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Treepol

Pantanal and Peru 2013

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Hi,

 

I am in the process of booking about 6 weeks in the Pantanal and Peru for 2013.

 

We have booked 3 days at Fazenda Baia das Pedras in the south and then we have an air charter to the Northern Pantanal.

 

The itinerary is:

 

Porto Jofre Hotel (4 nights)

Jaguar Ecolodge (Jaguar Lodge (for spotlighting and a visit to the macaw breeding program, which is on a Fazenda owned by the family that has the PJ hotel) )

Rio Clara (2 nights)

Pousada Alegre (2 nights)

Piuval (1 night)

 

We then fly over to the Hotel Baizinha on the Paraguay River for 3 nights for 'jaguar insurance' - if we strike cold weather again, I'd like a second chance at seeing a jaguar.

 

I'm still working on the Peru sector but it will include a trip into Manu and Tambopata and then Chaparri for spectacled bears. We'll stay for 2 nights at both Easter Island and Tahiti on the return to Sydney.

 

More on the Peru sector when the flights are confirmed.

 

 

Regards,

 

 

Pol

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Aw I'm so Jealous. Brazil was one of the best trips ever! Give my regards to Julio for me! :)

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Sure will!

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Don't pass up on the Iguazu Falls! Incredibly beautiful, 100x Vic Falls imho. You need at least a whole day to see both sides. And amazing birdlife there too.

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So @@Treepol and @@kittykat23uk did you both use the same guide company to plan your previous Pantanal trips, Pantanal Trackers? Is Julio the same person as Julinho? I'm looking at some day doing a trip like this too - amongst about 4 trips I'm considering right now! I've seen KittyKat's trip report but not sure if I've seen yours @@Treepol - can you point me to it?

 

Also what is the best book to look at to get a better understanding of the different areas of the Pantanal? I"ve also read Atravellyn's report from several years ago and the recent one from @@inyathi I know someone mentioned Bradt's book being not up to date about places to stay. Thanks!

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Hi @@SafariChick yes we both used Pantanal Trackers, Julinho/Julio is the same guy. :)

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Posted (edited)

@@SafariChick, Julinho is Pantanal Trackers! You book him and you get him (if you book far enough in advance!)

 

A while ago I promised to post some planning notes (including guide book ideas) on this year's trip and was distracted. Apologies for the delay, here is the information as promised.

 

My friend and I are making a second trip to the Pantanal (north and South) and the Manu Cloudforest this July-August. The trip is a tailored itinerary throughout with private guides, vehicles and boats. We are totally and absolutely looking forward to a relaxing time with specialist guides who share our enjoyment of safari travel and enrich our experience with their knowledge and interpretation of the sights ‘that nature sends’ each day.

 

Our wishlist for this trip was:

  • Jaguars
  • Puma
  • Small cats such as ocelot and margay (if we are uber-lucky)
  • Usual suspects such as coatis, capybaras, anteaters, deer and monkeys
  • Armadillos
  • Hoatzin
  • Flashy birds like tanagers, trogons, kingfishers, macaws, parrotsand parakeets, troupial, cock of the rock, mot-mots…a long list
  • Travelling on the rivers to see wildlife, rainforest and village life
  • Driving over the Andes for a second look at the former Spanish colonial town of Paucartambo, the view into the cloudforest from the lookout at Tres Cruces before descending into the cloudforest for 2 nights at Cock of the Rock Lodge.
  • Cochas Camungo and Blanco, searching for otters and hoatzin and enjoying the peace of the ox-bow lakes.
  • Blanquillo and Tambopata macaw licks
  • Spectacled bears at Chaparri.
  • Archaeological sites at Sipan and the pyramids at Bosque de Pomac; and
  • Moas on Easter Island

The final itinerary is:

