monalisa

Another Pantanal trip report - May 2017

84 posts in this topic

Oh, yeah, more hyacinth macaws. Ho-hum.  (Aren't they spectacular?)

 

I think the pair you photographed (in the large tree near the boat landing, if I'm not mistaken) have nested there for some years.   The blue and yellow macaws were definitely less common, and, wow, you really got some great shots!  We did not see them near the lodge. 

 

It's heartening to hear that I'm not the only one who gets the deer species all mixed up. 

 

I'm glad you met Claudia. She was our guide for about half the time we were there, and we just loved her.  You are so right about the dramatic sunrises, although I have to say the sunsets sometimes exceeded them. 

 

Ah, the memories this brings back. Don't let up. Keep going. :rolleyes:

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4 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

 

I think the pair you photographed (in the large tree near the boat landing, if I'm not mistaken) have nested there for some years.  

 

 

 

That pair that nest in the taruma tree was already there when I came for the first time in 2006.

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22 hours ago, xyz99 said:

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?

 

We generally try to book everything on our own if we can, though we did use an intermediary this time (Brazil Nature Tours) because we had emailed BA and never heard back from them. We later learned that their internet had been down for weeks. 

 

Getting to the Pantanal isn't the easiest but it wouldn't be more cumbersome than say any of the parks in Africa. You have to fly through a major city first, transfer to the closest regional airport and then transfer to your accommodation. 

From Australia we flew from Sydney to Santiago, Santiago to Sao Paulo, overnighted in Sao Paulo before flying to Campo Grande, driven to Aquidauana and then flown in a small plane to BA. The whole process was about a day and half. To get to the north we flew from Campo Grande to Cuiaba, overnighted in Cuiaba and then were picked up by car and driven to our lodge.

 

Logistically I don't think it matters whether you visit the North or South first and both are about the same level of effort to get to (and both more than worth the effort!)

 

 

 

 

 

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@monalisa

I am really enjoying revisiting BA through your report and photos. Beautiful photos - and the Giant Anteaters are amazing creatures.

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@Bush dog Are you sure that's not a red lechwe? Are you pulling my leg :lol::lol::lol:

I think I have some serious studying to do to learn the different deers!

 

Ben is actually a Brit though he lived in Melbourne for some years. He used to guide in South Africa and Zambia! 

 

 

@Tom Kellie Thanks Tom, I love it too. You're always so kind to everyone on ST. Your comments are always so uplifting!! :)

 

 

@Atdahl No anteaters?! Rotten luck! That sounds like us with tapirs. We never saw ANY. Gives us more reason to go back though right?!

 

 

@offshorebirder The impression I get of the Pantanal is that you will see a mixed bag of great sights no matter what. Each day is a surprise too. When are you thinking of going? Allow me to post some more pictures to fuel the fire ;)

 

@Alexander33 The hyacinths really were stunning. Glad to hear that particular pair have been around for a while! The hyacinth population seems to be doing very very well there. And oh don't worry, I still have a little more of the south + the north to come!! I love jaguars so I personally think the best is yet to come :) 

 

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23 minutes ago, TonyQ said:

@monalisa

I am really enjoying revisiting BA through your report and photos. Beautiful photos - and the Giant Anteaters are amazing creatures.

 

@TonyQ Your photos were literally the reason we went to the Pantanal. Googling the Pantanal led us to your trip report!! I'm so glad we found it because we had the most incredible time :D

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What a great start @monalisa, I love reading Pantanal reports since I've yet to be.  I really like your hummingbird photos, they're certainly more accommodating than the ones I have near my house!

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I'm late to this TR. Nothing wrong with a lot of the images so far.

 

That Potoo is amazing. Do you know if they are a type Nightjar? They remind me of our Frogmouths.

 

Good anteater vid too. 

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4 hours ago, Zubbie15 said:

What a great start @monalisa, I love reading Pantanal reports since I've yet to be.  I really like your hummingbird photos, they're certainly more accommodating than the ones I have near my house!

