Monthly Archives: June 2016

Forest Adventure Brazil 6

Last summer, Wildfoot’s Sara embarked on an incredible wildlife-spotting trip to Brazil, recording the highlights of her holiday for your enjoyment. We have been sharing her daily journal entries on the Wildfoot blog. Today, Sara goes jaguar spotting, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Day 6

Today is serious! We have a fast speed boat for the whole day and a local guide named Wilson. And we have one thing in common – jaguar spotting!

The Pantanal, which means swamp or marsh in Portuguese, is the largest continental wetland in the world and is simply beautiful. I can think of nothing I’d rather be doing than cruising its maze of channels, under a perfect blue sky, in search of one of the most charismatic creatures to grace the New World.

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In the wet season, 80% of the Pantanal floods, with water levels rising as high as three metres, but we are visiting in the dry season when water levels are significantly lower, causing the wildlife to congregate on the river edge and making sightings much more likely.

Lodge researchers have documented many jaguars to be living in close vicinity of Porto Jofre and are so confident that we will strike lucky, that some of the lodges have started offering a ‘money back guarantee’ if we don’t see one, which gives me great hope for the days ahead.

Luckily we do not have to wait too long before Wilson gets a call on the radio and, despite the linguistic challenge, we know immediately a jaguar has been spotted. It turns out to be a mother with an elderly cub!

I can’t believe my luck! We have been on the water no more than a couple of hours, and we don’t have one, but two of these beautiful creatures in front of us!

We spend some time with them before they decide to settle down behind some dense foliage for the day, somewhat obstructing our view, so we decide to try our luck by venturing downstream a bit further.

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The wildlife is everywhere, caiman at every turn, heron and kingfishers bombing the water, capybara looking nervous in and out of the water. We even catch sight of a troupe of black howler monkeys and a very timid red brocket, a not-so-common deer species.

2nd Aug

Just as we’re going to call it lunch, we get a message over the radio that another jaguar has been spotted. Once again, the jaguar has decided to seek shade from the blistering midday sun in some long grass so the view isn’t great, but I’m not ungrateful after seeing three in the same morning.

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We spend the rest of the afternoon flipping between the two sightings in case either has decided to spring into action, but it’s not to be. We finally call it a day as the sun sets around us and head back to the lodge for a few Caipirinhas to celebrate. What a day!

 

Forest Adventure Brazil 5

Last summer, Sara from Wildfoot enjoyed a Brazil wildlife break, recording the high points of her adventure. We are posting her daily journal entries here on the Wildfoot blog. Today, Sara says goodbye to Rio Azul and makes her way to Porte Jofre.

Day 5

This morning, there’s time for another boat ride with Carlos and his father. We set out and immediately admire how crystal clear the shallow water is, which allows us to spot stingrays and all varieties of aquarium fish I know from having a tropical fish tank at home.

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We also search favoured hideouts for anaconda (with no success), hear the terrifyingly noisy howler monkeys and get to photograph several beautiful hummingbirds, my favourite being the crimson topaz.

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I think it’s also worth noting that if you are a keen fisherman, this is the place to come. In fact, Robson Green has recently visited to film an episode of his Extreme Fishing series here!

I am very sad to say goodbye to Rio Azul so shortly after arriving, but we have another three-hour drive, a one-hour flight and then another four-hour drive along the Transpantaneira, with all of its 122 bridges, ahead of me to get to the final destination.

Next stop is Porte Jofre, which is in the heart of the Pantanal.

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Large numbers of capybara and caiman litter the road, and several times we have to swerve or come to a grinding stop to avoid hitting them, The biggest surprise, however, comes when a puma runs into the road and almost dances in front of our car for a few seconds. We had never expected to see this elusive big cat here!

We arrive in the dark, tired and hungry, but we’re instantly rejuvenated by the warm welcome from Nelson, the manager at Hotel Pantanal Norte. A late but tasty buffet dinner follows, and then we’re off to bed, slightly excited with anticipation of possible jaguar action tomorrow!

Forest Adventure Brazil 4

Wildfoot’s very own Sara spent much of her last summer on a Brazil wildlife holiday, making notes of the best things about her trip. We’re detailing her experiences on the Wildfoot blog for your perusal. Today, Sara travels to Rio Azul and enjoys some Brazilian food.

