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Exploring the wilds of the 'River of Doubt'

Sunday 25th June — Friday 7th July 2017
(13 days)

Leader: Eduardo Patrial

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy for the most part, occasionally Moderate

A splendid new tour targeting a suite of species we do not see on any other Birdquest tour.

During this exciting birding adventure into one of the most remote wilderness areas in South America there will be the opportunity to visit the very remote but remarkable and very comfortable (and, not surprisingly, expensive) Pousada Rio Roosevelt in southernmost Amazonas State, where the star attractions are Natterer’s Striolated Puffbird, Hoffmann’s Woodcreeper, Rondonia Woodcreeper, Aripuana Antwren, Roosevelt Stipple-throated Antwren, White-breasted Antbird, Manicore Warbling-Antbird, Pale-faced Bare-eye (or Pale-faced Antbird), Buff-cheeked Tody-Flycatcher and Chico’s Tyrannulet. A number of these have only recently been described to science and most are endemic to the Madeira-Tapajós interfluvium. In addition, Rondonia Bushbird has now been reported from this extraordinary area.

As well as these mega-specials, Rio Roosevelt offers a truly marvellous wilderness experience, in one of the most remote parts of Amazonia, yet with a remarkable level of comfort. Combine all this with spectacular scenery and an extremely rich avifauna (both at Rio Roosevelt and along the Rio Madeira) amounting to nearly 700 species and you have the ingredients for an unforgettable South American journey.

The Rio Roosevelt is named after Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, who was President of the United States of America from 1901 to 1909. Teddy Roosevelt had a colourful history, including military adventures, big game hunting and exploration. In February 1914 he set forth, together with the famous Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon (who later gave his name to the state of Rondonia) on the Rio da Dúvida (the ‘River of Doubt’), a river that at that time had no known outlet. His journey through the unknown is described in his book Through the Brazilian Wilderness. Even today, the river that now bears his name runs through hundreds of kilometres of pristine forest, an area that is effectively uninhabited and only really accessible at the wonderful Pousada Rio Roosevelt, an isolated lodge intended for sports fishing and ecotourism that requires a lengthy charter flight to reach. Here you can look out from the lodge onto the tree under which Roosevelt camped over a century ago, or walk along the portage trail where the boats and supplies were ferried past the rapids..

This lodge is really in a different league from typical Amazonian ‘jungle lodges’, offering a level of comfort that few aspire to, more reminiscent of the high-level, exclusive African game lodges. In spite of its remote location, the lodge has very comfortable rooms and public areas, with air-conditioning both in the rooms and the dining area. The dining area offers spectacular, panoramic views over the adjacent Rio Roosevelt and the quality of the cuisine is commensurate with the marvellous surroundings, featuring imaginative fish dishes utilizing the many weird or wonderful (or both) Amazonian fish that inhabit the river, Brazilian steaks, local Brazil nits, exotic fruits.

Pousada Rio Roosevelt is thus a great place for couples where one partner is not as mad about birding as the other. Indeed the lodge has sufficient staff and boats that it is perfectly possible to do your own thing’ for half days or even full days while the group are elsewhere. You could go and take photographs along the waterways, go fishing for giant river fish (it is all ‘catch-and-release’ here as far as visitors are concerned). take a more general nature walk or just relax with a book in the comfortable lodge itself.

For those who just love birding for all or most of the day, there will be breaks for a ‘siesta’ after lunch, but if you want you are welcome to walk the trails around the lodge.

Before we travel to the Rio Roosevelt we will have an opportunity to explore the Porto Velho and Humaitá areas beside the immense Rio Madeira in search of such special birds as Ocellated Crake, Western Striolated Puffbird, Inambari Woodcreeper, Predicted Antwren, Humaita Antbird and Inambari Gnatcatcher.


Day 1 The tour starts this afternoon at Porto Velho airport in Brazil’s southwestern state of Rondonia. We will overnight at Porto Velho. Before sunset we will enjoy the view across the huge Rio Madeira, a major tributary of the Amazon that drains a vast region in the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes and which joins the Amazon not far below Manaus. We could well see Amazon River Dophins.

Day 2 From Porto Velho on the east bank of the Rio Madeira we cross the new bridge to the west bank and drive to Humaitá for a three nights stay, stopping for birding along the way. Ocellated Crake is relatively common in this area, but as ever is hard to see but quite easy to hear. We will have to try hard to get everyone on to this tease of a bird.

