The Pantanal is one of the world’s largest wetlands and during August it is teeming with wildlife. Our focus shall be all wildlife, but with a particular effort to try and see Jaguar with two full days dedicated to exploring the river Cuiaba and its tributaries by boat where we have our best chance of finding them. Jaguars can often be found lounging in the shade on the edges of the sandy river systems and photographic opportunities are excellent. Accommodation is at various lodges and hotels along the entire length of the famous Transpantaneira; the only road across the northern Pantanal extending for nearly 150 kilometres. Much of the wildlife in the Pantanal is easily viewed from the Transpantaneira. Standing on the famous wooden bridges and using them as viewing platforms, allows for some great photographic opportunities. This tour includes two full days on the Cuiaba river systems searching for Jaguar plus another two boat trips on the rivers Claro and Pixaim searching for all wildlife.
The extension is focused on seeing the key birds and mammals of the Cerrado grasslands close to the Chapadas dos Guimaraes NP and the vast wetlands of the Northern Pantanal. The Cerrado is a vast tropical savanna ecoregion of Brazil where many speciality birds can be found. This tour begins close to the Chapadas dos Guimaraes NP where we stay for 3 nights and target many of the key birds such as Horned Sungem and Collared Crescentchest and one special mammal, the Maned Wolf!
Cuiaba to Pousa Alegre
On arrival Cuiaba we travel South West to the town of Pocone, the gateway town to the great wetlands of the Northern Pantanal! After passing through the town of Pocone, our adventure really starts as we join the famous dusty track that is the Transpantaneira! Birds en route will be many, but we shall keep a particular eye out for Red-legged Seriema, Greater Rhea and the beautiful Buff-necked Ibis. We should arrive at our Pousada in good time to explore the garden and surrounding wetland where the birding can be excellent. Photography will be too tempting as we pass close to many waterbirds that may include numerous Jabirus, Herons and Kingfishers. During the evening, we shall look for Brazilian Tapir which often visits the area and we shall also do spotlighting for Southern Tamandua and Great Potoo and we may get lucky with Ocelot or Black-banded Owl. We have even seen Puma here on our 2015 tour! Overnight Pousa Alegre
Pousa Alegre to Pixaim River
This morning we shall be up early, making the most of the cooler temperatures for bird and mammal activity and we can try for Giant Anteater; the lodge grounds can be good for this fantastic animal. Hyacinth Macaws are well and truly garden birds here, so we will take time to savour them!
After a whole morning birding around the lodge, we shall then have lunch and slowly travel towards our next lodge located beside the river Pixaim. Here we will spend some time enjoying the feeders which are always busy with both Red-headed and Yellow-billed Cardinals as well as Purplish Jay and other species. During the late afternoon, we shall take another boat trip, this time on the Rio Pixaim (right beside our hotel) where we shall remain until dusk in the hope of finding the very rare Zig Zag Heron. There will of course be plenty of other distractions on the river with excellent chances of finding Giant River Otter as well as many target birds that include Agami Heron, Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher, Sunbittern and Sungrebe. Overnight Hotel Mato Grosso
Pixaim River to Porto Jofre
Before breakfast we will explore the grassland areas close to our hotel for species such as Rusty-backed Antwren, Lesser Seedfinch and numerous Seedeater possibilities. Then after breakfast we will spend time birding the various trails through gallery forest looking for specialities such as Band-tailed Antbird, Mato Gross Antbird, Helmeted Manakin, Rusty-fronted Today Flycatcher and much more!
After lunch, we continue our journey south along the Transpantaneira travelling the length of the Transpantaneira to the small fishing area of Porto Jofre. We shall aim to arrive in darkness, allowing us time to look for mammals and birds en route during the last hours of daylight. We may even get lucky with our first Jaguar sighting! Overnight Porto Jofre
DAYS 4 & 5:
Porto Jofre and Rio Cuiaba
During the next two days we shall be based at the very comfortable Porto Jofre Hotel spending most of our time specifically looking for Jaguars. This shall involve two full days searching the river Cuiaba and its associated creeks and tributaries by boats that we board just metres from our hotel. Our daily routine will usually involve spending the first 5-6 hours of the morning on a shaded boat searching for Jaguars and other wildlife, before returning to the hotel restaurant for lunch and a break. We will then return to the river for 4-5 hours until dusk. Dependent on the most recent information, we may take packed lunches and spend the entire day on the river. At this time of year Jaguars can often be seen loafing in the shade of the trees and on the sandy beaches of the river and photographic opportunities should be numerous. Of course whilst looking for Jaguar we shall see plenty of other amazing wildlife along the way with the superb Toco Toucans, Sungrebes, Giant River Otters, Brazilian Tapir scores of Capybara as well as Black Skimmers and Black-collared Hawks to name just a few of the highlights.
