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Sunbird – Itinerary

2017 Tour Price £3,630

  • Plus flights estimated at : £980
  • Single Room Supplement : £240

Brazil Photo Tour: Pantanal Safari

Monday 25 September to Tuesday 3 October 2017
with Stuart Elsom as leader

Maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader

There will be chances to get some good photos of the elusive Jaguar. Photo: Stuart Elsom

One of the most exciting spectacles of the natural world are the big cats, and the impressive Jaguar is probably the most sought-after member of the family. Its home is the Pantanal, the worlds largest wetland area, where well spend 4 days in the hope of some great views and images of this impressive predator, something that would have been unheard of a few years ago. Our base on the Cuiaba River gives us the very best opportunity to see and photograph not only Jaguar but also a vast array of other stunning wildlife. 

The accompanying avifauna of the Pantanal is varied and abundant and offers a good contrast to the birds found in the Atlantic Rainforest at Itororo Lodge. Birds such as Amazon Kingfisher, Sungrebe, Southern Screamer, Pied Lapwing and Blue-throated Piping Guan can all be seen from our motorised launches along the Cuiaba River. Most species are very approachable, offering excellent photographic opportunities. 

As charismatic and spectacular as the Jaguar is, the huge Harpy Eagle can be found in adjacent areas of Brazils Mato Grosso, and well dedicate time to finding and photographing this magnificent raptor. 

Our Photographic tours are designed for both beginners and more experienced photographers alike. They run to a more flexible itinerary than one of our straightforward birdwatching tours, and we do not try to obtain snaps of a long list of species but rather concentrate on obtaining stunning images of the wildlife we encounter.  This may often mean we spend long periods with just a few subjects. 

All photographic tours are accompanied by Stuart Elsom LRPS, who was awarded a Royal Photographic Society Distinction in 2011. Stuart, who delivers training on nature photography and bird identification for The Royal Society of Biology, will be on hand throughout the tour to offer group or one to one tuition on all aspects of wildlife photography. 

Sunbird Photographic Tours are also suitable for non-photographers or for those who require a more relaxed pace and less rigid itinerary. Some tours will include evening sessions on photographic techniques or image critique workshops which are of course optional. If you have any queries about any aspect of our Photographic Tours please contact the Sunbird Office who can forward your query to Stuart. 

Day 1: The tour begins with a flight from London to Cuiaba.

Day 2: On arrival at Cuiaba Airport we’ll meet our local guide as well as those participants joining us from the Serra dos Tucanos tour.  We’ll then transfer to Serra das Araras which is home to one of South America’s most magnificent birds, the impressive Harpy Eagle. This area is the transition between the Cerrado habitat, which is similar to the African Savanna, and the imposing Amazon Rainforest.  As well as seeking out Harpy Eagle, we’ll also be hoping for some memorable close encounters with many of the other special birds in the area.  These could include Capped and Cocoi Herons, Southern Screamer, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Red-shouldered Macaws, the hugely impressive Red-and-green Macaw - often tangling mid-flight as they squabble noisily amongst each other. 

Other species here include Gray-headed Kite, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Warbling Antbird, King Vulture, Purplish Jay and Magpie Tanager.  An evening spot-lighting session will allow us to search for nocturnal species such as Pauraque, Austral and Tawny-bellied Screech-Owls, Ocellated Poorwill, and the superb Spectacled Owl - the latter will often perch overhead and glare down at its gathered admirers below. 

Day 3:  This morning will be spent within the domain of the Harpy Eagle, where we’ll also search for species we may have missed the previous afternoon.  After lunch we’ll transfer to the Pantanal. Once our vehicle reaches the Pantanal floodplain, we’ll drive slowly, fully absorbing the wildlife along the road and making many stops when photographic opportunities present themselves. We hope to arrive at our lodge with time to devote to observing and photographing some of the local species such as the huge Jabiru, vivid Roseate Spoonbills, American Wood Storks, Great Rufous, Straight-billed and Narrow-billed Woodcreepers, Guira Cuckoo, Glittering-throated Emerald, Black-fronted Nunbird, Bat Falcon, Black-bellied Antwren, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Saffron-billed Sparrow and Blue-crowned Trogon. Night in the Pantanal. 

