Brazil's Southern Amazon: Rio Azul & Cristalino Jungle Lodges Sep 23—Oct 08, 2017
Posted by Kevin Zimmer
Our inaugural “Brazil’s Southern Amazon” tour began with our rollout of a new location (Rio Azul Jungle Lodge) and ended with a “golden oldie” (Cristalino Jungle Lodge). My intent in combining these two sites from the same biogeographic region was to provide participants with a real immersion into the fauna and flora of the amazingly biodiverse region that lies south of the Amazon River, and between two of its major South Bank tributaries, the rios Tapajós and Xingú. As hoped, the two sites proved very complementary to one another, overlapping enough to give us multiple chances at many of the more difficult-to-find regional specialties, while still offering plenty of novelties at each site to keep things fresh and exciting. When it was all said and done, we had racked up nearly 400 species of birds (an impressive total for 11 days of forest birding in a land-locked, single biogeographic region), 15 species of mammals, and numerous interesting “lower” vertebrates and invertebrates, all while enjoying comfortable accommodations, great food, plenty of icy caipirinhas, and loads of Brazilian hospitality.
Prior to our arrival in Alta Floresta, I had been hearing a lot about the drought that was plaguing the region. The nearby Cristalino Reserve had received no rain in over three months, which didn’t augur well for avian breeding activity and accompanying levels of vocal activity. Not to worry, because all it took was our arrival in Alta Floresta to end the drought! We landed amid ominous dark clouds, and most of us were only halfway from the plane to the terminal when we looked up and saw a virtual wall of heavy rain moving toward us like a freight train. A mad dash ensued, and we made it into the terminal, if in somewhat soggier condition than when we first disembarked. Once inside, we met up with Alta Floresta resident Brad Davis, who would co-lead the Rio Azul segment of the tour with me, and with Nestor, who would drive the other vehicle. After securing the luggage in waterproof bags, we headed to a nearby rodizio for a hearty Brazilian barbecue lunch, while it continued to rain cats and dogs outside. Then, we were off on our four-hour drive to Rio Azul Jungle Lodge, located in adjacent Pará state, and separated from the contiguous Serra do Cachimbo reserve only by the narrow width and crystal-clear waters of the rio Azul. Our plan was to drive with minimal stops until we were near the lodge, with the intent of arriving at a particular spot in time for the late afternoon parrot show, as good numbers of parrots and macaws returned from their daytime feeding areas to their evening roosts. Unfortunately, the combination of 100% cloud cover mixed with intermittent rain made for dark, gloomy conditions, and the day ended, not with the usual bang, but with the proverbial whimper. The rain also meant that road conditions were such that the drive took longer than usual, so darkness fell before we could reach our intended spot. There was nothing to do upon our arrival at Rio Azul Jungle Lodge but to settle in and be treated to the first of many delicious meals and exceptional desserts prepared by Ivaní, although we could not help but take note of the Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl and Amazonian Pygmy-Owl that serenaded us from the surrounding forest on-and-off throughout dinner, as well as the Great Tinamou that took up the refrain right after we had returned to the cabins for the night.
Read Kevin’s full report in his Field List.