Hyacinth Macaw, Jaguar and Harpy Eagle in one of the world’s great wildernesses




We have been running tours to Brazil for nine years, and the huge bird diversity, ease of birdwatching, great mammals, spectacular landscapes and friendly people keep drawing us back. This tour covers open cerrado, dry Amazon forest and the incomparable Pantanal.


We start at the western edge of the Brazilian central tableland, the Planalto. Here the sandstone cliffs shelter valleys where Blue-winged and Red-and-green Macaws roost; and the surrounding natural cerrado is considered the richest savannah in the world. The beautiful national park of Chapada dosGuimaraes also has gallery forest that supports many species not found in the Pantanal.


The dry forest of the Serra das Araras is a bridge between the Amazon and the cerrado. It is here that the Harpy Eagle breeds and we will make a special effort to see this magnificent bird.


Then we will enter the Pantanal, one of the last great wildernesses in the world. This World Heritage Site is South America’s primary wildlife sanctuary. At the time of our visit the concentration of birds has to be seen to be believed. Birding along the almost empty Transpantaneira is one of the great wildlife experiences, with up to 100 bird species per day including Jabiru and Hyacinth Macaw as well as great chances of mammals such as Southern Tamandua, Marsh Deer, Collared Peccary, Giant Otter and Jaguar.





From Cuiaba, our hotel for the first three nights is an hour’s drive north. Once we have checked in we can acclimatise and acquaint ourselves with the many common birds in the extensive grounds. Nearby a scenic watchpoint overlooks a waterfall where Biscutate and Sooty Swifts circle in the evening as flocks of Blue-headed Parrots, White-eyed Parakeets and Blue-winged Macaws come in to roost.


We will explore gallery forest for Planalto Slaty-Antshrike, Planalto Tyrannulet and Buff-throated Woodcreepers. The cerrado has a wealth of special birds including King Vulture, Red-and-green Macaw, Curl-crested Jay, White-rumped Tanagers, Rufous-winged Antshrike, Rusty-backed Antwren, Chapada Flycatcher, Rufous-sided Pygmy-Tyrant, Coal-crested Finch, White-eared Puffbird, White-vented Violet-ear, Black-throated Saltator, Grey Monjita and the rare Horned Sungem. Least Nighthawks often hunt over this habitat.



Two hours drive from Cuiaba is Araras, our base for the next two nights. This mountain range supports a narrow finger of rather dry Amazonian forest along its southern edge. Our target is the huge Harpy Eagle, which nests here and is seen regularly within its territory. This rare and threatened raptor will be our main focus, but there is plenty of other wildlife around. Birds that can be found include Blue-eyed Ground-Dove, Tataupa Tinamou, Bicoloured Hawk, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Lettered Aracari, Red-necked Woodpecker, White-necked, Striolated and Spot-backed Puffbirds, Rufous-capped Nunlet, White-flanked Antwren, White-eyed Attila, Snethlage's Tody-Tyrant, Sharpbill and Band-tailed Manakin.



As recently as the 1980s the Pantanal was a magnet for hunters and trappers after the spotted cats, caimans and parrots. Now eco-tourism fuels its conservation. Three nights near Pixaim and three nights at Porto Jofre will allow us time to explore the whole area.


On day seven we head for the Transpantaneira, looking for Savanna Hawks, Greater Rheas and Red-legged Seriemas in the drier grassland en route. As soon as we hit the Pantanal proper the sheer number of waterbirds is sensational, as thousands of storks, herons, tiger-herons, egrets and ibis are concentrated in every remaining waterhole at the end of the dry season. Right from the start Sunbitterns can be seen, and raptors such as Laughing and Aplomado Falcons, Snail Kite, Black-collared Hawk and Great Black Hawk are obvious. We shall drive slowly down the raised road stopping frequently to watch pools teeming with Yacare Caiman.


At Pixaim the forest patches hold yet more birds; we expect to see Toco Toucan, Chaco Chachalaca, Green-backed Becard, Blue-crowned Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Mato Grosso Antbird and Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher. White Woodpeckers and Campo Flickers prefer the drier field edges. There are bird feeders and viewing platforms at our traditional Brazilian fazenda, which means close views of many bird species.


A backwater boat ride is a gentle way to find the more secretive species, such as Sungrebe, Agami Heron, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, the endemic Chestnut-bellied Guan and all five South American Kingfishers: Ringed, Amazon, Green, Green-and-Rufous and American Pygmy. We will also keep an eye open for the social, noisy Giant Otters.


Short drives and short walks will be the daily pattern, looking for Monk and Golden-chevroned Parakeets, Turquoise-fronted Amazon, Black-fronted Nunbird, the smart Helmeted Manakin and Great Rufous and Narrow-billed Woodcreepers. Rufous Cacholote, Greater Thornbird, Buff-necked Ibis, Golden-collared Macaw and the scarce Nanday Parakeet may be seen in the more open areas. Common Pauraques and Band-tailed Nighthawks are numerous; Great Potoo and Great Horned Owl are often seen in the day, whilst a night drive gives us a chance to find Crab-eating Fox, Brazilian Porcupine and other night animals. Tapir and Ocelot are also seen, but less often.


