Trip Reports

Brazil Pantanal Trip Report

By June 18, 2019 July 15th, 2019 No Comments

Hyacinth Macaw

Pantanal is partly a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site that has the highest concentration of birds and wildlife. In fact, it is the world’s largest tropical wetland that spreads across 70,000 square miles which not only covers Brazil but spills into Paraguay and Bolivia. We covered both Northern and Southern parts of Pantanal during this trip. Though the Amazon forests of Brazil is well known to host a thriving flora and fauna, Pantanal is held in equal reverence when it comes to a list of many endangered birds and animals you will find here. You can spot water birds here even in the dry season as they gather around areas where there is still standing water like the Herons, Ibis, Storks, Jacanas, Screamers, and Terns. The intimidating Caimans laze near the shores of the river and lagoons. You can encounter the dangerously beautiful Green Anacondas, Piranha, the rare Pink Dolphins, Sloths, Howler, Uakari and Capuchin monkeys from a safe distance by training your lens at them. Pantanal is full of surprises as she is Mother Nature’s picture-perfect painting on a huge canvas. Right from stunning landscape to a host of endemic birds and animals, there are varied subjects to cover right here. You can explore her on horseback, on foot and from a canoe. One can easily guess that this photo tour is going to be an experience of a lifetime. No wonder, it has become a tourist hotspot for both casual holiday goers, hikers, serious bird and wildlife photographers like us.

The photo adventure for Pantanal began from Cuiabá where we all met together at the Marechal Rondon International Airport after which we drove down to the hotel for an overnight stay. Next morning, we drove up to Pousada Piuval located at the northern edge of Pantanal, it was an amazing road trip as we made some halts en route to capturing images of the scenic countryside. Pousada Piuval located at the heart of the wetland has open pastures and scrublands interspersed with forests teeming with birds will surely give you a lot of photo opportunities. This is the best place to spot the Hyacinth Macaw in large numbers, the largest endemic parrot species known for its vibrant plumage.

Amazing Facts About Barefaced Currasow!

One can spot a Bare-faced Currasow out in the open, on the forest ground and in the edge of a forest. Its population is evenly distributed through South and Central Brazil, Paraguay, and Northern Argentina. The move in pairs mostly and let out their deep-throated booming songs occasionally. This bird is characterized by its bare black skin from where it gets its name. The males are mostly black with a white underbelly. The females have a bare black upper body with orange or rufous underbelly

Amazing Facts About Barefaced Currasow!

One can spot a Bare-faced Currasow out in the open, on the forest ground and in the edge of a forest. Its population is evenly distributed through South and Central Brazil, Paraguay, and Northern Argentina. The move in pairs mostly and let out their deep-throated booming songs occasionally. This bird is characterized by its bare black skin from where it gets its name. The males are mostly black with a white underbelly. The females have a bare black upper body with orange or rufous underbelly

One afternoon when the weather was clear we hiked our way to the canopy tower to get sightings of the Orange-backed Troupial and Gray-crested Cacholote and a panoramic view of the wetland. The regular nature walks every morning and afternoon yielded amazing results as we caught sight of the Southern Screamer, Plumbeous Ibis, Red-legged Seriema, Bare-faced Curassow, Greater Rhea, Whistling Heron, Blue-fronted Parrot, Long-tailed Ground-Dove, Great Rufous Woodcreeper and Red-crested Cardinal, Anteaters, Capybaras, Coatis, Crab-eating foxes, Macaws, Jabiru storks, Black-capped herons, Roseate spoonbills, Black-collared Hawks, Parakeets, Ringed kingfishers, Cocoi Herons, Rufescent Tiger-Herons, Black skimmers, Neotropical cormorants and many more. The two action-packed days of bird photography at Piuval was extremely enjoyable.

