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Trip Report Rio/Iguazu Falls/Pantanal Sept 2010

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Just returned from a first trip to Brazil. A few friends travelling together looking for a little adventure and to take in this amazing country...we had a great time. Here's the itinerary:

Rio de Janeiro for 4 nights: Stayed at Ipanema Sol Best Western on the beach

Iguazu Falls for 3 nights: Cataratas Iguazu Falls Hotel

Northern Pantanal at a Fazenda near the Paraguay River for three nights and then 3 nights camping on the Paraguay River

Night in Sao Paulo

Maybe I should start with the Pantanal and work backwards since a lot of folks are interested in safaris...we chose a pretty adventurous route a little out of our comfort zone. We used Pantanal Ecoexplorers, Carlos is the owner. He has scouted some Fazendas that are not typically used for tourists in wildlife rich areas. We loved the place (Fazenda Santa Lucia) and the surrounding areas seemed rich in flora and fauna...

The camp we used was an old fish camp or shack along the Paraguay River...very basic...very simple, but clean. We had anticipated sleeping in tents out doors but there had been several jaguar incidents recently and so we pitched our tents inside this screened enclosure...tin roof, screens half way down with wood slats and then the lower half walled...

Tourism outside of game fishing seemed nearly non-existent...all we saw were the occasional house boat of Brazilian fisherman with smaller boats to go out and fish all day attached in the rear...

It was quite the adventure...the camp sat perched across an enormous rookery of wood storks...I'd estimate more than 1000 strong...roseate spoonbills sprinkled in along with a jabiru or two....these birds would make quite the racket in the setting sun but settled down after dark...bright and early they'd be clattering again...another wake up call would be the otherwordly call of howler monkeys...sounded more like the autobon than an animal call...

Our goal was to spot a jaguar and we were fortunate enough to do that in the Taiama Jaguar Reserve...a lone female prowling the shore. Usually they spot them under a shady tree looking for opportunity be it an unlucky capybara or a careless caiman. But there are long stretches of (for lack of a better word) tall green weeds...that's where we saw her...she didn't seem alarmed but she didn't stay long as she made a turn..and we watched the weeds shake and sway as she departed...very Jurassic Park! I was hoping for a Travelynn-like experience with jaguar-polooza but alas we'll take the one we saw....marvelous!!

We spotted a number of groups of Giant River Otters---one group of eight was particularly entertaining...when i saw two of these out of the water, it was almost shocking....they are HUGE! Capybaras were plentiful and fun to watch as well as hundreds if not thousands of caiman over the course of a week...For a birder (of which I am not) the Pantanal is a must...just simply incredible variety...large ostrich-like rheas, we saw a number of hyacinth macaws mostly squawking at each other like an old married couple...a scarlet and green macaw and yellow collared macaws...dozens of Toco Toucans, peach and blue fronted parrots, caracaras and king vultures (just one); and the amazing roseate spoonbills, huge jabirus and other secretary bird-type jobs as well as the small colorful ones like the yellow-billed seems to me only Africa compares but I'd say the Pantanal is the equal if not better with the abundant Toucans and macaws...

At the fazenda we saw a Giant anteater, many a crab-eating fox...and troops of agouti...some black tailed marmosets, a few howlers and a coupe capuchins...the guide spotted a night monkey behind the fish camp but it lept off before we could get to it...we also spotted the freshwater stingrays I'd seen on Animal Planet...besides the caiman we saw a two meter anaconda...a first for the guides in these locations (they've only been operating trips here for a month or so)...a tapir had been coming for a drink around 2P each day at the lagoon at the fazenda but apparently changed its schedule upon our arrival...we also missed out on maned wolf and southern tamanduas, but you gotta save something for next time right?

Fishing-wise we couldn't get a line past the voracious spot we saw several dorado hunting for food---a yellow green splash---and I did catch catfish but everything else had sharp razor-like teeth in the form of a pirahna...

Overall, we were taken care of very well out in the Wilds of the Pantanal...

Iguazu was stunning...the hotel is just an old colonial beauty---an Orient Express Hotel now...the President of Brazil was staying there at the time and they doubled the flow of the water...hope it didn't effect the nesting swifts! It is a privilege to stay long after the last tourist bus leaves the park since the hotel sits inside the park with a view of the falls...but it is expensive as hell...a bit annoying since they know they have a captive audience...The Argentina side is worth a full day and seemed to have the better jet boat gets you soaked at a couple different spots! Butterflies fill the Atlantic Rain Forest...toucans and plush crested jays...we also spotted a broad-nosed (snouted?) Caiman...dinner is also a bargain on the Argentina side...the exchange is much more favorable than in Brazil...

Rio was awesome...highly recommend the Scenarium in the Lapa District for great music and dance....a Sunday at Ipanema and Copacabana beaches is a scene! Took in a soccer game at Maracana which was also a treat...great trip...hope to get back and explore some more!

Will post my Iguazu pics later but here's my Pantanal pics for anyone that wants to see...

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