The Best of Brazil – Pantanal, Cerrado and Atlantic Forest Jewels September 2021/2022/2023
Dates and Costs
21 September – 07 October 2021
Price: US$7,969 / £6,009 / €6,931 per person sharing
Single Supplement: US$990 / £747 / €861
* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.
21 September – 07 October 2022
Price: US$8,219 / £6,197 / €7,148 per person sharing
Single Supplement: US$1,090 / £822 / €948
21 September – 07 October 2023
Price: US$8,479 / £6,393 / €7,375 per person sharing
Single Supplement: US$1,125 / £848 / €979
Duration: 17 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Cuiabá
Tour End: São Paulo
Even though some of the accommodations, such as at Mato Grosso Hotel and Pouso Alegre, are basic, they are ideally located to maximize our bird and wildlife sightings. We include superior rooms at Piuval Lodge, we stay one night in Hotel Deville, the most comfortable accommodation in Cuiaba and, as always, we have included Hotel Pantanal Norte in Porto Jofre.
Our land transportation in the Pantanal is a large, comfortable, 15-seater van (even for small groups of four) which allows for everybody to have their own window seats.
Please note that the standard breakfast schedule for Pantanal lodges is only served from 07.00 or 07.30am. Therefore, to ensure we have all eaten before starting our days, we pay extra for an early (05.30am) breakfast option, which will allow for us to be in the field at the best time of the day, without worrying about returning to the lodge for breakfast.
Accommodation as described in the itinerary
Private land transportation
Private river transportation
Tour leader and local guides
All meals (except where otherwise indicated)
Early breakfasts before normal breakfast times
International and domestic flights
Any activity not described in the itinerary
Meals on Day 1
Dinner on Day 17
Any personal expenses (e.g. laundry, phone calls, minibar expenses, internet access)
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Featured Guide:Eduardo Ormaeche
The Best of Brazil – Pantanal, Cerrado and Atlantic Forest Jewels
This tour will surely rank as one of your neotropical wildlife trips of a lifetime! Our Best of Brazil itinerary will allow you to explore three highly fascinating ecosystems of this huge and highly diverse country: the Pantanal, the Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest. It is important to note that while we are in the Pantanal, we will spend a full morning and afternoon on a boat safari along the Cuiabá River concentrating on finding the world’s third-largest feline, the elusive and charismatic Jaguar!
Jaguar is one of the many mammal highlights of this fantastic tour (photo Riccardo Boschetti).
We will embark on our birding and mammal adventure by exploring the Pantanal, a vast, seasonally flooded wetland, renowned for its incredible concentrations of birds at the end of the dry season. We schedule this tour during this season, when the fish trapped in the shrinking pools of water attract hordes of herons, egrets, storks, and other wetland species. The star of these huge concentrations is the massive Jabiru, towering over a diverse collection of shorter South American waterbirds, such as Sunbittern, Plumbeous, Bare-faced, Green, and Buff-necked Ibises, Grey-cowled Wood Rail and Southern Screamer. There is normally a large diversity of raptors around too, with Savanna Hawk, Snail Kite, Black-collared Hawk and Crane Hawk regularly encountered. Our river trips provide the opportunity to look for species such as Capped Heron, Sungrebe, the striking Agami Heron, Anhinga and a plethora of kingfishers including Green, Amazon, Ringed, American Pygmy and Green-and-rufous. Other target species include Band-tailed Antbird and, with some luck, the seldom-seen Zigzag Heron. Boat trips along rivers also provide the best chances of seeing Endangered (IUCN) Giant (River) Otters; the largest otter in the world and one of the ‘Big Five’ of South American mammals. This is the best place on the planet for seeing Jaguar and during the dry season sightings are almost guaranteed. This humongous cat is probably the star of the entire show on this tour.
Hyacinth Macaws are often a crowd-favorite in the Pantanal (photo Anne Koke).
