Pantanal & Iguazú Falls
Gentle walks only
Birds and Mammals
· Giant Anteaters & Jaguars… regularly seen
· Enjoy Hyacinth Macaws-the world´s largest parrot
· Search for giant Anacondas
· Admire the awe-inspiring Iguazú Falls
Day 1 Fly to Cuiaba & drive to Pouso Alegre, Pantanal
Day 2/3 Pouso Alegre, Pantanal
Day 4/5 Jaguar Suites* Flotel, Pantanal
Day 6/7 Southwild Pantanal Lodge
Day 8/9 Piuval Lodge, Pantanal
Day 10 Cuiaba
Day 11/13 Iguazú Falls
Day 14 Fly Sao Paulo and on to home
*Featuring the Suites, Charlie´s newest luxurious floating Hotel in Pantanal
Dates and Price
Start dates for private tours to Pantanal:
· From July – September
Arrival to Cuiaba City – Pouso Alegre
We arrive to Cuiaba, the Capital of Mato Grosso State. From here we drive approximately 3 hours into the Pantanal, to our first lodge, Pouso Alegre, where we stay for three nights.
The drive from Cuiaba will introduce some of the in habitants of the Pantanal Region, with last 7 km of the drive being the private, wildlife-rich driveway of our lodge, Pouso Alegre. As we drive, we will see a transitional forest grading from dry “Cerrado” to more wet woodland typical of Southern Mato Grosso region, and the birdlife is both colorful and plentiful with representatives from some of the Neotropical families, such as Toucans, tanagers and hummingbirds, that we will be seeing throughout the tour.
From Cuiaba Airport we drive 100 km southwest on asphalt (for 70-75 minutes) to the town of Poconé, which, with 25,000 inhabitants, is the county seat for 5 million acres of north Pantanal. These 100 km run through different types of tropical dry forest that go by the name of “Cerrado”. As you leave the south end of Poconé on your way into the Pantanal proper, you see the dry forest and fields drop slightly into the large flat floodplain of the Pantanal proper, and the 122 bridges begin… After 17 km we will encounter the first wooden bridges, often seeing the first assemblage of herons, caimans and Capybaras. Pouso Alegre´s entrance gate is located 12 km further south along the well-known 145-long-“Transpantaneira” raised dirt and gravel road. The lodge is famous for its excellent mammal viewing and birding, much of which one does along the lodge´s private 7-km-long, raised driveway. Slow drives on this entrance road often yield good views of species such as Red Brocket Deer, Bare-faced Curassows, Lesser Anteater, White-lipped Peccaries and even Giant Anteater! On the first 29 km of the Transpantaneira, and on the last 500 m before reaching the Pouso Alegre Lodge, you will also enjoy your first good views of hundreds of Yacare Caimans, as well as dozens of Capybara.
We have two full days to explore all the major habitats of this incredible ranch, enjoying a mix of game drivers in our private vehicle and gentle walks in easy terrain. The surrounding gallery forest has the potential to yield a variety of local birding specialties such as Mato Grosso Antbird, White-lored Spinetail, Ashy-headed Greenlet and Blue-crowned Trogon, to mention a few. The rich forest is also home to three species of Monkeys and we will be alert to their distinctive social calls. Black and Gold Howler Monkeys are highly arboreal, and typically spend much of their time in the upper reaches of the forest and can prove somewhat inconspicuous, unless of course a male unleashes one of his amazing lion-like roars, a sound which resonates through the jungle for up to 3 km.
Smaller and more lightly built, Black-striped are very active and forage at all levels of the forest, from the canopy to the forest floor. Their diet is broad, consisting mainly of ripe fruit and insects, but also includes bird eggs, young birds, young squirrels and small lizards. The last of the three species, the Black-tailed Marmoset, is also the smallest of the monkeys in the area and restricted entirely to the Pantanal. Unlike the other primates in the area, Black-tailed Marmosets lack of prehensile tail and have feet with claws instead of flattened nails. Travelling in small family troops, they readily gouge tree bark to extract sap and gum, and can often be located by their bird like twittering and whistles.
The areas of wetland and small freshwater polls lining the approach track to the lodge attract a fabulous mix of waterbirds, including Rufescent Tiger, Striated, Cocoi and Whistling Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, egrets, storks and ibises. One of the most striking of these birds is the enormous Jabiru Stork, a scarce bird throughout most of its range but a familiar sight in the Pantanal.
With the onset of dusk, nocturnal mammals, hidden from view during the day, become active and our evening spotlighting sessions have the potential to yield a fascinating array of mammal’s species. There is an excellent chance of Brown Brocket Deer and Crab-eating Fox and with a little luck we can hope for such delights as Brazilian Tapir, Ocelot or possible Giant Anteater.
Porto Jofre - Jaguar Suites
We leave Pouso Alegre Lodge early in the morning in our private transport and drive towards the end of the Transpantaneira Road, which is in the locality called “Porto Joffre”. During the long, 120 km drive, which is a wildlife safari itself, we will be on the lookout for families groups of Black and Gold Howler Monkeys and Capybaras as well as for South American Coatis and aggregations of large wading birds in ponds along the side of the road.