  • 3 nights Baia das Piedras
  • 4 nights Porto Jofre Hotel
  • 1 night Jaguar Ecological Reserve (spotlighting for small cats)
  • 2 nights Rio Clara
  • 2 nights Pousada Alegre
  • 1 night Pousada Piuval
  • 3 nights Hotel Baizinha
  • 2 nights Arequipa
  • 1 night Colca Canyon Lodge
  • 1 night Cusco
  • 2 nights Cock of the Rock Lodge
  • 3 nights Manu Wildlife Center
  • 1 night Refugio Amazonas
  • 2 nights Tambopata
  • 1 night Chiclayo
  • 2 nights Chaparri Lodge
  • 2 night Easter Island
  • 2 nights Pension de la Plage, Tahiti

We are confident that our itinerary, choice of guides and final travel arrangements give us an excellent chance of realizing the wishlist, now, if we could just order up hot weather to draw the jaguars out onto the river beaches in the Pantanal!

John Willemsen at Brazil Nature Tours efficiently booked our domestic flights in Brazil and the 3 nights at Baia das Piedras. Julinho Monteiro of Pantanal Trackers made all the arrangements for the Northern Pantanal. Peru proved to be very difficult to book and I tried 3 companies before settling on Manu Expeditions who were generously recommended by Tropical Birding. The main problem was finding a company to stitch together Manu and Tambopata without an overnight stay in Puerto Maldonado. Manu Expeditions are handling the Arequipa/Colca Canyon days together with the Manu and Tambopata trip. Metropolitan Touring booked Chaparri (it’s a long story) and I booked accommodation and guides on Easter Island and Tahiti directly.

During our 2010 trip we were dogged by multiple cold fronts from the Pantanal to the Galapagos. Our 9 day Northern Pantanal trip was characterized by 6 days of bitterly cold weather. We left Porto Jofre 2 days early as the temperature was only about 10C and even lower on the river. Driving further up the Transpantaneira we did find slightly better temperatures of around 14C at Araras Eco-lodge. It was so cold that the birds and animals had literally ‘gone to ground’. The sun re-appeared on our second last day, revealing the vivid colours of the Pantanal and its wildlife and the true beauty of the area. I would suggest that anyone planning a trip to the Pantanal during winter would be wise to allocate an extra couple of days or more if possible in case you need to wait out a cold spell.

During the planning of this trip I drew heavily on our 2010 experience, seeking advice from Marina at Barranco Alto for the Southern Pantanal and Julinho of Pantanal Trackers who shaped the itinerary for the Northern Pantanal. I was keen to include a 3 night stay somewhere on the Paraguay River just in case we missed jaguars at Porto Jofre, this extension is my ‘jaguar insurance’. This area is less crowded than the Transpantaneira and good jaguar sightings have been reported at the Taima Jaguar Reserve, although these may not be as reliable as they once were. Initially we had planned to stay at Fazenda Descalvados, however due to slow/no reply to emails this changed to the Hotel Baizinha. Araras Eco-lodge now offer a houseboat-based jaguar itinerary on the Paraguay River. Wilderness Lodge, Sao Sebastian work with Pantanal Ecoexplorers to offer intriguing itineraries, with the possibility of maned wolf as described in this trip report. Other useful trip reports by Gatoratlarge and USAnimalfan are available on Safaritalk. Inyathi provides up-to-date information in his current trip report, relating details of an October 2012 trip.

I have also read @@Atravelynn’s 2007 trip report and @kittykat’s 2009 report (with a stellar guide recommendation!) many times in the planning for both the 2010 and 2013 trips. @@Jochen and @@Atravelynn have both written informative and detailed reports on trips to the Southern Pantanal.

This website provides comprehensive information about a wide range of Transpantaneira accommodations. Specialist companies offering group departures to the Pantanal are Naturetrek, Reef and Rainforest, Ornitholidays, Tribes Travel, and Manu expeditions. Whilst I’m not much of a group traveller, these itineraries offer good ideas for tailored trips. Some of these companies will do private itineraries. Brazil Nature Tours provide excellent service and will happily handle air bookings and customised itineraries. Birdforum and Cloudbirders also contain relevant reports of Pantanal and Peruvian birdwatching trips. There is hours of reading here, especially on Cloudbirders.

