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Wildlife Brazil: Jaguars of the Pantanal

Day 1

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

Straddling the border between southern Brazil and northeast Argentina, The Iguazú Falls are composed of 275 separate cascades forming a curtain of foaming water which crashes through tangled sub-tropical jungle over a vast granite amphitheatre, protected by national park status. Many visitors spend just one night here but with three nights you have ample time to explore both sides of the falls.

Both countries offer scenic walkways with breath-taking scenery around every corner and easily observed wildlife including cute little coatis which visit the walkways (be careful they will steal anything edible out of your bag) and a variety of monkeys. 500 species of butterfly, 400 of bird and 2,000 plant types – including orchids - flourish in the fecund tropical forest. Among the endemic species are harpy eagles, anteaters, capuchin monkeys and ocelots – not easy to spot, but look out for some of the more brightly coloured birds including toucans, tanagers, trogons, woodpeckers, flycatchers and parrots.

You won’t get to see them all in the wild all so in the afternoon you’ll visit the quirky little bird park, an aviary where you can observe up close individual birds of the species endemic to the park. 

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Iguassu Falls

Day 2

Guided tour of the Brazilian side of the Falls.

On your guided excursion to the Brazilian side you’ll get a panoramic view of the 3km cliff edge over which tumbles a curtain of hundreds of individual waterfalls, which seem to merge into one when the river is full. A paved walkway leads down the cliff to near the rim of the Floriano falls which looks over the aptly named Garganta del Diablo, “Devil’s Throat” It's a truly mesmerising experience to stand and stare into the swirling, misty vortex below. Rainbows come and go, while swifts build their precarious nests in the vegetation of the spray-soaked canyon walls seemingly oblivious to the thunderous noise. 

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Day 3

Guided excursion to the Argentine side of the Falls.
Iguazu Falls

You’ll have a full day to get up close to the fizzing spray - on the Argentine side there is a series of walkways leading you above, below and even behind the water. From the National Park Visitor Centre, a little natural-gas-powered train where the Upper Walk begins. The excursion visits two areas: the Upper Walk, linking dozens of tiny basalt islands, and the Lower Walk, closer to the falls below. A series of walkways and bridges twist and turn above, below and even behind the vast system of mesmerising waterfalls. The train later continues to Devil's Throat Station. From here, a kilometre-long walkway leads you across the river right up to the rim of the Garganta del Diablo which you saw yesterday but from a different viewpoint: today you gaze down into the chasm from on high.

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Iguazu Falls

Day 4

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

Transfer to your hotel in Campo Grande for the night. The city is a substantial, modern metropolis and the capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. It lies on the southern edge of the Pantanal and is a gateway for visitors to the region. The Pantanal wetlands span an area half the size of Germany. They are seasonally flooded, drained by the Paraguay river, and comprise swampy grasslands, lagoons and channels, with sparse forests, leaving some of the greatest concentrations of fauna on the continent exposed to view.

During the May - November dry season the rivers are reduced to a trickle and animals, including alligators, anteaters, giant otters, capybaras, armadillos, and, if you're lucky, jaguars, congregate at the water's edge while flocks of parakeets, rosy spoonbills, ibis, macaws and giant storks take flight. During the wet season, large areas are flooded and mosquitoes are rife, although animals are visibly grouped together on islets above the water's surface and the reflection of the Technicolor sunsets is dazzling.

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pantanal high water

Day 5

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

Your accommodation has the reputation for being the best place to stay in the region. Guest rooms and public areas have been beautifully constructed with imaginative use of wood and brick to create a rustic but high quality property. There’s a blissful pool. The Refugio Ecológico Caiman is located on one of Brazil's largest cattle ranches covering a vast area of savannah, submersible lowlands and forest.  It is involved in three types of activity: the estancia that raises beef cattle; a nature conservation program that includes the hyacinth macaw and jaguar conservation projects; and eco-tourism.

Cabybara and caiman are found in abundance and tuyuyu (stork), giant anteater and howler monkey are also seen regularly. Thanks to its tireless approach to conservation, there are also healthy populations of the Pantanal's signature wildlife: hyacinth macaw and jaguar (around 35-50 jaguars are believed to be present on the entire estate).

Within the ranch, alongside the main lodge, accommodation is provided in two outpost lodges elevated on stilts, each with 5 or 6 guest rooms and situated in glorious isolation, surrounded by the unsullied natural world. Each outpost lodge has its own swimming pool and you may spot some of the Pantanal's wildlife from the comfort of the lodge itself. 

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armdillo pantanal

Day 6

Activities at the lodge.
hyacinth macaw pantanal 2

Today’s excursions are made by four-wheel drive or on foot to observe wildlife. You’ll always be accompanied by an eagle-eyed, well-informed guide. Excursions include rides in jeeps or vehicles specially adapted for the terrain and by Canadian canoe or motorised boat trips. Walking, night safaris and caiman spotting are also included. Bike tours and birdwatching expeditions are also offered as well as visits to the hyacinth macaw project. (Some of these are charged extra and must be booked in advance). After dinner each day, there is a short slide-show and briefing on the next day's activities.

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hyacinth macaw pantanal 2

Day 7

Full day and evening jaguar experience.
jaguar pantanal

At Caiman Lodge there is a specialist team devoted to the conservation and monitoring of jaguars which visit the vicinity of the property. In order to record their movements, camera traps are in position, and some jaguars have collars with VHF receivers which can be tracked by satellite.

Your eight-hour jaguar-spotting activity (maximum six participants) starts during daylight hours and continues at nightfall - jaguars are nocturnal, coming out of their daytime doze to hunt after sunset - when you accompany the team of African-trained trackers, who will be looking for signs that one of these big cats has passed nearby and will attempt to locate it, so that you can have the privilege of observing the animal up close. During the day prior to your excursion, attempts will have been made to identify approximate locations of the animals - looking for tracks and remains of kills. You will also be able to inspect the cameras to see if any activity has been recorded. There is also a full presentation on the project's work and objectives at the base station.

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jaguar pantanal

Day 8

Further exploration of the Pantanal from the lodge.
pantanal excursions

Today you have a further opportunity to choose from among the activities organised at the lodge. 

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pantanal excursions

Day 9

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

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 having been spruced up for the World Cup and Olympic Games, now is a good time to go. The busy colonial centre is transformed, with literary cafés spilling out on to pedestrianised lanes, the National Theatre is all a-glitter, and the renovated port area is home to magnificent new museums, a vast aquarium and imaginative street murals.

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. Your top quality hotel is right on the beachfront at Copacabana. You may decide you want to stay in Rio longer – just ask us when you book...

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Day 10

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

Rio's unmissable highlight, there is probably no better place to appreciate Rio's magnificent cityscape, bays and beaches from atop the 710m high jungle-clad Corcovado mountain, part of the Tijuca National Park, one of very few wilderness parks in the world with an urban setting. The ascent is in itself memorable: the rack railway which goes almost to the summit climbs steeply through the lush rainforest, with its abundant tropical flowers and fruit trees, to just below the statue of Christ the Redeemer. At 30m high, the statue was erected in the early 1930s: it has since become part of Brazil's cultural identity and was declared one of the new Wonders of the World. On clear and sunny days, Corcovado offers stunning views of the city of Rio, including the instantly recognisable Sugar Loaf mountain, Niteroi bridge, and the famous beaches. 

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Christ the Redeemer

Day 11

Transfer to Rio’s airport for your international flight.

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Wildlife Brazil: Jaguars of the Pantanal

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Wildlife Brazil: Jaguars of the Pantanal

11 days from £4,359pp

Price excludes international flights at the beginning and end of the trip


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