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Birdquest's Pantanal & Interior Brazil birding tour is one of a series of Brazil birdwatching trips that we offer. This exciting tour focuses on Brazil's wonderful Pantanal and the cerrado (home to Hyacinth Macaws and Brazilian Mergansers respectively), with an optional extension to Alta Floresta in southern Amazonia, home of Bald Parrots and Dark-winged Trumpeters.
Tuesday 2nd October —
Sunday 14th October 2018
Alta Floresta Extension: Sunday 14th October — Monday 22nd October (9 days)
Leaders: Eduardo Patrial and a local bird guide at Rio Cristalino
Group Size Limit: 8
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations
On this exciting journey through the large states of Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais we will visit the endless rolling cerrado and campo of the Brazilian interior and the foremost wetland of the entire Neotropics in search of the many endemics and other specialities, including such marvels as Hyacinth Macaw, Brazilian Merganser and Cock-tailed Tyrant.
Every birdwatcher and naturalist has heard about the remarkable Pantanal, one of the largest wetlands in the Americas and a place that harbours one of the greatest wildlife concentrations in the New World. Called ‘Terra de Ninguem’ (No Man’s Land) by the Brazilians, this vast alluvial plain, half the size of France, is situated at only about 100m above sea level and is inhabited by just a few thousand people.
\In this immense and seasonally watery world, which has been the subject of some awe-inspiring wildlife films, the number of waterbirds defies the imagination. The Pantanal is home to untold thousands of herons, egrets, storks, ibises, spoonbills and other waterbirds, but it should be borne in mind that they are spread over an immense landscape, with local concentrations here and there. We shall be visiting the area at the end of the long dry season, when throngs of these piscivores compete with fierce-looking jacarés (caimans) for wriggling fish in the drying pools.
However, the bird that epitomizes the Pantanal more than any other is not a waterbird at all but the unique and gorgeous Hyacinth Macaw, the largest and easily the most impressive parrot in the world. Small numbers of this resplendent violet-blue marvel of the avian world live in the semi-deciduous woodlands and nut-rich palm groves of the Pantanal, and seeing a pair flap lazily across an azure sky will unquestionably be one of the highlights of our stay.
We will visit the northern fringes of this huge area along the famous Transpantaneira, a well-maintained dirt road with 118 sometimes precarious-looking bridges, that allows access to the many different habitats of the region. Bare-faced Curassow, Chestnut-bellied Guan, Sunbittern, Toco Toucan and Mato Grosso Antbird are amongst the many other prizes that await us here.
The Pantanal is also renowned for its variety of mammals. That holy grail of Neotropical animals, the powerful Jaguar, can still be found here. Its evocative name conjures up images of an almost never seen, cold-eyed, powerful, spotted cat inhabiting large stretches of virgin and impenetrable rainforest. The Brazilian Pantanal is now probably the finest area in the Americas to see this near-mythical cat and is recognized by wildlife enthusiasts and naturalists as the place where one can sometimes experience close encounters. Boat trips will offer us excellent opportunities and we have a good chance of being able to stare into the golden, telltale eyes of this fabled predator. The Pantanal also holds a splendid selection of other mammals and we will hope to encounter Brazilian Tapir, Giant Otter, Crab-eating Fox and Marsh Deer here.
Before we travel to the Pantanal we will explore two superb reserves that protect large tracts of cerrado and campo habitat. The celebrated Serra da Canastra National Park contains some of the finest cerrado and campo remaining in central Brazil, and provides an aspect of rolling grasslands with scattered trees and patches of gallery forest quite unlike other parts of tropical South America and more reminiscent of the plains of East Africa. Mammalian and avian delights include the amazing long-snouted Giant Anteater, the huge and stately Greater Rhea and the bizarre little Cock-tailed Tyrant, along with most of the other special birds of this unique habitat, but our main quarry here, the much dreamed-of Brazilian Merganser, inhabits the wild rivers that originate in these hills. Serra da Canastra is without doubt the very best place to find this extremely localized and highly-threatened species. Here too, we hope to lay eyes on the unobtrusive Brasilia Tapaculo, a bird that skulks in dense shrubbery in isolated patches of woodland.
Our next port of call is the Serra do Cipó National Park near Belo Horizonte, an area renowned for its spectacular gorges and waterfalls, but of greatest interest to us because of its avian specialities, which include several highly localized endemics. One of these, the elusive Cipo Canastero, was discovered as recently as 1985, whilst the stunning Horned Sungem, the spectacular Hyacinth Visorbearer, Grey-backed Tachuri and Pale-throated (or Buff-throated) Pampa-Finch will add to the excitement.
Finally, after our exploration of the Pantanal, we will visit the spectacular canyonlands of the Chapada dos Guimarães, where eroded rock formations, spectacular waterfalls and deeply-carved ravines with slivers of forest are surrounded by cerrado, a chaparral-like habitat with low gnarled trees and shrubs. Cliffs harbour colourful macaws and speedy Biscutate Swifts, while dignified Red-legged Seriemas stride over the shrubby plains.
During the optional extension we will explore the far less well known but equally wonderful Amazonian rainforests that lie to the north of the Pantanal. Alta Floresta is situated at the southern edge of the Amazonian rainforest, between the upper reaches of the mighty Tapajós and Xingu Rivers. Based at two very hospitable lodges with great food, Rio Azul and Cristalino, we will have access to large tracts of undisturbed and untouched Amazonian rainforest where Dark-winged Trumpeters, Razor-billed Curassows and Brazilian Tapirs still roam. One of the highlights here are the splendid 50m high canopy towers, from where one has amazing views over the surrounding forest canopy and its flocks of multi-hued parrots, tanagers and toucans.
We should come away from Alta Floresta with great views of such rarely seen birds as Bald Parrot, Kawall’s Parrot, Black-girdled Barbet, Red-necked Aracari, Tooth-billed Wren, Red-billed Pied-Tanager and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak and wonderful monkeys like White-whiskered Spider Monkey and White-nosed Bearded Saki. Lower down, in the dark forest interior we will listen for the churring of Bare-eyed Antbirds and Black-spotted Bare-eyes attending a raiding army ant swarm and investigate dense bamboo thickets in search of Chestnut-throated Spinetail and Manu Antbird, whilst patiently creeping along the forest trails may yield Brown-banded Puffbird, Blue-cheeked (or Blue-necked) Jacamar and Curve-billed Scythebill. In the varzea, seasonally flooded forest near the river we will meticulously search for Long-billed Woodcreeper and the alluring Glossy Antshrike. At a granite outcrop carpeted in scrubby vine-tangled woodland we will aim to locate the localized Natterer’s Slaty Antshrike, whilst Zigzag Heron, Red-throated Piping-Guan and Giant Otter will enliven our boat trips on the blackwater rivers.
Birdquest has operated tours to the Pantanal and interior Brazil since 1989.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are of good or medium standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus and roads are mostly good.
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few optional harder walks.
Climate: Generally warm or hot, dry and sunny at lower altitudes, but cool in upland areas. Overcast weather is quite regular and there may well be some rain. It will be rather humid in places.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are quite good.
Prices are provisional
Tour Price: £3990, €4710, $5230 Belo Horizonte/Cuiabá. Alta Floresta Extension: £2990, €3530, $3920.
Price includes all transportation (including the Belo Horizonte-Cuiabá and Cuiabá-Alta Floresta-Cuiabá flights), 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.
Single Room Supplement: £485, €572, $635. Extension: £440, €519, $576.
Deposit: £500, €600, $650. Extension: £400, €500, $500.
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
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