Quick facts About the Jabiru

The Jabiru is a big prehistoric looking stork that inhabits the wetlands of
Neotropical lowlands. What sets this bird apart is the red patch or band in the middle of the slender and bare black neck that perfectly contrasts with the milk-white plumage. Jabiru lives in areas that have big swamps or marshes and feed on fish, frogs, snakes, crabs, turtles, young caimans and crocodiles.

From here we traveled to Pouso Alegre which is the home to the Giant Anteaters; a rare mammal is the greatest attraction of this region. We explored and photographed along the southern part of Transpantaneira and the sheer number of subjects to click here made our photo session super exciting. Here we clicked the famous birds that call Pantanal their home, namely the Hyacinth Macaw, Toco Toucan, Red-headed and Yellow-billed Cardinals and the elusive Agami Heron. We also spotted some rare mammals around the lodge we stayed at like the Giant Armadillo, Ocelot and the Crab-eating Fox.

Quick facts About the Purple Backed Thornbill

The Purple-backed Thornbill is a Hummingbird species with the smallest bill. The males have brilliant-purple plumes with forked purplish-black tails. These tiny Hummingbirds can be spotted in the periphery of humid forests, semi-open highlands and in páramo. In the monsoon these Hummingbirds fly off to higher elevations. They feed on nectar from flowers and insects. It is a delight to watch their courtship displays where the male dances around in arc patterns while making loud cracking noise.

Quick facts About the Plush capped Jay

The Plush-Capped or Crested Jay is a beautiful bird with dark feathers, cream-yellow chest and a dark bulky tail with cream color tip. In can be spotted in the Southern part of the Amazon basin which borders the Pantanal, Southwestern Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

After a busy day of shooting at Pouso Alegre, we traveled along the Transpantanal Highway to reach Pixaim River. Here we stayed for two days as there were plenty of subjects to click. This time again, we had a fantastic road trip on our way to Pixiam river where we halted several times to click plenty of Caimans and aquatic birds like the Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns that flew from one waterbody to another. They gave us several ‘wow’ moments as we could “freeze” them in flight. We reached the lodge at Pixaim River at noon right on lunchtime and we had a hearty meal. We felt refreshed to take on more photo adventures that awaited us. The lazy afternoon post-lunch became lively and memorable as we spotted the Agami and Boat-billed Herons, Sunbittern, Sungrebe, five different species of Kingfishers, Giant Otters and Brazilian Tapir while cruising gently on the Pixaim river on a boat. The trips with our informed guide were the highlight of our photo tour here. We packed our heads with so much information about the flora and fauna during the boat trips that even an encyclopedia can’t yield. Learning on the field is so much more thrilling and you tend to remember everything that you hear.

The two days we stayed here we couldn’t get enough of the afternoon boat trips that ended as the sunset on the river, which was another amazing sight to behold. The scenic beauty of the wetlands of Pantanal can be best experienced from a boat and we utilized every moment we got to click the marshy landscape along with its exotic birds and mammals. The area around the lodge where we stayed and explored had several feeders which attracted many birds, here we caught sights of the White Woodpecker, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Orange-backed Troupial, Grayish Saltator, and Grayish Paywing. There were gallery forests around the river from where one could spot many birds. However, it was a little tough to shoot from the forest around the river than in the open as we had to wait for long hours to catch glimpses of the birds from here. The plus point here that the forest cover protected us from the harsh tropical sun and the trivia from our guides kept us alert and interested during the long waiting hours. They encouraged us to be persistent and our patience did bear great results as we spotted the Pale-crested Woodpecker, Helmeted Manakin, monkeys like the Brown Capuchin and Silvery Marmoset.

Quick facts About the Giant Anteater

The Giant Anteater also known as Ant Bear is an insectivorous
mammal that belongs to the family of sloths but is larger in size. Giant Anteaters mostly terrestrial compared to other species of Anteaters and Sloths that are arboreal and semi-arboreal. They live in rainforests and grasslands of central and South America. It has a distinctive appearance with an elongated snout, bushy tail,long, and a unique colored fur.

