Brazil: Wildlife Destinations
Wildlife Highlights of Brazil
1. Amazon – Manaus is the starting point for jungle jollies.
2. Pantanal – visits to the southern part of the wetland have the added bonus of snorkelling in the crystal clear and wildlife-rich river near Bonito.
3. Emas National Park is pimpled with termite mounds and roamed by maned wolf, rhea and giant anteater.
4. Iguazú Falls can be visited from Brazil or Argentina.
5. Rare Atlantic forest has high numbers of endemic trees.
6. Abrolhos Marine National Park and the Bahia coast have nesting green turtles and humpback whales (Jul-Nov).
Amazon's star species: Amazon river dolphin • Three-toed sloth • Pygmy marmoset • Hoatzin • Macaws
Unlike the Pantanal, below, it’s sometimes a case in the Amazon of not being able to see the animals for the trees. Immersing yourself in this immense tropical forest, however, still ranks as one of the world’s most exciting and rewarding wildlife travel experiences. Simply being there, staying in a jungle lodge or cruising upstream in a small riverboat, will give you a strong sense of the forest’s vibrant biodiversity. With patience, you’ll glimpse tapirs, monkeys and otters by the water’s edge, macaws flashing scarlet and blue over the forest canopy or caiman skulking in the backwaters, just their eyes and nostrils protruding above the surface. Boost your chances of wildlife sightings by staying at places like Uakari Lodge and Cristalino Jungle Lodge which have canopy towers, hides and trails. A 60km river trip from Manaus, the Anavilhanas Archipelago is also a good base. The forest floods here in April and May, allowing canoe trips through the treetops in search of river dolphins, manatees and giant, air-gulping pirarucu fish.
Getting there Manaus is the major gateway, reached by flights.
Getting around Join a riverboat trip or transfer to a jungle lodge.
When to go Rainy season occurs from mid-October to March.
Things to do Boat trips, hiking, canoeing, fishing.
Places to stay Several lodges are within a day’s river journey from Manaus, including the floating Uakari Lodge and the treetop Ariaú Amazon Towers.
Amazon's star species: Jaguar • Giant anteater • Giant river otter • Hyacinth macaw
Where there’s a wetland, there’s usually abundant wildlife. Make that a tropical wetland covering 210,000 sq km and you’re guaranteed a natural spectacle. The Pantanal is just that – a water wonderland squirming with 30 million caiman, half a million capybara, copious birds (656 species and counting) and one of the continent’s most visible populations of jaguar. In the northern Pantanal, the Transpantaneira Highway links a succession of lodges from where you can stroll boardwalks in search of wildlife, gaze across the patchwork floodplains from viewing towers or simply relax in gardens watching capybara graze the lawns and hummingbirds fuss around bird feeders. This is also ranch country, so you will be able to track down wildlife on horseback. Boat trips, meanwhile, offer some of the best opportunities for seeing jaguar, as well as caiman, capybara, howler monkey, marsh deer, tapir and giant river otter. Travelling along the Transpantaneira, look out for anacondas basking on the roadside and giant anteaters trundling across the grasslands. Night drives can turn up anything from ocelot and maned wolf to armadillos and nightjars.
Getting there Directions Access the Northern Pantanal from Cuiabá, travelling south along the Transpantaneira Highway between Poconé and the Cuibá River. The Southern Pantanal is reached via Aquidauana, Campo Grande and Miranda.
Getting around Hire a driver and guide for the Transpantaneira (there is no public transport). Lodges offer boat trips and safaris.
When to go During the dry season (July to September), wildlife concentrates around dwindling pools. Floodwaters advance during the rains (October to December) crowding wildlife on higher ground during the full flood (December to March). The floodwaters recede between April and June when migrant birds arrive.
Things to do Safaris by vehicle, boat, horseback and on foot.
Places to stay Range of pousadas (lodges) along the Transpantaneira, including Araras Ecolodge and Jaguar Ecological Reserve and Pantanal Wildlife Centre.
Further information pantanal.org
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wildlife travel essentials: Brazil
Numerous airlines serve major cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Internal flights are often the most practical means of getting around. TAM offers air passes linking up to nine destinations within Brazil, including Campo Grande, Cuiabá and Manaus.
WHEN TO GO
Weather patterns vary across such a vast country, but the climate is generally tropical with average temperatures around 27C. Mid-December to February is the national holiday season and can be very busy.
GMT-2 (Brasília and coast), GMT-3 Mato Grosso), GMT-4 (West Amazonas)