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Itatiaia - São Paulo

The beginning of the end


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I was finally warm enough in bed overnight last night, and wake up this morning feeling quite refreshed.

Brown Capuchin
After breakfast I hang around the feeders, watching the monkeys gather in increasing numbers.

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Drinking from the hummingbird feeder

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This is what they are all waiting for.

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They are trying to work out how to get from the roof to that feeder.

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Made it!

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I wonder how they are going to climb back onto the roof now?

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No problem!

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Waterfalls
I think Roberto can get the vibe that we are beginning to get a little birded-out, so he suggests we do something different and take a look at some nearby waterfalls, right at the very end of the road. There are three waterfalls here, one that basically goes under the bridge and two that are accessed by a series of steps.

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I am obviously not going to be climbing any steps, so stay on the road photographing the very underwhelming smaller cascades at the lower level.

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David, on the other hand, decides that he wants some exercise and climbs to the top, where the falls are much more impressive, even with the low water level at the moment.

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We go back to the lodge to finish packing - we are leaving Itatiaia today, going back to São Paulo for overnight before travelling home.

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The feeders beckon again, with their brightly coloured tanagers and those fast, fast hummingbirds.

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Female Blue Dacnis

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Male Blue Dacnis

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Golden Chevroned Tanager

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Green Headed Tanager

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Chestnut Bellied Euphonia

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Saffron Finch

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Female Brazilian Ruby

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Planalto Hermit

The sugar water spilled from the hummingbird feeders attracts wasps and ants.

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The lodge has a resident artist, Leonardo, who is gradually filling up a white wall on the terrace with murals of local birds and squirrels.

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Ricardo chilling on the terrace

Brazilian Squirrel
No local wildlife is forgotten here, and the squirrels have their own little feeding box in reception.

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David wants to try and hand feed him, but as he already has a nut, he is not the least bit interested.

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He has noticed the nut

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And now that he has finished his previous one, he is thinking about it.

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Going for it...

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And both of them are happy!

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As we are sitting around chatting with Leonardo and Ricardo, there is a flutter of excitement: one of the other guides has seen a rare bird. All his guests come running, and I want to get in on the action too, but being very slow to get up because of my bad knee, I end up right at the back of the crowd.

Frilled Coquette
The beautiful hummingbird makes a very brief appearance of just a few seconds, and everyone sighs as they don't even have time to raise their cameras to their eyes.

“Did you see him?” asks Ricardo. “I saw him, and I got him!” I reply.

Everyone is amazed and wants to see the results, as despite shooting with my long lens through the gaps between the crowd, I was the only one quick enough to capture him.

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In fact, I manage several shots, but this is the best one.

“You're incredible!” says a very impressed Ricardo, "such fast reactions".

São Paulo
The drive to São Paulo from here seems a lot longer than it did coming the other way, despite the fact that I sleep a lot in the car. We see an accident, which could account for the amount of traffic.

Marriott Hotel
Ricardo drops us off at the hotel – he is off to pick up another couple of tourists tonight.

I ask the lovely young chap on reception – Gustavo – if I can have a room with a walk-in shower rather than a bath, as I struggle to get out of a bath with my bad knee. He finds a suitable room for us, but as it is not ready yet, he offers us a free drink in the bar while we wait.

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After a lovely shower and change, we wander down to the reception, to find that dinner tonight is served buffet-style. Ugh. When we discover the large American group (with the irritating, loud, whiny woman) from the last three nights in Itatiaia are here too, we decide to eat in the bar instead. The menu is available via a QR code on the table, and we place our order.

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My king prawns with a caper mayo

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David orders a huge mixed grill

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I have chocolate mousse for dessert

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Whereas David chooses a trio of ice cream with chocolate sauce

Would you believe it, the Whiny American Woman comes to the bar and stops to talk to us. And there we were, thinking we'd managed to avoid her!

And so ends our holiday in Brazil.

Goodnight from São Paulo, and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 11:06 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls brazil birding brasil mural street_art squirrel south_america sao_paulo ants tanager ice_cream cocktail prawns hermit capuchin wasps hummingbirds bird_watching artis ruby shrimps itatiaia undiscovered_destinations euphonia dacnis brown_capuchin monkets brazilian_squirrel coquette chocolate_mousse mixed_grill Comments (0)

Itatiaia - the higher elevation

A different side to the park


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Today we are heading further up into the mountains, to the highest point in the park. But first, we have to go down to the park entrance and exit the park, and drive back along the main São Paolo to Rio highway again.

Our first stop is by an abandoned building next to a stream, which is known for its kingfishers. We do see the kingfisher, but he is too quick for the camera. Other birds inhabit the area too, so it is not a wasted stop.

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Toco Toucan

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Green Barred Woodpecker

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Greater Kiskadee

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Planalto Hermit

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Red Breasted Toucan

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Masked Water Tyrant

The road soon starts climbing into the hills, with some stunning views!

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Before we get as far as the park gates, we take a small detour to Snipe Valley and a road that is little more than a farm track in places. It yields some great bird sightings, though.

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Campo Flicker

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Burrowing Owl

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The sky in the distance looks stormy, I hope we don't get rain

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White Barred Piculet

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Curl Crested Jay

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Streamer Tailed Tyrant

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Chalk Browed Mocking Bird

Itatiaia National Park
Once inside the park, the road deteriorates immediately!

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We make many stops to check the trees and bushes for any bird activity.

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Cliff Flycatcher

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Shear Tailed Grey Tyrant

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Buff Breasted Tanager

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Variable Antshrike

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Green Barred Woodpecker

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Buff Throated Warbling Finch

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Suruca Trogon

Picnic
The lodge prepared us a picnic lunch today, and what a picnic it is! There is a whole box of enough food to feel a small army, with sandwiches, fruit, snacks, and drinks.

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We stop at a small grassy pull-in area, where the views of the top of the mountains peeking above the clouds are stupendous. We really are above the clouds here!

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The clouds are fast-moving and seem to bubble up from below the horizon, constantly shifting, constantly creating new abstract shapes.

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I am spellbound by this spectacle!

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We reach the highest point at 2,450 metres above sea level. This, I believe, is the highest motorable road in Brazil, and by comparison, it is a mere 19 metres lower than the highest mountain in Norway.

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Last night Ricardo suggested we wear all the clothes we have, as it gets very cold at the top here, so I put on leggings under my jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt under my long-sleeved shirt, followed by a fleece and a windproof jacket. I am roasting, and have been taking off layer after layer. It has not dropped below 15 °C at any point today!

The road is no better up here: it is merely a series of potholes joined by some rocks and a bit of compacted sand and slabs of concrete.

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At the top, there is a plateau surrounded by jagged outcrops. This is a popular area for hiking, and we see several groups of school kids around.

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Why, oh why, do people insist on standing in front of any beauty spot for their ******* selfie, ruining the view for all other photographers? Grrrrrr

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Rarely has there been a more appropriately named car!

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Diademed Tanager

We start our descent and make our way back to the lodge in time to shower, change and use the wifi in the restaurant before dinner. We enjoy a bottle of wine with the meal, and once back in the room, we remove the blankets from the third bed and pile them on top of the two other blankets already on our bed, to stave off the overnight cold temperatures.