On day ten we will set off for the very end of the road at Porto Jofre. Along the way, any pools will be worth checking for Southern Screamer, Brazilian Teal, Muscovy Duck, Jabirus, Roseate Spoonbill, Plumbeous Ibis, Snail Kite and the handsome Capped Heron.


At Campo Jofre there is a huge flooded grassland and marsh. Scanning from the road we can pick out Maguari Stork, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Buff-necked Ibis, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns. Scores of Nacunda Nighthawks usually roost here. Yellow-browed Tyrants and Lesser Kiskadees patrol the pond sides whilst Yellow-chinned Spinetails call from the roadside. The rains are just weeks away and birds are gearing up to breed, displaying and quarrelling in resplendent plumage.


We will encounter the magnificent Hyacinth Macaw near our lodge as they are quite common in this area – they roost in the grounds giving intimate views. Bird flocks in the forest around Porto Jofre frequently include a dazzling array of tanagers, tyrannulets, hummingbirds and woodcreepers. Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Rufous Casiornis, Squirrel and Little Cuckoos, and Red-billed Scythebill are around here. Shy Bare-faced Curassows emerge from the forest in the mornings.

By now the days should be heating up enough to draw Jaguars to the riverbank to rest in the cooler air – local contacts will keep us informed of recent sightings. So our boat trip on the Rio Cuiaba and its tributaries, whilst affording fine views of Green Iguana, Black Skimmer, Black-capped Donacobius, Crane Hawk, and many other birds, is mostly aimed at seeing one or more of these beautiful cats.

Sightings of rare species such as Jaguar and Harpy Eagle cannot be guaranteed of course, but being in the right place at the right time maximises our chances. Whether we are lucky with these species or not, a visit to Mato Grosso is always spectacular and memorable…it is a rare privilege to sit by the hotel pool and watch Wattled Jacanas, Rufescent Tiger-herons and Capybaras on the lily covered lake, then as the sun creates a brilliant red sunset, Hyacinth Macaws fly to roost and nighthawks appear.

Roger has been visiting Brazil since 1992, and advised on the new Bradt Guide to the Pantanal.



On most days, breakfast will be at 7am so that we can go birding quite early. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field with short/medium length walks on the flat. There is almost no uphill walking. On hot days there will be a longer break in the middle of the day, with birding in the mornings and late afternoons.



Full-board accommodation is provided with three nights at the Pousada Penhasco, Chapada, two nights at the Pousada Currupira, Araras, three nights at the Pantanal Wildlife Centre, Pixaim and three nights at the Hotel Porto Jofre. The hotels are of a good standard with en suite bathrooms. Packed lunches will be taken when necessary.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 22nd, ending with lunch on 2nd), soft drinks, local transport by coach, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flight from London Heathrow to Cuiaba (via Sao Paulo), using the scheduled services of TAM. Outbound flight departs late evening, return flight arrives back mid-afternoon. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are avaiable on this tour. See booking form for details.



13 nights including

two overnight flights:


Principal leader:


Local guide:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

5th April 2011):


Full Cost:


Single supplement:






21st Aug. to 3rd Sept. 2011


Roger Barnes


Ricardo Parrini


12 clients with one leader

and a local guide



£3550 per person sharing


£3700 per person sharing







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Phil's photographs on this page were taken during Roger's Tour to Brazil. Phil joined the group as a client having heard how good it was and he was not disappointed .

This was our fifth trip to the country and it was the fifth tour that celebrated seeing Jaguar.


We spotted a Giant Anteater in the Pantanal. It allowed us to get close views as long as we remained down-wind of its sensitive nose.



A family of Giant Otters were in the river in the Pantanal. They approached our boat too close to focus on at times!


This Tropical Screech Owl was one of a pair that called outside my bedroom!


Campo Flicker is a big ground-loving woodpecker that is common in dry open grasslands.

Aplomado Falcons are one of the smartest of raptors. This one moved from tree-to tree as we tried to pass it.

Immature Tiger Herons have a whacky crest that can be raised to threaten any stork that gets too close.

Male Snail Kites specialised in eating crabs on this visit rather than Apple Snails.

This Sun Bittern was bothered by a fly that kept landing on its bill as it tried to fish. After shaking the fly off a few times, it ate it allowing it to hunt in peace.

The Do-ype trees were in full flower along the road into the Pantanal.

Snail Kite

This American Pygmy Kingfisher had a mayfly on its bill.

Being a nightjar nut, Phil opted to try and get some flight shots of Nacunda Nighthawks, while others watched them from the shade by the pool.

Jacanas were tiny compared to the giant water-lillies.

This Ringed Kingfisher watched from one of the less 'solid' bridges in the Pantanal.

Hyacynth Macaw is one of the star attractions here.

These Nunbirds were singing in a chorus together, while swinging on the branch.

This Jaguar was hiding beneath a tree enjoying the shade above the river.

It was probably waiting for a quiet moment to swim across the water, as it moved along the bank beside our boat rather than retreating into the jungle.



After a while it sat down by the bank again to watch the tourists pass by.

More Nacunda Nighthawks. These birds feed over the open waters and grasslands of the Pantanal.



















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