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If you are a fan of African safaris and spotted cats, you may want to visit Brazil

If you are a fan of African safaris and spotted cats, you may want to visit Brazil

Old Oct 16th, 2007, 05:04 PM
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Here are the next places I am scouting out for you. In June there is some bear viewing by house boat and waders, departing Kodiak, Alaska. Then later in July I'm checking out the Great White Sharks out of Simonstown, South Africa.

Now if you could head up to Churchill, Manitoba in the summer and try snorkeling in a rented wetsuit with the belugas, we can swap tales.

Tuckeg, funny how Africa gets in the way of lots of things.
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Old Oct 16th, 2007, 05:46 PM
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To make it more attractive Roomoo, it is a DRYsuit, not a WETsuit. My error. Much warmer in the drysuit.
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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 07:34 PM
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-Focus Tours, the agent I used
If you can accept lapses in communication and delays in transactions in exchange for a perfectly executed, extraordinary trip, with wonderful guiding, then I would recommend this company. The lag in my comments on the company was the result of (despite reminders) waiting until Oct 15 for some money that was owed to me since Aug. 1, before I ever left home.

The guide is so important and Fabricio was excellent, in my opinion and that of the other three participants. Focus Tour owner, Douglas Trent, knew Fabricio from the time he was a child and arranged for him to undergo extensive guide training when he was about 18. This included English lessons in the US, over a month at a birding camp to hone his already ample skills, and a pair Swarovki binoculars, among other things. Both Fabricio and his cousin, who owns Jaguar Lodge, were provided similar training and the result is that they are the only two Pantaneiro Guides of their level in the Pantanal—according to Fabricio.

Because Fabricio had not been to Minas Gerais in a year and that is where our trip began, just before I arrived he underwent training with a local guide to update his bird skills at the locations we would visit. That was very impressive to me.

I counted nine different vehicle, van, safari truck, or boat drivers and every one of them was great and enhanced our trip. The main safari vehicle was the only open one I saw on the entire trip. The accommodations we stayed in were perfectly located (that’s the most important part) and all very comfortable.

Pre-trip and pre-deposit planning was excellent, as Douglas Trent was in Santa Fe at the time. After that, there were times when I could not reach the company for up to two weeks by phone or email at any location. Materials that were promised never arrived, and most emails from the Santa Fe office staff started off with apologies for missed calls, lost emails, delays etc. The other women on the trip had the exact experience I did. As we recounted our concerns, we all feared at one point, perhaps this place was not for real, and we had lost our money. Douglas just informed me that he will be getting a Vonage phone with a New Mexico number so he can be reached easily in Brazil, so I think that may help.

While the Santa Fe office was responsible for some lapses, there was a notable exception when I was in continual contact with them for about 2 weeks. After the tragic crash at Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo and the subsequent news reports that blamed the runways, I insisted on changing my flights to avoid that airport. With the situation in constant flux, it was not just a simple procedure and I was in daily, sometimes hourly, phone or email contact with Santa Fe or Brazil, even a 3-way conference call. Focus changed the flights and the itinerary according to my to requests. That itinerary change and the additional money I wired them (which turned out to be more than was needed for the changes because TAM Airlines relaxed flight change fees in my situation) was the source of the refund that I received.

-International Expeditions
Looks like a great trip and a really great price. I’d even consider it someday. They had told me I could arrive in the Pantanal a few days early before the group for more days. I did not go with them because I wanted something more extensive and remote.

-Natural Habitat
Just got the catalog where the Pantanal is an exploratory trip. It was not available when I booked mine. It includes Bonito for snorkeling in the southern part. Same lodge (Caiman) as IE. Looks like a good trip, but more expensive than IE.

-Tropical Nature Travel

Both were responsive with emails and seemed good. Focus offered more of what I was looking for. I’d consider either of these companies in the future.

Of course I'd strongly consider Focus Tours for any future Brazil or South American travel.

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Old Oct 18th, 2007, 08:12 PM
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Okay, I seriously googled the belugas and that is beyond awesome. Where do you discover all these things amazing things to do?

And unfortunately, I can only take a vacation the very beginning of June this year (have to squeeze it in between my boards and 3rd year rotations...the joys of medicine) which from what I read is just a tad early for belugas. Though they are now "the list".
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 08:01 PM
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I discover these placed by talking with people I meet on trips, plus I am on every nature travel company's list so I get their catalogs and look at what they offer.

That "list" just grows and grows.