Goodnight from Itatiaia and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 19:49 Archived in Brazil Tagged mountains views clouds highway brazil lunch brasil picnic national_park toucan jay cold south_america winding_road tanager woodpecker flycatcher view_point finch hummingbird selfie above_the_clouds itatiaia undiscovered_destinations picnic_lunch kiskadee flicker tyrant haermit high_altitude piculet stormy_skies wol mockingbird warbling_finch antshrike duster Comments (0)

Itatiaia - birding around the lodge

Such colourful birds!


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I did not have a good sleep last night, the bed is hard and much more narrow than we are used to. So far all the hotels have had king or even super-king sized beds, this is just a standard double. I could not find a position that was comfortable, and I had some pretty awful dreams. One good thing, though, is it was actually quite cool in the night. We are right up in the hills here, so the average daytime temperature is very comfortable, an absolute delight after the Amazon heat!

We meet Ricardo for some early morning birding by the swimming pool, which is one level up from the restaurant and has good views over the surrounding trees and bushes where the birds congregate at first light.

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Velvety Black Tyrant

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White Eyed Parakeets

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Saffron Finch

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Piazuru Pigeons

Maroon Bellied Parakeets
I watch the parakeets as they flit from tree to tree, grabbing a bite to eat on the way.

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I love the human-like way they hold their food - I have never seen that before

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Red Breasted Toucan

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Rufous Collared Sparrow

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Dusky Legged Guan

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Rufous Bellied Thrush

We break briefly for breakfast, before continuing to look for birds. Ricardo is passionate about what he does, and it rubs off on me.

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Brown Capuchin monkeys on the balcony while we are having breakfast

Mr & Mrs Chestnut Bellied Euphonia

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Male

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Female

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Saffron Finch

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Female Blue Dacnis

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Male Blue Dacnis

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Plain Parakeet

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Golden Chevroned Tanager

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Green Headed Tanager

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Black Googled Tanager

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Golden Winged Cacique

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Brazilian Ruby

We drive down to an abandoned hotel, which is obviously one of “the” places to go bird watching, as we see three other birding groups here. Most people trek into the forest, whereas we just stay in and around the car park as my knee is not up to any serious walking, and see absolutely nothing.

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When we get back to the lodge, Ricardo dismantles part of the hummingbird feeder, wipes the flower with antiseptic gel, dips it in sugar water, and suggests I hold it in my mouth.

It doesn't take long before the first visitor arrives. Wow! It is totally mind-blowing to feel her little wings on my chin.

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Red Rumped Cacique

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Ruby Crowned Tanager

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Brazilian Tanager

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Velvety Black Tyrant

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Olive Green Tanager

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Saffron Finch

Lunch
As usual, the lunch consists of a buffet. We are joined by Ricardo, who asks for a link to my website. He spends some time looking through my wildlife photos on there and exclaims: “You're good!”, “You're one of the best I've ever seen!” I float on a little cloud for the rest of the day after that compliment!

After lunch, I go back to the hummingbird feeders and try and get some better pictures.

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Brazilian Ruby

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Planalto Hermit

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Brazilian Ruby

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Some interesting effects using a flash with a slow shutter speed

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Violet Capped Woodnymph

David gets fed up and goes back to the room to chill on the balcony, while I continue taking photos of the birds around the feeders.

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Female Black Goggled Tanager

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Saffron Finch

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Screaming Cowbird

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Double Collared Seedeater

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Not only do they feed the birds, but the squirrels are well looked after too

After a while, I go to join David and spot a few birds from our own balcony as well.

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Red Breasted Toucan

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Scaled Woodcreeper

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Magpie Tanager

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Saffron Toucanet

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White Spotted Woodpecker

David takes the chilling to the extreme!


Great use of an upcycled pandemic mask!

I decide to go to bed for a siesta instead, as I am feeling quite cold.

As we did yesterday, we go up to the restaurant before dinner to use the internet. The same group of American birders are there again tonight, with the guide going through, bird by bird, what they saw today. The same woman is making inane comments and correcting the guide's English, to the point he snaps at her: “You do realise English is my second language don't you”, and with a groan adds: “it's only the second day, this is going to be a very long week!” I feel his pain.

Back in the room, we grab the spare blanket for the bed, as we both felt cold last night.

Goodnight from Itatiaia, and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 21:08 Archived in Brazil Tagged birds wildlife monkey pigeons guide hammock brazil lunch forest balcony birding brasil toucan website squirrel sparrow tanager woodpecker blanket guan hermit capuchin americans siesta finch adventure_travel hummingbirds pandemic bird_watching snoring knee ruby itatiaia undiscovered_destinations thrush snooze face_mask parakeets wild_birds painful_knee tyrant cacique euphonia dacnis bad_knee knee_pain hummingbird_feeder woodnymph cowbird woodcreeper toucanet eye_mask feeling_cold Comments (0)

Cuiabá - São Paulo - Itatiaia

Up into the hills


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We have our earliest start yet this morning, with the alarm on for 04:30. After a room picnic of some snacks we bought on the way here yesterday, we are picked up at 05:40 for the transfer to Cuiabá Airport.

When we arrive, we ask the first worker we see inside the door – who turns out to be someone who works for a company that shrink-wraps cases – about special assistance. After previous experiences of very few people speaking English in the airports here in Brazil, David shows him a piece of paper with “I need a wheelchair for my wife” written in Portuguese (courtesy of Google Translate). Expecting him to point us in the right direction, I am very surprised when he jumps into action, runs to the other side of the building to collect a wheelchair, and commandeers a fellow worker to push me to the check-in desk. Such amazing service, but to be honest, everywhere we have been, the service has been exemplary on this trip.

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Waiting in the Special Assistance area to be collected for the flight.

The flight is just over two hours, which goes quickly by the time they have served a drink and some little snacks. Before we land in São Paulo, I am asked if I can walk down stairs (as there is no tunnel up to the plane here), and despite confirming that I am perfectly capable of managing stairs, a porter arrives in the provisions lift, to the door on the opposite side of the plane to the usual exit and takes us down to the ground in the industrial lift that doubles as a disabled carriage and food delivery port. Cool!

The luggage is there by the time we arrive at the carousel, and Ricardo, our new driver-guide, is just outside. He speaks excellent English, is very knowledgable, and we hit it off straight away.

For the first couple of hours, we travel along the most important road in Brazil: the connection between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It is a smooth, fast road, the best we've seen in Brazil so far.

Lunch
We stop at a service station along the road, where we have to enter through a turnstile and collect a token in the process. We can order anything we like in the food court, and it is charged against this token. At the end of the meal, we then pay for everything at the tills on the way out. An interesting concept, but it seems to work.

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We order a burger each, while Ricardo chooses from the buffet, where everything is charged by weight.

Itatiaia National Park
The smooth road ends at the entrance to the park. Our luck is in, the park is free to anyone over 60. The girl at the ticket office doesn't believe us, however, so we have to show our passports. I guess that is a compliment.