 

I hope you are able to visit someday. It is so beautiful there and still relatively unheard of.  Everyone I know knows of the Amazon but not one person had heard of the Pantanal!

 

Hummingbirds are so hard to photograph aren't they!? I'm no expert on what to do, so even though these guys were pretty chilled I had to pre-focus on a flower I anticipated they might land on and hope they would fly there and stick their face in. For me it was a matter of clicking a thousand times and hoping one of the pictures was usable :lol:

 

 

21 minutes ago, Geoff said:

I'm late to this TR. Nothing wrong with a lot of the images so far.

 

That Potoo is amazing. Do you know if they are a type Nightjar? They remind me of our Frogmouths.

 

Good anteater vid too. 

 

I confess I had to Google, but as it turns out, they are related to nightjars and frogmouths! 

 

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I really appreciate you Trip Report. Thank you very much for sharing with us your amazing journey!

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The clouds had begun to gather on Day 3, and at about noon it started to rain. The expression "When it rains, it pours" strongly came to mind. The skies opened up and endless amounts of water bucketed down. The staff were pleased as they had been hoping for rain for a while but inside we were getting nervous. We had no idea how long the rains would last or what it would mean for the rest of our trip. Of course we understood when we booked that nature is unpredictable, weather is a dice roll, etc etc, but when were were in the situation it was hard to stay positive and not mentally tabulate the lost time and money. The North was the significantly more expensive component of our trip and if it rained there.... I didn't even want to think about it.

 

From our window we could see all the cows, horses and various birds flee for cover. The odd capybara could be seen but essentially all the animals disappeared within 15 minutes. Our once vibrant vista became an empty sheet of grey. Would we still be able to go out on the evening game drive? Would there still be any point in going?

 

At 3:30pm the rain had stopped but the skies were still gloomy. Claudia told us she was happy to take us out on the evening drive whether it rained or not and that it made no difference to her. All four of us were up for it and gathered our ponchos and headed out.  We didn't see a whole ton of wildlife on this excursion but it was still very much worthwhile for us. It drizzled on and off in the early part of the drive before absolutely pouring with sheet rain in the evening. That was an incredible experience in itself. We had never seen lightning away from a city before, so to be part of a storm out in the middle of nature was amazing. Without all the light pollution of a big city, every strike of lightning lit up the sky in pinks and purples.

 

At night we did see a lot of brown birds that I wasn't able to identify and more crab eating foxes than usual. The rain didn't seem to bother them in the slightest. We also caught the tail end of a crab eating raccoon.

 

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Woody Woodpecker

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Day 4

 

On the morning of Day 4 the two couples split up again and did their own thing. The other pair decided to go canoeing and we did another drive. 

I mistakenly said they went canoeing the last time while we were horseriding, but they actually did a walk. They saw a tapir that time - so lucky. I was pretty jealous, but the horseriding excursion was the only good sighting we had of red and green macaws. Even if I had a time machine and choose, it's Sophie's choice.

 

The gloom was still clearing up from the night before so this morning drive was still relatively quiet. We did see some howler monkeys, albeit very high up in the treetops. There was a mama and baby there which is always precious to see.

 

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The evening drive was much more fruitful. The sun had come out again. Hooray!! We saw some armadillos digging holes. One stopped and sniffed the air as we approached. It was adorable!

We also saw 2 more giant anteaters this evening. We followed them on foot and stayed with them for a good length of time. The afternoon light was golden, we had a giant anteater before us, those "formula one" frogs were sounding off in the background... Moments like those reminded us what a privilege it was to go on trips like these and witness nature just doing its thing.  

 

Humans are nearby!

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Here's another armadillo we were delighted to see earlier around the shed/garage area

 

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Another giant anteater

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On our way back to the lodge we also spotted some chestnut eared aracaris in a tree hollow which I assume are juveniles. There are at least three of them in there!

