very lucky, even channel-billed toucans.

A funicular railway passes through luxuriant rainforest en route to the Statue of Christ on Corcovado, a mountain 709 metres above the city. The statue is an awesome 30 metres high and weighs a staggering 1,000 tonnes. The view when you stand under it and look across the city to the beaches and distant hills is one of the most spectacular anywhere in the world. Even on an overcast day, you should be lucky with the occasional ray of sunshine falling on the distant Sugarloaf Mountain. It is difficult to believe that the Tijuca forest through which you pass on the way to the top is actually planted.

Campo de Santana is a park near the city centre, just south of Avenue Presidente Vargas, which features on even the least detailed maps of the city. The park is about 500 metres across, and is a marvellous place to watch very tame agoutis. In many parts of Brazil all you will see of an agouti is a fleeting glimpse as one crosses the road or skulks at the forest edge. A lack of knowledge of Portuguese proved very helpful here. I misunderstood the signs scattered around the park saying ‘Não pise no gramma’, and standing on the grass to get better photos of the agoutis therefore seemed much less of a misdemeanour.

 Dr Peter Gasson,  Botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Post a comment

Upcoming Events

See full Event Listing

Other articles you may like

Browse our inspiration area of the site. It's packed with insider travel tips, Top5s, competitions, events, recipes and holiday ideas for Central and South America sure to whet your travel appetite.

Journey with the UK's NO1 specialist in travel to latin america


  • The pioneers in travel to Latin America since 1980
  • The UK's no.1 specialist – nobody knows it better


  • All our staff are in-depth Latin America specialists
  • Get the inside track with expert advice based on first-hand experience


  • Our love of Latin America runs through all we do
  • We take pride in providing a genuinely personal service


  • Unbeatable and secure financial protection
  • Book with confidence, knowing every penny is secure


  • The widest range of travel options to Central and South America
  • The journey you'll love, in a style to suit you


  • Award-winning holidays, endorsed by our clients and the press
  • Exclusively dedicated to 
    Latin America – it's all we do


Wanderlust Reader's Travel Awards - Top Ten Tour Operator 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015

Latin American Travel Association – Award for Customer Service 2012

Sunday Times Travel Magazine – Specialist Tour Operator 2012

Sunday Times Travel Magazine – Best Value Tour Operator 2011

Sunday Times Travel Magazine - Editor's Award2013

British Travel Awards – Best Small Tour Operator Central & South America 2011, 2012

Condé Nast Traveller – Top Ten Specialist Tour Operator: 2010, 2011, 2012

Guardian and Observer Travel Awards– Top Ten Small Tour Operator: 2009, 2010, 2012

Page Full Path: /sitecore/content/JLA/Home/travel-inspiration/travel/walk-on-the-wild-side

Page ID: {B03918AE-281A-4570-A19A-8B977F040B50}

Page Name: walk-on-the-wild-side

Page Display Name: Walk on the Wild Side

Page Template Name: T031-PapagaioBlogPost

Page Template ID: {ECC6A232-9784-4CC7-BA26-18421546B8F5}

Parent ID: {DC65CFB2-D81C-4A04-A7F8-0A1B3D88E7EB}

Parent Name: travel

Parent Display Name: Travel

Parent Template Name: T029-PapagaioCategoryListing

Parent Template ID: {4D163066-ED7E-48E6-AF31-34B6C47536CD}