Welcoming Committee
The first thing we see when we enter the park is a couple of Brown Capuchin monkeys.

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Viewpoint
Ricardo claims that the top of the viewing area is a great place for observing different birds, so I struggle up the uneven stony steps. At least there is a handrail on one side to help me.

The view from the top is great, but the birds are hiding from us.

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Going down the steps is much worse than going up, and by the time I get to the bottom, my knee is very sore.

The rough track – way worse than the Transpantaneira – climbs ever upwards through the forest, until we reach the hotel.

Hotel do Ypé
Built on the side of a hill, the hotel has a very steep and winding incline to reach the parking area and reception.

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We asked Undiscovered Destinations to request a room on the level, and the message certainly got through, as we are staying in what is the closest room to the restaurant and reception.

The rooms are wooden swiss-chalet style, reminiscent of a European ski resort, and feature an open fire rather than AC.

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Our room with the main building behind

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Reception and the shady patio

Once we have checked in and taken the luggage to the room, Ricardo shows us the most important part of the hotel: the bird-watching balcony.

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I settle down with my camera for the rest of the afternoon.

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Female Ruby Crowned Tanager

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Red Rumped Cacique

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Violet Capped Woodnymph

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Chestnut Bellied Euphonia

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Short Crested Flycatcher

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Mr & Mrs Blue Dacnis

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The male is bright blue

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While the female is green

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Golden Chevroned Tanager

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Golden Winged Cacique

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Brazilian Tanager

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Magpie Tanager

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Green Headed Tanager

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Juvenile Ruby Crowned Tanager

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Black Goggled Tanager

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Velvety Black Tyrant

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Red Breasted Toucan

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Dusky Legged Guan

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White Throated Hummingbird

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Planalto Hermit

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Brazilian Ruby

I reluctantly tear myself away when the light gets too low to take photos.

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David wanders around the grounds and photographs me from the upper level

Dinner
We go up to the dining room early in order to use the internet (there is no wifi in the room) so that David can check out all his birthday messages.

This hotel is mostly used by large birding groups, and there is a table for twelve Americans next to ours. Their guide is going through what they have seen today, and there is a very loud and irritating woman who asks questions and makes inane comments on everything the guide says.

We are rather surprised to find one of their party sitting at our table (each table has the room number or name of the group on it. We have a table for four as Ricardo was hoping to join us). It later transpires that she has tested positive for Covid and has been banished from their table. She does eventually move on to the far end of their table, but I have no idea why anyone thought it was acceptable for her to sit with us!

Dinner is yet again buffet style, with very similar dishes to what we have been served previously. We eat and then retire to our room.

Goodnight from Itatiaia and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 22:50 Archived in Brazil Tagged monkey brazil lunch birding brasil national_park south_america buffet sao_paulo tanager flycatcher wheelchair guan hermit capuchin cuiabá ski_resort bird_watching hummingbird viewpoint itatiaia undiscovered_destinations coronavirus covid covid_19 special_assistance tyrant cacique service_station dirt_track hotel_do_ype steep_hill swiss_chalet euphonia dacnis Comments (0)

Cristalino - Alta Floresta - Cuiabá

Today is just a travel day


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We have a leisurely start to the day, up at 06:30, breakfast at 07:30, and leave at 09:30. We are moving on today, to pastures new.

Cake
At breakfast David is served a birthday cake – it is one day early, but we are not complaining!

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There is far too much cake for us to eat, and it won't travel well, so we suggest the staff eat the rest.

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Gui points out a Scarlet Macaw in the trees above the lodge. It's the first bird we have spotted in or around the grounds since we got very excited about seeing the curassow on the day we arrived. The management does not approve of feeding the birds, which I totally respect, hence why they are not congregating around the lodge.

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As part of our private tour, we travel half an hour from the lodge to the departure point in a boat with Gui, and our luggage while all the other passengers who are leaving today travel separately in another boat.

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The welcoming committee at the end of the boat trip

From this point onwards we share a minibus with a delightful young couple from Chicago. She has an ear infection, so we stop at a pharmacy in Alta Floresta, the nearest big town and where the airport is.

Alta Floresta Airport
At the tiny airport in Alta Floresta, we yet again get special assistance, and seats 2A and B on the flight – the first three rows are reserved for people with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women and anyone else who needs a little extra assistance for whatever reason.

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The waiting room at Alta Floresta Airport

Cuiabá Airport
I know from previous experience when we came out to the Amazon that the walk from the plane to the terminal building is quite some distance along the runway apron, so I am grateful to have a wheelchair waiting for me, even if it means staying onboard until all the other passengers have disembarked.

By the time we get inside the building, the luggage and our driver is waiting for us.

Hotel Deville Cuiabá
The drive to the hotel is short, and check-in smooth, so by the time we have sorted ourselves out and want some dinner (we missed lunch as we were travelling, although we did get some small snacks on the plane), it is 17:45. We spotted a small restaurant on our way in, and I really hope they have pizza, as I have had a craving for one for a couple of days.

What I had forgotten, is how late the South Americans eat dinner – the restaurant doesn't open until 19:00. Groan. We wander over to the Sports Bar to have a drink meanwhile and discover that not only do they serve some small meals, but one of the handfuls of so items on the menu is pizza. Result!

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We retire to the room as soon as we have finished the meal, as we have a very early start tomorrow morning.

Goodnight from Cuiabá, and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 21:53 Archived in Brazil Tagged flight airport cake brazil birthday brasil destinations amazon pizza south_america minibus wheelchair macaw cuiabá undiscovered special_assistance cristalino biirthday_cake boat_transfer alta_florest hotel_deville_prime Comments (0)

Cristalino - birds and butterflies

Our last full day in the Amazon


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Another early start today, up at 05:00, breakfast at 06:00, and leave at 06:30.

There is a mist hanging over the river this morning, creating an ethereal scene.

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Black Fronted Nunbird

Long Nosed Bats
They are so incredibly well camouflaged, as they try their best to hide from the Bat Falcon.

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Sunbittern

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Striated Heron

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Greater Ani

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White Tipped Dove

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Saffron Playboy Butterfly

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Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Plumbeous Kite

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Capped Heron

Centipede
I love the way the pattern creates a false set of eyes on his rear end, and that he looks like a series of glass beads joined together.

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White Throated Toucan

Rapids
We return to the same area we visited yesterday, as the moving water often attracts birds.

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Red Throated Piping Guan

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White Banded Swallows

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Bearded Turtle

We are not the only ones from the lodge out and about on the water today.

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Bird Watchers

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A boat waiting for the trekkers to return

White Winged Swallow
I am still chasing these little birds around trying to catch one flying – I have some success, but still not completely happy.

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Scarlet Macaws

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Red Throated Piping Guan

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Ruddy Ground Dove

Reflections
From the rapids we enter an area where the water is completely still, creating perfect reflections.

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Amazon Kingfisher

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Snowy Egret

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Olive Oropendula

Cristalino Lodge
The usual taxi (luggage truck) is waiting for me at the top of the steps to take me to the room when we get back from our morning's boat safari.