 

Here is our video of them:

 

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Well done in braving the rain and taking the positives from it. I love the video of the armadillo - especially the section where you as the animal goes underground and all you can see is the earth flying up into the air! I am very pleased that you enjoyed Barranco Alto. (We decided to go to the Pantanal because of trip reports we had read on Safaritalk, so good to see the tradition continuing:))

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That Armadillo video made me smile - nice!

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1st anteater pic in post #36 is very nice. Armadillo vis is cute.  

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Day 5

 

On our last day at BA :( we were taken out on the boat again. We were hoping for one last look at the otters. Our boatman, "Hawk Eyes" Paulo spotted a neotropical otter for us almost straight away.

 

One little dude all on his lonesome. Neotropical otters are much smaller than the giant river otters but I think much cuter. They aren't quite so angry looking ^_^ 

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On this last boat trip we followed another neotropical otter and then a giant river otter for a bit but when it was clear we were beginning to bother them we left them alone.

 

On our final drive that evening Ben took us to one of the lakes further north in the property. On the way we spotted a group of white lipped peccaries and two more giant anteaters. They were all coming out to say goodbye to us.

 

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Following Ben to the lake. There were a LOT of armadillo holes here. At night time it would be so easy to accidentally step in one and break your leg if you weren't careful!

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Another beautiful lake. It took us about 45 minutes to walk around it. As the sun set the sky and lake turned different shades of oranges, pinks and purples.

All around the edges there were tracks of different animals, a lot of water birds and our final giant anteater at BA.

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Day 6 (commute day)

 

We were leaving BA this morning and I could barely sit still. I didn't want to miss breakfast knowing we had a long commute day ahead, but this was my last chance to soak up the final sights of this beautiful place!

I headed down to the river to take a quick pic of the egrets that nested on the same bush every morning. They looked like white flowers before they all started peeling away few by few at sunrise.

 

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I was starting to regret my decision to go down to the river as the grass was still boggy from the rain. My shoes and socks were soaked through!

I regretted it until I stumbled upon a crab eating fox pounce for a bird! I couldn't believe my luck! I think the fox missed the bird, but it was so close (maybe 2 or 3 metres) and it looked straight at me! I knew my husband would be so jealous he missed this since he chose brekkie instead :lol:

 

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Soon after we said our goodbyes to everyone and got into our transfer plane out of BA. We didn't want to leave! At least we weren't going home and still had more in our trip to look forward to, so that softened the blow.

 

To wrap up the South, here are some phone pictures I took from around the place.

 

As soon as I had put it away my camera for breakfast this sunrise became even more orange and more beautiful, so this is my best attempt with a phone camera.

Those colours!! :wub:

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The sunroom adjoining our room (taken on the first day when we arrived)

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A white lipped peccary behind our room bidding us farewell on our final morning

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Pantanal from the air

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On to the North!! :)

 

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The sunrises you captured are amazing...those colors!!! 

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Very cool to find the chestnut-eared aracaris in the tree hole. We didn't see those during our stay. So glad you got your anteater "fix."  Lovely photos of the landscape at Barranco Alto -- they brought back so many fond memories.  

 

Looking forward to your report port from the North!

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@monalisa, great report from BA!  The armadillo photos and video are great and I am even MORE jealous at the number of Giant Anteaters you saw! :D

 

The picture you took of your trip companions in the rainy dark with ponchos on brought back a "flood" of memories from our recent Borneo trip. I had that same view numerous times on that trip...but luckily we had no rain in the Pantanal when we went.  I am looking forward to your reports from the North.