Days 3-4 Much of the forest in the Humaitá area has been cleared for agriculture, but some patches still remain. We will be looking in particular for five recently-described species, Western Striolated Puffbird, Inambari Woodcreeper, Predicted Antwren, Humaita Antbird and Inambari Gnatcatcher. Campina Jay is also a possibility here. We will see many other new birds during our visit, including some that do not occur at Rio Roosevelt, including Dusky-headed Parakeet, Golden-collared Toucanet, Ivory-billed Aracari, Gilded Barbet, Undulated Antshrike and Black Antbird.

Day 5 After some final birding around Humaitá, we will return to the east bank of the Madeira in time to look for the restricted-range Rondonia Warbling-Antbird and a population of ‘chestnut-tailed’ antbirds that may represent a population of Southern Chestnut-tailed Antbird or even another new species. We will spend the night at Porto Velho.

Day 6 Early this morning we will start our real adventure as we board our charter aircraft for the one hour 20 minutes flight to the remote Pousada Rio Roosevelt, situated in the far south of Amazonas State, not far from the Mato Grosso border. As we come into land we should have a wonderful, birds-eye view of the Cachoeira Santa Rita, the Santa Rita rapids where Roosevelt and his expedition had to portage their boats and equipment. Indeed we will actually walk to the lodge from the airstrip along the original portage trail! Following our arrival, and after settling in to our accommodations, we will have the rest of the day to explore this wonderful place.

Days 7-12 The Pousada Rio Roosevelt is surely a jungle lodge in a special class, with real comfort yet set in the middle of a pristine wilderness beside the river itself. With just a few cabanas, it is small and intimate as well as unusually comfortable.

There are many trails here and, as well as exploring the trail network radiating out from the lodge itself, we can visit a wide selection of areas by means of the boats stationed both above and below the rapids. Not only along the Rio Roosevelt, but also along the Rio Madeirinha, a major tributary that enters the Roosevelt not far from the lodge. Our local guides know the area intimately and even carry cool drinks with is wherever we want to go.

As well as a variety of forest types and the waterways themselves, there is also an interesting area of more open, campina-like vegetation which we will be exploring.

The major draws here include the recently-described Natterer's Striolated Puffbird, Hoffmann’s Woodcreeper, Rondonia Woodcreeper, Aripuana Antwren, Roosevelt Stipple-throated Antwren (only recently described), White-breasted Antbird, Manicore Warbling-Antbird (yet another recently-described species), Pale-faced Bare-eye (or Pale-faced Antbird), Buff-cheeked Tody-Flycatcher and the recently-described Chico’s Tyrannulet, all of which we have a good chance of finding. Rondonia Bushbird has been reported from the lodge area, but as yet this has not been confirmed by photograph or audio recording. We will certainly be hoping to come across this little-known bird.

Other species of particular interest that are regularly encountered at Rio Roosevelt include Dark-winged Trumpeter (this must be one of the easiest places to see a trumpeter!), the wonderful little Zigzag Heron, Razor-billed Curassow, Sunbittern, Sungrebe, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Black-bellied Thorntail, Pavonine Quetzal, Black-girdled Barbet, Gould’s Toucanet, Crimson-bellied Parakeet, Kawall’s Amazon, Uniform Woodcreeper, the superb Chestnut-belted Gnateater, (not so easy to find here), the wonderful Black-necked Red-Cotinga, Snow-capped Manakin and Tooth-billed Wren. Great birds that can be hard to come across include Harpy Eagle, Bamboo Antshrike, the stunning Black-bellied Gnateater, Alta Floresta Antpitta, Rondonia Scythebill, Crimson Fruitcrow and Para Gnatcatcher.

In addition we can expect a veritable feast of more widespread Amazonian birds, including good numbers of macaws and parrots.

On the mammal front, Giant Otters are regularly seen, as are Brazilian Tapir, Red Brocket Deer, the splendid little Silvery Marmoset, Saddleback Tamarin, Prince Bernard’s Titi, Red Howler Monkey, Brown Capuchin, Common Woolly Monkey and White-bellied Spider Monkey. We even have a modest but real chance of encountering a Jaguar!

Pousada Rio Roosevelt offers both 5 nights and 7 nights stays, but as this a truly superb, pristine wilderness experience, with many great birds to look for, and as there is a very expensive charter flight to and from the lodge, we have opted for the full week.