The Pantanal is simply paradise for parrot-lovers, with standout species including the iconic and threatened Hyacinth Macaw, the largest flying species of parrot in the world and one of Brazil’s great conservation success stories. Other parrot species likely to be seen in the Pantanal include the likes of Golden-collared Macaw, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Peach-fronted Parakeet, White-eyed Parakeet, Nanday Parakeet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Orange-winged Amazon, Turquoise-fronted Amazon and Scaly-headed Parrot.
The Pantanal is not only rich in water-associated avifauna; we will also bird its large grasslands, gallery river forests, marshes and plains for species such as Chotoy Spinetail, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, White-lored Spinetail, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Greater Thornbird, Masked Gnatcatcher, Flavescent Warbler, the incredible Helmeted Manakin, White Woodpecker, Pale-crested Woodpecker and Mato Grosso Antbird.
The Pantanal is perhaps South America’s greatest wildlife refuge and here we should get daily sightings of Capybara (the largest rodent in the world), primates such as Black-tailed Marmoset, Bearded Capuchin (sometimes treated as a full species here, ‘Azara’s Capuchin’) and Black-and-gold Howler Monkeys. With luck, we might encounter Marsh Deer, Crab-eating Raccoon, South American Coati, Yellow Armadillo, Lowland (Brazilian) Tapir and Giant Anteater.
Pousada Piuval offers some of the best chances for Giant Anteater in the Pantanal (Riccardo Boschetti).
Then we will move to explore the cerrado, a highly threatened mosaic of dry woodland, gallery forest, and grassland, home to its own unique set of special birds, including White-eared Puffbird, Collared Crescentchest, Chapada Flycatcher, Crested Black Tyrant, Coal-crested Finch, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Red-shouldered Macaw and White-rumped Tanager. We explore this fascinating biome via the scenic Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, a landscape studded with beautiful rock formations and adorned with cascading waterfalls.
The gallery forest in Chapada dos Guimarães can provide species such as Brown Jacamar, Saffron-billed Sparrow, Whooping Motmot, Pheasant Cuckoo and the secretive Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. The grasslands of Chapada dos Guimarães might provide the restricted Yellow-faced Parrot and, with a lot of luck, the secretive Maned Wolf.
Red-necked Tanager, one of the many brightly colored tanager species we should see on this tour (photo Riccardo Boschetti).
Finally, we will fly to São Paulo to explore the Atlantic Forest in south-eastern Brazil. Here, in this important endemic-rich and highly diverse ecosystem, we will spend time at two of its classic birding sites, Ubatuba, and Itatiaia. During our five days here we will enjoy a large diversity of endemic and beautiful birds such as Saffron Toucanet, Green-billed Toucan, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Surucua Trogon, Pin-tailed Manakin, Black Jacobin, Saw-billed Hermit, Frilled Coquette, Green-crowned Plovercrest, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Bare-throated Bellbird, Green-headed Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Diademed Tanager, Large-tailed Antshrike, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Slaty Bristlefront, Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Blue-winged Macaw, Slaty-breasted Wood Rail and Tawny-browed Owl.
This tour can be combined with various other of our Brazil birding tours which run one-after-the-other following this trip, including Southeast Brazil: Itatiaia, Ubatuba and Intervales (if you want to see a lot more of the Atlantic Forest birds as the current tour only gives a taster), Birding Tour Brazil: Serra da Canastra and Cipó endemics, Brazilian Merganser and Maned Wolf and Northeast Brazil: Araripe Manakin, Lear’s Macaw and other endemics. You can also combine this tour with our Brazil birdwatching trips to the Brazilian Amazon (we’ve replaced Cristalino Lodge with an equivalent), Iguazu Falls (not only one of the most famous scenic wonders of the world, but also a fabulous birding site) and various other parts of this vast country.
Itinerary (17 days/16 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Cuiabá and transfer to the hotel
After your arrival at Cuiabá, you will be met by our staff and transferred to your comfortable hotel which must rank as the premier hotel in Cuiabá.
Overnight: Hotel Deville, Cuiabá
The massive Jabiru can be seen on exposed sandbanks throughout the Pantanal.