I was sold on Chaparri when I watched a BBC documentary on spectacled bears that was filmed there, so I can tick this one off the wishlist. We will island hop our way home to Australia via Easter Island and Tahiti, the opportunity to visit these isolated which aren’t on the way to very many places was too good to miss.

The trip to Manu Cloudforest that encompasses driving over the Andes and descending the perilous Manu Road was a highlight of the 2010 trip. Following this success we were keen to continue on into Manu Reserve and spend more time on the Madre de Dios and Manu Rivers. Having our own transport and guide and travelling at our own pace makes the method of travel part of the experience and rather than solely a transit experience to another location – that is how we see it anyway. I can recommend Lisa Manners blog and this trip report for planning Manu. This TR is of an independent trip to Manu Cloudforest and Lieven de Timmerman’s report posted to Cloudbirders on 11 January 2013 provides more in-depth detail of a month long independent Manu birding trip.

The late addition of Colca Canyon and Arequipa adds a second opportunity to drive high into the Andes, stop in villages and watch local life as we travel by. Whilst Cusco is one of my favourite all-time cities, a visit to Arequipa adds variety.

I am still searching for the ‘best’ Pantanal guide book, and have generally found that Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are too general for specialized wildlife travelers. The Bradt Pantanal Guide is a hybrid between a guide book and a field guide. There is a new Footprint Focus guide to the Pantanal that may be good, there is also one to the Brazilian Amazon. Both are extracted from the Footprint Brazil guide which could be a better purchase if more than one area in Brazil is to be visited. Brazil is hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, so hopefully there will be many updated and new travel guides available.

In 2010 I took my copy of Brazil : Amazon and Pantanal by David Pearson in the Travellers Wildlife Guide series. It was OK, but we found that it wasn’t a complete listing. This year I have purchased Birds of Brazil : the Pantanal and Cerrado of Central Brazil. Pantanal : South America’s wetland jewel (currently out of print) contains many beautiful photos of the Pantanal region.

Someone asked me how my South American trip differed from Africa – well obviously, the wildlife is different. Its also possible to get out of the vehicle and walk closer to animals such as giant anteaters and tapir. When our guide first suggested this I thought ‘is she mad’ before I realized it was perfectly safe to approach. The wildlife is not as densely distributed as it is in Africa – where there is usually zebra, impala or ostrich around to look at but this was not my experience in the Pantanal. There are plenty of birds around to check out when the mammals are hiding. Many of the mammals will be monkeys and these are not so common - on southern African safaris at least. Except for baboons, of course.

I think what is needed first up is a mind shift – switch off thinking about elephant, lions, giraffe – the iconic African safari animals that many of us grew up learning about. Most Australian children attending kindergarten and infant schools in the 1960s learnt the letters of the alphabet through names of African animals – L is for lion, Z is for zebra etc. The seeds of safari magic for me were sown during these early school years. I notice that a fair proportion of board and picture books published for pre-school children still use African safari animals to convey early concepts of alphabet and numbers. No one taught us early on about anteaters, armadillos, jaguars or macaws. Is this experience also true of UK and US education during the 1960s?

Luxury camping isn’t really an option, most trips I know of stay in lodge accommodation which is far from luxury in most cases. Some of it is a similar standard to an Australian Best Western Hotel. Some lodges in the Southern Pantanal offer a more exclusive experience than the larger properties in the Northern Pantanal. For example, Barranco Alto has only 4 or 5 comfortable rooms and I gather that Baia das Piedras is also small and I’m not expecting luxury or smart décor.

A rule of thumb seems to be that the southern Pantanal offers more budget/backpacking opportunities whilst the Northern Pantanal has a reputation for more expensive, guided tours. I think its possible to self-drive the Transpantaneira and have a great time. However, most people want jaguars and need a pre-booked experienced river guide or rely on the Porto Jofre Hotel guides or the guys from Jaguar Ecological Lodge. There may be others.

