monalisa

Another Pantanal trip report - May 2017

84 posts in this topic

First of all, thanks for being interested in my Pantanal trip report! I would like to preface this by saying that my photography skills are still under development (I'm still just doing trial and error in manual mode, how embarrassing!!), but I hope you will still get some enjoyment from the pictures anyhow :)

 

The decision to visit the Pantanal was somewhat kismet as we had locked in and booked Botswana and Zambia for the end of May to mid June. Originally we had planned to go to Iceland and Hungary but the stars didn't align for this plan and upon researching we found that June onwards was a good time for the Pantanal. We knew May wasn't totally ideal, particularly for the jaguars, but we decided to roll the dice anyway. This story has a happy ending so not to worry!

 

Initially our main objective was to see jaguars around Porto Jofre but after seeing pictures of giant anteaters on Safari Talk, my desire to see them grew and grew which led to expanding our trip to the southern part where they are apparently more reliable.

 

Here was our itinerary for the Pantanal component of our trip:

 

1 1/2 days commuting

5 days Barranco Alto (Southern Pantanal)

1 day commuting

2 days SouthWild Pantanal Lodge (Northern Pantanal)

3 days SouthWild flotel (Northern Pantanal)

1 day SouthWild Pantanal Lodge (Northern Pantanal)

 

We actually selected Barranco Alto based on the glowing reviews on this forum so there was no doubt that the South would be fantastic. And it was! 

 

For the North, I will say that while there were great reviews for SouthWild on the internet I was extremely apprehensive because I had started to read some not so nice things about them after we had booked. Since then we've learned that many historical, deep-rooted and complex issues exist between the fishermen, farmers and ecotourism companies which can be the source of some tension so I think it is necessary for anyone interested to try to understand some of these issues and make up their own minds before making any judgements. Prior to this trip we were also a bit more snobbish about feeding habituated animals like the ocelots, but now that we are on the other side we can say that there are certainly shades of grey to everything, particularly when it comes to conservation. Our incredible guide Paulo really opened our eyes to some of the behind-the-scenes issues (more on him later).

 

Visiting the Pantanal was such an incredible and worthwhile adventure, I would recommend it to anyone interested in wildlife! 

 

 

My story begins with the typical delays on flight #1 from Sydney to Santiago and fretting over making the connection from Santiago to Sao Paulo. Thankfully we made the connection on time and overnighted in Sao Paulo before taking a flight out the next morning to Campo Grande where we were picked up for our transfer to Aquidauana and subsequent flight to Barranco Alto. Upon landing we were greeted by Ben and taken on a short tour of the main areas and our room. Immediately we were struck by how picturesque the ranch was. Our room's sunroom(!!) overlooked a large tree with a variety of cows grazing and resting in its shade, next to an expansive lake. Outside our window there were hummingbirds chasing butterflies away from their precious flowers, and walking around the main areas we noticed more dragonflies than we had ever seen before. Birds were everywhere and the sun was shining! We just knew it would be amazing here.

 

For now here is a picture of a caiman outside our lodging :lol:

 

cSkjkVCh.jpg

 

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Thanks @monalisa - great start.  I am looking forward to following your trip report!  

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@monalisa - I love reading Pantanal reports and I look forward to this one especially the first part at BA.  We loved our stay there and it looks like you are off to a great start.

 

Alan

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Count me as another Barranco Alto fan. Can't wait to see more. 

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Great start, can't wait to read the details and see the photos. Pantanal is on our radar for 2019, so I'm reading and learning as much as I can. Loved that you went to both N and S.

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Me I also love reading Pantanal trip reports ! And watching photos. So do not be shy, @monalisa , post as many of them as possible :).

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3 hours ago, xelas said:

So do not be shy, @monalisa , post as many of them as possible :).