Upon reaching Porto Joffre, which lies on the north bank of the 170-m-wide Cuiaba River, we board our radio equipped Jaguar search boat and cruise upstream for 15 Km for 30-45 min, starting our search for jaguars and Giant Otters. Both species reach their global maxima and are most habituated in the 100 km of river channels upstream from Porto Joffre. We ensure information flow by radio-equipped boats on the river, talking with another about sightings of Jaguars and Giant Otters.
Our accommodation is a unique, luxurious, high quality, floating hotel or the Jaguar Suites “Flotel” near the mouth of the “Tres Irmaos” River, with 9 double-occupancy guest rooms equipped with silent, split air conditioners and never-ending hot showers in private bathrooms in each room. The flotel is operated as a Jaguar research and tourism base by the only PhD conservation biologist living and working full time in the Pantanal. The biologist Charles Munn is both Oxford and Princeton-trained, is the author of a National Geographic cover story on macaws, and was for years a senior field scientist in the Pantanal and the Amazon for the New York Zoological Society´s international research division. While our biologist host in not always at the flotel, as he also spends time at his Manned Wolf site north of Brasilia and at other conservations locations in South America, the photo dossier research on jaguar faces continues apace, as guests become, in effect, guests researchers. Photos of more than 70 different jaguars that have been seen and photographed since 2005 in the 100 Km of river channels that we actively use for our own jaguar and Giant Otter search and observations!. If a guest provides our team with a good face photo of a previously-unphotographed Jaguar, then he or she has naming rights.
The Suites flotel could also be called “The Giant Otter Zone”, as these 100-km of river channels are by far the best place in the world to see either of these otherwise shy and elusive top predators. Although Pouso Alegre has a good population of Hyacinth Macaws, you also will see more of these amazing, huge parrots in the jaguar Zone, notably 1500 m downstream from the Suites flotel and also at the river port in Porto Joffre.
The full day in this area will mostly be spent exploring by boat the most jaguar-rich sections of the following three rivers: the Cuiaba, and the three brother’s river. The best time for beginning afternoon activities will be around 2.30 – 3 pm in order to spend the late afternoon checking the sandy banks, patches of dense tropical forest on the riverbank, and rush-beds along the water’s edge in search of the biggest predator in the Pantanal.
An adaptable and versatile predator, the Jaguar once occurred much more widely in South America but conflict with man has reduced its range by 40%. Always unpredictable and secretive by nature, it is no easy task to find a Jaguar in the wild even when the animal occurs at world-record densities such as this. Even though our programme is designed to provide an excellent chance of achieving our aim, success is not guaranteed.
Searching for these wary creatures may demand extreme patience and occasional discomfort, with periods spent in small boats during which absolute silence is essential to avoid frightening away the wildlife on the river bank. If we do find a Jaguar, viewing time may be brief, but the effort entailed does ensure a tremendous elation and sense of privilege at finally sharing a few moments in the life of this wonderful animal.
Southwild Pantanal Lodge
After Breakfast, we boat 15 km downstream from the Jaguar Suites to our private vehicle and retrace our steps, driving along the Transpantaneira back to km 66, where we turn onto a 3-km-long private drive to our final lodge, the intimate Southwild Pantanal Lodge (also known by its two older names: Pantanal Wildlife Center and Santa Teresa). Here we settled into our air conditioned rooms, LUNCH and nap before heading out at 3 pm or so for a boat outing on the 60-m-wide wildlife-rich Pixaim River or a slow wildlife stroll through the 5 km of marked, clean forest trails designed by our biologist host (the same host from our time at the flotel).
Southwild Pantanal is full of wildlife and photo opportunities that are missing or much more difficult at the Jaguar Flotel. Firstly, there are two wildlife observation towers: one in the riverine forest and the other next to a nest of thoroughly-habituated Jabiru Storks. Secondly, the Brown Capuchins in the gallery forest of the lodge are among the most visible and photogenic in Brazil. Finally, the wildlife within 20 m of the lodge is rich and varied, including good, daily views of the world´s largest toucan, the emblematic Toco Toucan. Other regulars include Capybaras, Paraguayan Caimans, and a number of very colorful songbirds at nectar and fruit feeders, notably the orange-backed Troupial.
The marked trails in the gallery forest present a unique opportunity to see more of the more elusive forest birds and mammals, but you must walk slowly and silently to have the best results. Gallery or riverine forest is the most species-rich habitat type but represents only 2% of the entire Pantanal, and Southwild Pantanal lodge has the best access and best trail system in the gallery forest which is not grazed or invaded by cattle, so the understory is intact and clean, meaning more birds species and fallen fruit to attract wild mammals and large game bird species.
The area of the Pixaim River at our lodge also boasts two pairs of very habituated and photogenic Jabiru Storks, which will sometimes fly next to our boats – great for close-up photos of this huge bird on flight. Also very tame and photogenic are a series of Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers and several Hawks, notably Black-Collared and Great Black Hawk, they are happy to take fresh fish off the surface of the water, making for spectacular photo opportunities.
