Wildlife & Waterfalls in Brazil

Barry and Lynda Morten

08 Dec 2015

Exploring the Cristalino River

This was our first visit to Brazil, we wanted to experience the varied wildlife, rainforest and Pantanal regions for 16 action-packed days.

We arrived in San Paulo early morning after a night flight from Heathrow then took two internal flights to Alta Floresta, deep in the southern Amazon rainforest. We stayed three nights at the wonderful Cristalino Lodge where we spent the next two days experiencing the rainforest and exploring the Cristalino River by boat.

Michael, our guide, looked after us very well, introducing us to the wonderful wildlife of the region and an abundance of unusual and beautiful birdlife such as humming birds, tiger herons, sungrebe and Amazon kingfisher to name but a few. 

We saw tapir, capybara, spectacled caiman, giant river otters, river turtles, tegu lizards, spider monkeys and were on the lookout for jaguar and a giant anaconda that had been seen in the area. 

The Cristalino Lodge was very welcoming and a large G&T with lots of ice proved a particular hit at the end of a wonderful but tiring day.

the Northern Pantanal

We then travelled by boat, road and an internal flight to SouthWild Pantanal Lodge deep in the Northern Pantanal on the Pixiam River for an overnight stay. The next day we continued our journey by road to the SouthWild Jaguar Flotel, situated in a more isolated river area, this is where we had our best chance of seeing jaguars.

We stayed for three nights taking two boat safaris a day and on the first afternoon we saw an amazing four different jaguars including Sergio, a huge dominant male, mating with Patricia, a much smaller female. We stayed with these incredible animals for over an hour; Sergio was totally focused on keeping close to Patricia and completing his manly duties. I am sure that he never even noticed us.

We also saw another pair of mating jaguars; Peter and Estella. Peter was much smaller in size to Sergio. These two were much more secretive when mating and tended to keep in the bushes whilst conducting their business. At one time these couples were within a 100 yards of each other. What a fantastic first safari! We arrived back at the flotel really excited and amazed at what we had just seen. Early evening meal with a nice bottle of wine, ably looked after by the resident barman who kept us fully topped up at all times.

Next morning, up and ready to leave at 6am following a quick breakfast and on the boat for our next safari where we saw the two mating pairs of jaguar again, still hard at work. I was amazed at the large size of Sergio, the male jaguar, much bigger than the African leopard and about the same size as a lioness; the jaguar is the third largest of the big cat family after the tiger and the lion.

We also saw tapir, giant river wild otters, caiman, capybara, long nosed bats and a fantastic array of spectacular birds; including toucans stealing eggs and baby birds from nests. We saw black collared hawks, ospreys and a cocoi heron eating a catfish. 

At every turn in the river we saw something new and exciting!

We got off the boat and got up close and personal with a group of caiman resting on a sandbank and took some great photographs.

Next day visited a fishing camp; saw beautiful blue hyacinth macaws, giant otters hunting and a caiman eating a snake fish.

The afternoon safari was amazing, we found another female jaguar called Ruth who was around 10 years old and we spent about an hour following her by boat as she hunted for caiman along the river banks. We also saw another male jaguar hunting in the water hyacinth but he was quite shy and soon disappeared.

The next morning we travelled back to SouthWild Pantanal Lodge for a couple of days where we had fantastic viewings of giant otter, a black collared hawk eating a piranha, blue heron and a beautiful bird called an agame heron.

On to to Iguazu Falls

Our guide, Alyson, was amazing and his expert knowledge of the animals and where we should look for them never failed to surprise us. He was also helped by the very knowledgeable boat drivers who spotted various birds and animals from incredible distances 

Later, we saw a nocturnal bird called a greater potoo and her chick. They are experts in camouflage; looking like part of the tree where they sit motionless all day long awaiting for nightfall when they hunt.

Next morning we had a three hour walk and saw hooded capuchin monkeys, agouti, howler monkeys, coati and a whip-tailed snake which nearly gave us a heart attack as it crossed the path.

The final afternoon boat safari was fantastic; we saw giant river otters, caiman, tapir, iguana, golden tegu lizard and a fleeting glimpse of a jaguar swimming between two islands.

We left at 6am the next day for long drive to airport followed by two internal flights to Iguazu Falls. We stayed close to the border with Argentina in the luxury Das Cataratas Hotel, situated just across from the falls inside the national park. This was an ideal location and proved a very good choice - it was fantastic to enjoy a little bit of luxury after 10 days in the rainforest and wetlands of Brazil.

Our guide collected us the next morning and we crossed the border into Argentina to view the falls which are much more spectacular there than from the Brazilian side.

We spent a long day walking all the various trails to the best viewing points and took an amazing boat ride into the falls and actually underneath some of the falls, not for the faint-hearted and don’t go unless you want to get very very wet. The views from the boat and the viewing points were fantastic, a must do if you are in the area.

Rio de Janeiro

The next day we travelled back to the airport for a flight to our final destination, Rio de Janeiro.

We stayed at the Porto Bay Hotel on Copacabana beach. Our fantastic guide, Patricia, took us out to see the sights: Sugarloaf, Christ the Redeemer, Sambadrome and the historical old centre as well as pointing out where in Rio the 2016 Olympics would be staged. We had fantastic evening meals in two restaurants Giuseppe Grill in Leblon and Fogo de Chao (Brazilian Steakhouse) which we thoroughly recommend as top quality at a reasonable price. We always travelled by taxi to and from the restaurants which was a safe method when travelling at night.

We completely loved Brazil, which was so diverse and absolutely amazing. 

The people were wonderful and friendly. We were slightly nervous about staying in Rio due to the bad publicity about the high crime rate but were pleasantly surprised, we had no problems, but like all big cities you need to use common-sense.

Thank you Tom for preparing a perfect itinerary for visiting Brazil and making it a wonderful holiday to remember.

Please get in touch if you'd like us to organise a safari for you like Barry and Lynda's!

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