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Brazil Safari Report: macaws, marmosets, monkeys, a myriad of mammals, & many jaguars

Brazil Safari Report: macaws, marmosets, monkeys, a myriad of mammals, & many jaguars

Old Sep 16th, 2007, 07:52 AM
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Brazil Safari Report: macaws, marmosets, monkeys, a myriad of mammals, & many jaguars

If you made it all the way through the title, I can understand any skepticism of my claim of many jaguars. I would expect suspicions that the jaguar sightings were the result of too many Brazilian Caipirinhas, a tasty concoction of limes, sugar, and Cachaca liquor. Of you might figure I must be geographically challenged and only thought I was in Brazil when I was actually at the Belize Zoo.

But I did honestly see 8 wild jaguars in a 3-week trip, 7 of which were along the Paraguay River in or near the Taiama Ecological Station, with 6 spotted in one unbelievable afternoon, and 31 photos of 5 of them are in an album below. Jaguar sightings are not that rare on the Paraguay River because the jaguars have become habituated to the noise from boats, as this river is a major shipping route between Brazil and Argentina. So you could go there and see them too.

I�ll do a detailed trip report containing my itinerary, accommodations, agent info, and specifics on the sightings. Until then, I have some photos in the Kodak Easy Share Gallery, which represent a only small subset of the wildlife actually seen because some of it was at night and some of it eluded my photography abilities. There are five albums of five different locations with the nature photos first, then accommodations and such at the end of each album. The pictures are titled.

Paraguay River portion of Northern Pantanal trip. This album has the 31 jaguar pictures.
98 photos total, the first 89 are scenery and wildlife sightings, the last 9 are of the hotel.
http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&x=0&y=-gds1ze


Land portion of Northern Pantanal trip, flying into Cuiaba. Even though it was land based, there were 2 morning trips on the Pixiam River.
118 photos total, the first 95 are scenery and wildlife sightings, the next 18 are of 4 different accommodations, the last 5 are of our vehicle and some others we encountered.
http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...1&x=0&y=uo6uvo


Seminary where maned wolves are fed by the resident priests, located in Caraca in the Atlantic Forest of the state of Minas Gerais.
48 photos total, the first 21 are of scenery and wildlife sightings, the next 9 are of the Seminary and grounds, and the last 8 are the facililites/accommodations.
http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&x=0&y=-qd4gtc


Caratinga Research Station, which focuses on primates, located in the Atlantic Forest of the state of Minas Gerais.
18 photos total, all of the scenery and wildlife around Caratinga. No hotel photos.
http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...9&x=0&y=ffep8n


Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park.
18 photos total, the first half are of scenery and wildlife and the last half are of the inn
http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...9&x=0&y=ddzgo3

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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 08:17 AM
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Lynn, great start. My connection is slow for some reason today, so I will have to wait on the photos.

Out of curiosity, when and how did wildlife become the #1 focus of your many travels?

I'm looking forward to more.
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 09:43 AM
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I see that you'll provide agent info here. Looking forward to the report!
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 09:57 AM
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Leely,

I made the shift to mostly nature travel about 1992 when I went to Australia and saw kangaroos and koalas. I remember I booked a side trip in Cairns where we went to a swamp and saw a duck billed platypus and stayed out until 2 am peering up tall trees for odd looking marsupials. That's when I got hooked.

I've always liked nature and the outdoors, though. It also helps that this type of nature travel started to take off just around the time my own interest developed. These remote places are now accessible to a wider segment of the population than just the very rich. A couple generations earlier and I'd have to hang out with the likes of Hemingway to be able to travel to Africa and South America. Today even coupon clippers and Goodwill shoppers can save up and see the world.

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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 11:01 AM
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Wow, atravelynn,

That looks like a truly incredible trip! Loved the photos!! You had some incredible wildlife sightings. I will look forward to your more detailed trip report. I'm Costa Rica bound this year, but Brazil is on the to-do list!
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 11:17 AM
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Amazing photos Lynn. Thanks for posting the link on the African forum. I never would have seen this otherwise. In fact, I only looked at the link because of the title reference to loving cats on safari.

The jaguars are so beautiful and your photos of them fantastic. I can't believe you got shots of them swimming. Is that common? Were you in a boat when you took these shots? The close ups of the face(s) and the spots on the one after being in the water. Just magnificent. I also loved the marmoset photos and those of the brown howler.

The bird photos are also fantastic. The macaws are just beautiful, as are the storks, spoonbills, hyacinths and aracari. And how did you get that hummingbird shot? Is it as small as the hummingbird we see here in the U.S.,and how did you get it to stop moving its wings so you could get a clear photo?