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Butterflies
On our way to the lodge when we arrived on the very first day, I saw a number of butterflies on a rock near the lodge, and I asked Gui if we could go back and take a closer look. They are more active in the middle of the day, so we go out at 11:45 to see if they are there.

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There are literally thousands of them, and they rarely stay still for more than a second, flittering about left to right, right to left.

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It is like being in the middle of a living, breathing, confetti shower.

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I spend over an hour photographing these mesmerising butterflies, with lots of exclamations of “wow” and “isn't this amazing”. The experience is like nothing we have ever known before.

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We have a photobomber

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Not one, not two, but three photobombers

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My taxi takes me directly to the restaurant this lunchtime, via the staff quarters (the truck can't drive the pedestrian path as there are too many tree roots along the way).

Lunch
I try and remember what I ordered last night (you pre-order the food for the next meal at the previous one). I photographed the items on the menu, but the starter bears little resemblance to what I receive. Whatever it is, it is very enjoyable.

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The main course is a Micaela-style tenderloin stew with parsnip chips and country-style corn meal.

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Dessert is something called Cupuaçu, a traditional dish of fruit pudding with crunchy Brazil nuts

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I spend some time trying some gentle exercises for my knee, as it is feeling very much better today. The rest of the afternoon is spent chilling in the room with the fan on before confidently walking the ¼ mile path through the jungle to reach the restaurant for dinner, without the use of my knee braces.

Dinner
Everything seems a bit of a shambles this evening, and while the service is friendly and helpful, it is a little hit and miss and at times rather slow.

After sitting down at our usual table, we ask the waitress for a jug of water. When after a while it has not arrived, we ask another of the waiting staff. Some time later, the maître d' comes over and asks if everything is OK. We mention the missing water, and he goes off to chase it. Soon after someone arrives with two jugs, immediately followed by two other people carrying three jugs between them. We now have five jugs of water, although they do take four of them away, thankfully, otherwise, I'd be up every half an hour throughout the night.

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Courgette hash with poached egg

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Cristalino steak - so tender and tasty

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Coconut pudding - delicious!

So much for the confidence earlier – walking back to the room, my knee is suffering big time. Full of disappointment and frustration, I take some painkillers before bed.

Goodnight from the Amazon, and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 21:43 Archived in Brazil Tagged reflections wildlife river bird safari brazil lunch mist birding brasil amazon toucan south_america bats butterflies heron egret dove rapids guan ani boat_trip centipede boat_safari undiscovered_destinations swallow early_morning_mist wildlife_photography river_safari painful_knee cristalino sunbittern nunbird cristalino_lodge bird-watching centiped oropendula painkillers Comments (0)

Cristalino - Birds, Otters and Tapir

Another day, another boat trip


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We go out in the boat with Gui again at first light to see what nature has to offer us today.

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Great Black Hawk

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Amazon Kingfisher

Tapir
With great excitement, Gui points out a tapir swimming along the bank.

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We follow him as he continues along the shoreline until he eventually exits the water and disappears into the jungle.

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My animal wish list for this trip is now complete: jaguar, giant river otter, capybara, agouti, armadillo, anteater, and tapir. I am a very happy bunny!

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Pale Vented Pigeon

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Long Nosed Bats

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A very shy otter

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Southern Rough Winged Swallow

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Black Fronted Nunbird

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White Bellied Parrot

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Blue and yellow Macaw

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Red Throated Piping Guan

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Anhinga drying its wings

Beach
I never expected to see beautiful sandy beaches here in the Amazon - these have become exposed as a result of the dropping water level. The lodge arranges excursions to the beach for swimming and canoeing – having seen numerous caiman and the teeth of the otters, and knowing that there are piranhas in the river, I think I will give it a miss.

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Cocoi Heron

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Blue Grey Tanager

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Southern Lapwing

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Osprey

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Pied Lapwing

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Muscovy Ducks

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Neotropic Cormorants

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Another dragonfly lands briefly on the boat

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Yellow Billed Tern

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Black Caracara

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Blue and Yellow Macaws

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Greater Yellow Headed Vulture

White Throated Mango
The captain pulls up at a shrub on a small island, with a labyrinth of criss-crossing branches. I can see no sign of life. Gui uses his laser pointer to draw our eyes to a small green patch, well hidden inside the bush. A beautiful hummingbird on her nest.

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“How on earth did you manage to spot that?” I ask Gui. He explains that he went out with a scientist last week, who had a heat-spotting device that helped them locate nests such as this.

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Southern Rough Wing Swallow

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Swallow Wing Puffbird

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Striated Heron

Back to the lodge.

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Gui has arranged for me to get a taxi (the luggage truck) back to the room again, while David takes the long route via the shop which is near the restaurant. I ran out of deodorant this morning, so am looking to replace it. The shop does not keep any in stock but Gui arranges for someone in town to nip out and buy one for me, and they will send it with this afternoon's boat carrying new guests.

My diarrhoea has returned with a vengeance (it has never really gone, but has been manageable until now), so instead of going to lunch, I take some Ciprofloxacin and go to bed for the afternoon.

Dinner
Feeling considerably better, I decide to brave some food this evening. Dinner is served as a buffet tonight, much to my disappointment. At least it means no-one will notice if I don't eat much.

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The guava souffle for dessert is incredibly light and very nice indeed

While we are sitting at the table eating our dinner, the waiter comes over and plonks a deodorant in front of me. Great!

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I message Gui to let him know it has arrived.

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Goodnight from Cristalino and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 23:06 Archived in Brazil Tagged wildlife beach river safari parrot swimming hawk brazil birding brasil luxury duck boating amazon pigeon mango south_america bats buffet tapir osprey tanager heron vulture anhinga caracara guan kingfisher macaw cormorant dragonfly diarrhea bird_watching hummingbird otter boat_safari undiscovered_destinations swallow tern lapwing diarrhoea wildlife_photography puffbird cristalino nunbird cristalino_lodge ciprofloacin Comments (2)

Araras - Alta Floresta - Cristalino

Transfer Day


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We are leaving Araras at 07:30 this morning, but I am awake from 03:45. As soon as it is light, I do some last-minute bird watching.

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Plumbeous Ibis

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Chaco Chachalaca

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Packed and ready to go

Our new-found German friends, Tina, Kristian, and their four children are moving on to the same lodge as us today, too, and we joke at breakfast about who will get to the airport first to put the towels down to reserve the seats.

We win.

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Cuiabá Airport
We do have a couple of advantages, however, one being that we are on a private tour so that we can don't have to wait for other people, and not travel in a 12-seater minibus, which means we spend less time loading and unloading luggage as there is only us.

The other advantage is that Roberto arranges special assistance for me once we arrive at the airport, which includes priority check-in as well as boarding, and special seats on the plane (the first three rows are dedicated 'disabled' seats, with extra legroom)

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The city of Cuiabá from the air

Alta Floresta
At the small airport (which only gets two flights a day, apparently) there are two vehicles waiting to take guests to Cristalino Lodge: a small truck for us and the luggage, and a minibus for all the others.