Day 2. Birding the Pantanal and transfer to Pousada Piuval
We will leave Cuiabá and drive towards Poconé and the Pantanal. During our drive, we will likely see species such as Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Golden-collared Macaw, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Southern Lapwing, Cattle Tyrant, Plumbeous Ibis, Buff-necked Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Red-legged Seriema, Rufous Hornero, Wood Stork, Jabiru, and Toco Toucan. We will arrive at the Pousada Piuval Lodge, and with luck see our first pairs of Hyacinth Macaws flying over the Pantanal. Other birds here include White-eyed Parakeet, Sunbittern, Southern Screamer, Grey Monjita, Yellowish Pipit, Campo Flicker, Sayaca Tanager, Chalk-browed Mockingbird and Greater Rhea.
We will also encounter a large number of water-associated species such as Cocoi Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Large-billed Tern, Black-necked Stilt, and Limpkin. We will try for the difficult-to-see Yellow-breasted Crake and keep an eye out for Red-legged Seriema and Greater Rhea.
After dinner we will have an optional night drive, looking for animals that might include Crab-eating Fox and, with luck, Lowland (Brazilian) Tapir and perhaps even the elusive Giant Anteater, which is one of the toughest animals to see in the Pantanal.
Overnight: Pousada Piuval Lodge (in superior rooms, when available)
Another huge and brightly colored macaw, this time Blue-and-yellow Macaw (photo Riccardo Boschetti).
Day 3. Pousada Piuval and transfer to Mato Grosso Hotel
An early morning of birding around Pousada Piuval should hopefully allow us to see Pale-crested Woodpecker, White-fronted Woodpecker, Great Thornbird, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and more Hyacinth Macaws. We will then leave the lodge and drive along the fabulous Transpantaneira Road to reach our next port of call, Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel. En route, we will stop to look for Blue-crowned and Nanday Parakeets. We should arrive at our hotel at around lunchtime. After a midday break, we will embark on an exciting boat trip along the Pixaim oxbow lake. Here we have chances of seeing the remarkably beautiful Agami Heron, Black-collared Hawk, all five locally occurring kingfishers (Ringed, Amazon, Green, American Pygmy and Green-and-rufous), Sungrebe, Anhinga, Jabiru, Blue-throated Piping Guan, and if we are lucky, the secretive Zigzag Heron; we will make a special effort to find this most-wanted species. We might also find our first Giant (River) Otter, and there is already a small chance for Jaguar, which has been seen on previous Birding Ecotours trips in this area. The main Jaguar venue is still upcoming though! Lowland (Brazilian) Tapir and Crab-eating Fox can often be seen at night around the lodge
Overnight: Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel
The attractive Agami Heron.
Day 4. Hotel Mato Grosso
Today we will start our day birding the fields and gallery forest around the hotel. We will look for many birds such as Chotoy Spinetail, Greater Thornbird, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Blue-black Grassquit, Unicolored Blackbird, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Rusty-collared Seedeater, Picui Ground Dove, Scaled Dove, Picazuro Pigeon, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Savanna Hawk, Scaled Dove, Long-tailed Ground Dove, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Mato Grosso Antbird, Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Undulated Tinamou, Helmeted Manakin, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Blue-crowned Trogon, Amazonian Motmot, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Yellow-billed Cardinal and Red-crested Cardinal.
Later in the evening we will try for Little Nightjar, which may be active around our lodge.
Overnight: Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel
Day 5. Transfer to Porto Jofre and Jaguar boat ride
We will have an early start today, leaving the Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel and driving along the Transpantaneira towards Porto Jofre, where we hope to see species such as Scarlet-headed Blackbird, White-banded Mockingbird, Maguari Stork, Southern Screamer, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Scaly-headed Parrot and with some luck, Golden-collared Macaw.
We will arrive at Porto Jofre for lunch, and in the afternoon, we will have our first Jaguar search along the Cuiabá River, which is one of the most reliable places in the world to see this animal. We will also look for Giant (River) Otters, which are often seen along the Cuiabá River. Birds we might encounter include Collared Plover, Pied Plover, Black Skimmer and Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns. On the way back to the lodge, Band-tailed Nighthawk may be seen flying above the river before dusk.