Amongst the many other bird species we are either very likely or at least fairly likely to encounter during the tour are: Muscovy Duck, Brazilian Teal, Speckled Chachalaca, Spix’s Guan, Red-throated Piping-Guan, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Cocoi, Striated and Capped Herons, Great, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Green Ibis, Black, Turkey, Greater Yellow-headed and King Vultures, Pearl, Grey-headed, Swallow-tailed, Snail, Double-toothed and Plumbeous Kites, Savanna, Roadside, White-tailed and Grey-lined Hawks, Great Black-Hawk, Ash-throated Crake, Azure Gallinule, Pied and Southern Lapwings, Wattled Jacana, Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns, Black Skimmer, Pale-vented, Scaled, Plumbeous and Ruddy Pigeons, Common and Ruddy Ground-Doves, White-tipped and Grey-fronted Doves, Ruddy Quail-Dove, the prehistoric-looking Hoatzin, Squirrel Cuckoo, Greater and Smooth-billed Anis, Least and Sand-coloured Nighthawks, Blackish and Ladder-tailed Nightjars, Common Pauraque, Amazonian, Short-tailed, Grey-rumped and Pale-rumped Swifts, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, White-necked Jacobin, Needle-billed, Long-tailed and Reddish Hermits, Black-eared Fairy, Black-throated Mango, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Fork-trailed Woodnymph, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Black-tailed, Green-backed, Amazonian, Blue-crowned, Black-throated and Collared Trogons, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Ringed, Amazon, Green, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, White-necked, Pied, White-eared and Swallow-winged Puffbirds, Black-fronted and White-fronted Nunbirds, Brown, Blue-cheeked, Rufous-tailed, Bronzy, Paradise and Great Jacamars, Gilded Barbet, Ivory-billed, Curl-crested and Red-necked Aracaris, Golden-collared Toucanet, White-throated and Channel-billed Toucans, Bar-breasted Piculet, Yellow-tufted, Red-stained, Yellow-throated, Golden-green, Scale-breasted, Cream-coloured, Ringed, Lineated and Red-necked Woodpeckers, Black, Red-throated, Southern and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Laughing Falcon, American Kestrel, Bat Falcon, Crimson-bellied, Santarem (or Madeira), White-eyed, Dusky-headed, Peach-fronted and Golden-winged Parakeets, Chestnut-fronted, Red-and-green, Scarlet, Blue-and-yellow, Red-bellied and Red-shouldered Macaws, Orange-cheeked and Blue-headed Parrots, and Yellow-crowned and Mealy Amazon’s.

Amongst the passerine birds that fall into the same categories are: Fasciated, Glossy, Barred, Plain-winged, White-shouldered, Amazonian, Pearly, Saturnine, Cinereous and Spot-winged Antshrikes, Plain-throated, White-eyed, Stipple-throated, Ornate, Pygmy, Sclater’s, White-flanked, Long-winged, Ihering’s, Grey, Dot-winged, White-fringed, and Rusty-backed Antwrens, Amazonian Streaked-Antwren, Peruvian and Spix’s Warbling-Antbirds, Grey, Blackish, White-browed, Black-faced, Black-chinned, Silvered, Rufous-faced, Black-throated, Spot-backed, Dot-backed and Common Scale-backed Antbirds, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Spot-throated, Olivaceous, Long-tailed, Plain-brown, White-chinned, Wedge-billed, Amazonian Barred, Strong-billed, Striped, Elegant, Buff-throated, Straight-billed and Narrow-billed Woodcreepers, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Rufous-tailed Xenops, Rufous-rumped, Chestnut-winged, Cinnamon-rumped and Para Foliage-gleaners, Speckled, Cinereous-breasted and Ruddy Spinetails, Yellow-crowned and Guianan Tyrannulets, Forest, Grey, Yellow-bellied and Plain-crested Elaenias, Amazonian Scrub-Flycatcher, Sharp-tailed Tyrant, Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, Snethlage’s Tody-Tyrant (it is possible two species are involved, one on each side of the Rio Madeira), Stripe-necked and Zimmer’s Tody-Tyrants, Spotted and Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatchers, Sepia-capped, Yellow-margined, Grey-crowned, Ruddy-tailed, Rusty-margined, Social, Dusky-chested, Yellow-throated, Piratic, Variegated, Crowned Slaty, Sulphury, and Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Drab Water-Tyrant, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Lesser and Great Kiskadees, White-throated and Tropical Kingbirds, Spangled and Pompadour Cotingas, Screaming Piha, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, Red-headed and Flame-crowned Manakins, Black-tailed and Masked Tityras, Brown-winged Schiffornis, White-browed Purpletuft, Red-eyed Vireo, Grey-chested and Buff-cheeked Greenlets, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Black-collared, White-banded, Southern Rough-winged and White-winged Swallows, Grey-breasted and Brown-chested Martins, House, Moustached, Buff-breasted and Musician Wrens, Long-billed Gnatwren, Pale-breasted, Hauxwell’s, Lawrence’s and White-necked Thrushes, Buff-rumped Warbler, Red-capped Cardinal, Black-faced, Red-billed Pied, White-rumped, Flame-crested, Fulvous-crested, White-shouldered, White-lined, Red-shouldered, Silver-beaked, Blue-grey, Palm, Masked, Turquoise, Paradise, Opal-rumped, Green-and-gold, Yellow-backed and Swallow Tanagers, White-winged Shrike-Tanager, Black-faced, Yellow-bellied and Blue Dacnises, Purple and Green Honeyeaters, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, Blue-black Grassquit, Plumbeous, Dark-throated and Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, Black-masked Finch, Bananaquit, Buff-throated Saltator, Grassland and Yellow-browed Sparrows, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, the gorgeous Rose-breasted Chat, Red-breasted Blackbird, Giant Cowbird, Epaulet Oriole, Red-rumped and Yellow-rumped Caciques, Green, Crested and Olive Oropendolas and Thick-billed, Golden-bellied and Rufous-bellied Euphonias.