Day 4

Breakfast at 6 am may sound early, but it’s my latest start on the trip so far!

I spend my morning doing a spot of kayaking. It’s gentle, and the current is with us which means not much effort is needed. I spot the first sighting of caiman, white-throated toucan and capybara.

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I say goodbye to friends at Cristalino and then we make our way back to Alta Floresta, where I am treated to my first real Brazilian Churrascaria! Their freshly grilled skewers of succulent meat are just too good to resist!

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Thankfully, my waistline is saved from a third glutinous helping because Carlos is waiting to take us on our three-hour drive to Rio Azul, which will be our lodge for the night.

The drive is made easier by Carlos’s enthusiasm and knowledge of all things Amazon. Along the way, he gives a running commentary of how the area has evolved and what we can expect to see when we arrive. He also wins some brownie points in my book by spotting a tiny burrowing owl popping his head out of its burrow as we hurtle along the dirt track road.

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When we arrive at Rio Azul, I realise instantaneously that this is a family run lodge that will offer great personal service. Carlos’s mother is the chef, and his father looks after the lodge upkeep, and I am made to feel like part of the family straight away.

We are immediately taken out on the trails in search of the local monkeys, of which there are five different species to look for. We stumble across some White-whiskered Spider Monkeys straight away, who seem to be in a very inquisitive and playful mood, rattling the branches above our heads in an attempt to hit us with the falling fruits. Further on, we encounter some white-nose bearded saki and the tufted capuchin monkeys.

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I am delighted with what we have seen in such a short amount of time, yet Carlos is determined to get us out in the boat before sunset to try and photograph the macaws as they roost each evening in a nearby palm tree.

We are the only guests staying at the lodge, and this is how Rio Azul likes it, allowing them to give you their sole and undivided attention. Carlos’s mother makes our dinner and it’s quite spectacular with freshly caught fish and homemade bread to start and the most glorious banana, cream and chocolate layered dessert to finish. My goodness, I wish I was staying here longer!

Forest Adventure Brazil 3

Wildfoot’s Sara spent last summer on a wildlife adventure holiday in Brazil, noting down the highlights of her journey. Here on the Wildfoot blog, we are sharing what she has been getting up to. Today, Sara takes a boat excursion and spots some beautiful new birds.                                                                                                              

Day 3

My alarm sounds at 4.30am, and I quickly realise we’re on a ‘proper’ wildlife holiday. After a quick strong coffee to give me some energy, we set off on our first excursion. The aim is to reach the other viewing platform in time for sunrise.

After watching the morning mist lift and unveil another gloriously sunny day, we turn our attention to a bit of bird watching, so go down to the intermediate stage of the tower which is level with the forest canopy to get a closer look of the birdlife it is home to. I spend a couple of hours here and get some fabulous shots of white bellied parrots, blue and yellow macaws, black-girdled barbet, Curl-crested Aracari and tropical kingbirds.

Blue-and-Gold Macaw

Blue-and-Gold Macaw

Macaw

On the short journey back to the lodge, Dan spots a pair of swallow tanagers. If you haven’t heard of these birds, I recommend checking them out online as they look stunning, and the male and females are very different!

We arrive back for a delicious breakfast and then quickly head back off for a boat excursion until lunchtime. The boat trip is extremely refreshing in the burning 35-degree heat. On the boat, we see another 19 types of birds, with my favourite being the iconic sun bittern.

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We also manage to spot a giant river otter, successfully fishing for catfish, which acts as an enjoyable interlude to all the birding.  Otters are definitely one of the more charismatic and fun animals to watch, constantly ducking and diving and chatting amongst themselves!

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We arrive back at 12.30pm and enjoy a superbly cooked lunch, consisting of fresh vegetables, chicken and locally sourced cheese. Thankfully, I’m given a few hours to rest up before a sunset boat ride, which is then enjoyed with more birds and wondrous sounds of the Amazon.

Dinner is once again delightful, and after a glass of fine wine around the campfire, my bed is extremely well received!

