Best of Brazil: Aug 08—21, 2009

Pantanal & Atlantic Forest

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Departs: Cuiaba (ends in Rio de Janeiro)
Tour Limit: 14
Operations Manager: Erik Lindqvist
Download Itinerary: PDF (127.2 KB)

Tour Leaders


Kevin Zimmer

Kevin Zimmer has authored three books and numerous papers dealing with field identification ...


Andrew Whittaker

Andrew Whittaker, a senior member of the VENT staff, has led VENT tours since 1993 throughou...

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Hyacinth Macaw

Hyacinth Macaw — Photo: Kevin Zimmer

A comfortable, short tour, concentrating on two fabulous biomes: the Pantanal and the Atlantic Forest, each with extremely diverse yet completely different avifaunas. Minimal moving around; fabulous photo opportunities and chances for mammal-viewing; excellent viewing conditions for birds; optional extension to Iguaçu Falls.

This short tour offers an in-depth introduction to two of the best birding regions in South America: the fabled Brazilian Pantanal, and the lush Atlantic Forest of Itatiaia National Park. By restricting our itinerary to two distinctly different destinations, we can maximize our birding at each while minimizing the necessity for moving around. In doing so we'll experience an impressive cross section of savanna and Atlantic Forest birds.

Our first destination is the northern Pantanal, which we feel is far superior to the southern Pantanal in terms of avian diversity, overall quality of birding, and in opportunities for seeing special mammals (such as jaguar). We will visit during the dry season, when receding water levels result in spectacular concentrations of birds and wildlife. Expect to see incomparable Hyacinth Macaws; Jabiru; Plumbeous Ibis; up to 12 species of herons and egrets (with good chances at Agami Heron); Bare-faced Curassow and Chestnut-bellied Guan (the numbers of curassows, guans, and chachalacas in this region are truly staggering); great numbers and diversity of parrots including such stunners as Golden-collared Macaw and Black-hooded Parakeet; a variety of raptors; and a dazzling array of smaller birds ranging from bizarre White Woodpeckers to flashy Helmeted Manakins and Brazilian Cardinals. Mammal-viewing opportunities are excellent, with possibilities ranging from the abundant capybaras to marsh deer, Brazilian tapir, giant otter, ocelot, and even jaguar.

Saffron Toucanet

Saffron Toucanet— Photo: Kevin Zimmer


Our second destination is lovely Itatiaia National Park, located in the mountains on the border between Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Minas Gerais states. We will be based at a charming, family-run hotel featuring spacious chalets, excellent food, and wonderful birding on the grounds. Moreover, our lodge is located within the park itself, meaning that we'll never have to travel far to reach our birding sites. Hummingbirds, tanagers, and toucanets are a near constant presence at the hotel feeders, making it difficult to tear ourselves away to hit the trails. Once we do, we'll be treated to fabulous birding that will include a large number of species endemic to the Atlantic Forest of southeast Brazil. Possibilities include such gems as Dusky-legged Guan, Tawny-browed Owl, Saffron Toucanet, Plovercrest, Itatiaia Spinetail, Giant and White-bearded antshrikes, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Swallow-tailed Manakin, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Brassy-breasted Tanager, and many more.

An optional extension to spectacular Iguaçu Falls National Park will allow those with additional time the opportunity to see the world's largest waterfalls, while enjoying a few days of excellent birding in subtropical Atlantic Forest.

Good (Pantanal) to excellent (Itatiaia & Iguaçu) accommodations; great food throughout; easy to moderate terrain; early start times and full mornings of birding; most non-travel days with return to lodge for lunch and significant mid-afternoon break; most birding along lightly-traveled roads, jeep tracks, or on good forest trails, with some riverboat trips in Pantanal; two internal flights on main tour; longest non-birding drive is the 3 to 4-hour drive to and from Itatiaia.