Overnight: Hotel Pantanal Norte, Porto Jofre
Day 6. Jaguar search
We will have another excursion along the Cuiabá River this morning to hopefully acquire more Jaguar sightings, which sometimes are seen hunting prey such as Capybara and Yacare Caiman. We also hope to experience further encounters with Giant (River) Otters. We will have a full six hours on the river this morning as we hope to spend more time with these impressive cats.
After lunch and some downtime, we will head out for the afternoon’s birding excursion in the general area. We will explore the Campos de Jofre and Transpantaneira Road looking for White Woodpecker, Southern Caracara, the two elusive rallids, Spotted Rail and Grey-breasted Crake and, with luck, Least Bittern.
Overnight: Hotel Pantanal Norte, Porto Jofre
Sunsets in the Pantanal can be stunning (photo Riccardo Boschetti)!
Day 7. Transfer to Pouso Alegre Lodge
We’ll leave Porto Jofre and drive back to the first section of the Transpantaneira Road to the Pouso Alegre Lodge. Here we hope to encounter different species such as Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Green-barred Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Black-bellied Antwren, Grey-crested Cachalote, Chaco Chachalaca, Chestnut-bellied Guan, and Bare-faced Curassow. This lodge is basic and small, but what it lacks in comfort is well compensated for by an incredible tract of woodland right on our doorstep. In this woodland, we have extra chances of finding wildlife including Lowland (Brazilian) Tapir, Crab-eating Fox and, with luck, Southern Tamandua (the small anteater!) or maybe even an Ocelot. We will look for Great Potoo, Common Potoo, Little Nightjar, Spot-tailed Nightjar and Parauque during our night drive around the lodge woodlands.
Overnight: Pouso Alegre Lodge
Day 8. Pouso Alegre and transfer to Chapada dos Guimarães
We will have a final day birding the woodlands of Pouso Alegre, where we will focus on any missing species, before leaving the Pantanal. After a week in this fabulous ecosystem, we will head back to Cuiabá and drive to the Chapada dos Guimarães. We hope to arrive before dusk to check our usual stakeouts for Blue-winged Macaw and Red-and-green Macaw.
Overnight Chapada dos Guimarães
We should find Rufous-tailed Jacamar in Vale da Benção.
Day 9. Birding the Agua Fria Road and Vale da Benção
We will have a pre-dawn start to explore the arid and dusty Agua Fria Road, which is one of the still-accessible spots outside the park with remnants of cerrado habitat. Here we hope to find species like the most-wanted Collared Crescentchest as well as Rufous-winged Antshrike, White-rumped Tanager, White-banded Tanager, Plumbeous Seedeater, White-eared Puffbird, Black-faced Tanager and Chapada and Suiriri Flycatchers. Once it has warmed up, we visit a forested area called Vale da Benção, where we have good chances to see species like Amazonian Motmot, Saffron-billed Sparrow, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Brown Jacamar, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Golden-crowned Warbler, Red-shouldered Macaw and hopefully the seldom-seen Pheasant Cuckoo and Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. After a midday rest, we will have a long drive to look for the rare and localized Yellow-faced Parrot. We will have dinner in Chapada dos Guimarães town and then drive back to our accommodation.
Overnight: Chapada dos Guimarães
Maroon-bellied Parrot, yet another parrot species we will target on this tour.
Day 10. Birding Chapada dos Guimarães
We will have another early start to explore the Geladeira Road, where we will look for Spot-backed Puffbird, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch, Sayaca Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Burnished-buff Tanager, White-tailed Hawk, Barred Antshrike, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Greater Rhea, the charismatic Burrowing Owl, Chopi Blackbird, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Blue Dacnis, Small-billed Elaenia and Southern Scrub Flycatcher. After lunch, we will visit our stakeout for the endemic Crested Black Tyrant and the distinctive subspecies of Cliff Flycatcher that occurs here.