 

Well in that case!! :lol:

 

It was mid May so while we weren't expecting the place to be overflowing with guests yet, we were concerned to learn that we were the only guests there, at least until later that afternoon. As it turned out it was just us and one other couple staying for our entire 5 night stay. On the one hand it felt more exclusive but on the other we wondered if we had completely got the seasons messed up for wildlife viewing and if we would see anything! The staff had made comments about late rains and X or Y animal being trickier to spot. Still, we didn't know what to expect so we stayed positive.

 

On our first excursion that afternoon we went for a drive around the property and the first animals we saw were capybaras. We were yet to learn how prolific they were, so were super excited to see them. 

They are such comical looking things. They look like big guinea pigs but always have such regal expressions.

 

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Okay maybe not all the time..

 

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We also saw quite a variety of birds on our first outing. Apologies in advance if I get the names wrong which I'm sure I will at some point.

 

Burrowing owl

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Greater rhea

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Juvenile greater rheas

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Roseate spoonbill

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We also saw our first hyacinth macaws as well as our first giant anteater. I don't have good pictures because it was dusk, the anteater was running and in and out of tall grass. Still, I was so excited we got to see one and to follow it on foot! 

 

At night we were stopped and directed to look at a potoo sitting on a fence post. I thought it was your run of the mill brown/camouflaged bird.. until it turned around. 

This thing has some serious crazy eyes!! Here's a short video we took of it:

 

 

 

 

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With no moon that night the starry sky was particularly striking. The Milky Way was the brightest and clearest (and seemed to be the closest) we had ever seen it. Tonight was the first time we had ever seen fireflies as well. I wish I knew how to take photos of them, they are so magical twinkling away. 

 

On the way back we saw a pair of crab eating foxes too. Quite a lovely introduction to Barranco Alto. We could tell how special it was.

 

Day 2

The next morning we went horse riding with Ben and Margot (I hope I haven't spelled her name incorrectly). The other couple had decided to go canoeing instead so it was only 4 of us. Horse riding was really fun and still worthwhile but in hindsight probably a big mistake! My husband and I are both completely novice riders. I wasn't able to prevent my horse from walking me straight into branches or suddenly galloping and my husband was collected by a slanted tree after his horse kindly walked right under it. I had attempted to take my camera with me - another big mistake! By the end of it all I had bruises up and down my arms from where the camera had kept hitting against me, a gash on my neck from the branches and a nice big hole in one of my 3 shirts that needed to last us another month! :lol: On the bright side, the scenery was beautiful and we did see red and green macaws and an armadillo!

 

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Red and green macaw - not too shabby for a photo taken on horse back!

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That evening produced more giant anteaters!! We were on foot and I crouched next to a bush, and before I knew it I had a giant anteater walk straight towards me!

 

 

 

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Some other critters of note were white lipped peccaries, various deers, more crab eating foxes and toco toucans. Sundowners were overlooking a lake full of waterlilies with frogs calling. The sky was pink and reflected beautifully in the water.  We also saw wild pigs which apparently are a pest preying on the farm's lambs.

 

White lipped peccary - These guys make a noise smacking their lips together that sounds like snapping branches

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I want to say this is a brocket deer??

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Marsh deer??

VhCwIBjh.jpg

 

Teeheehee

pC22uikh.jpg

 

 

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Fantastic Ant-Eater sighting! Enjoying this report a lot, really need to get back to the Pantanal. :)

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Wow, a patoo and a great anteater in the first couple of days, that's fantastic! More, please....

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Fantastic video of the anteater! I guess Barranco Alto is THE place to see them. Next time I will have to go to the Southern Pantanal.

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I'd agree you did very well with the red and green macaw

on horseback. We weren't brave enough to try photography from that vantage point!

 

Love the anteater. I just can't get enough of these fascinating creatures.  

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@monalisa

 

It's nice to have those late news of BA, thank you.  Where Lucas and Marina present during your stay and are Claudia, Lydia and Fernando still there?  Who is Ben?