I am envious of all of your travels. You take some great trips. The Pantanal and Paraguay River are now on that Travel To Do list of mine that just keeps getting longer. I am going to have to stop reading your trip reports and looking at your photos. Every time I do I want to immediately take another trip to a place I'd never even considered before.

Thanks for another opportunity to live vicariously through your photos.

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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 04:43 PM
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Awesome pictures! I'm so jealous because I saw very very few exotic animals on my trip

May I ask what kind of camera you have?

How far away were you from the jaguars?

I'm looking forward to more details - itinerary route, touring company, etc.
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 06:02 PM
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Dana,
I think they see jaguars swim every couple of weeks. There were quite a few humming birds, some bigger and some smaller than those in the US. I just saw one at home yesterday that was a lot smaller and less colorful. They would often hover around flowering bushes and you could get fairly close. Ha ha, that would be a good one to request a humming bird stop beating its wings for the photo op. I am relieved that the jaguar photos turned out well because most of the time the boat motor was going. If it stopped, we would have floated away in seconds. Thank you for all the nice comments!

Oceania,
This trip was designed solely for wildlife viewing. I used a Sony DSC H2 and a DSC H9. These are 12x and 15x optical zoom, image stabilization point and shoots. The closest we got was about 12 feet from the jaguar, but usually more like 20.
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 06:39 PM
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Lynn, thanks for answering. I see you are posting questions on the Africa board when you should be nose to the grindstone working on this report.

I showed your photos to my Africa travel buddy (the only person who agrees to my itineraries--and likes them!), and she said, "Oh wow, do you think we could do something like that?" As both she and her mother referred to every leopard we saw on our last trip as a jaguar, I said, "I don't see why not."
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Old Sep 17th, 2007, 01:27 AM
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This looks great -- what shots did you have to have to go there -- did you need yellow fever?

Really looking forward to the detailed report!
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Old Sep 17th, 2007, 06:35 PM
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Just looked at your pix on the Africa Board AMAZING! Bookmarking
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Old Sep 18th, 2007, 06:02 PM
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Amazing, amazing photos! It looks like we were at some of the same spots, but I think you saw even more wildlife than we did. We are actually planning to go back to Brazil next summer, probably the Amazon and Atlantic Rainforest.

I am wondering about the location where you saw the jaguars. Did you have to fly there? I checked out the website for the Baiazinha Hotel but its only in Portugese...can't quite figure out if its drivable or you need to fly. I look forward to your full report!
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Old Sep 19th, 2007, 06:43 PM
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Leely,
Does calling a leopard a jaguar have something to do with the cat not changing its spots or smelling like a rose by any other name? That's ok, I referred to the jaguar one time as a cheetah.

mpkp,
I am up to date with my shots so I did not get new ones for Brazil. Therefore I am not sure what ones are needed. I did not take any malaria prevention.

jczinn,
An itinerary is next so you can see if we were in the same area. But a capybara looks the same anywhere I suppose.

We took a 2 hour boat trip from the city of Carceres to get to Baiazinha. This was all arranged by the agent. I was just informed by the owner of Focus Tours, the company I went with, that Focus will be the exclusive agent for jaguar viewing by boat from the hotel.
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Old Sep 19th, 2007, 07:02 PM
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For the report, I'll do the itinerary, a narration of the trip with wildlife sightings, then agent info at the end.

Itinerary

Day 1 Aug 3
Fly O’Hare to Sao Paulo, Guarulhos Aiport on United

Day 2 Aug 4
Arrive Sao Paulo and take shuttle to Melia Comfort Hotel, arriving around noon.

Day 3 Aug 5
Morning flight from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte and drive about 2½ hours to the Seminary, lunch en route, arriving late afternoon. Dinner. Night with wolves. Sleep in room at Seminary—small, basic, comfortable, a little cold, good bathroom.. Lovely and interesting facility in beautiful setting.

Day 4 Aug 6
Bird watch from 6:30 to 7:30 am, breakfast, bird watch and walk on trails or road 3 hours until lunch, bird watch and walk on trails or road another 2-3 hours in afternoon. Dinner. Night with wolves. Sleep in room at Seminary.

Day 5 Aug 7 repeat of Day 4

Day 6 Aug 8
Bird watch from 6:30 to 7:30 am, breakfast, bird watch and walk on trails or road until about 9:00 am. Drive 5 hours to Caratinga, lunch enroute. Stop about 45 minutes at a friend of the travel agent who has bird feeders and puts out fruit for marmosets. Bird and marmoset watch at their home. Dinner and overnight at Vind’s Hotel--very nice city hotel.