Its possible to have private guides and private vehicles although its hard to distinguish between the ‘average’ and ‘excellent’ from most TRs because there isn’t a lot of feedback from experienced safari travelers making return trips to Brazil and Peru. I find the enthusiastic reports on TA to be inconsistent and often written by first time safari travelers. Whilst there are lots of reports from Birding trips, these tend to be structured around specific destinations for specific species and many don’t mention mammals at all. More STers need to go!

 

Well, for someone who was going to provide a few notes I seem to have gone overboard!

Edited by Treepol
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As I said in another post I tried to arrange things for the time I will spend in August at Pantanal (north) with Julinho, He gave me prices for those 4 days and then suddenly he told me he could not do it because he was going to a job interview to be a pilot in TAM, this was in November, I don´t know but somehow I got the impression that he just didn´t want to do it, but of course I may be wrong.

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Great post @@Treepol what a wonderful trip you’ve got to look forward to, there isn’t really very much I can add.

 

One thing I didn’t mention in my report if you’re interested in birds @@SafariChick then if you’re just going to the Pantanal or the Pantanal and the Chapada dos Guimarães the bird book of choice is WCS Birds of Brazil The Pantanal and Cerrado of Central Brazil searching through 740 species is a lot easier than having to go through the full 1,800 covered by A Field guide to the Birds of Brazil by Ber van Perlo. Of course if you are including the Amazon, Iguaçu, the Atlantic Forest or any other parts of Brazil then you will need the latter book. If you’re going to Peru as well you’ll need Helm Field Guides, Birds of Peru which covers 1,817 species.

 

I’m not aware of a decent mammal field guide for South America I don’t think there is one.

 

 

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Sounds divine. Can't wait for the pics!

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Posted (edited)

@@Treepol Wow, thank you SOOO much for this very informative post! Now I want to see spectacled bears too! Can i just tag along with you? But seriously, this is such a great outline and also having links to all those trip reports in one place is so helpful! And @@inyathi thanks for your thoughts on books as well. I am really not a birder, to be honest, I am more interested in mammals. I do appreciate seeing birds as well as mammals and some of the things like toucans and maccaws are really special and I will love to see them. I did see a wild toucan briefly and from far away in Costa Rica but would love to see more of them and up close.

 

It's interesting what you say about African animals, Treepol, being the focus from the time children are little. I think it was similar here when I was growing up in the U.S. though my kids did have a book mentioning Aardvarks as the "a" animal. I AM a little worried that the animals won't seem as "exciting" or as many as Africa, but the jaguars would be amazing and would love to see tapirs and anteaters. Have seen lots of monkeys in Costa Rica but I love them. The thing I'm intersted to see my reaction to is Capybaras and Giant Otters. I have a very peculiar phobia, not sure if I'm the only one in the world? I am kind of creeped out by things that are "larger than they are supposed to be." In my everyday world, that is mainly Giant Schnauzer dogs as opposed to small Schnauzer dogs. I'm not afraid of other large dogs at all - love Mastiffs, Great Danes etc, because they are supposed to be that size. But Giant Schnauzers are abnormally large to me. Similarly, capybaras have always freaked me out because they seem like a giant rat. And Giant Otters, I might feel the same about. So in a way, they are exotic to me because they are abnormally large and maybe I can face my fears and get over them a bit. Ok, that's enough about that!

 

Can't wait to hear all about your trip when you're back, Treepol - sounds amazing!

Edited by SafariChick

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The birds are spectacular though! If you are not yet a birder I am sure you will be by the time you return :). We didn't see tapir or anteaters, but you can't fail to see capybara and should have a very good chance of giant otter. :)

 

The book treepol recommends, the "Pantanal, south Americas wetland jewel" is indeed a lovely tome, though only has a couple of pics of jaguars in it. In contrast, my book, "Pantanal, in search of the Jaguar" has pages and pages of jaguar photos ;) you can order a copy at Blurb ;)

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Thanks @@kittykat23uk - I am sure I'll love the birds too! I also forgot to say I look foward to seeing @atravellyn 's report on here with photos as I'd seen it on another forum but it had links to photos on a site that no longer exists so I am not sure I ever saw her photos from this trip. And those maned wolves might be another cool thing to see!