 

Forest Adventure Brazil 2

Last year, Sara from Wildfoot embarked on a wildlife-viewing trip to Brazil and recorded her journey highlights. We’re using the Wildfoot blog to share her experiences. Today, Sara stops by the Veu da Noiva before travelling to the Cristalino Lodge.                                                                                                           

Day 2

Today feels like a transitional day because we move from one area to the other without anything significant planned, but thankfully there are some great moments along the journey to keep me occupied.

We start the morning with a quick visit to Veu da Noiva, a waterfall which translates as Bride’s Veil.  This is probably the most iconic of the national park’s waterfalls and is a great photography stop for any amateur or professional alike. Although I could have happily spent the whole day at Veu da Noiva, enjoying the picture postcard views and abundant birdlife, my flight to Alta Floresta awaits.

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Upon my arrival at Alta Floresta, I am met by a guide from the much acclaimed and award winning Cristalino Lodge, which is to be my residence for the next couple of days.

The transfer consists of an hour-long jeep ride to the banks of the almighty Cristalino River, followed by a short boat ride into camp.

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Cristalino is renowned for its prolific birdlife and is considered a ‘must do’ by all serious birders that visit Brazil, and it’s not long till I understand why.  On my 15-minute boat transfer, I manage to get some terrific pictures of the Amazon and ringed kingfishers, capped heron, black-girdled barbet and green ibis. My goodness, this place is a bird lover’s paradise!

Bird 1

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As I walk into the main lobby at Cristalino, I am immediately aware that this lodge is truly special. The attention to detail is exceptional, and the accommodation is likened to that of a five-star African lodge. It has every right to call itself an Amazonian Sanctuary.

I am introduced to my guide Adriana, who will be looking after me for the next couple of days, and after a quick orientation briefing, she leads out to one of the two 50-metre-high viewing platforms they have.  Designed to give you a 360-degree panoramic view of the rainforest canopy, it’s the perfect place to enjoy my first Amazonian sunset of the trip.

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While waiting for the sun to set, I spot a troupe of black spider monkeys swinging through the trees, and I catch sight of my first Blue-headed parrots, although Adriana quickly warns me that they won’t stick around when I try to snap the perfect photograph!

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As night falls, we descend the tower and make our way back to the lodge where my first Brazilian caipirinha awaits.  As expected, my dinner is fantastic, with some locally caught catfish being the star of the show, closely followed by the homemade chocolate and pecan brownies.  Clocking up some serious mileage today has taken its toll, so I am quick to retire to bed to ensure I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed for the days ahead.

 

Forest Adventure Brazil 1

Last summer, Sara from Wildfoot went on a wildlife-viewing Brazil adventure and recorded the highlights of her trip. We’re sharing her experiences here on the Wildfoot blog for you to read. Below, Sara arrives in Cuiaba to start her adventure!

Day 1

Safely arriving in Cuiaba was the main goal of today, and that I did! After setting off from Manchester the day before, I arrive via Sao Paulo at 10.30am to start my Brazilian adventure and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

Upon my arrival, I am picked up by my fresh-faced guide Fabricia, who takes me straight out of town to Chapada Dos Guimaraes, which is around 90 minutes from the airport.

Chapada is a national park that incorporates stunning views from the Cidade de Pedra sandstone cliffs, and has a staggering waterfall and an abundance of wildlife.

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I really want to make the most of my brief time here, so despite the long journey and jetlag, I decide to join Fabrica on a short hike along the cliff face. It is well worth the effort, as it gives us a breathtaking view of the national park.

Within moments of the hike, we start encountering all sorts of birdlife, from flocks of scarlet macaws and yellow chevron parakeets that nest in the cliff face, to burrowing owls sitting on the boundary fence and hummingbirds collecting nectar from the wild flowers. The park is literally teeming with life!

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As we make our way further along the track, we make an incredible spot; a brown vine snake. As its name suggests, this snake is very well camouflaged in the undergrowth and consequently slips in and out of view.

Despite Fabrica warning me that it is mildly venomous, I just cannot resist getting a little closer for a second look. There’s something so captivating about its movement.

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Finally, defeated after a long day of travelling and the incessant dry heat, we decide to call time and drive into town to our humble abode for the night, Hotel Turrismo. For dinner, our guide treats us to some delicious local cuisine at a restaurant called Pomodori. I highly recommend the freshly baked empanadas… so tasty!