Day 7 Aug 9
Depart 6:00 am for 40 minute drive to Caratinga Research Station. Spend the day bird watching and looking for monkeys. Lunch fixings brought and stored in visitor fridge. Dinner and overnight at Vind’s Hotel.

Day 8 Aug 10
Depart 6:00 am for 40 minute drive to Caratinga Research Station. Spend the morning bird watching, looking for monkeys. Lunch fixings brought and stored in visitor fridge. At midday head to Mercure Hotel near the Belo Horizonte Airport—modern, nice city hotel.

Note: I changed some flights to avoid Congonhas aiport and therefore overnighted near the Belo Horizonte airport. The normal routing is to spend the whole Day 8 at Caratinga and overnight about 2 hours away from the airport in the city of Rio Casca.

Day 9 Aug 11
Early morning flight from Belo to Cuiaba via Brasilia.
Note: The normal routing is to drive a couple of hours to the Belo Horizonte airport from Rio Casca and take a later flight to Cuiaba via Sao Paulo.

From the Cuiaba airport, drive on a paved road in an air-conditioned van about 2 ½ hours to Pocone, arriving early evening Then switch to the safari vehicle and head toward the Pantanal on road that changes to unpaved. Drive about 2 hours into the Pantanal with spotlight, looking for animals. Overnight Pousada Rio Clara—small room, basic, comfortable, good bathroom, A/C. Beautiful outdoor surroundings. Pousada Rio Clara is approx 45 km south of Pocone.

Day 10 Aug 12
Morning walk starting 6:30 am, then breakfast, then boat ride on Pixiam River. Lunch, rest, depart in the afternoon for the Jaguar Ecological Reserve and Jaguar Lodge. Game drive while the light lasts, spotlight at night, arriving about 3 hours later. Dinner. Overnight Jaguar Lodge—small room, basic, comfortable, good bathroom, A/C. On the grounds is a spotlighted area where food scraps are placed that attract crab eating foxes during the night. Tegu lizards dine in the area during the day. Jaguar Lodge is approx 110 km south of Pocone.

Day 11 Aug 13
Morning walk starting at 6:30 am, breakfast and another walk lasting to 11 am, lunch, rest, afternoon game drive that continued into a night drive. Dinner, another night drive. Overnight Jaguar Lodge.

Day 12 Aug 14
Morning departure for a game drive, south, then turned around and headed north past Jaguar Lodge to Mato Grosso Best Western Hotel. Lunch and rest, then afternoon game drive that continued into a night drive. Dinner, another night drive. Overnight Mato Grosso Hotel—small room, basic, comfortable, good bathroom, A/C. Beautiful outdoor surroundings and very nice facilities. Mato Grosso Hotel is approx 65 km south of Pocone.

Day 13 Aug 15
Morning walk starting 6:30 am, then breakfast, then boat ride on Pixiam River. Lunch, rest, depart in the afternoon for Pousada Alegro on game drive that continued into a night drive. Overnight Pousada Alegro-- small, extremely basic, rooms had previously been used for ranch hands, comfortable, good bathroom, A/C. Beautiful outdoor surroundings, an operating ranch. Pousada Alegro is approx. 35 km south of Pocone.

Note: The original itinerary did not have the Mato Grosso Hotel or Pousda Alegro. Instead the last 2 nights on the land portion of the Pantanal were at Fazenda Curicaca, a Bare-faced Curassow Reserve. The accommodation was described as an Africa style lodge and was just a couple miles north of Pousada Alegro. Because Fazenda Curicaca was being renovated, the change in accommodations was made. As I consider a possible return trip, I cannot imagine eliminating Pousada Alegro because of good animal viewing and the working ranch atmosphere. The fig tree in front of the Mato Grosso had outstanding birding, plus offered a chance to see a different part of the Pixiam River than the boat ride from the Pousada Rio Clara. I’d want to include those two accommodations along WITH Fazenda Curicaca if I went back.
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Old Sep 19th, 2007, 07:09 PM
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Day 14 Aug 16
Morning walk starting 6:30 am, then breakfast, then another walk until about 9:30. Game drive in safari vehicle of about 2 hours out of Pantanal to Pocone. Air conditioned van to Carceres, about 2 ½ hours. Immediately board boat for 2 hour ride on the Paraguay River to Baiazinha Hotel (fishing lodge)—billed as the nicest hotel in the Pantanal and deserving of title. Medium sized, simple and nicely finished rooms with TV, good bathroom, A/Cs. Excellent facilities, right on the river.

Day 15 Aug 17
Morning walk at 7:00 am, then breakfast, then boat outing to a ranch with Hyacinth Macaws. Lunch, rest, afternoon boat ride.