 

And yes it's a brocket deer, and no it's not a marsh deer but well a pampa deer.  Marsh deers are not very common at BA.

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I'm mixing days here, but one of the most beautiful sights we got at Barranco were the sunrises. Dare I say, best I've seen?? It was always a tough choice between breakfast and running outside to keep trying to take photos. As is always the case, photos don't do the real thing justice. It was even pinker in real life!

 

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Some of my favourite memories came from just walking around the lodge during break/siesta time. I loved that we could still see amazing things without getting in a jeep or boat. I spent many hours watching hummingbirds chase butterflies and waiting for a toucan to appear. All the toucans I saw were extremely shy and were constantly eyeballing me to make sure I didn't get too close. We also saw a lot of macaws around the place. In fact, so many hyacinth macaws that they became ho-hum :lol:. "It's just another hyacinth" I would say every time we saw them. We had seen so many that I was getting impatient for another sighting of the red and green, and we still had not yet seen the blue and yellow. 

 

The super shy toco toucan

1GbJu3Ph.jpg

 

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Male and female bare faced curassows

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Funniest birds ever. I'll have to check if we have video of the calls they make. They sound like kids' laser toys.

X9G6f7Yh.jpg

 

Lesser yellow headed vulture

fSUbTaoh.jpg

 

61cBqhIh.jpg

 

Hyacinth macaw
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Horse running around trying to escape the cowboys :lol: Shortly after he ran into the middle of the lake and just sat there

YIntrnNh.jpg

 

We went looking for more macaws in the middle of the day and we were told to try a specific set of trees on the other side of the airstrip that they favour. We were almost on the other side when we heard the familiar squawking of macaws from back where we had come from. Using my camera as binoculars I looked across the airstrip and saw perched on a dead palm were a pair of blue macaws. Probably hyacinths again, but the shade of blue wasn't quite right. Then, a flash of yellow. Could it be?! Blue and yellow macaws!! We ran like Usain Bolt back across the field. Sure enough, the blue and yellow!! Behold these beauties!!

 

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This is the hummingbird that lived outside my window. I've since learned that he is a swallow tailed hummingbird. I'm very fond of this little guy.

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And this is my favourite little friend :) He is so close to my heart. He is a stunning glittering bellied emerald!

He was so relaxed flitting from flower to flower with me just standing there. I spent at least a half hour every day with him.

 

Impossible for a novice like me to capture him in motion properly but I tried!

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He kindly rested from time to time and let me pretty much put my lens right up in his face. Here he is trying to work out what I'm doing. You can see he has pollen all down his messy front, and he shines like a jewel in the sun. Can you tell I just adore this little guy? :wub:

 

X9rpCG2h.jpg

 

 

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Day 3

 

On the morning of day 3 we went out on a boat on the Rio Negro. I was expecting a lot of bird life so was surprised to see very little along the river. It was beautiful though and I have never seen a river so glassy and tranquil before. 

 

oGsU8t3h.jpg

 

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We did see a few varieties of birds around (plenty of kingfishers!), some capybaras, caimans and giant river otters

 

miFpNoGh.jpg

 

Caiman. Ben took us out onto a sand bank with these guys hanging around. Supposedly they aren't a threat to adults which is hard to reconcile when you have been around Australian crocodiles, but they encourage you to go swimming in the rivers and lakes despite them being full of caimans and piranhas so it must be alright :lol:

CHeyi9Mh.jpg

 

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Jacana and chicks

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Whistling heron

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We got our first glimpse of giant river otters! Gosh they are funny. They appeared out of nowhere and started barking and whistling and making all kinds of commotion, bobbing up and down in the water and craning their necks to check us out

 

9XSQIEPh.jpg

 

As it turns out we were floating past their den! And on closer inspection, one of them was carrying a pup! I thought it was a fish at first.