The first part of the road is on tarmac, but that soon turns into a gravel track, as we pass farms and logging stations. If we thought the Transpantaneira road was bad, that is nothing compared to this. We bounce all over the place each time the truck hits a pothole – which is often – and the driver seems to spend his time apologising. He doesn't speak much English but has a great sense of humour, and we laugh a lot on the one-hour journey.

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Cashews
At a gate across the road, he stops to poach some cashew fruits from a tree by the side of the road. He justifies it by explaining that the farm and land belong to Cristalino Lodge. Cashews always fascinate me the way the nut hangs at the bottom of the fruit.

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The fruit itself is also very pleasant to eat, so we take a couple of them with us.

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Boat Trip
When we arrive at the docking area (a fancy name for where the end of the road goes into the river), there is an army of helpers on hand to get the luggage from the truck into the waiting boats.

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Here we meet our guide, Gui, for the first time. He is to be with us for the next four days.

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The journey along the river to Cristalino Lodge takes around half an hour, and we do some bird watching along the way.

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Amazon Kingfisher

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Green Ibis

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Swallow Wing Puffbird

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Amazon Taricaya Turtle and Dyas Julia Butterflies

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White Winged Swallows

Gui explains that the dark colour of the water comes from minerals washed out of the forest, and contains decomposing leaves and other vegetable matter. The good news is that the mosquitoes do not like this water, so they stay away.

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Cristalino Lodge
This eco-lodge gets rave reviews on every site I have looked at on the internet, with National Geographic Traveller selecting it as one of the 25 best eco-lodges in the world; and another sire describing it as “the best lodge in the Brazilian Amazon for wildlife enthusiasts”. I have high hopes for this place!

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The landing stage also features a sunbathing and swimming platform, with loungers and umbrellas (and apparently a cozy firepit in the evening).

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To get to the lodge there are 30 wooden steps, but before that, I have to get out of the boat.

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I try to step up onto the raised part at the front, but my knee will not let me. I attempt to swing my leg over the side and straight onto the boardwalk. I fail again. Finally, I sit down on the front, but I am still not able to get my legs up.
The aforementioned army of helpers step in and literally lift me up and out of the boat. I am impressed they manage it, but by this stage, I am feeling pretty stressed and panicky.

I manage the steps, and the trail through the jungle to the restaurant, which is up a few more wooden steps. The public areas of the hotel are all on a raised platform: the inside and outside dining areas, the bar, the lounge, the shop, toilets, conference room, and patio. It oozes luxury.

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Gui

We are given a welcome drink, made from a fruit called cocoazu. I have not heard of it before, and I have to admit it is a little too bitter for me.

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As we missed lunch while travelling (it is now mid-afternoon), they serve us a small wrap, some fruit salad, and a delicious cake.

Gui is very laid back and nothing seems to be a rush here. We saunter back down the wooden steps along the path from the restaurant to the crossroads of paths where we came up from the jetty.

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As we turn into the jungle and the track that leads to our room, we come across Mr and Mrs Bare Faced Curassow, reinforcing my high expectations of seeing a lot of birds here.

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Our Room
Having upgraded to a Junior Suite, we find that our room is almost the furthest away from the restaurant and the jetty. But at least it is private, set in its own clearing in the forest.

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The inside is large, bright, and airy. There is an overhead fan, but no air conditioning.

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The welcome pack contains two complimentary metal water bottles that can be refilled at the bar for free, a box of chocolate-covered Brazil nuts, and some postcards.

There is a separate dressing room, toilet, and shower, with an additional shower outside.

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Once we have settled in, we try out the outdoor shower. To say it is refreshing would be a gross understatement – the water is absolutely freezing.

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Dinner
We joke that walking to the restaurant for dinner is about as far as it is to walk to our local Tesco supermarket. “Fancy Tesco for dinner this evening?”

As everything is cooked to order here at Cristalino, they brought us the menus when we arrived for us to choose what we would like to have for dinner this evening. After seven nights of buffet food, it is such a pleasant change to be served at the table.

We are greeted on arrival at the restaurant by the customer relations manager, Gabriel, who is very pleasant, very knowledgable, and has a great memory, but he does talk too much, lingering at the table while we are eating.

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Sun-dried meat croquettes with pepper aioli and a hot sauce. Crunchy outside, with a soft centre. Very nice.

The main course is extremely slow to arrive, but when it finally turns up after around 40 minutes or so, it is worth the wait.

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Grilled tenderloin medallion steak

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The caramel nut pie is only just OK. It has a slightly unpleasant gritty texture and definitely needs more caramel!

With no AC, the room feels very hot as we go to bed, so I lay on top of the sheets without anything on and put the ceiling fan on full.

Goodnight from the Amazon. Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 18:44 Archived in Brazil Tagged postcards flight airport river jungle dinner brazil birding brasil luxury amazon turtle butterflies ibis steak kingfisher cuiabá boat_trip cashew bird_watching swallows eco_lodge undiscovered_destinations outdoor_shower water_bottles special_assistance araras curassow chachalaca alta_floresta puffbird cristalino cocoazu caramel_pie Comments (2)

Araras Day Three - Bridge 3, swimming pool, anteaters

A great finish to our stay in Araras


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Another early start this morning: up at 04:15 for a 05:00 safari.

We stop at the statue of São Francisco, the protector of ecology, to photograph the sunrise, before continuing to Ponte 3, our favourite bridge (I never thought I'd end up with a favourite bridge on the Transpantaneira).

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Bridge # 3
There are way more birds flying this morning than yesterday, and in greater quantities.

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Most birds roost near water at night, as the sun heats the water during the day, which helps keep the birds warm during the night. In the morning they fly off in search of food.

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It is mesmerising to watch.

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Flash Gun
After the problems I had with low light necessitating high ISO (= noisy/grainy images) yesterday, I brought my Speedlight with me this morning, plus my Better Beamer.

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Ringed Kingfisher

The Better Beamer is basically a fresnel lens on a frame. Its main purpose is to extend the range of the flash, although it will also reduce the possibility of the lens hood casting a shadow.

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Green Kingfisher

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Caiman

I am impressed that it seems to work all the way across the other side of the pond!

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As well as into the sky above.

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Large Billed Tern

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Black Vulture

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Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

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Orange Winged Parrots

After a while, I abandon the flash.

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Caiman

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Wood Stork

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Jabiru

Black Skimmers
I love watching the way these birds fish by skimming the water with their beaks open. The lower mandible is larger than the top one, allowing them to more easily hook up some breakfast.

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This one's got a fish!

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Large Billed Terns having a bit of a domestic

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Yellow Billed Cardinal with a colouration issue

This is what he is supposed to look like:

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Southern Caracara

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Black Capped Night Heron

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Maguari Stork

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Peach Fronted Parakeet

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Unicoloured Blackbird

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Striated Heron

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Great Egret

Reluctantly we move on from the pond at Bridge # 3, and slowly make our way back towards the lodge.

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Maguari Stork

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Savanna Hawk

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Southern Lapwing coming in to land

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Black Stilt

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Wood Stork

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Wattled Jacana

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Monk Parakeets

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Rufous Cachalote

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Bared Faced Ibis

We see a Southern Caracara have a wrestling match with a stick.