After two days of a memorable photo shoot at Pixaim river, it was time for another fun road trip where we drove south along the famous Trans Pantanal highway to reach to the end of Cuiabá River at Porto Jofre to click the pin-up animal of Pantanal- the Jaguars. It was during this road trip that we really started believing in the golden words that there is more to a journey than just reaching the destination. On our route, we stopped and clicked the Scarlet-hooded Blackbird and the Maguari Stork. The changing scenery of the wetlands also inspired us to indulge in landscape photography. We reached the lodge during lunch time and after grabbing a quick bite it was time to click the Jaguars on the boat.

Red-Legged Seriema

The Red Legged Seriema lives in open woodland, among thorny scrub and hilly grassland. It is a large sized bird with bright red legs from where it gets its name. These birds are sedentary with no migratory pattern. They can make a barking song which is usually performed in duets early in the morning.

Red-Legged Seriema

The Red Legged Seriema lives in open woodland, among thorny scrub and hilly grassland. It is a large sized bird with bright red legs from where it gets its name. These birds are sedentary with no migratory pattern. They can make a barking song which is usually performed in duets early in the morning.

It was a long wait to spot the Jaguars as we gently cruised through the tributaries of the Cuiabá River, that was also a great experience in itself. The boatman kept connecting to other fellow boatmen over the radio to get a good sighting of the Jaguar. While all this was happening, we made use of our waiting time to click the water birds like the Sungrebes, Black-collared and Great-black Hawks, several Herons and Kingfishers that visited the lake, here we also spotted the Giant Otters. Though we couldn’t spot Jaguar on that afternoon boat ride as they are elusive, we comforted ourselves that within these three days of our stay at Port Jofre we will spot one at least definitely. The quest for clicking the perfect Jaguar photo continued and we took boat rides all the three days we stayed here. Ultimately, we caught sight of a Jaguar who had come near the shore and this sighting was worth the wait. We also spotted the Capybara and Tapirs here while searching for the Jaguars on a boat.

On the last day at Porto Jofre, we spent some time in the morning clicking birds on the Transpantanal Highway as it is easy to spot many species there. After an early breakfast, we left for Nobres. On the way, we spotted the Giant Anteaters and the Southern Tamanduas on the way. It is one of the best snorkeling spots in Brazil and the natural pool with clear fresh water is home to some incredible aquatic birds and sub-aquatic wildlife. The birdwatching and photographing session at the Lagoon of the Macaws where we clicked the Blue and Yellow Macaws, Red-bellied Macaws, Kingfishers and Egrets were very enjoyable. While at Nobres we visited the Serra Azul Waterfall known for its crystal-clear turquoise water.

White Woodpecker

From Nobres we traveled to Chapada dos Guimaraes famous for its National Park where the Blue and Yellow Macaws come to roost. We also spotted the Red and Green Macaws beside the stunning Véu de Noiva or Bridal Veil Waterfall. The landscape of Chapada dos Guimarães is very interesting as it has large sandstone cliffs, huge caves, startling rock formations, prehistoric sites, awe-inspiring waterfalls, and Amazonian forests to explore gave us a chance to train the lens to different subjects and not just birds and beasts. We stayed near the Macaw roosting site as the next morning would be spent getting perfect images of the Macaws. If you explore around the place you might be able to spot the Red-legged Seriemas, Burrowing owls and Curl-crested Jays.
This being the last leg of our thrilling photo tour, it was time to travel back to the city of Cuiabá and board our flights back home with a lot of stories to tell and a host of pictures to show off!

Blazze Winged Parrot

Toco Toucan

Supreet Sahoo

Supreet Sahoo

Supreet Sahoo is the founder of Tropical Photo Tours: professional photography guided tours, designed to help you get the best out of your camera whilst exploring wonderful cities with a local. A professional photographer for over a decade Supreet enjoys shooting the surreal by mixing dreamlike qualities into his conceptual images.