Sorry these photos aren't very good but the sighting was too exciting not to share :D

 

B6wFdhPh.jpg

 

HJAKQzOh.jpg

 

 

 

 

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22 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Fantastic Ant-Eater sighting! Enjoying this report a lot, really need to get back to the Pantanal. :)

 

Thank you, so do I! :D:D

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19 hours ago, xyz99 said:

Wow, a patoo and a great anteater in the first couple of days, that's fantastic! More, please....

 

Seeing that anteater validated the entire trip to the Southern part for us! We ended up seeing 8 all up I think!

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Posted (edited)

19 hours ago, janzin said:

Fantastic video of the anteater! I guess Barranco Alto is THE place to see them. Next time I will have to go to the Southern Pantanal.

 

Thank you! Although I can't take the credit for the video. My husband is responsible for the camcorder. I am crouched right next to it out of frame with my mouth agape at our luck!!

 

And oh yes, BA is the place :) I don't know if it was rotten luck in the North, but we didn't see any there.

Edited by monalisa

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10 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

I'd agree you did very well with the red and green macaw

on horseback. We weren't brave enough to try photography from that vantage point!

 

Love the anteater. I just can't get enough of these fascinating creatures.  

 

A wise choice! I came out bruised and battered from the experience :lol:

 

And saaaaaame. They are so wonderfully weird!! 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Bush dog said:

@monalisa

 

It's nice to have those late news of BA, thank you.  Where Lucas and Marina present during your stay and are Claudia, Lydia and Fernando still there?  Who is Ben?

 

And yes it's a brocket deer, and no it's not a marsh deer but well a pampa deer.  Marsh deers are not very common at BA.

 

Hahaha!!! I knew it wouldn't be long before I got one wrong!! Thank you!!

We did see marsh deers. At least they told us we did :lol: But I'm having difficulties reconciling which deer is which and I'm not even sure I took photos of all of them. 

Is *this* a marsh deer? Or is it another pampas? The furry horns vs the smooth horns are incredibly confusing for me!

 

0bIYrxoh.jpg

 

 

Of the names you mentioned, Claudia was the only one there. She is so lovely isn't she!

From what I understand either Lucas or Marina are siblings with Corinne whose father passed BA to the children. Corinne and her husband Ben were running BA during our stay.

Both Ben and Corinne were fantastic, and incredible people-persons. Honestly, all the staff were great when we stayed in May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love, love this TR! So much diversity and beauty....love the macaws and the glassy river. And no matter what they say, you could not pay me enough to swim in a lake/river with the crocodiles :)

 

Did you plan/booked everything on your own, or did you use a travel agent? How easy is to get to Pantanal? After this trip, do you think it matters is you visit the North or South first? Logistically, is one easier to get to than the other?

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@monalisa

 

Thanks, for the information.

This is a pampa deer again.  The pampa deer is smaller than the marsh deer and has a kind of white circle around the eye.

Here is a photo of a marsh deer.

 

img000536.jpg.640dcb5bc5f49f51a69dba09e60e1d82.jpg

 

Corinne is Marina's sister.  She was, still recently, living in Australia with her husband Ben who is, I think, but I'm not sure, Australian.  

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emerald.thumb.jpg.5a9991f8454ccdc9b66041acf481d449.jpg

 

~ @monalisa

 

Cute and beautiful!

 

I love this image.

 

Thank you for posting it.

 

Tom K.

 

 

 

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@monalisa - Fantastic report from BA!  It brings back so many great memories from our trip last September...the macaws, cruising the Rio Negro, and of course the sunrises.  Believe it or not we didn't see any Giant Anteaters there in our 5 days.  We did see one briefly in the North though.  We also plan to go back.  It's a special place that you have captured so nicely in your photos.

 

Alan

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Posted (edited)

@monalisa - the Potoo would make the entire trip for me!    And the Giant Anteater too!    You are doing really well on rare sightings - Giant Otters wow.

 

No doubt about it, the Pantanal in general and BA in particular are in my future.

Edited by offshorebirder

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