Good luck with your schooling, Roomoo.
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Old Oct 28th, 2007, 08:07 PM
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From what our guide said, the number of birds seen was not something to crow about. Pardon the pun. He felt there were many birds that did not show up for us in the Pantanal and that we should have seen a good deal more. He also was surprised in Minas Gerais that certain birds were not spotted, when days before they were seen. There were entire afternoons with hardly one singing bird and no sightings in Caraca. I ran into some avid birders who were a bit desperate to find certain species that were not cooperating.

There was no real reason for the below average bird count--weather was normal and very nice and we had an exceptional guide, often accompanied by a driver with good eyes, plus 2 of my 3 travel companions were skilled birders. Just our luck.

But I consider that good news overall if it means 237 different birds was a poor showing. Many of the sightings we had were attractive or colorful birds, sometimes in abundance, in fabulous settings, doing fascinating things, so I was very happy with the avian aspect of the trip. A flock of Roseate Spoonbills taking off in the sunset with half of the flock framed by blue river and the other half rising above dark green forest is a sight I’ll never forget and worth dozens of ticks—that’s tick marks on the bird list , not the miniscule biting muquin ticks that infested my lower body in Caratinga.

The best bird book is All the Birds of Brazil by Deodata Souza. It had been going for about $150 before I left (and it is what our guide used). I bought an ok book that was somehow missing all the humming birds, Aves Brasileiras by Johan Dalgas Frisch. It is in Portuguese, but has English bird names. Also good was Brazil Amazon & Pantanal by David L person and Les Beletsky for the most often seen birds and other animals.

E = Endemic
M = Migratory

82 birds in Minas Gerais

Small-billed Tinamou
Red-winged Tinamou
Cattle Egrets
Black Vulture
Crested Caracara (all over, including mating)
Yellow-headed Caracara (all over)
Laughing Falcon
Dusky-legged Guan (all over Caraca)
Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail
Blackish Rail
Pale-vented Pigeon
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Squirrel Cuckoo (a personal favorite)
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (2 in one tree)
Planalto Hermit
Glittering-bellied Emerald
Fork-tailed Woodnymph
Violet-capped Woodnymph (got a photo)
White-throated Hummingbird
E Brazilian Ruby
Cinnamon throated Hermit
Green Kingfisher
Rufous-capped Motmot (personal favorite)
E Crescent-chested Puffbird
White-barred Piculet (saw mating pair—rare to see)
Green-barred Woodpecker
Robust Woodpecker
White Browed Woodpecker
Tail-banded Hornero
Rufous Hornero (all over)
Rufous-capped Spinetail
Pale-breasted Spinetail
Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper (very hard to find, seen creeping near a stream)
Streaked Xenops
Plain Xenops
Variable Antshrike
E Ochre-rumped Antbird
E Scaled Antbird (a personal favorite)
Red Ruffed Fruit Crow (a first for Guide Fabricio)
Blue (Swallow-tailed) Manakin (a personal favorite)
White-bearded Manakin (heard the wings beat first, which is part of the mating dance)
Gray-hooded Flycatcher
Sepia-capped Flycatcher
E Yellow-lored Tody-flycatcher
Greenish Tyrannulet
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Sooty Tyrannulet
Swallow Flycatcher
Sooty TyrannuletC
Cliff Swallow-tailed Flycatcher
E Velvety Black-Tyrant
Masked Water-Tyrant
Long-tailed Tyrant
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Three-striped Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee (everywhere)
Chestnut-crowned Becard
Rufous-bellied Thrush (national bird and all over)
Pale-breasted Thrush
Chalk-browed Mockingbird
Blue-and-white Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Golden-crowned Warbler
Chestnut-vented Conebill
Magpie Tanager
E Rufous-headed Tanager
Ruby-crowned Tanager
Sayaca Tanager (a personal favorite)
E Golden-chevroned Tanager
E Brassy-breasted Tanager
E Gilt-edged Tanager (a personal favorite)
Burnished-buff Tanager
Blue Dacnis (a personal favorite, both the male and slightly less blue female)
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Yellow belliedSeedeater
Green-winged Saltator
Troupial (a personal favorite)
Red-rumped Cacique
Crested Oropendola
Uniform Finch

Though I have made no distinction between the Paraguay River and the rest of the Pantanal, the biggest variety of birds was seen on the land portion of the trip that did not include the Paraguay River. Many great bird sightings were made along the Pixiam River that we visited as part of the land itinerary.