Day 16 Aug 18
5:45 am departure for Taima Ecological Station which encompasses 35,000 acres. Day is spent in search of jaguars, returning before night (6 pm)

Day 17 Aug 19 Repeat of Day 16

Day 18 Aug 20
The itinerary I received stated we would go further south beyond Taima in search of jaguars. Since we had had such great jaguar success already, we gambled on seeing a mother and cub in an area closer to home. Despite great effort on the part of the guide and captain, even pulling our boat over sandbars in piranha infested waters, we were not successful. We also spent more time just looking at the caiman, capybaras, birds, etc.

Day 19 Aug 21
Morning walk starting at 6:30 am, then breakfast and boat transfer, about 2 hours back down the Paraguay River. Board an air conditioned van in Carceres and proceed to Cuiaba and on to Chapada dos Guimaraes. Late afternoon views of the sun on the red cliffs and mountains. Visit to the geocenter of South America. Overnight at Solar dos Inglos—charming and exquisite inn with beautifully decorated rooms, and of course a good bathroom, don’t remember if there was A/C. Very attractive garden and outdoor sitting, dining areas. The British owner is a former jaguar and all-around big game hunter who told Focus Tours about the Paraguay River. He is most interested in the sightings on the Paraguay River.

Day 20 Aug 22
Morning birding along a dirt road for unique species. Visit to cliffs where red and green macaws nest. Visit to the national park for views of a waterfall, valley, cliffs and to hike on trails. Lunch and hour and a half drive to airport for flight back to Sao Paulo. Overnight Melia Comfort.

Day 21 Aug 23
Day at hotel waiting for evening flight that departed Guarulhos Airport in Sao Paulo

Note: I used the day to catch up on work emails. I also went in the pool (too shallow for swimming), which was nice and warm. The flights did not work for an evening departure one day earlier, but this last day was not the best use of time.

Day 22 Aug 23
Arrive early in O’Hare

I set this tour up as a group trip about a year and a half in advance so that the participation of others would defray my costs. The end result was I was alone for Caraca, Caratinga, and Chapada dos Guimaraes. Donna and Kimberly were with me for the land portion of the Pantanal. Donna continued on to the River portion of the Pantanal and Kimberly left but Rikki joined. Focus Tours arranges private trips or a modular plan like I did, where others can join. If I were to do it again, I would limit the group to four participants. We were never more than three and I was fortunate to have such an enjoyable group of travel companions.


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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 09:10 AM
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Good start, Lynn. How lucky to be such a small group.

Looking forward to more details.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 09:13 AM
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Lynn -- Your pics are great, incredible sightings of so many gorgeous creatures. I was never sure if I wanted to go to Brazil -- now it is on my list for sure! Looking forward to the rest of your report. And would appreciate anything you feel like sharing re: cost (relative to, e.g. African safaris).
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 05:12 PM
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The cost was about the same as Africa. There were less expensive Pantanal options through International Expeditions that I investigated. Those flew into Campo Grande and did the Southern Pantanal.

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Old Sep 21st, 2007, 02:53 PM
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Hi Lynn

great great great pictures !!

I showed them to my 12 yrs old son and now there are no excuses and we will go there as well !! Would be happy to have at least half the luck you had in jaguars viewing !! Macaws are also awesome !!

Just one question: we started our anti-malaric profilaxis (Malarone)for Amazonas but once there we stopped as the lodge owner told us it was not strictly necessary in that specific part of the forest, as it depends on the different acidity of water in different places. Somewhere else we were told that Pantanal is more risky ! Then I wrote one of your post before your trip where your travel clinic told you you did not need it !!
Do you think that also Pantanal has different areas with no and high risk ?

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Old Sep 21st, 2007, 06:41 PM
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FRIENDLY FOLKS IN SAO PAULO:
There is a daily Chicago O’Hare to Sao Paulo night flight on United that gets in midmorning. I spent that afternoon and night at an airport hotel as a buffer day, but you could launch into your trip or make a connecting flight upon arrival.

The helpfulness and friendliness of numerous people in my first 8 hours in country was a wonderful welcome. (1)When I bought my Portuguese-English handbook at the airport, I was asked for exact change. Not understanding, I thought the clerk wanted more money and so I tried to hand over more, which the clerk could have taken, but did kindly did not. (2) A similar incident of a much greater magnitude occurred at the TAM airline ticket counter. Twice I was prepared to fork over a $100 change fee for a rerouting I had made in my multi-city TAM airpass. Turns out the fee had been waived because my change removed Congonhas Airport, where the tragic crash had occurred. (3) A leather jacket had been left at the counter next to where I was conducting my airline ticket business and when I walked away from the counter, I was chased down by another customer because he thought it was mine. Eventually the jacket was reunited with its owner.

