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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)

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)

Porto Jofre Morning Safari Day One

A good start!


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

I had a dreadful night: my shoulder, back, wrist, knee, pelvis, and ankle were all hurting at some stage, and my stomach felt very unsettled (I still have the runs); while David spent the night coughing and blowing his nose. I finally give in and get up just after 04:00.

David decides to stay in bed for the morning, so I go out with Roberto in a boat to see if we can find any jaguars. The Pantanal is said to have the world's highest density of these beautiful cats, and Porto Jofre is known as Jaguar Central, so I am hoping we'll get lucky.

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We agreed quite early on at the planning stage that we didn't want to be in a group (too many bad experiences as a photographer on group tours), so we paid extra and upgraded to a private tour. Seeing some of the bigger boats with up to 12 people in them, I am grateful for the small four-seater boat with me, Roberto and Captain Dinio.

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We leave the hotel before dawn, and the sunrise is beautiful with the early morning mist hanging over the water! It is surprisingly cold this morning with the wind from the moving boat. I am glad I listened to Roberto and put a wind-proof jacket on!

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We are heading in a leisurely fashion towards an area where jaguars were spotted yesterday, stopping to photograph the birds and animals we see along the way.

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Bat Falcon

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Pied Lapwings making baby lapwings

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Black Skimmer

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Large Billed Tern

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Green Iguana

All the boat captains are in touch via radio, and we get word that some guests from the hotel have seen a family of five otters, so we decide to go there to check it out.

It seems to take forever to get there, as the captain is very courteous and slows right down every time we pass fishermen in their boats. I worry that the otters will be gone by the time we get there.

Giant River Otters
The otters are still around, eating fish. They are quite large (I guess there's a hint in the name), and they have viciously sharp teeth. You can easily hear the crunching of the fish bones as they eat.

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Other Wildlife

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Cocoi Heron

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White Winged Swallow

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Wood Stork

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Great Egret

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Neotropic Cormorants

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Amazon Kingfisher

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Black Crowned Night Heron

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Wattled Jacana

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Anhinga drying its wings

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Caiman

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Southern Screamer

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Brown Capuchin

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Crane Hawk

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Lesser Yellow Hooded Vulture

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Toco Toucan

A passing boat indicates to us that they have heard of a sighting, so "hold on to your hats, it is full speed ahead!" Sod the fishermen, this is business!

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Jaguar
The first hint that there is something of interest, is a boat jam!

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At first, I can't spot the cat, as she is doing her best to be camouflaged (very successfully) while she stalks an unsuspecting caiman through the long grass at the riverbank.

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Her camouflage skills are better than her hunting skills this morning, however, as she pounces with a menacing growl, the caiman gets away with a large splash at the last minute!

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The look of dejection on her face as the caiman gets away!

The jaguar walks along the bank. We follow.

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She stops. We stop.

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She turns around. We turn around. We lose sight of her for a while and thinking she might have wandered over to the other side of the peninsula, we check it out. Nope. We return to the original side just as she appears out of the undergrowth.

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Soon she gets fed up with sitting on a log and disappears into the undergrowth again.

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Our next spotting is one of her two sub-adult cubs in a tree further down the bank.

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The other one is hidden in the thicket behind the tree.

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Meanwhile, mum is keeping an eye on them from the riverbank.

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We're all getting roasted by the fierce sun while waiting for further action.

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Mum is fidgety and heads along the edge of the river towards where her babies are.

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She looks straight at us and heads for the water.

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There is a strict code of conduct for boat safaris in the Pantanal, and keeping at least 25 metres away from any big cats is one of them. When it looks like she is going to swim across the river, all the boat captains move to a respectable distance.

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As it turns out, she swims away from us along the bank and disappears into the jungle further along.

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It's time to head back for lunch. Last night Roberto suggested we start at 06:00 this morning, and be back at the hotel between 10:00 and 10:30. It is now 12:30, and lunch is served in half an hour. David must be wondering what on earth has happened to us!

When I get back to the hotel, I find David sitting outside the room. While he is up and about, he does not look well, with his right eye swollen and watering. He tells me he is feeling slightly better and we both go off for some lunch.

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Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 19:19 Archived in Brazil Tagged wildlife monkey iguana hawk brazil birding brasil toucan heron egret stork vulture anhinga jaguar kingfisher falcon capuchin cormorant pantanal bird_watching otter porto_jofre jacana swallow tern lapwing wildlife_photography undiscovered_destination skimmer river_otter giant_river_otter swollen_eye Comments (2)

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