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Wildlife Brazil: Jaguars of the Pantanal

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Brazil is a blissful destination for wildlife lovers, with many of its natural landscapes offering the promise of multifarious sightings of birds, butterflies, reptiles and mammals. None more so than the yawning open reaches of the Pantanal, the largest freshwater wetlands in the world.

You’ll be staggered by the quantity of birds, floating in clouds over the savannah or dipping into waters of the region’s floodplains; and caimans, basking silently on the river beaches like hordes of summer tourists.  Most alluring of all is the possibility of spotting a jaguar or other wild cat – although there are no guarantees, during the dry season of May to October your chances at your lodge here are among the best on the continent.

We’ve combined a stay in the Pantanal with a few days at Iguazú, famed for its gigantic waterfalls but just as mesmerising for the variety of tropical birdlife on display in the surrounding rainforest.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive at Foz do Iguaçú airport and transfer to your hotel 5km from the national park.

Day 2

Guided tour of the Brazilian side of the Falls.

Day 3

Guided excursion to the Argentine side of the Falls.

Day 4

Fly to Campo Grande in Brazil’s sun-baked heartland.

Day 5

Transfer to Refugio Caiman, an upmarket eco-lodge deep in the Pantanal.

Day 6

Activities at the lodge.

Day 7

Full day and evening jaguar experience.

Day 8

Further exploration of the Pantanal from the lodge.

Day 9

Transfer to Campo Grande airport and fly to Rio de Janeiro.

Day 10

Guided excursion to the Christ the Redeemer statue and Tijuca Forest.

Day 11

Transfer to Rio’s airport for your international flight.

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What our experts say

Several Journey Latin America staff have been lucky to spot jaguars at Refugio Caiman, the best wildlife lodge in the Brazilian Pantanal. Its Onçafari jaguar project, as featured on TV in the UK, ticks all the sustainable tourism boxes. You can book in the knowledge your holiday is making a contribution to the long-term wellbeing of these incredible creatures.

David

David Nichols

Product and Marketing

Places visited on this holiday

Wildlife Brazil: Jaguars of the Pantanal

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Iguazu Falls
Iguazu falls

Straddling the border between southern Brazil and northeast Argentina, The Iguazú Falls (spelt  Iguaçú in Brazil) are usually rated number one of the big three waterfalls, the others being Niagara and Victoria. They are often considered to be Latin America’s most awe-inspiring natural sight and a must-see for anyone visiting the highlights of the continent.

The 275 separate cascades form a curtain of foaming water which crashes through tangled sub-tropical jungle over a vast granite amphitheatre, protected by national park status. Both countries offer scenic walkways with breath-taking scenery around every corner and easily observed wildlife. From the Brazilian side you’ll get a panoramic view of the 3km cliff edge, on the Argentine side there is a series of walkways leading you above, below and even behind the water.

When's the best time to go to Iguazu Falls?

Iguazú Falls is a year-round destination, but water levels and weather conditions vary with the rainy (Dec-Feb) and dry (Jun-Jul) seasons. The water supply to the falls also varies according to the local control of the dams upstream. It can be busy with tourists in local holiday seasons, for example in Feb and at Easter.

What's the official language in Iguazu Falls?

Brazilian Portuguese; Argentinean Spanish.

How do i get to Iguazu Falls?

There are direct flights connecting Iguazú Falls to Buenos Aires (2 hours), Rio de Janeiro (2 hours), Lima, São Paulo, and Salta in northern Argentina.

What's the official currency at Iguazu Falls?

Brazilian Real.

Brazil: notes can be withdrawn from ATMs in Foz do Iguazú Banco do Brasil, Bradesco and HSBC accept UK credit or debit cards. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. ATMs close at 10pm.

Argentina: there are a couple of ATMs in Puerto Iguazú where the banks are only open in the mornings.

What's the time difference between GMT and Iguazu falls?

GMT -3 hours. There is daylight saving from October to the end of February (approx) when clocks are put forward one hour.

What countries combine well with Iguazu Falls?

Argentina: Buenos Aires - there are direct daily 2 hour flights from Puerto Iguazú; Salta in the northwest Andes: daily flights take 1 hour 50mins.
Brazil: Rio de Janeiro - There are daily flights from Foz do Iguaçú; Southern Brazil: there are flights from Foz do Iguaçu to Curitiba with connections; The Pantanal or the Amazon: there are daily flights to Campo Grande or Manaus with connections in São Paulo.
Peru: there are daily flights from Foz do Iguaçú to Lima, 4.5 hours.

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The Pantanal
Pantanal storks
Slap in the centre of Brazil is the world’s largest wetland, a mix of wilderness and cattle ranches with savannah, swamps and sluggish rivers. Just one road (the Transpantaneira) leads into the heart of the region, giving access to farms and eco-lodges.

You could spend a week or more in the Pantanal but 3-4 days can provide a memorable experience of its remarkable wildlife and inexplicable beauty. Stands of trees are scattered, so that the huge array of wildlife: birds from giant storks to macaws, mammals from capybara to anteaters and reptiles from caimans to anacondas are easily viewed by nature enthusiasts exploring by boat, on foot and on horseback. Flooding after the rains brings vast lagoons reflecting apricot sunsets; the dry season reveals walkable trails.