Day 4: We’ll have an early breakfast and take a boat ride along the Pixaim River. Here the approachable and very photogenic wildlife should present many photographic opportunities. All five species of South American kingfisher - Ringed, Amazon, Green, Green-and-rufous, and Pygmy can be found here, along with Sungrebe and the beautiful Sunbittern. 

Giant River Otters and Black-collared Hawks along this stretch of river may also offer themselves up for the camera and we’ll make sure our time spent with these species is memorable; the playful otters swimming around our boat and showing off, whilst the hawk will often take fish from the surface of the water close to us. The birds around the hotel are pretty spectacular too with Guira Cuckoo, Campo Flicker, and both Red-crested and Yellow-Billed Cardinals found here. We also hope to see White and Green-barred Woodpeckers, Crested Oropendola, Blue-fronted Parrot, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Rusty-collared Seedeater, Black-capped Donacobius and a plethora of herons, egrets, storks, and ibis. After lunch we’ll begin the drive along the famous Transpantaneira road, and make various stop along the way. Towards the end of the day we’ll board our comfortable hotel boat. 

Days 5-6: We’ll spend two full days exploring the Pantanal by motor boat. After our breakfasts, we’ll have boat rides up and down stream searching for Jaguars and other mammals such Giant River Otters, Capybaras and the rare Tapir, among several species of interesting birds and reptiles. During these days we’ll spend quality time early each morning getting close to, and photographing Jaguars. They are a hugely impressive beast, and the excitement of seeing your first prowling along a river bank is hard to beat. Most days we’ll have a break to return to the hotel boat for lunch and also take a short rest. 

Apart from the mammals, some of the target birds will include Crane Hawk, Black-Skimmer, Yellow and Large-billed Terns, Pied Lapwing, Collared Plover, Crested Oropendola, Yellow-rumped Cacique and Red-billed Scythebill just to mention a few. In the evenings both Band-tailed and Nacunda Nighthawks may be seen from the upper deck of our hotel boat as they hoover up moths and other nocturnal insects. 

Our last afternoon on the river will be spent further downstream where we’ll look for the mighty Hyacinth Macaw, the world’s largest parrot. Amongst the dry palms we’ll savour this magnificent bird as it delicately peels and eats the palm fruits, using its huge scythe-like bill to get at the fleshy nutrients. The almost comical facial expression combined with the dextrous use of its huge feet is very entertaining

Day 7: This morning we’ll leave the hotel boat and drive back along the Transpantaneira road.  There will be plenty of birds to look out for along the way, with Band-tailed Antbird, Pale-legged Hornero, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Lesser Kiskadee, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Green-backed Becard, Lineated and Golden-green Woodpeckers and Helmeted Manakin. Bright purple flowering trees along the road could hold a dazzling array of hummingbirds including Ruby Topaz, Black-throated Mango, White-tailed Goldenthroat and Cinnamon-throated Hermit amongst others whilst Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-lored and Cinereous-breasted Spinetail, Red-billed Scythebill, Flavescent Warbler, Moustached and Buff-bellied Wrens, Purplish Jay, Orange-backed Troupial are all possible. 

Arriving at our lodge late afternoon we’ll explore the adjacent grassland habitats before dinner. In the evening it may be possible to take a night-safari looking for anteaters, Maned Wolf and Crab-eating Foxes, as well as Common Potoo, Pauraque, and Great Horned Owl. Night at Piuval Lodge. 

Day 8: We’ll have an early start today to concentrate on finding the rare Giant Anteater at dawn as, after feeding for the whole of the night, it makes its way into the forest soon after day breaks - a very special moment.  

Also possible here are Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Sunbittern, and Cream-coloured Woodpecker, as well as the hundreds of ibis flying overhead after leaving their roost. We will leave the lodge after breakfast and transfer back to Cuiaba Airport in time to connect with our flights back to London where the tour ends on Day 9.


Updated: 19 January 2016