Day 1 - Arrival in Cuiaba
Our tour starts in Cuiaba after a flight from Sao Paulo (or from Alta Floresta, if on our Brazil–Rio Cristalino tour). Night in Cuiaba.
Days 2 - 3 - Serra das Araras
We leave Cuiaba, stopping along the way at various birding localities, and transfer to Serra das Araras where we spend three nights. The Serra das Araras (Mountain of Macaws) is a narrow peninsula of Amazonian forest which follows the southern edge of a mountain range, and lies an ecotone between the Cerrado (savanna-like) vegetation and the Brazilian Amazon. Birding is diverse and exciting. The major attraction in recent years has been an active Harpy Eagle nest, which we will visit should it be active. Along with Harpy Eagle, there are several goodies that we search for: Crowned Eagle, Gray Hawk, King Vulture, Red-shouldered Macaw, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Lettered Aracari, Red-shouldered Macaw, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Sharpbill, three species of Tityras, Glossy-backed Becard, White-flanked, Warbling and Black-throated Antbirds, White-eyed Attila, Turquoise, Magpie and White-shouldered Tanagers, and many others. Night outing to look for Least Nighthawk, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Pauraque and Spectacled Owl. Nights at Serra das Araras.
Day 4 - Transfer to Piuval Lodge
Today we board our air-conditioned van and drive to the edge of the fabulous Pantanal and check into our lodge. With any luck we will be greeted by a local flock of Hyacinth Macaws! We are likely to encounter some birds here that are difficult to find in the interior of the Pantanal and we search for species such as White-fronted Woodpecker and Bearded Tachuri as we gain an introduction to the rich birdlife of this area. After dinner, we have an evening walk to enjoy the sunset and look for nighthawks and owls. Night at Piuval Lodge in Pantanal.
Day 5 - Transfer to Porto Jofre
Today we transfer to Porto Joffre, enjoying our first of several days in the Pantanal. This vast alluvial plain lying along the Parana River is only 100m above sea level, and ranks as one of the biggest freshwater wetlands on earth. The numbers of waterbirds is quite simply staggering - thousands of herons, egrets, waterfowl, ibises, spoonbills and others - along with large numbers of caimans and capybaras. As we drive along the famous Transpantaneira, a dirt road that traverses the Pantanal, we have our first introduction to this incredibly rich area with wildlife in abundance. We may see up to 100 species this morning! We take a night drive for owls and possibly Band-tailed Nighthawk, ocelots and crab-eating foxes. Night in Porto Jofre.
Day 6 - Full day boat trip on Cuiaba River
Another unforgettable day!. After breakfast, we depart for a full day boat trip on the Cuiaba River, a highlight of the tour. We have a good chance of seeing Jaguar; the Pantanal cat is actually larger than the Amazonian one. We explore the margins of the river in search of this great cat, as well as other impressive fauna and flora. We should end up with well over a hundred species, an impressive array of wetland birds perhaps including Sunbittern and Sungrebe. It is not only the wetland birds that will keep us occupied here. The dry scrub and woodland is home to Cinereous-breasted Spinetail, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Turquoise-fronted Parrot and Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant. Perhaps a Marsh Deer or even Giant Anteater may distract us from our birding. We arrive back at the hotel in mid-afternoon, for a siesta or a late afternoon walk in the hotel grounds. Night in Porto Jofre.
Days 7 and 8 - Birding and transfer to Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso
Today our drive should net us a host of new species, and we will look for those that we have not found already as we head for a two-night stay at Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso. Again, we will have ample opportunity to bird and photograph the profusion of species along the Transpantaneira. Birds throng the wetlands; we will especially look for scarcer species such as the shy Plumbeous Ibis, Ringed Teal among the common whistling-ducks and Comb Ducks, Maguari Storks and Rufescent Tiger-herons. Raptors are seemingly everywhere: Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Crane, Black-collared and Savanna Hawks, Gray-headed and Snail Kites and Aplomado Falcons. On slightly higher ground, gallery forests have taken hold, and are often alive with wildlife. It is in these forests that we search for Toco Toucans, Bare-faced Curassows, and Chestnut-bellied Guans. As well as these spectacular birds, we may see Great Rufous Woodcreeper and White Woodpecker in this area. At our lodge, we will likely awaken to the loud haunting cries of Southern Screamers as these odd birds herald the dawn. We will start the day with a forest walk which should reveal many birds including Matto Grosso Antbird, Helmeted Manakin, and Large-billed Antwren. We are likely to encounter several flycatchers, ground-doves including Long-tailed, horneros, cardinals and seedeaters, and possibly White-naped Xenopsaris. We will also see a wide variety of animals such as anacondas, black-howler monkeys, brown capuchin, black-tailed marmoset, and even Jaguar is possible. A boatride should reveal more of the Pantanal specialties and wetland species including Jabiru, all five South American Kingfishers, and especially we watch for the impressive Giant Otter. Nights at Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso.
Days 9 – 11 – Pantanal to Chapada dos Guimaraes Tableland
Today we leave the Pantanal and travel to Cuiabá and on to the National Park of Chapada dos Guimarães Tableland. The scenic views in this magnificent park are astonishing! Situated at the western edge of the Planalto do Mato Grosso, the canyonlands and waterfalls of this park are truly impressive. We can expect a wide diversity of wildlife, from macaws to seriemas, with luck perhaps Pheasant Cuckoo. We witness the fascinating display of Streamer-tailed Tyrants, moving their wings and tails as the pair duets. We search for some of the endemics of the Cerrado (dry scrub savanna), including White-rumped and Band-tailed Tanagers. Blue-winged Macaws are also possible. Nights in Chapada.
Day 12 - Transfer to Cuiaba
We have early morning birding at Chapada for more Cerrado specialties such as Collared Crescent-chest, Plumbeous Seedeater, Black-throated Saltator, and Campo Suiriri. We leave Chapada dos Guimaraes and make the journey to Cuiaba airport where our tour ends, and connections made for flights home.