Jaguar, the only Panthera species found in the Americas is also the largest in the Western Hemisphere and occurs in the Pantanal in their highest density. © Adam Riley
Hyacinth Macaws, the avian epitome of the Pantanal’s wilderness, are delightfully numerous in copses of palms.
The Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is the largest in its family and is mostly terrestrial, in contrast to other anteaters and sloths, which are arboreal or semiarboreal.
The rather shabby-looking Guira Cuckoo (Guira guira) is a social, non-parasitic cuckoo found widely in eastern and southern Brazil.
The world’s largest rodent and a very selective feeder, the Capybara is a semi-aquatic mammal found in densely forested areas near bodies of water.
Characterized by their bright, crimson face, Bald Uakari Monkeys are only found in forested habitats near water in the western Amazon.
Brazil Amazon & Pantanal Tours
Mention Brazil and the first thing that springs to most people’s minds is football, Samba and Carnival. Wildlife aficionados, however, immediately think of the Amazon and the Pantanal, South America’s two foremost wildlife wildernesses. In fact, Brazil boasts the highest natural diversity of any country on Earth and yet few have even scratched the surface of its immense natural attractions. This incredible expedition spanning the full breadth of this vast nation samples the very richest sites in the iconic Amazon Basin and combines these with the incomparable wildlife treasures of the Pantanal. From the world’s largest rainforest to its largest tropical wetland, Pink River Dolphins to Giant Anteaters and Bald Uakari Monkeys to Jaguars, this is a Neotropical wildlife extravaganza without equal.
- Travel by Air
- Travel by Road
- Travel by Boat
- Travel by Bullet Train
- Travel by Rail
- Travel by Dog Sled
Arrive in Manaus this afternoon and transfer to your hotel, set in sprawling tropical gardens on a bluff overlooking the Amazon River. Gather this evening for a welcome dinner and briefing at the Tropical Manaus Ecoresort.
Manaus / Tefé / Mamirauá Reserve
After breakfast, head to the airport for a short flight to Tefé, then board a boat for a scenic trip toward Mamirauá Reserve—Amazon River Dolphins, both the rose-hued Boto and grayer Tucuxi, are plentiful around Rios Tefé and Solimões. Arrive in the afternoon at Mamirauá, the world’s largest protected várzea, or flooded forest. Only four percent of the Brazilian Amazon consists of freshwater swamp forest, and much of it is found within Mamirauá’s 7,700 square miles. The region’s flooding is caused by the annual melting of the Andean ice caps. This flooding brings a large amount of nutrient-rich sediment from the Andean slopes, thus furnishing an ideal habitat for a huge variety of both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. Dinner and overnight at the fully-sustainable Uakari Floating Lodge within the reserve.
Two days will barely feel sufficient to explore this wildlife-rich area. There are 35 species of mammals, 360 birds, and 79 reptiles in Mamirauá, a surprisingly high number of which are endemic—unique adaptations have proven necessary to survive the harsh flood conditions. Two of Mamirauá’s greatest attractions are the crimson-visaged Bald Uakari and Black-faced Squirrel Monkeys, both of whose entire range lies within the reserve. Land mammals are relatively rare due to the flooding, but other arboreal mammals such as the Red Howler Monkey, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, the long-nosed Southern Coati, and Collared Anteater are quite common. Avifauna highlights include the leaf-eating Hoatzin or Stink Bird, Horned Screamer, Razor-billed Curassow, Slate-colored Hawk, toucans, woodpeckers, jacamars, and more. This time of year, hiking is often possible on the well-tended trails that stretch across the reserve. If water levels are too high, hop into a canoe and paddle among the channels that jut into the forest. Spectacled Caimans also tend to be at their highest concentrations in September. Together with your local guide, spend time in spots with the best chance of viewing them. Other options include visiting a local village to get a sense of traditional Amazonian culture. Be sure to take in the sights and sounds of a night tour (on foot or by canoe), where you may see Tarantulas, Two-toed Sloths, Amazon Bamboo Rats, and Long-nosed Bats.
Mamirauá Reserve / Tefé / Manaus
Enjoy a leisurely boat trip back to Tefé and an afternoon flight to Manaus. Dinner and overnight at the Tropical Manaus Ecoresort.