 

Alan

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wow, so many Giant Anteaters! And that armadillo video--that wriggling nose is TOO CUTE! I admit I never thought of armadillos as cute before :P

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The North

 

We were picked up from our hotel in Cuiaba by our guide Paulo (from South Wild, though I understand that he now also works for himself) and transferred by van to the Transpantaneira. Now, we've had some good guides before and some not so good guides. Thankfully ours put us at ease right away. And fast forwarding to the end, he turned out to be fantastic! I would have no hesitation in recommending him. Put it this way, if I were to win the lotto tomorrow, he's the guy I would hire to be my guide anywhere in the world! :) I don't usually like to go out on a limb and plug for anyone, but he really is an incredible person, so if anyone is looking to do a custom Pantanal or Amazon tour and needs a great guide feel free to PM me!

 

The entrance to the Transpantaneira - one of those photos I hate being made to take at the time but am thankful for later.

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Our first sights along the Transpantaneira - a lot of water hyacinths and a lot of cows!

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A white bird on a white horse amongst white flowers

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Along the way we saw a lot of different birds which I regretfully did not photograph - most regretfully, the beautiful purple gallinules.

 

Neotropical cormorant drying its wings

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The van dropped us off at a different lodge on the highway. We were told we had to transfer by boat to the Hotel Fazenda Santa Tereza where we were staying as the road was apparently in rotten condition after the rain a few days prior.  We arrived at our lodge in the late afternoon greeted by a pair of jabiru storks. There were also a lot of capybaras around the grounds and various little birds we had not seen before.

The lodge was lovely and we had it all to ourselves! We were the only guests there which was nice but also very unsettling. We really thought we messed up coming at the end of May.

 

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In the evening we were transferred by boat to the ocelot hide. We were initially opposed to feeding wild animals but as I alluded to earlier we learnt that not everything is clear cut when it comes to conservation.

Jaguars and giant river otters for example impede on the livelihood of fishermen and ranchers by preying on their cattle and competing for fish to the point that they will hunt and shoot them. Habituated animals in the name of ecotourism are an alternative means for these people to provide for their families. I understand everyone will have different views as it's such a grey area. Since the ocelots were not reliant on the bait and we were hiding we figured it was okay. As far as the ocelots knew they were just coming back to a magical tree producing a few tasty snacks every now and then. They would still have to do the majority of their own hunting. Maybe this isn't the right way of thinking, but the main point was that habituation is not a clear cut issue. I could not pretend to fathom all the zoological, political, cultural issues at play here.

 

Anyway to say that seeing ocelots appear from the forest wasn't an incredible experience would be a lie. The first time I saw one I stopped breathing. I was in awe. It was bigger than it looked in photos, and a part of me questioned for a moment if I was looking at a jaguar! We had only been at the hide about 15 minutes before the first ocelot appeared. Over the course of about an hour we saw maybe 5 or 6 different cats. They were all so beautiful, like mini jaguars!

 

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On the morning of our first full day at the lodge we decided to climb the stork tower to take a look at the resident jabiru stork nest. Due to the recent storms the nest had largely been destroyed so there were no chicks by this time as expected. Such a shame. The pair were in the process of rebuilding. It was lovely to watch the storks choose sticks and things and fly them back to their nest but as I'm afraid of heights I wanted off the wobbly tower as soon as possible :lol: 

 

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Also around the grounds were a lot of capybaras that let me walk right up to them!

 

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This morning we went out for a boat trip on the Pixaim River. It was very quiet and we did not see that much life around. There were the odd few birds here and there.

Our highlight of this day was seeing a troupe of capuchin monkeys and an iguana! Here are some pics from that day

 

Common iguana

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Ringed kingfisher

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Capuchin monkey leader

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Neotropical cormorants

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In the afternoon it poured with rain. It was so so gloomy and our fears for our lost chances to see jaguars returned. Paulo told us that we couldn't do drive or walk around the property because the rains had made the ground too muddy. Similarly, he advised against doing a drive along the Transpantaneira. It was an option but he told us that the road was in terrible condition and that the trucks would be in danger of sliding down the levee. He made it clear that it was our decision. We hated to give up the chance to see animals but we didn't want to risk anyone's safety so we stayed in and browsed the internet. What a gloomy day this was. We spent the evening double bagging everything in our backpacks to protect from the rain the next day for our transfer to Porto Jofre. I really had to repeat to myself over and over what a privilege it was to even get a chance at a trip like this. Positive thoughts.. positive thoughts...