153 birds in the Pantanal

Little Tinamou
Neotropic Cormorant
Southern Screamer (really did scream, fascinating pairs)
M White-faced Whistling-Duck
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Muscovy Duck
Whistling Heron
M Little Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Capped Heron
Cocoi Heron (all over, similar to Great Blue Heron)
Cattle Egret
Striated Heron (all over)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (all over)
Boat-billed Heron
Rufescent Tiger-Heron (all over)
Bare-faced Ibis
Plumbeous Ibis
Buff-necked Ibis
Green Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill (personal favorite, especially in flocks)
M Wood Stork (visited a rookery along Paraguay River)
M Maguari Stork
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Snail Kite (all over)
Crane Hawk
Great Black Hawk
Savanna Hawk
Black-collared Hawk (all over)
Roadside Hawk
Southern Caracara (Crested) (all over)
Laughing Falcon
Bat Falcon
Chaco Chachalaca (best bird name—no need for locals to wear watches because these birds call on the hour—and that was pretty close to true)
E Chestnut Guan
Blue-throated Piping Guan
Bare-faced Curassow
Gray-necked Wood Rail
Sunbittern (a personal favorite in flight)
Red-legged Seriema
Wattled Jacana
M Lesser Yellowlegs
Common White-backed Stilt
Pied Lapwing
Southern Lapwing
Large-billed Tern
Yellow-billed Tern
Black Skimmer (huge flocks on the Paraguay River)
Picazuro Pigeon
Scaled Dove
Ruddy Ground Dove
Picui Dove
Long-tailed Ground Dove
White-tipped Dove
Hyacinth Macaw (trip highlight—present on land portion of trip and on Paraguay River)
Red and green Macaw (personal favorite)
M Blue crowned Parakeet
White eyed Parakeet
Peach fronted Parakeet
Monk Parakeet
Yellow chevroned Parakeet
Scaly headed Parrot
Black headed Parrot
Blue fronted Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo (personal favorite)
Smoothed billed Ani
Guira Cuckoo
Striped Cuckoo
Tropical Screech Owl
Great Horned Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Ringed Kingfisher (all over)
Barn Owl
Great Potoo
Common Potoo
Rufous Nightjar
Cinnamon-throated Hermit
Black-throated Mango
Glittering-throated Emerald
Blue-crowned Trogon
Ringed Kingfisher (all over)
Amazon Kingfisher (all over)
Green Kingfisher (not many)
Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Black-fronted Nunbird
Chestnut-eared Aracari (personal favorite)
Toco Toucan (personal favorite)
White Woodpecker
Little Woodpecker
Pale Crested Woodpecker (personal favorite)
Great Rufous Woodcreeper
Straight-billed Woodcreeper
Narrow-billed Woodcreeper
Buff-throated Woodcreeper
Pale-legged Hornero
Rufous Hornero
White-lored Spinetail Y
Yellow-chinned Spinetail
Greater Thornbird
Gray-crested Cacholote
Great Antshrike
Barred Antshrike
Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Euler’s Flycatcher
Vermillion Flycatcher (personal favorite)
White-rumped Monjita
Black-backed Water Tyrant
White-headed Marsh Tyrant
Cattle Tyrant
Tropical Kingbird
Rusty-margined Flycatcher
Lesser Kiskadee (all over)
Great Kiskadee (all over)
White-winged Swallow
White-rumped Swallow
Brown-chested Martin
Blue-and-white Swallow
Black-capped Donacobius
Thrush-like Wren
Rufous-bellied Thrush (national bird and all over)
Creamy-bellied Thrush
Purplish Jay
House Sparrow
Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Magpie Tanager
Silver-beaked Tanager
Palm Tanager
Sayaca Tanager (personal favorite)
E Coal-crested Finch
Red-crested Finch (personal favorite)
Blue-black Grassquit
Rusty-collared Seedeater
Double-collared Seedeater
Saffron Finch
Red-crested Cardinal (personal favorite, hard to tell from yellow-billed, un common)
Yellow-billed Cardinal (personal favorite, all over)
Grayish Saltator
M Black-backed Grosbeak
Unicolored Blackbird
Bay-winged Cowbird
Shiny Cowbird
Giant Cowbird
Epaulet Oriole
Troupial (personal favorite)
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Solitary Cacique
Crested Oropendola
Chopi Blackbird

11 Birds in Chapados dos Guillarmos

Pearl Kite
Campo Flicker
Burrowing Owl
Red and green Macaw (personal favorite and last sighting of trip)
Bisutate Swift
White eared Puff Bird
Collared Crescent Chest
Black crested Tyrant
Curl Crested Jay (personal favorite)
Coal crested Finch
Plumbeous Seedeater

There were some birds seen in more than one location so the total birds listed is more than the 237 unique species.
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