Finally, the night spotlighting drives in our private transport, with Brazilian Tapirs seen on as many as 30% of the 1-hour-long night drives. All in all, with the productive wildlife watching, the food, service, and air-conditioning, this lodge is a perfect complement to the time we had while at the Jaguar Suites.
Driving north along the Transpantaneira we arrive at our final lodge in the Pantanal, a former research base of for a large Brazilian-German project to study the “Ecology of the Pantanal”. Set on a plot of over 7,000ha, including all the major habitats found in the Pantanal; Pousada Piuval has been catering for Eco tourists for over 20 years and offers an impressive array of fauna and flora. A network of paths and trails provide access to a mosaic of grassland and woodlots, interspersed with permanent water bodies and a tower that allows panoramic views of this great ecosystem.
With time to relax and enjoy the extensive grounds of the lodge, we have the opportunity to focus on some of the stunning birdlife in the area. A wealth of different parrot species is possible, including Hyacinth Macaws, Golden-collared Macaws, Blue-crowned, Monk and Golden Chevroned Parakeets, Turquoise – fronted & Orange Amazons. The open grassland, small freshwater pools and forest margins also attract the attention of a wide range of raptors, such as Southern Crested & Yellow headed Caracaras, Pearl Kites, Laughing Falcon, American Kestrel, and Black, Turkey & Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures.
Spotlighting at night is always unpredictable and can often be a case of “all or nothing”, with little obvious reason as to why, however, the open habitat around the lodge lends itself well to night drives and is considered one of the best areas in the Pantanal for nocturnal species. In addition to a wide range of nocturnal birds’ species that include Great Potoo, Great Horned Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl, Mottled Owl and Black-banded Owl, the area also holds a population of Azara´s Night Monkeys, the sole member of the New World´s nocturnal primates. Though rarely seen and always unpredictable, the elusive Puma has also been recorded in this area and we will be hoping that our luck may be in.
Pousada Piuval to Cuiaba
Having already journeyed along much of the Transpantaneira, we are all placed for our return journey to Cuiaba. We will have some time in the morning to turn our attention to the areas of dry forest where a trio of Brazilian Endemics can be found: Spot-backed Puffbird, Planalto Slaty Antshrike and Chestnut-bellied Guan, the latter numbering as few as 1,000 individuals that are found almost entirely in the area around the Transpantaneira.
We drive a short distance north along the Transpantaneira to the town of Poconé, where rejoin the tarmacked road to Cuiaba, overnighting in a city hotel prior to catching an early morning flight to Iguazú the following day.
Cuiaba to Iguazú National Park
An early start will be necessary to catch the domestic flight to Foz de Iguazú where we arrive just in time for lunch. From the airport we transfer a short distance to a nice restaurant then into Argentina for a three night stay at a hotel in Puerto Iguazú where we will be placed to explore the nearby Iguazú National Park. If time permits, after checking in to our hotel, we may spend some time birding in the hotel grounds, where Semi-collared Nighthawk, Tropical Screech-Owl and Common Potoo can all be seen at night.
Two National Parks around the falls protect some 240,000 hectares of compact, multitiered forest, twenty or thirty meters tall, comprising at least a hundred evergreen tree species, distributed into strata intermixed with epiphytes and lianas, and a dense understory dominated by bamboos. This is forest which is extremely rich in bird species, many of them typical of the Atlantic Rainforest. Most of our time at Iguazú is spent on the Argentine side of the border for the very good reason that the National Park there offers much easier access to the forest via a series of well maintained trails and dirt roads. Our morning in Argentina will be devoted to exploring the forest by means of these trails and we can expect to encounter a new selection of bird species including species of Woodcreepers, flycatchers and tanagers not seen during the preceding days. In particular we will be hoping to find the exquisite Swallow-tailed and white-bearded Manakins but there are many other possibilities during our walks. Birdlife tends to slow down dramatically in the afternoon and we will then largely devote our time to admiring the spectacular waterfall for which Iguazú is so rightly renowned. An excellent series of trails and catwalks allow close access to the falls from a range of viewpoints and we will try to visit as many of these as possible. The falls area is not bereft of birdlife of course, indeed certain specialities such as Black-fronted Piping Guan can, with luck, only be seen there, and others such as Toco and Red-Breasted Toucans are regularly encountered. In the late afternoon we hope to be able to witness the spectacle of thousands of Great Dusky Swifts gathering overhead before diving down and dashing through the cascading water to their night-time roost.
Iguazú to Sao Paulo
Today we will transfer back to Brazil and visit the falls on the Brazilian side where a better panoramic view is afforded, indeed the view here along a series of trails might be described as the ultimate Iguazú experience! There are no readily accessible forest trails on the Brazilian side but the road there passes through some good forest and birding opportunities do exist, especially if we discover a fruiting tree attractive to frugivorous species. We will enjoy a great lunch at a restaurant with spectacular views from above the falls, before transferring to the airport later that afternoon in time for your flight to Sao Paolo.
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