I was fortunate to engage the services of two of the best birding guides in South America, namely Juan Mazar Barnett of “boute-expeditions.com”, and Braulio Carlos of “pantanalbirdclub.org”.
Boute Expeditions arranged our hotels in Itatiaia and Ubatuba and the Pantanal Bird Club organized all our transport and accommodation for the rest of the trip as part of one of their fixed departure tours.
Juan met us on our arrival in Sao Paulo airport and guided us around Itatiaia and Ubatuba for the first week of the tour.
We then flew to Cuiaba where we met Braulio Carlos for the main section of the trip.
See John van der Woude’s website johnbirding.wolweb.nl for maps and site details for many of the locations we visited.
02/9/04 Arrived Sao Paulo early evening, met Juan Mazar Barnet at the airport and transferred to the Best Western for overnight.
03/9/04 Picked up our Localiza hire car and 250km 3* hour drive to Itatiaia NP and Hotel Simon. Birded the Maramba Trail.
04/9/04 Agulhas Negras road.
05/9/04 Jeep Trail and visitors centre.
06/9/04 Tres Picos Trail and lower trails.
07/9/04 Drive to Ubatuba, 3 hours or so. Hotel Estalagem Recanto da Amoriras. Birded Folha Seca Trail. Ubatuba is 200km from Sao Paulo.
08/9/04 Angelim Rainforest reserve am. Drive back to Sao Paulo, return hire car, say goodbye to Juan. Overnight at the Best Western.
09/9/04 Flight to Cuiaba. Met at airport by a car from the Hotel Diplomata.
10/9/04 Met Braulio Carlos in hotel lobby early am.Transfer by minibus to Santa Teresa Lodge on the River Pixaim in the heart of the Pantanal.
11/9/04 Boat trip on Pixaim river then trails around lodge.
12/9/04 Boat trip and then drive to the Hotel Porto Jofre Lodge at the end of the Transpantera road.
13/9/04 Drive back to Santa Teresa Lodge.
14/9/04 Drive to Chapada dos Guiamaraes and Hotel Pousada Laura Vicuna.
15/9/04 Cerrado areas am and forest pm.
16/9/04 Cerrado and forest trails, pm Coxipo d’Ouro. Transfer to The Hotel Diplomata in Cuiaba.
17/9/04 Flight to Alta Floresta. Jeep and canoe transfer to the famous Cristalino Jungle Lodge.
18/9/04 Dr Haffers Trail and Teles Pires boat trip.
19/9/04 Canopy tower and rocky trails am, pm boat trip.
20/9/04 Taboca Trail am, canopy tower and rocky trail pm.
21/9/04 Serra trail am, up river to Lago Cigana pm.
22/9/04 Transfer back to Alta Floresta for flight back to Hotel Diplomata in Cuiaba.
23/9/04 Drive to Serra dos Araras, Hotel Pousada Currupuria das Araras.
24/9/04 Lodge trails and forest trails.
25/9/04 Lodge trails and Cerrado area. Drive back to Cuiaba for overnight.
26/9/04 Flight back to Sao Paulo and connect with flight home to UK.
Itatiaia and Ubatuba are situated between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and both are easily reached from the main BR116 autoroute between the two cities.
Itatiaia National Park. This superb park (12,000ha) protects subtropical and temperate forests, with large stands of giant bamboo, as well as high grasslands on the slopes of some of Brazil's highest mountains. Mount Itatiaia rises to 2,787 m (8,490ft.). Situated in the midst of the Serra do Mar, its list of over 270 includes many restricted range specialities. There are several good hotels within the park.
Agulhas Negras is a popular climbing and walking area easily reached back off the autoroute on the road to Itamonte. We birded mostly from the road as far as the climbing lodge and campground.
Ubatuba is a beach resort and is close to areas of remnant lowland Atlantic forest, which support some rare and restricted range species.
The Pantanal is a vast grassy lowland (savannah wetland) in the heart of South America and is home to a huge amount of wildlife. It is the worlds largest freshwater wetland and one of the worlds best birding areas. A dead end dirt road known as the Transpantaneira enters the Pantanal and terminates at Porto Jofre.
Braulio informs me that there are 114 bridges along this road.
We joined the Pantanal Bird Club tour for this part of the trip together with Andreas and his daughter Antje from Germany and Hans, Gustav and Yolanda from Belgium.
The Pantanal is renowned as one of the best areas in South America for wildlife viewing. We saw Ocelots, Tapirs, Giant Otters, Peccary and Capybara. Among the reptiles of note we saw Green Fer de Lance and Anaconda, and thousands of Spectacled Cayman.
I can personally testify the ticks and chiggers are plentiful and active in all areas of the Pantanal. Yolanda had a very useful tool for removing ticks, and Braulio had some ointment that
killed any chiggers that took hold.
The Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, lies at the western edge of the Brazilian central plateau, surrounded by the Cerrado (dry savanna) vegetation with some gallery forests that support a number of species not found in the Pantanal or the Serra das Araras.
In the cerrado areas tiny “sweat bees” converge on any exposed skin and will eagerly swim in your eyes and crawl into your ears nose and mouth. I seemed to be a particular favourite for these little monsters.
Sadly Andreas and Antje completed their tour at Coxipo and began their journey home. They very kindly gave me their remaining insect repellent and vitamin E supplements that had worked so well
Alta Floresta and Cristalino Jungle Lodge
We landed in Alta Floresta and after lunch at the hotel there, began our jeep and canoe transfer to the Cristalino Jungle Lodge, birding on route. In a Mauritia palm grove not far from town we stopped the jeep and taped out a Point-tailed Palm-creeper.
The Cristalino Reserve is one of the highlights of birding spots of Brazil and South America.
The well appointed bungalows are set in small clearings in the forest close to the river. The forest trails are well maintained and produced several birds hard to see in other locations.
The canopy tower proved a bit of a disappointment. Braulio said we were just unlucky as it usually produces lots of good birds, another minus point is the profusion of insects up there, including the intensely irritating “sweat bees”.
At least one of our number was stung by the vicious wasps that swarm around the top platform. Braulio was able to quickly remove the sting so the unlucky individual only suffered for a couple of days. I soon got over it though!
Hans, Gustav and Yolanda went on to Rio de Janeiro from Cuiaba at the end of this part of the tour.
The Serra das Araras, a narrow peninsula of Amazonian forest follows the southern edge of the mountain range giving it its name, is an ecotone between the Cerrado vegetation and the Brazilian Amazon.
There isn’t much forest left here, indeed only recently all the vegetation immediately around the Harpy nest tree was clear felled for agriculture.
If anything the cerrado is disappearing at an even more alarming rate. Areas so vast that the destruction can only be appreciated from the air are being slashed and burned to grow Soy beans.
In Cuiaba we met up with our new tour participants, Eugenia from the US and Sean a fellow Brit. We departed from Cuiabá to the Serra das Araras along 120 km of paved road crossing some cerrado areas birding on route. We arrived at our accommodation the Hotel Pousada Currupira das Araras around lunch time and wasted little time before searching for the Harpy Eagles.
We found the 10 month old juvenile perched on an exposed branch in a tree only a short distance from the nest tree. We were able to get some decent shots before it flew into the canopy.
Searches of the surrounding area on following days proved more difficult and we had to range over wider areas to find him again. He hadn’t gone very far but he was very well concealed.
click here for Species List