Pantanal - Birds and Mammals Itinerary
Upon our arrival at Cuiaba airport, we will head straight for the northern edge of the Pantanal. The journey will take us first through a landscape of dry tropical forest and open grasslands, but once we enter the Pantanal floodplain, the habitat will change to wet woodland and marshland. Here, we will slow down to absorb our first encounters with assemblages of waterbirds.
Our lodge, set on a plot of over 7,000ha, is part of a working cattle farm, which has been in the same family for over 150 years and offering some of the most impressive birding.
We will spend three nights here, with time to relax and explore the diverse grounds of the lodge. Raptors are abundant here and likely species include Southern Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Pearl Kite, Laughing Falcon, American Kestrel, and Black, Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures. Some of the main birding highlights might be White-fronted, Great Rufous and White Woodpeckers, White-wedged Piculet, Rusty-backed and Black-bellied Antwrens, White-eyed Attila, White-rumped Monjita, Gray-crested Cacholote, Mato Grosso Antbird, White-lored Spinetail, and Red-crested Cardinal. A wealth of parrot species is astonishing here and Hyacinth Macaws, Golden-collared Macaws, Blue-crowned, Monk and Golden Chevroned Parakeets, Turquoise-fronted and Orange Amazons are all possible. The lodge is good for spotting one of the most sought-after birds of the region, the near-endemic, Chestnut-bellied Guan.
A boat trip will get us close to variety of storks, herons and ibises. Alternatively, a visit to a tower will provide a panoramic view over colony of egrets and storks. If we search the edges of the permanent waters, we might even come across Yellow Anaconda. Spotlighting at night will give us a chance to pick up on the nocturnal species, which might include Great Potoo, Nacunda Nighthawk, Pauraque, Great Horned Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl, Mottled Owl and Black-banded Owl. The area also hosts a population of Azara’s Night Monkeys (the sole member of the New World’s nocturnal primates) as well as Crab-eating Foxes and Giant Anteaters.
We are moving today to another lodge to enhance our experience of the Pantanal. We will spend the morning birding, and our departure time depends on how successful we were with sighting birds and mammals on the previous two days. Our short journey will take us along the famous Transpantaneira road which is a safari drive in itself. We will make several stops en route to view wildlife, whenever the opportunity arises. Anything is possible here; the waterbirds are abundant, a Savanna Hawk might perch for us by the side of the road or a Greater Rhea may wander through the grasslands.
The location of our lodge is superb with easy access to a wide variety of habitats, such as river, wetland, flooded pasture, gallery forest and dry scrub, which we will explore by undertaking game drives, walks and night drives. The lodge has some of the most impressive birding, and the highlights might include suberb Toco Toucans, Southern Screamer, Jabiru, Maguari Stork, Guira Cuckoo, Gray-crested Cacholote, Great Rufous Woodcreeper and Red-crested Cardinal. The impressive Hyacinth Macaw nests in palm trees on the lodge’s grounds! The areas of wetland and small freshwater pools attract a fabulous mix of waterbirds, including Rufescent Tiger, Striated, Cocoi and Whistling Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, egrets, storks and four species of ibis. The surrounding forest hosts a variety of birding specialties such as the Ashy-headed Greenlet and Blue-crowned Trogon, to mention a few. It is also a home to three species of monkey, the Black-and-Gold Howler Monkey with its amazing lion-like roars, the smaller Black-striped Tufted Capuchin Monkey and the Black-tailed Marmoset, the smallest of them all and entirely restricted to the Pantanal. Other mammals that we may encounter today include Black-tailed Marmoset, Collared Peccary, large groups of Capybara, the shy Brazilian Tapir and the amazing Giant Anteater.
To enhance our birding experience here, we will go for a night drive, with the possibility of seeing Brown Brocket Deer, Crab-eating Fox, Crab-eating Raccoon, Ocelot, and a fascinating array of other nocturnal species including owls, spiders and snakes.
After breakfast, we will re-enter the Pantanal’s highway - the Transpantaneira - and head south to Porte Jofre, the farthest location one can travel into the interior of the Pantanal.