 

When we went back to the Transpantaneira the following morning at 7am we could see that Paulo had been 100% correct. The road was disastrous. This transfer was a true adventure I can tell you! I will try to paint a picture for you all. We were in the back of a large truck. The seats didn't have safety belts and because of the muddy terrain the 4 hour drive was incredibly bumpy. I was constantly jolted out of my seat and the endless rickety wooden bridges had me on edge the whole time, clinging to my chair. Seeing broken bits of bridge in the rivers below didn't exactly put me at ease! Our truck handled the mud fairly well but still struggled from time to time. Along the highway we saw so many trucks and cars stranded and waiting for help. At many points we worried that the trucks would block the road and we wouldn't be able to pass. Our scariest moment was when we tried to pass one and our back wheels started to slide down the embankment. I thought it was all over red rover. Oh and I have never been whipped in the face with branches so much as on this day! Haha!

By and large, with luck we got through it and made it to Porto Jofre. At least it wasn't raining.... :lol:

 

At Porto Jofre we met our boatman Manuel who took us to our flotel on the Piquiri River. Again we were amazed/concerned to learn that we were the only guests here. Oh no....

At least our room was nice. We had only booked a standard room but we were upgraded to a suite presumably because there was no one else there.

 

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Beautiful, no?!

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Thankfully it did not rain for the remainder of our time in Brazil. Phew!

 

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Very interesting to hear about the Pantanal in the rainy season!  Glad to hear that was the end of the rain for you.

 

I am of conflicted views on the Ocelot issue. I am dying to see an Ocelot, as we've come up empty in two Pantanal trips. And I realize that there are complex issues regarding conservation that are particular to this unique area. I am reserving judgement at this point.  But a photo of an animal that's been baited is pretty much frowned upon in all photographic circles, and it might as well have been taken at a zoo or in a studio. Wild or not, its just not a natural behavior. (And yes, how does that reconcile with shooting birds coming to a feeder? Its complicated....!)

 

Anyway I don't want to start up the debate again as its been done here before! I look forward to jaguar stories and photos ;)

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I definitely appreciate your point of view @janzin!! Seeing ocelots under these conditions wasn't ideal don't get me wrong but from what I understand jaguars became habituated in the Pantanal as a result of easy access to fish from the fishermen in the area, many which fed them. Over time this led to the animals becoming used to people. I believe this is the method they are trying to use to habituate ocelots too so that eventually they won't have to use bait at all. 

 

And you raise a good point about bird feeders. These are actually illegal in Brazil too. It's tough to know what to think. And since you mentioned it I'm very much in two minds about zoos too. They are indeed depressing places for animals to live but most people I know generally only care/connect with the conservation issues of these animals because they have seen and fallen in love with them in zoos. What to do?? :( Anyway I just want to be clear that I do not know what the "right" thing is here. These are just my thoughts at the present time :)

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According to Tripadvisor reviews:  besides Ocelot baiting, SouthWild Pantanal Lodge also does baiting with cut fish for otters and birds.

 

So my conscience will not allow me to give them my business when I visit the Pantanal.  Not much point anyway - I would never take or display a photo of a baited animal.

 

This also gives me pause about using SouthWild at all - I would expect a company founded by a Wildlife Biologist not to do such things...

 

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@offshorebirder Well I think you do have to go with your conscience and ultimately a company whose philosophy resonates with you. 

 

I'm just trying to present another perspective. I hope you do not think I am a bad person because of this. We are all trying to do the right thing. I really am split in half because on the one hand I, like you, only want to see animals behaving naturally. But on the other hand I don't want to see these animals wiped out by hunting. It's very much a catch 22 to me :(

 

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