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Guira Cuckoo

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Lesser Yellow Headed Vulture

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Black Vulture

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Snail Kite

Breakfast
By the time we get back to the hotel, we are too late for the breakfast buffet, but the lodge has laid our usual table in the shade of a tree on the patio, and they bring us a number of different dishes.

It seems the chachalaca have got to the butter, however, before we can.

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Caught red-handed - or is that red-beaked - with a large knob of butter in his mouth.

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I bet the butter does melt in his mouth, though!

This is the most we've eaten for any breakfast so far. Disclaimer: we didn't eat everything served! We do feel obliged to eat more than we normally do, however, as they've brought us all this food.

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Chill time
Mid-afternoon we spend some time in the pool cooling down. We are the only ones around, so have the pool to ourselves. I guess everyone else has gone out for a strenuous walk or horse-riding.

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This is not a sign you really want to see right next to the pool

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Afternoon safari
At 16:00 we set off for our very last safari in the Pantanal, as tomorrow we are moving on to pastures new.

The first thing we spot is another armadillo.

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Agouti
He is a long way away, there is lots of dust in the air, and I am shooting into the sun, so unfortunately I don't get any good pictures of the agouti.

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A Crab-Eating Fox rushes past us.

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Blue Crowned Parakeets

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Yellow Collared Macaws

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Collared Anteaters
Leaving the best until last, Roberto slams on the brakes and reverses the car back a few yards before jumping out with his binoculars. Soon he beckons us over: he has seen an anteater in a tree.

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Wow!

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Not just one, but there is another one in a nearby tree, which is quite surprising, as they are normally solitary creatures.

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Once the sun's gone down, leaving the anteaters in very low light, we reluctantly return to the lodge for a shower, dinner and packing before bed.

Goodnight and goodbye from Araras. Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 19:30 Archived in Brazil Tagged birds wildlife breakfast kite safari parrots pool hawk brazil birding brasil ducks fox swimming_pool south_america caiman swimmingpool heron egret stilt stork vulture ibis armadillo cardinal caracara blackbird kingfisher pantanal butter cuckoo bird_watching transpantaneira anteater jacana undiscovered_destinations tern lapwing parakeets bird_photography wild_birds flying_birds speedlight flash_gun skimmer araras sao_francisco bridge_three roosting_birds better_beamer cachalote chachalaca butter_wouldn't_melt_in_his_mou chill_time agouti Comments (0)

Araras Day Two - Bridge 3, Armadillos, night safari

Exciting morning, slow afternoon


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

It's a very early start this morning – we are up at 04:15, and leave the lodge at 05:00. Roberto wants to catch the sunrise!

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The sky takes on a fiery red this morning, painting everything with a surreal warm glow.

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Capybara crossing the road

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Dust on the bushes along the side of the road

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It hasn't rained for well over three weeks here

While getting up so early for the beautiful sunrise and the flaming red in the sky is tremendous, it does mean that there is still not much light for bird photography by the time we reach the pond at Bridge Number Three (which goes on to become my favourite spot in the area). While the colour in the sky – reflected on the ground – is sensational, the quality and detail of the images are anything but.

A number of birds fly over us, heading to a spot to chill for the day.

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Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

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Snail Kite

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Jabiru

Black Skimmer
These birds fascinate me – their lower mandible is larger than the top one, allowing them to skim the surface of the water for small fish or insects.

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I am captivated by this, and watch them for ages, just whooshing from one side to the other, around and around.

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As the sun gets higher on the horizon, the light gets brighter, and the deep colours fade, making it easier for photography as the day goes on.

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Caiman

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Little Blue Heron

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Wood Stork and Snowy Egret

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Little Blue Heron

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Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

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Lesser Yellow Hooded Vulture

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Boat Billed Heron

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Anhinga

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Greater Kiskadee

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Black Collared Hawk

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Immature Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Adult Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Roadside Hawk

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Black Collared Hawk

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Capybara

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Wattled Jacana

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Guira Cuckoo

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Black Capped Donacobius

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Black Howler Monkeys. Only the males are black, the females are golden brown.

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Rhea

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Muscovy Duck - the oldest domesticated duck in the world (although this one is wild)

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Great Egret

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Brazilian Teal

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Cocoi Heron

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Snail Kite

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She's got a snail!

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Monk Parakeet nest

They are everywhere on the trees and the ground around here

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Roadside Hawk

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Savanna Hawk

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And a nearby juvenile

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Maguari Stork

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Limpkin

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Blue Fronted Piping Guan

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Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Black Tailed Marmoset

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Chaco Chachalaca

The Chachalaca are such noisy birds, we hear them in the morning at the resort.

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Neotropic Cormorant drying his wings, his wet feathers glistening in the sun

We return to the lodge for breakfast, I can't believe it is only 9 o'clock, considering the number of birds and animals we've seen already.

Later this morning I take a walk around the grounds to see what birds are around.

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Chaco Chachalaca

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Yellow Billed Cardinal

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Greater Kiskadee

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Saffron Finch

I join Tina, a German lady, and Alexandria, her local guide, for a cool drink in the shade. Tina, in her own words, is on a “one-woman mission to show the world that Germans do have a sense of humour”. By sheer coincidence, Alexandria is the sister of Julinha, the pilot who flew us here. It's a small world.

Lunch
The barman has got the message that we like to sit out on the patio rather than under the straw roof for lunch. It is less to do with the roof keeping the heat in and that area being crowded, and more to do with the fact that the tables on the patio have proper chairs with backrests rather than the picnic-style benches.

Jeep Safari
For our afternoon excursion today, we head off-road opposite the lodge rather than along the Transpantaneira. Initially, there is not much to see, but then Roberto spots something in the dry grass.

Armadillo
We follow this little guy for quite some time as he munches his way across the field.

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He rarely looks up from his food.

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Red Legged Siema

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Crab-Eating Fox
We see a couple of foxes lurking around the edge of the field.

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Stopping to photograph the sunset, we make our way back to the lodge as the light fades fast.

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Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Capybara

Dinner
It's the job of our favourite barman to decide who sits where at meal times, and this evening he has placed us with a lovely Brazilian couple from São Paulo and their two young children.

While the buffet dinner is nothing special, the milk pudding with a fruit (plum?) sauce is delicious.

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Night Safari
At 20:00, we go out for a night safari to get a different perspective of the Pantanal wildlife. To be honest, the trip is probably not worth it. The only wildlife we see is two rabbits and a rhea, plus domesticated buffalo and zebu cows.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 19:37 Archived in Brazil Tagged animals monkeys bird sunrise kite safari hawk brazil birding brasil ducks south_america caiman dust heron stork vulture anhinga parakeet egrets cormorant capybara howler_monkeys birds_nest bird_watching rhea teal jacana undiscovered_destinations wildlife_photography kiskadee skimmer black_howler_monkeys araras birds_of_brazil no_rain jaribu donacobius marmoset black_tailed_maromset chacalaca Comments (0)

Araras Day One - walking tour and Jeep safari

A bird-watcher's paradise


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Another slightly later start this morning: up at 05:30, breakfast at 06:30, leave at 07:00 for a wee walk around the hotel grounds to check out what's about.