We will make several stops along this picturesque route to admire an impressive array of birds, including White-banded Mockingbird, Black-capped Donacobius, Golden-collared Macaws, Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Giant Cowbird, Little Cuckoo, White-faced, Black-bellied and Muscovy Ducks, the stunning Scarlet-headed Blackbird and several species of Seedeaters. Raptors such as Snail Kite, Laughing Falcon, Black-collared and Roadside Black-Hawks are commonly seen here. Some mammals will also be possible to spot, including Capybara, South American Coati, Marsh, Red and Gray Brocket Deers. We might also see some reptiles basking by the side of the road, such as Yellow Anaconda, Black and White Tegu Lizard, Green Iguana, Amazonian Whiptail and Paraguayan Caiman Lizard. Anything is possible!
Porto Jofre, where we will stay for the next three nights, is recognised as the “capital of the world” for the Jaguar viewing. Every day we will cruise the meandering waterways of the River Pixaim and its tributaries, in search of this mythical cat. As water recedes during the dry months, the riverbanks become exposed and we do not need luck to spot them in the open. Seeing Jaguars strolling the waterways, lounging on the riverbank or hunting in full view, has to, no doubt, rank as one of the world’s top wildlife experiences. Although, spotting Jaguar will take priority over everything else, we will not ignore other wildlife and the likely birds we might spot from the boat include Sungrebe, Pied Lapwing, Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns, Black Skimmer, Greater Ani, Anhinga, Great Black Hawk, Bare-faced Curassow and Gray-necked Wood-Rail. On top of this, families of Giant River Otters are fairly common here and it is not too uncommon to see Brazilian Tapir, Green Anaconda and Capybaras. The animals are accustomed to humans, so boats can often approach them within a few metres and viewing is possible for prolonged periods.
We are leaving the Pantanal in the morning today and will retrace our steps by driving north along the Transpantaneira. Our journey will take us first to Cuiaba and then onwards to Chapada dos Guimarães. En route, we will stop whenever necessary to admire the wildlife by the side of the road.
We should arrive at Chapada dos Guimarães National Park by late afternoon. The park encompasses a unique cerrado habitat, seasonally dry savanna interspersed with spectacular sandstone cliffs, waterfalls and clumps of gallery forest.
We have the entire two days to explore this stunning area, home to a variety of charismatic species not found in the Pantanal. Among these are Red-legged Seriema, White-collared and Biscutate Swifts, White-eared Puffbird, Collared Crescent-chest, White-banded and White-rumped Tanagers, Coal-crested Finch, Plumbeous Seedeater, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch and Yellow-billed Blue Finch. Gallery forests in the area feature such birds as Cinnamon-throated Hermit, Yellow-ridged Toucan, Lettered Aracari, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Sirystes, Helmeted and Band-tailed Manakins, and Saffron-billed Sparrow. Birds to be found around the cliffs include Red-and-green Macaw, Crested Black-Tyrant and Cliff Flycatcher.
Nocturnal birding could produce the giant Spectacled Owl and Rufous Nightjar.
A major scenic attraction is the Veu de Noiva Waterfall, where Blue-winged Macaws, Blue-headed Parrots, Swallow Tanager and Bat Falcon occur.
In the more open and thorny habitat we may find the localised Chapada Flycatcher, Collared Crescentchest, Rufous-sided Pygmy Tyrant, Rufous-winged Antshrike, Shrike-like and White-rumped Tanagers, Small-billed Tinamou, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, the delightful Coal-crested and Red Pileated Finches, Black-throated Saltator and perhaps even the sleek Horned Sungem.
We will leave the Chapada dos Guimarães early in the morning and travel to Cuiaba to catch our early morning flight to Puerto Paolo and then onwards to the UK or to continue to the Iguazú Falls.
Please note that extensions to the Amazon Forest (Cristalino Lodge) before the trip to Pantanal and, to Iguazú Falls, after the trip, are on offer. Please click on the links for details.
More pictures from the tour are avilable in the Gallery and in the News.
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