Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
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Return to the South
Return to the Brazil
by Barry S. Levine
following report only deals with practical information that we hope
could be valuable to someone setting up a trip. Our 31 day tour
of the country included stops in the Atlantic Rain forest,
Iguazú Falls, Alta Floresta and Cristalino, The Pantanal,
Chapada Do Guimaraes, and Manaus. With information provided by
group members and trip reports, we were able to set up an almost
perfect trip to an amazing country. We have nothing but great
things to say about Brazil and would encourage those of you who have
not ventured there to put it high on your list.
Our questions centered around the following:
Field Guide to take?
We ended up taking Van Perlo's Book
problems with the book have been discussed often, but most in Brazil
agreed it is your best option at this point. It sounds as though Kevin Zimmer's book
will not be
available until early 2012.
the best way to navigate around Brazil?
We had thought about driving the great distances around the country,
but are very glad we didn't go that route. Road signs are
difficult to follow and/or nonexistent. Even with GPS I think
you'd be hard pressed to get where you need to go without a good
working knowledge of Portuguese. On a trip back to Rio there were
no signs for the airport, and I wouldn't suggest one get off of the
roads in that neighborhood to ask for directions.
That leaves you with flying as your best option. There is a
Brazil pass that Tam offers that gives you 4 flights for about $550
US. You cannot purchase this in Brazil. A possible problem
is that they do not fly to Alta Floresta so if you're going that way
you must use Trip airlines, or ride the supposedly comfortable
overnight bus. Tam can set up the flight for you and ultimately
we had them do that. The round trip to Alta and back to Cuiaba
(Tam does operate out of there) was about $400. Also be aware
that the pass does not allow you to fly on certain flights between
cities. So for instance, we could fly from Iguazú to
Cuiaba (basically your gateway to the Pantanal) but we would have to go
through Sao Paulo, then Brasilia and then to Cuiaba. A very
circuitous route that would have taken 16 hours to complete. So
we paid extra to get it done in 5 1/2 hours.
We were told often that we had made a good choice in going to
Cristalino first and then following it with the Pantanal.
Cristalino is exceptional birding both for species and in
difficulty. The Pantanal is much more open.
Some members said that Iguazú wouldn't be as important bird-wise
as the other places and I would agree. Yet, I think travelers
would be missing an incredible site. We didn't enjoy the crowds,
but loved the falls. The Mucaco Trail on the Argentinean side was
loaded with birds.
Due to suggestions from members we opted for 7 day at Itatiaia,
Pereque, around Paraty and Ubatuba on the Atlantic. This seemed
about right to us. The only proviso is that it is a rain forest
and if you get rained out, or in our case winded out, and lose time at
one of these spots you can easily miss some of the specialties.
We lost almost a day and a half due to weather, but we were still able
to see most of the expected birds. We stayed outside the park in
the town of Itatiaia about a 15 minute ride from the Hotel Ipe.
Much less expensive but not nearly as nice. In the upper part of
the park we stayed in a small hotel in a town about 15 kilometers
away. As you approach the top rather than staying at the hotel
there continue on the winding road for about 20 minutes to the next
town. The hotel is above a restaurant near the center.
Worked fine for us. We liked being in a less touristed
area. It also gave us the opportunity to interact with the local
people. We also spent one night in Pereque, one night near
Ubatuba at Corcovado, and one night in the charming city of
We had 4 days at Iguazú. 3 were extremely cold and wet so
that limited our birding. But as stated above this is not as
important a birding area as the others we went to. Still in all,
we saw some great birds in the area. We stayed at Colonial Harbor
Hotel for 2 nights. They are right near the Brazilian side of the
falls about a 1 kilometer walk away from the park entrance. One
of our rooms was very nice, the other in an older part of the hotel was
pretty dated. Still in all, great proximity to the falls.
I'd recommend a pass on the Bird Park unless you are visiting with kids
who like that sort of thing.
The other 2 nights were spent at the Sheraton on the Argentinean
side. A very nice spot, though some will find it to be very
expensive. We did, but it can't be beat for location. It
should be noted that going from Brazil to Argentina is not a short walk
over a bridge, but is instead a longish cab ride that can cost $40 US
or more. You can ride buses, but that involves a change of buses
before you hit the border and then extended time crossing the border as
they process all the people on the bus. If you chose to try to go
to Paraguay, that's also a distance from the falls themselves. We
passed on the experience.
We set up the trip with an off day between Iguazú and Cuiaba in
case of any flight problems and lo and behold we were glad we
did. The frozen (2 degree Celsius) weather caused a closing of
the airport in Iguazú, so were still able to make our connection
for Alta Floresta and our time in Cristalino. Before going to
Cristalino we had one night at the Hotel Alta Floresta run by the same
family that owns Cristalino. It is well known for it's Harpy
Eagle nest found a short distance inside the forest behind the
hotel. No one had seen the harpy for over a month, so we enjoyed
birding the forest and the locale. Really a very nice quiet
place. Betania, who runs the place for the owners, is just a
delightfully funny human being.
We spent 6 night at Cristalino and loved it. Our original
question to the group was “Are there any options?” and many said
basically no. I believe that's about right. Great trails,
lots of access by boat to more remote areas, huge tower, and as luck
would have it, we were the only birders at the lodge. Well worth
it to us.
After returning to Alta Floresta we then caught a flight back to Cuiaba
(Hotel Las Velas right across form the airport). Funky looking place,
but we liked the people working there a lot. Cuiaba itself will
hold little interest to most of the group. It is basically your
jumping off place for the Pantanal. We then had 7 days in the
Pantanal and 3 in Chapada. Again just about the right amount of
time. Perfect for the Pantanal with 3 days at Pousada Piuval, 2
at Santa Thereza (AKA Jaguar Wildlife Center), 1 at the Platform (set
up through Santa Thereza) and 1 night at Pouso Allegre. This
allows you to hit the different areas and try for the specialties at
each lodge. We loved the Pantanal.
At Chapada, we stayed in the town center (sorry can't remember the
hotel name). Again weather became a deterrent. We lost the
first 2 and a half days to 55 km (35 mile) an hour winds. Lucky
for us we had an incredible last day there that ranks with the best
we've had anywhere in the world. So again about the right amount
of time, especially if the weather cooperates.
We had only a day and a half at Manaus. Way too little
time. I'd recommend about a week, and like any of these places,
more wouldn't hurt. We took a cab from the airport with our
luggage in tow and got out for an afternoon in the Presidente Figuerido
The last day we organized a 5 hour boat trip at the docks at the river
going to Marchanteria Island. In the afternoon, we birded at the
Tropical Hotel. A ritzy place that has a bit of forest behind
it. We stayed at the St. Paul Hotel which advertises itself
as being in the city center. Nice hotel, but a terrible
location. Really too far to be called the city center, yet in the
city enough that it makes it difficult to get outside to bird.
I'd recommend staying for a few days in Presidente Figuerido at the
Iracema Hotel about 10 kilometers north of the town center.
Others have gone to lodges and birded for at least a few days farther
up river from Manaus itself. That would have been our choice as
well if we'd have had more time.
All the best.