The Mato Grosso region has much more to offer besides: the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park near Cuiabá is endowed with waterfalls, ridges and tablelands, a magnet for birders. Closer to Campo Grande, a nucleus of labyrinthine rivers and caves has turned Bonito into a soft adventure destination.
When's the best time to visit the Pantanal?

From Jan-Mar, heavy rainfall results in widespread flooding, with wildlife packed onto islands above the water level. Apr-Jun the waters recede and water-birds return to the isolated lakes, while Jul-Sep (winter) wildlife is at its most abundant - though it can take cover during cold snaps. The highest temperatures (up to 40°C) are reached in Nov-Dec. Insect life (including mosquitoes) is less abundant in winter.

What's the official language of the Pantanal?

Brazilian Portuguese, a more languid and musical version of Portugal’s mother tongue.

How do I get local currency in the Pantanal?

Brazilian Real.

Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs in larger cities including Cuiabá and Camp Grande; withdraw what you need before entering the Pantanal (many lodges accept credit cards).

What's the time difference between the Pantanal and UK?

GMT -3 hours. There is daylight saving from Oct to the end of Feb (approx) when clocks are put forward one hour.

What places combine well with the Pantanal?

The Amazon basin, Brazil’s other wildlife-spotting and nature wilderness; region the waterfalls at Iguazú (most flights via São Paulo).

How do I get to the Pantanal?

Regular flights from Rio (2 hours 50mins) and São Paulo (2 hours 15mins) to Cuiabá in the north of the region and Campo Grande in the south (2 hours 20mins and 1 hour 30mins). It’s a long way from anywhere by road!

What are the festivals and cultural events in the Pantanal?

Lasso Festival: One of the most important events in Pantanal culture, the festival takes place at different times on various ranches. Attractions include cowboys in traditional costume taking part in lasso competitions and guitar- playing groups.

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Rio de Janeiro
Corcovado Rio de Janeiro Brazil
Of the world’s great iconic cities, Rio is the most captivating. Romantic and laid back but oozing energy and optimism, it needs a few days to explore and time to sit back and share the outdoor life of its welcoming inhabitants.

With streets, beaches and parks spruced up for the World Cup and Olympic Games, now is the best time to go. The busy colonial centre is transformed, with literary cafés spilling out on to car-free lanes, the National Theatre all a-glitter, and boutique hotels nestle in arty Santa Teresa.

The lagoon behind Ipanema beach is circled by a pretty path and cycle route and the Botanical Gardens have undergone a luscious makeover. Vibrant street art, beach football, spontaneous musical events and cool bars all add to a joyous experience for visitors.
What's the best time to visit Rio de Janeiro?

Rio is an all-year destination, at its hottest Jan-Mar (humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40°C during the day). It can be cool and drizzly Jul-Aug but the sun is never far away. Late Dec-Feb (and  to a lesser extent Jul) are local holiday times and can be very busy.

How do I get local currency in Rio de Janeiro?

Brazilian Real.

Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs at the airport and in town. Banco do Brasil, Bradesco and HSBC accept UK credit or debit cards. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. ATMs close at 10pm. Currency also obtainable in banks and money exchanges.

What's the time difference between Rio de Janeiro and UK?

GMT -3 hours. There is daylight saving from Oct- end Feb (approx) when clocks are put forward one hour.

What places combine well with Rio de Janeiro?

Beach time in Búzios (136 km by road) or Ilha Grande on the Costa Verde (136 km); Paratí, quaint and arty colonial port surrounded by rainforested hills (236 km); Petropolis, former summer seat of the Emperor, in the tropical mountains behind Rio, (68 km, 1.5 hours by road);  Ouro Preto, exquisite colonial city in the mountains of Minas Gerais (280 km); Iguazú Falls (2 hours approx by air); Salvador da Bahía in the northeast (2 hours by air).

What's the flight time between Rio de Janeiro and UK?

Average flight time to Rio is 11 hours. Two airlines offer direct flights. There are flights with European connections to many other major cities.

What are the festivals, cultural and sport events in Rio de Janeiro?

Reveillon: New Year’s Eve, 2 million white-clad Cariocas descend on Copacabana beach to celebrate the Festa de Iemanjá, launching candlelit boats on the Ocean. Fireworks and music accompany the fun. 

Carnival: 5 days in Feb/Mar, variable. Apart from the world famous parades in the purpose-built sambadrome there are street processions, live bands, costume balls, over-indulgence and general frivolity.

Football World Cup: 12 Jun-13 Jul 2014. Cities all over Brazil are hosting games but the Maracanã in Rio has been refurbished for the occasion and will leave the legacy of a spruced up stadium where visitors can enjoy regular games, usually on Sunday afternoons. 

Olympic Games:  5 - 21 Aug 2016. Rio is being given a face-lift for the event, if you visit before the games you’ll benefit from greater security, repaved promenades, streamlined transport links (they hope!), brand new restaurants and open air cafés and even Wifi on Copacabana beach.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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