Overnight: Chapada dos Guimarães
Day 11. Chapada do Guimarães to Cuiabá and flight to São Paulo
We shall have a predawn start to take advantage of the early morning bird activity and look for any species we may still be missing in the Chapada do Guimarães. We will then transfer to the Cuiabá airport to connect with our domestic flight to São Paulo.
Overnight: Hampton by Hilton Guarulhos Airport, São Paulo
Day 12. Drive to Ubatuba and start of Atlantic Forest Birding
Today we will drive to Ubatuba in the heart of Brazil’s endemic-rich Atlantic Forest. We will have an incredible afternoon while looking for multiple species of hummingbirds, such as Black Jacobin, Saw-billed Hermit, Festive Coquette, Sombre Hummingbird, White-chinned Sapphire and Versicolored Emerald. The tanager feeders attract stunning birds such as Red-necked Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia and Violaceous Euphonia.
We will hopefully see Blue Manakin along the trails at Ubatuba (photo Riccardo Boschetti).
Day 13. Birding Ubatuba
We will spend the morning and afternoon birding the splendid trails at Ubatuba, where we will look for Blond-crested Woodpecker, Bare-throated Bellbird, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Scaled Antbird, Ferruginous Antbird, Salvadori’s Antwren, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Diademed Tanager, Sao Paulo Tyrannulet, Long-billed Wren, Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin, Spot-breasted Antvireo and Channel-billed Toucan.
At night we will look for Tawny-browed Owl, Short-tailed Nighthawk and Common Potoo.
Day 14. Transfer to Itatiaia National Park
After breakfast, we will transfer to Itatiaia National Park. Our lodge is located in the lowlands of the park, where we have chances for the truly stunning Saffron Toucanet, Red-breasted Toucan, Green-crowned Plovercrest, Gilt-edged Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Olive-green Tanager, Golden-chevroned Tanager, Rufous-headed Tanager, Frilled Coquette, White-bibbed Antbird, Violet-capped Woodnymph, White-throated Hummingbird, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Pileated Parrot, Velvety Black Tyrant, and Scaled Woodcreeper. The Slaty-breasted Wood Rail is often seen in the parking area and the nearby flowers attracts the lovely Frilled Coquette.
Overnight: Hotel do Ypê, Itatiaia
We hope to find Saffron Toucanet at Itatiaia National Park.
Days 15 – 16. Itatiaia National Park
We will spend two days exploring the exciting Itatiaia National Park looking for birds such as Itatiaia Spinetail, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Pampas Finch, Diademed Tanager, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Large-tailed Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Bay-chested Warbling Finch, Thick-billed Saltator, Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Rufous Gnateater, Surucua Trogon, Rufous-capped Motmot, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Black-billed Scythebill, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Pallid Spinetail, Scaled Woodcreeper, Streaked Xenops, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Planalto Tyrannulet, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Eared Pygmy Tyrant, Blue Manakin, Black-tailed Myiobius, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Chivi Vireo, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Black-goggled Tanager, and Red-rumped Cacique. In the evening, we will try for Rusty-barred Owl.
Overnight: Hotel do Ypê, Itatiaia
Day 17. Transfer to São Paulo, departure
Depending on the time of your departure flight we might have time for some last birding before leaving the lodge. We will then transfer to São Paulo’s GRU Airport to connect with your international flight.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.
This is a sample trip report. Please email us (email@example.com) for more trip reports from this destination.
The trip met all our expectations, and more! We saw and experienced the Cerrado, the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal with its amazing variety and volumes of wildlife. The highlights included Hyacinth Macaws, Jaguars, Giant River Otters, Maned Wolf, Brazilian Tapir, Anaconda and all the birds for which Eduardo made special efforts to find. We had an excellent session of forest birding on the canopy towers where we could really appreciate the advantage of our private tour, which we think was good value for the additional cost. It was a pleasure to travel with Eduardo again who showed his expertise even in the presence of other local guides. In summary we came back very satisfied customers of Birding Ecotours and we thank you for the opportunity to experience the Best of Brazil tour.
Jacques & Elzine Smuts — Pretoria, South Africa