The Porto Jofre Hotel is certainly well situated with the wildlife starting as soon as you step out of your room. The hotel gardens are home to many good birds with resident Hyacinth Macaws, Toco Toucans and other parrots. A small wetland area within the hotel grounds sometimes holds species such as Collared Plover, Pied Lapwings and White-backed Stilts
as well as roosting Nacunda Nighthawks sat out on the grass. Mammals are sometimes found in the garden too, with the rare Brazilian Porcupine being recorded in the gardens and Jaguars have even been visible from the hotel garden looking across the river! If you fancy more relaxation time, there is even a hotel garden swimming pool to cool off after a hard day’s work watching Jaguars! On one night after dinner, we shall also venture out from the hotel to do some spotlighting where we may be lucky and find Ocelot as well as maybe Scissor-tailed and Spot-tailed Nightjars. Overnight at the Porto Jofre Hotel
Porto Jofre to Rio Claro
After breakfast and some final birding around the grounds we re-trace our journey north along the Transpantaneira, this time to the Rio Claro.
Here there are many great birding opportunities around the grounds and if time allows we will explore the dry and gallery forests on the lodge property. The forests and associated grasslands can be very good for birding with key species like Red-billed Scythebill, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Dull-capped Attila, Red-legged Seriema, Little Woodpecker, Black-bellied Antwren and Flavescent Warbler all being possibilities. Overnight Pousada Rio Claro
Rio Claro to Piuval Lodge
This morning after some pre-breakfast birding around the lodge gardens we will take another boat trip on the nearby river Claro, just a short stroll from our rooms. Blue-crowned and Nanday Parakeets may be seen around the gardens before we board our boat. Whilst on the river we hope to find Giant River Otters and we may even be lucky with Southern River Otter. Of course birds will also play a big part in our boat trip too with numerous kingfisher and heron species as well as specialities such as Solitary Cacique and Golden-collared Macaw to name just a few.
After lunch we will travel to the very welcoming Piuval Lodge. We shall spend the afternoon birding the grounds and nearby habitats focusing on species such as Sunbittern and Red-legged Seriemas which should be easy to find along with many of passerines such as numerous Seedeaters, Spinetails as well as raptors and of course mammals. Overnight Piuval Lodge
Full day Piuval Lodge
A full day at Piuval allows us plenty of time for look for key birds and mammals. We will have many opportunities to see the congregations of waterbirds as well as specialities such as Cream-coloured Woodpecker and Great Rufous Woodcreeper. The the grounds around the lodge and nearby woodland can be excellent for birding with many species visible just a short stroll from our rooms therefore it is a perfect lodge to end our time in the Pantanal. Piuval is also an excellent area for Giant Anteater and its smaller cousin, the Southern Tamandua. After dinner we shall head back out for some spotlighting where we hope to find Ocelot and other nocturnal species during a night drive.Overnight Piuval Lodge
Piuval Lodge and Transfer to Cuiaba airport / Chapada dos Guimaraes Extension
We shall spend the final morning birding around the lodge before lunch, targeting species that we may have missed. This also gives us another early morning to try for Giant Anteater if we have been unsuccessful. We then make the final journey to Cuiaba (those joining the extension will continue to Pousada do Parque) where we spend the night in a hotel very close to Cuiaba airport ready for a return flight to the UK on the morning of Day 10.
DAYS 10 & 11
Chapada dos Guimaraes
The Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park which we shall explore during the next 2 days. This area consists of “Cerrado” and occupies more than 22 % of Brazil’s land area. This habitat dominates west-central Brazil, and spans into Paraguay. It consisist of sparsely scattered low trees and bushes creating a dry savannah, only interrupted by prominent reddish-colored termite nests that provide shelter and a reliable food source to several birds that tunnel into their depths for termites and to build their nests. The Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park was created in 1989 to protect 33,000 hectares of this unique habitat. Nestled in a plateau 860 meters above the sea level and only 60 km to the northeast of Cuiabá, sits the small village of Chapadas, our base for exploring the Cerrado. Here we shall explore this vast area looking for some wonderful birds as well as mammals.
We will target our time looking for the speciality birds of the area. Species that we shall hope to find include: Rufous-winged Antshrike, White-rumped Tanager, White-banded Tanager, Black-faced Tanager, Collared Crescentchest, Crested Black Tyrant, Red Pileated Finch, Grey Monjita, White-eared Puffbird, Curl-crested Jay, Gilded Sapphire, Horned Sungem, Red-and-Green Macaw, Blue-winged Macaw, Chestnut Aracari, Channel-billed Toucan, Band-tailed Manakin, Large-billed Antwren, Rusty-backed Antwren, Rufous Nightjar, Chapadas Flycatcher and many more! Of course, there are also some very interesting mammals to be found too. We shall spend two evenings spotlighting for mammals looking in particular for the rare Maned Wolf. We even have a good chance of finding this lanky canine in the grounds of our accommodation as we did during our 2015 tour! See HERE for 2015 trip report. Overnight Pousada do Parque
Return to Cuiaba Airport
After some optional pre-breakfast birding around our accommodation at Pousada do Parque, we shall then travel just a couple of hours to the airport where the tour concludes.