Less frequently encountered, or less frequently seen (as opposed to heard) birds include: Grey, Great, White-throated, Cinereous, Little, Undulated, Brazilian, Variegated, Small-billed and Red-winged Tinamous, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Starred Wood-Quail, Wood Stork, the huge Jabiru, Agami and Boat-billed Herons, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Hook-billed Kite, Black-and-white and Ornate Hawk-Eagles, the awesome Crested Eagle, Crane Hawk, White-browed and Short-tailed Hawks, Grey-breasted and Russet-crowned Crakes, Purple Gallinule, Collared Plover, South American Snipe, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Little and Pavonine Cuckoos, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo (a really tough one!), Black-banded and Spectacled Owls, Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Grey and Long-tailed Potoos, White-collared and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts, White-chinned Sapphire, Versicoloured Woodnymph, Crimson Topaz, Amazonian Motmot, Spotted, Brown-banded, Collared and Rufous-necked Puffbirds, Rusty-breasted Nunlet, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Toco Toucan, Chestnut and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Barred, Cryptic and Slaty-backed Forest-Falcons, Aplomado Falcon, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Short-tailed Parrot, Chestnut-winged Antshrike, Striated and Ferruginous-backed Antbirds, Thrush-like Antpitta, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Long-billed, Cinnamon-throated and Ocellated Woodcreepers, Tapajos Scythebill, Plain and Streaked Xenops, Chestnut-winged Hookbill, Striped Woodhaunter, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Yellow-chinned and Pale-breasted Spinetails, Southern Beardless and Slender-footed Tyrannulets, Lesser and Large Elaenias, Olivaceous and Rufous-tailed Flatbills, Golden-crowned, Cinnamon-crested and White-crested Spadebills, Suiriri, Royal Vermilion, Swainson’s, Brown-crested and Streaked Flycatchers, Bright-rumped and Citron-bellied Attilas, Pale-bellied Mourner, Blue-backed, Band-tailed and Black Manakins, Wing-barred Piprites, Purple-throated Cotinga, White-winged and Black-capped Becards, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Scaly-breasted and Thrush-like Wrens, Plush-crested Jay, Black-billed Thrush, Dotted Tanager, Red-legged and Short-billed Honeycreepers, Double-collared and Tawny-bellied Seedeaters, Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch, Yellow-shouldered, Slate-coloured and Blue-black Grosbeaks, and Purple-throated Euphonia.

Day 13 This morning, after some early morning birding close to the lodge, we will return to Porto Velho by charter flight. The extension ends upon arrival at Porto Velho airport.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels in Porto Velho and Humaitá are of good standard, as is the very comfortable Pousada Rio Roosevelt. Road transport is by minibus and roads are good.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are some moderate grade walks.

Climate: It is generally hot and humid. Periods of sunshine alternate with overcast spells and there is regular rainfall.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.

Tour Price: £5220, €6160, $6840 (Porto Velho/Porto Velho).

Price includes all transportation (including the return charter flight between Porto Velho and Pousada Rio Roosevelt), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.

Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.

Single Room Supplement: £170, €201, $223 (Porto Velho and Humaitá only). Providing you are willing to share at Rio Roosevelt, and no room-mate is available either from inside or outside our group, you will not have to pay a supplement. If you want single occupancy of one of the 6 cabanas there the extra charge is £1330, €1570, $1740).

Deposit: £600, €800, $900.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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