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Yes I wish we'd had the time to visit the monastery where they are fed. :)

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Excellent info. Thanks so much Treepol!

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Thanks everyone for the comments.

 

@@SafariChick about being creeped out! I think capybaras are kinda cute - they don't look like rats at all because they are so much bigger and 'chunkier' and they have longer legs and no long tails. No resemblance whatsoever...

 

Giant otters, well I didn't think they were really giants - I've not seen many otters and because giant otters are mostly seen in the water its hard to get a good idea of how big they are. We did see some out of the water and I was more impressed by their body length than overall heft.

 

Go to the Pantanal - its great!

 

 

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@@Treepol Oh I'll definitely go, I've made up my mind! I have actually seen capybaras in person, they have a few at a zoo near me. They creeped me out a little but at the same time I can see how they're cute. Maybe more like giant gerbils or hamsters or something! But anyway, you had me reading all night about Peru and the cloud forest too. And my husband says if we go to Peru we must go to Machu Picchu. If you give a mouse a cookie ....

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Well, if you are so close you mustn't miss Machu Picchu...and you meed to allow a minimum of 3-4 nights for the Sacred Valley and Cusco!

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@@Treepol

 

Wonderful trip you´re planning there. I´m curious, Puma is number two on your wishlist, is there any special place where you hope to see them? (I know they exist in the Pantanal, too, but sightings are never ever mentioned in trip reports so I assume you´re going for them in Peru?)

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@@michael-ibk not Peru but puma are fairly often seen in Torres del Paine national park. Reliable enough for companies to run specific tours just to see them.

 

Chan Chich lodge in belize often post up camera trap photos of puma, jaguar and smaller cats, on thier fb page, but I get the impression that they are seldom seen by guests.

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Puma is possible in both the Northern and Southern Pantanal, although the Transpantaneira probably offers the best chance. When we were at Porto Jofre in 2010 a birding group reported a female and 2 cubs about 50 km to the north of the hotel.

 

Strangely, I think we have a better chance of jaguar than puma!I hadn't thought that we'd see puma in Peru, but maybe...

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@@kittykat23uk

 

Thanks, Torres del Paine looks interesting. Google does not come up with too many puma tours, though, a quick search produced this:

http://www.fsexpeditions.com/torres_del_paine_national_park_chilean_patagonia/pumas_of_torres_del_paine.php

 

 

 

@@Treepol

 

I hadn´t even hoped about puma in Pantanal since I haven´t read one single trip report with sightings, whereas most people seem to see jaguars. Ocelots seem to turn up at nightdrives once in a while, too. But no puma. But who knows maybe we will be lucky. :)

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@@michael-ibk the one tour I saw was this one: http://www.naturetrek.co.uk/tour.aspx?id=497

 

Max Waugh also got Puma in Corcovado in Costa Rica- I believe he did on at least two of his photograpy tours there: http://costaricaphototour.com/index.htm

 

We were lucky to see both Ocelot and Jaguarundi on our pantanal trip (the latter was a brief glimpse), the former was a good spotlit view but I didn't have a good camera for night photography. if I'd had my Olympus and external flash I might have snapped him! he was a big male ocelot. :) I have yet to see a wild Puma. :)

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Yes, there are sightings of puma reported in Corcovado in Costa Rica but it's not super common from what I've read. And even rarely a jaguar is seen there. Corcovado is on the Osa Peninsula and there's a guest lodge called Bosque del Cabo where they have a lot of property and trails, and they seem to see puma there about once or twice a month - they report it on their Facebook page whenever they do. Some people claim you can see as much wildlife there as in Corcovado itself with much less effort. I've been to Costa Rica but not to the Osa, and this area is also on my wish list for soon - maybe even before I go to the Pantanal! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bosque-del-Cabo-Rainforest-Lodge/44240529653?fref=ts

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