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Red Breasted Cardinal

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Little Woodpecker, hiding

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Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork

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One in, one out!

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Wattled Jacana

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We see Mr & Mrs Hornero, and this is their somewhat unusual nest.

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Greater Kiskadee

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Ringed Kingfisher

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Chopi Blackbirds

The grounds are surrounded by ponds covered in vegetation, amongst which caimans hide, waiting for an unsuspecting breakfast.

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We hear several loud grunts and look around expecting to see wild boar or something similar. “It's the mating call of the caiman” explains Roberto.

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Monk Parakeets

Black Collared Hawk
The hawk has caught something, although at first, I cannot make out what it is.

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On closer inspection, I can see it's a fish, and he is having quite the feast!

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Cattle Tyrant - it is the first time we have seen that red crest on the top of its head

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Yellow Rumped Cacique

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Rufous Bellied Thrush

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Rufous Cachalote. That is one very ambitious nest builder!

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Boat Billed Heron

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She is feeding her young

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Black Vulture

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Thrush Like Wren

The property owns a lot of land surrounding the lodge, and several boardwalks lead out across the marshland into the jungle beyond. There is also an observation tower, but neither of us feels up to climbing it.

On one of the boardwalks, we see a couple of spoonbills. I suggest Roberto walks onto the bridge so that I can catch the moment they fly away.

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Unfortunately, they both fly in the opposite direction from what I wanted them to do.

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A caiman looks as if he is heading to the swimming pool.

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Another is making a beeline for David.

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This one makes me laugh - I don't think the camouflage is working!

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They are awfully close to the hotel in my opinion.

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Roberto assures me that no attacks on guests have been recorded. “They are more afraid of you than you are of them”

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Amazon Kingfisher

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Savanna Hawk

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Purple Gallinule, hiding

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Black Capped Donacobius

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Plumbeous Ibis

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South American Ground Lizard

This place really is a birdwatcher's paradise. On a three-hour walk, during which we strayed no more than a few hundred metres from the lodgings, we have seen 34 different bird species, 22 of which are new to us on this trip.

Very satisfied, we return to the room for a few hours in the air conditioning before lunch. David is feeling only slightly better from his throat infection, and I still have the runs, so it is nice to chill for a bit.

Lunch
We make sure we go down to the restaurant as soon as the food is ready when they ring the bell at 11:30. I dislike buffets, and I dislike buffets that have been left out for an hour or two even more.

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Chicken stew, rice, and beans

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Caramelised payaya - very nice!

We have it on good authority that the large tree in the courtyard of the lodge attracts macaws most afternoons, so after a post-lunch siesta, I wander out there to see if I can spot any.

Hyacinth Macaw

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This is the largest parrot in the world, and I hear them before I see them. They are loud, very active, and quite humorous to watch.

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They are not so easy to photograph, however, and for the best part of an hour, they play hide and seek with me.

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I swear they are laughing at me.

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Mind you, chasing them around the tree with a walking stick in one hand and a chair in the other must have looked quite amusing. My balance is pretty awful (David would say I am 'unstable'), hence the chair for when I want to look straight upwards holding a long lens up to my face.

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Jeep Safari
Here at Araras, a number of activities are included in the package, such as trekking, climbing the observation tower, horseriding and canoeing. Obviously, I am unable to partake in any of those, so Roberto is taking us out on a Jeep Safari this afternoon.

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The safari vehicles are converted pick-ups, where the tiered seating on the back can be removed if the Jeep is needed for something else, like transporting luggage.

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David sits on the back, while I sit inside the back seat – I choose the back rather than the front, as I then have unobstructed views out both sides.

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Ringed Kingfisher

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Whistling Heron

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Thrush-Like Wren

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Purpleish Jay

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Black Collared Hawk

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Southern Lapwing

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Orange Backed Troupial

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Great Black Hawk

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Green Ibis Eating a Frog

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Grey Necked Wood-Rail

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Marsh Deer

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Before dinner, a group of guests have gathered around the camp fire, singing songs and playing the guitar.

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After the meal, David and I wander down to the boardwalk for some light painting.

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I also try my hand at some more astrophotography. I do think that I need heaps more practice!

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Goodnight from Araras, and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 22:46 Archived in Brazil Tagged birds wildlife safari hawk brazil lunch lizard birding brasil deer jay caiman woodpecker heron stork vulture ibis cardinal spoonbill blackbird kingfisher macaw pantanal astro bird_watching eco_lodge camp_fire milky_way jacana undiscovered_destinations lapwing astro_photography light_painting thrush after_dark wildlife_photography parakeets kiskadee araras jeep_safari hornero pousada_araras_eco_lodge tyrant cacique chachalote troupial wood_rail marsh_deer wild-birds wren galinule caramelised_papaya rice_and_beans Comments (2)

Porto Jofre - Araras

An exciting transfer


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After the early starts over the last few days, we are delighted to be able to have a lie-in this morning, with the alarm set for 05:30! David's eyes were stuck shut when he woke up, and he feels so rotten, he wishes he was back home! Poor thing.

After breakfast we try and find reception to settle our bill – we are moving on to a new playground today.

On the way, we have a mini-safari in the hotel grounds.

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Jabiru

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Buff Necked Ibis

Southern River Otter
This is the same little otter than was chased into the restaurant by a jaguar on our first evening here. Although not a pet or tame as such, she has become habituated and is unafraid of humans.

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The staff has named her Belinha, which means “little beautiful”.

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Belinha checks out David's new shows.

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They get her seal of approval – or is that otterly approved?

She follows us into reception, running around our feet as we pay our dues. At one point she gets a little too excited and bites my toe - she has sharp teeth, but thankfully she doesn't break the skin. Thank goodness she is only playing, I am sure those gnashers could cause some intense damage if she was serious.

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Jabiru - I love the way they strut around as if they own the place!

Flight Transfer
Instead of travelling to Araras by car, we have opted for a flight transfer, and our plane is here already.

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With scruffy jeans and a camouflage shirt, long greasy hair and covered in tattoos, Julinho so does not look like a stereotypical pilot! He is delightful, though, speaks great English and has a super sense of humour.

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We had hoped to do a panoramic flight over the national park as part of the transfer, but the message does not seem to have come through to Julianho, who is most apologetic when he explains that he does not have enough fuel to do that, much as he would be more than happy to.

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Getting into the plane involves climbing up onto the wing, and somehow sliding myself in. I manage without too much difficulty.


Take-off
To call it a 'runway' would be a gross exaggeration, the airstrip is, in fact, a patch of land with gravel and grass. You can see it on the Google Earth map below.

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Space is at a premium inside, and I daren't move a muscle for fear of touching some of the controls as I am sitting next to the pilot in the front. There is no room for the luggage, so that travels separately in another truck that is going that way today anyway.

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You can see my knees jammed right up against the dashboard.

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The lodge we just left

Photography, as a result, is extremely challenging. Not just because of not being able to move around freely as I did in the back seat of the helicopter (where there was loads more legroom too), but also because none of the windows open, they are small and covered in scratches and splattered with kamikaze insects. Oh, and my side is into the sun.