Manaus / Alta Floresta / Cristlino State Park
Depart early for flights that span the Amazon, from Manaus to Alta Floresta, via Porto Velho and Cuiabá. Upon arrival, a drive and a boat ride will take you into the stunning 460,000-acre Cristalino State Park. Located in the highlands of the southern Amazon River Basin, Cristalino is strategically situated to preserve a huge swathe of rainforest, acting as an effective buffer between the timber extraction and cattle ranching to the south, and the virgin areas to the north. Your home base for the next two days is Cristalino Jungle Lodge, on a 30,000-acre private reserve connected to the park. It is known for being one of the richest places in the Amazon for observing birds, mammals, butterflies and orchids in a primary forest environment. Gather for sunset drinks with a view over the pristine Cristalino River flowing right in front of the lodge. Dinner and overnight at Cristalino Jungle Lodge.
Cristalino State Park
The lodge’s reserve contains a great variety of medium- to low-altitude eco-zones, allowing for great diversity (even by Amazonian standards) of wildlife. From predators like the Jaguar, Harpy Eagle and Giant Otter to herbivores like the Capybara and Agouti, all of the organisms which took thousands of years to evolve and which make Amazonia unlike any other biome in the world are still alive and doing well here. Its location near the junction of two rivers—one a “White-water” and the other a “Black-water” river—gives the reserve a combination of two different soil types which furnish a staggering variety of trees, orchids and bromeliads. 600 bird species are known to live in the region, including many endemics. Among these are the Rufous-capped Nunlet, Chestnut-throated Spinetail, Manu Antbird, Peruvian Recurvebill and Ornate Antwren, as well as many species of parrots, puffbirds, and manakins. Mammals seen most frequently are the diminutive Pantanal Marmoset, White-whiskered Spider and White-nosed Saki Monkeys, Brazilian Tapir, and the Greater Fishing Bat. Cristalino is also one of the best areas in Brazil to observe Green Anaconda, largest of all constricting snakes. Take in all the area has to offer by hiking on the reserve’s many trails, boating down the Cristalino River, and climbing the 50-meter observation tower for a stellar vantage point over the whole area. Dinners and overnights at Cristalino Jungle Lodge.
Cristalino State Park / Alta Floresta / Campo Grande / Caiman Ecological Refuge
Today is an adventure in boats, cars and airplanes. Return by boat and car to Alta Floresta for a series of flights that take you, via Cuiaba and São Paulo, to Campo Grande. Dinner and overnight at the Grand Park Hotel in Campo Grande.
Campo Grande / Caiman Ecological Refuge
After breakfast, set off on the four-hour drive into the southern Pantanal, the world’s largest floodplain. The 130,000-acre Caiman Ecological Refuge was once part of a large beef cattle ranch in the Pantanal, and has since been transformed into an enterprising land management model combining the traditional “Pantaneiro” cattle ranching system, conservation programs, and ecotourism. It includes a 14,000-acre protected reserve covering a great variety of habitats that harbor many of the diverse species of the Pantanal, which is home to the highest concentration of wildlife in the Americas. Overnight at Caiman Lodge within the reserve.
Caiman Ecological Refuge
Once a year, the mighty Paraguay River floods its banks, inundating an area ten times that of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. As the floodwaters recede in the dry season, this ever-changing mosaic of lagoons, shallow wetlands and higher islands of deciduous forest sets the stage for one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles.
Herds of Capybaras, largest of all the world’s rodents, graze along shores lined with Yacare Caimans, amidst throngs of storks, herons and ibises. At dawn, the surrounding woodland rings to a deafening cacophany of woodcreepers, Guira Cuckoos, antbirds and flycatchers, with Toco Toucan yelping from the treetops and noisy flocks of Turquoise-fronted Amazons winging overhead. Huge Hyacinth Macaws, the avian epitome of the Pantanal’s wilderness, are delightfully numerous in copses of palms, while areas of higher ground are home to the spectacular Giant Anteater, Greater Rhea and the peculiar Red-legged Seriema.
Of all the denizens of this watery wilderness, none is more sought-after than the Jaguar. Using detailed local knowledge of the resident population, you’ll track the cats by vehicle and on foot, in the hopes of seeing and photographing this largest of American felids. Ranging from northern Mexico to central Argentina, Jaguars are rarely encountered anywhere else, but occur in the Pantanal in their highest density on Earth. The combination of the refuge’s open, savanna-like terrain and years of formal protection from hunting brings experiencing the Americas’ most charismatic predator into the realm of possibility.
Campo Grande / Depart
Return to Campo Grande and depart on flights homeward.
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The Spectacle of Brazil’s Pantanal
Towards the end of the Pantanal’s dry season, the vast wetland begins to shrink, concentrating fish in ever-smaller pools. Herons, ibises, spoonbills and other waterbirds gather to feed and breed in huge numbers, sharing the feast with countless thousands of Yacare Caimans, an astounding wildlife spectacle.