(4) I had some trouble locating the shuttle at the airport to the hotel and a competing hotel shuttle operator radioed for me. (5) Then an off duty airport employee waiting for a ride noticed I had been waiting in one spot a long time and used his cell phone to call the hotel for me. (6) At the hotel I had problems with my phone card and in no time there were people in my room dialing my phone for me. (7) When I asked to use the Internet, the desk clerk offered a solution to paying for the service—just come on in the back office and use hers for free.

Everybody during my entire stay, not just Sao Paulo, was very friendly (with the exception of one non-Brazilian tourist, who will surface when the final jaguar sighting occurs) But those first few hours were exceptional!

THE ROAD TO CARACA
The next morning I arrived back at the airport several hours prior to my 2-hour Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte flight. There were some frantic moments resulting from two gate changes, with only the first appearing on the monitors, my inability to communicate with the gate staff to track down my flight, and announcements that were sometimes in both English and Portuguese and sometimes in just Portuguese. I boarded the bus that takes passengers to the plane with two other stragglers as the announcement was warning “last call.” The flight arrived two hours late but Guide Fabricio was waiting, so all was well. And as I would come to learn, with Fabricio as the guide, all was much more than well.

I met Marcles the driver, (who also drove Brazilian rock stars when they were on tour!) and off we went through the winding roads into the hills of Caraca. Those roads were really winding and the hills were really rolling and we moved at a good clip, like 130 km/hour for normal cruising speed, and as a result it was not long into our ride that I realized we needed to make a quick emergency stop on the side of the road. Immediately! As my lower torso remained wedged in the vehicle and my upper torso protruded over the ditch and heaved, I had a flashback of a similar predicament one year earlier on a previous vacation. Different country, different car and driver, but the ditch was remarkably similar. I thought to myself, “I really know how to spend thousands of dollars and have a good time. Not to mention the first impression I am making.”

After a second less rushed and tidier visit to a gas station restroom and a Bonine pill (which I should have taken earlier) the rest of the motoring went well. From what I understood from Marcles, he had never experienced a similar performance with any of the Brazilian rock stars.

I was privileged to listen to some of those rock musicians because Marcles had their CDs that he would play as we careened around curves at 96 mph. We also had Queen blasting and I was pleased I could contribute something to our cozy little group besides being ill on the side of the road. I was able to explain the meaning of “We will, we will rock you!”

1ST LUNCH AND FOOD IN GENERAL
Our first buffet lunch was typical of most of our main meals, except this place included live entertainment with traditional Brazilian music and the barbeque pits were open and flaming. There was plenty of beef here as there was at every meal. Throughout the trip it was prepared many different ways from beef roast to habachi-flamed steaks to slabs on a skewer, sliced at your table. At one meal Fabricio ordered a pan of Filé a Parmesian for us all to share. Chicken was also common from fried to Peixe á Milanesa, which was sautéed in cheese sauce. Beans that were a soup-like consistency were served at every meal with rice. I was never sure if the ever-present big pot of spaghetti noodles was eaten plain or not.

The root vegetable, manioc , often played a big role whether fried, like a thick French fry, or as an entrée consisting of sausage mixed with dry manioc flour, or even an herbed dry condiment. Fabricio told me that manioc was a locally grown staple eaten a lot by the poor, but if it were imported, then the rich would develop a taste for it.

A very good fish in white sauce was often available. It was catfish one time and I don’t know what kind of fish the other times, but not piranha. That was saved for the soup, served hot in a cup as an appetizer. The Baiazinha Hotel on the Paraguay River had fresh, catch-of-the-day fish each night that was outstanding.

For the vegetarian there were always several of the following: salads with lettuce and tomato and fresh salsa dressing, pickled beets, a spinach-like cooked vegetable, cooked cauliflower and broccoli, sweet potatoes, and bread, sometimes cheese bread. I was encouraged to have the cheese bread at the Seminary because Minas Gerais is known to have the best.

For our first lunch we did not partake in dessert but usually doce de leite was served. It was a creamy dessert and depending on the region could be caramel, coconut, chocolate, etc. Along with coffee beans, I brought back jars of doce de leite for gifts. Goiabada, a guava gel was also common, often served with white cheese.

It should be noted that the Jaguar Lodge boasted the only yogurt served in the Pantanal. From what I could tell, they were right.

I bought some pumpkin-coconut fudge from the restaurant and nibbled on that as a snack over the next couple of weeks. So I ate well at lunch that first day and continued to do so throughout the trip.
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