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It does, however, make for some great shots of the low sun reflecting in the rivers. Well... they would be great if the dirty window wasn't there.

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You can see why they call it a wetland.

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Julinho points out Areras Lodge, our next overnight accommodation as we fly past. Unlike Porto Jofre, Araras does not have its own airstrip, so we are carrying on to Poconé and will drive back down the Transpantaneira (the long straight track that runs through the Pantanal wetlands that you can see in the photo) to reach the lodge.

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As we get nearer to Poconé, we see gold mines rather than wetlands.

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As we approach the landing strip in Poconé, Roberto points out to Julinho that there is another small aircraft that is due to land just before him. Oops. We do a swift, about-turn, and circle the town to come back when it is safe.


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At least it means that I get to see Poconé from the air; which I otherwise would have missed as there would have been no reason to fly over the city because of where the airstrip is located.


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While I am sure they would still have been able to avoid each other, I guess this is what in aviation terms would be classed as a near-miss. When there is no air traffic control, you have to rely on physically seeing any other aircraft.

Landing in Poconé is somewhat bumpy – the landing strip here is not a great deal better than the one in Porto Jofre.

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Getting out of the aircraft can only be described as 'interesting'. None of the other three can help me, as I have to get out before them. The lack of space is not helping one bit, and obviously, neither is the fact that I struggle to bend my knee.

Eventually, I manage to swing myself around so that my bum is resting on the wing. What now? The owner of the plane, and the driver who has come to pick us up for the road transfer look on with bemusement, not sure whether to laugh or cry. When I start to laugh, they nervously join in.

By the time I have endeavoured to somehow get my legs out of the cockpit, with some pushing and lifting by Julinho, and swing those same legs over the top of the plane while lying on my back on the wing, everyone is roaring with laughter. “No need to go to the gym today!” says Julinho.

I slowly slide down the wing, conscious of not losing my pants in the process, I land on the ground with whatever small amount of dignity I have left and smile broadly. “Welcome to Poconé” says the plane's owner.

Thankfully there is no video of this, as David is still inside the aircraft.

Poconé
We ask Roberto to stop at a pharmacy for David to get something for his sore throat. The pharmacist himself shines a torch down into his throat and exclaims: “that is very red and looks extremely sore. I think you have a bad infection there!” He prescribes antibiotics for the throat and drops for the eyes.

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The pharmacy

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David's poorly eye - not a pretty sight!

Transpantaneira Safari
Roberto says we will take a safari on our way to the lodge, and instructs Mr Marcos to drive slowly. I never see him smile once during the entire journey and rename him Misery Guts.

Charity Cycle Ride
The first thing we see is a plethora of MILCC – Middle Aged Lycra Clad Cyclists. Actually, they are not all middle-aged, but few of them have the usual cycling event type body. This is a charity event and one that whole families and groups of friends can take part in.

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Roberto claims he's never seen so much traffic on the Transpanntaneira before, not only the 500 or so participants on bikes but also sponsors, police, ambulances, pick-up trucks, supporters, bike carriers for those who have given up, food suppliers, water trucks and more.

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Ambulance

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There is no shame in admitting defeat

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Prat's, the sponsors (they make orange juice)

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More bikers abandon the ride

I must admit I would not want to cycle on the Transpantaneira – not just the heat, but the dust! Every time a car goes past, a cloud of dust gets thrown up and hangs in the air, just waiting to enter those poor cyclists' lungs.

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As for wildlife, it is conspicuous with its absence today, undoubtedly as a result of the charity event with its numerous cyclists and vehicles.

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Little Blue Heron

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Black Necked Stilt

Pousada Araras Eco Lodge

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As soon as we arrive, Roberto negotiates with the manager for us to have a room nearer the restaurant and parking area. Good man. The room is not ready yet, however, so we have a drink in the shade while we wait.

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The lodge consists of several accommodation blocks set in lovely grounds that include a swimming pool.

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Each room has a couple of comfy chairs and a hammock on the veranda, and the interior is cool and cosy.

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Flower decoration on our bed

The one thing that I find surprising here, is the number of children. We saw none in Porto Jofre, whereas here there are several – German, French, English, American and Brazilian.

Lunch
We hear a bell at 11:30, which we later learn is the dinner bell. By the time we arrive at 12:30, all the tables under cover appear to be taken. There is one free table out on the patio, in the shade, that is laid up. When we get nearer, we discover it has a name on it: “Matias Family x 4”. The waiter casually moves the sign to an empty table and beckons us to sit down.

As usual, the food is served as a buffet – I so don't like buffets! There is a large bucket filled with ice, where soft drinks and beer are found, and you just help yourself. I assume the waiter makes a note of it from your table, hence the names.

As I rummage through what is left of soft drinks in the cooler, I come across cans of Guaraná, and memories from our last visit to Brazil come flooding back. I was completely hooked on this drink back then.

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It still tastes just as good as I remember.

The main course may be a buffet, but the dessert is served! And very nice it is too!

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Afternoon Safari
Araras Lodge has a number of included activities, mostly centred around trekking, horse riding and canoeing. As my poorly knee will not allow me to do any of those, Roberto has arranged for the use of a car every day we are here, and we will do car safaris.

This afternoon Roberto drives the vehicle himself, with me in the front and David in the back seat. Bird sightings begin even before we get into the car, right here in the grounds of the hotel.

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Rufous Hornero

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Peach Fronted Parakeet

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Campo Flicker

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Striated Heron

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Yellow Billed Cardinal

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Greater Kiskadee

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Green Ibis

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Purpleish Jay

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Bare Faced Curassow

Sundowners
As we return to the lodge in time for sunset, a welcome drink of champagne and nibbles has been laid on for us, overlooking the lagoon as the sun goes down.

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Dinner
At dinner, we join an English family with two teenage boys, who are absolutely delightful. Much as I love chatting to people, I do tend to be rather antisocial when we travel, but here we don't have a great deal of choice. There are no tables for two, and the barman tries to get you to mix by placing you with different people each night - hence the names on the tables.

Still feeling rough, and no doubt knocked out from the antibiotics he is now taking, David goes straight to bed after eating. Roberto and I, however, go out into the wilderness in search of a good place for shooting the Milky Way.

He knows of a large open area with some old farming machinery left lying around that could be used as a foreground.

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The stars are absolutely amazing tonight, with no light pollution whatsoever on the horizon. These are truly dark skies!

Goodnight from Araras and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 10:07 Archived in Brazil Tagged sunset wildlife flight dinner safari brazil lunch brasil eye jay south_america stars heron stilt ibis cardinal spoonbill gold_mine guarana pharmacy bubbly pantanal eco-lodge astro cockpit drops mosquitos otter antibiotics jabiru milky_way pocone astro_photography wildlife_photography undiscovered_destination throat_infection araras port_jofre southern_river_otter small_aircraft pantanal_from_the_air near_miss transpananeira charity_cycle_ride cycle_ride cycylists pousada_araras safarai_by_car jeep_safari hornero flicker curassow sundowner chanpagne unlimted_champage Comments (6)

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