U.S. / En Route
Fly independently to Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro
Arrive in Rio and transfer to the Ipanema Plaza Hotel. Rooms are pre-blocked for immediate occupancy so there’s time to relax and enjoy lunch on your own before a tour of Old Rio, where we take in the Portuguese and French influence in colonial squares and avenues. Dinner tonight is at a local churrascaria — all-you-can-eat meat restaurant — where you enjoy traditional Brazilian barbeque and delicious grilled vegetables with herbs.
Rio / Iguazú Falls
Fly to Iguazú Falls and transfer to the Hotel das Cataratas, located at the center of Iguazú National Park and just a two-minute walk from the falls. Explore the trails on the Brazilian side of the falls in search of red-breasted toucans, green-headed tanagers, tropical butterflies and other wildlife. Millions of gallons of water cut a winding path through dense rainforest before forming the 275 cascades of this World Heritage Sites, and we’ll capture spectacular images of this nature wonder. Legends of the Guarani tribe, who inhabited the area before the Europeans arrived, tell that the falls were formed when an angry god — Boi — sliced the Iguazú River in a fit of rage.
Venture to the Argentinean side of Iguazú, looking for brown capuchin monkeys, coatimundis, rufous-capped motmots, surucua trogons, fruitcrows and other birdlife as we stroll along the forested trails with our knowledgeable native naturalists. The area surrounding Iguazú boasts 450 recorded bird species, and our full-day exploration is the ideal time to search for chestnut-eared aracari, plush-crested jays and saffron toucanets. Lunch today is at El Fortin, a rustic restaurant, specializing in parrillada, typical dish of Argentina – save room for the dessert buffet! Continue exploring before returning to the Hotel das Cataratas for the night.
Iguazú Falls / São Paulo / Northern Pantanal
After our time in Iguazú, to begin our Pantanal adventure, travel via air to São Paulo and on to Cuiaba, located in the center of South America. From Mato Grasso’s capital city, we continue overland to Pocone, where we stop for lunch. Accompanied by our expert naturalist guide, we head along the Transpantaneira Highway into the green heart of the northern Pantanal, spotting wildlife as we travel. Check in at the Araras Ecolodge, our home for four nights. Araras Ecolodge is built in regional rustic style, offering comfortable, air-conditioned rooms, screened windows, ceiling fans, private bathrooms (cold and hot shower) and outdoor sitting area with hammock. Get our first taste of the Pantanal’s bounty during an orientation hike, where we watch the sunset and see the landscape come alive with wildlife. This rich habitat is perfect for observing great rheas, jabiru storks, giant anteaters and pampas deer. After a dinner of regional fare made from the tasty meat and fish of the Pantanal, as well as featuring organic salads, vegetables and seasonal fruits, take a night walk looking for night birds including black-crowned night-herons, great horned owls and common potoos.
Awake to the morning calls of macaws and set off for the Clarinho River. As we paddle canoes and walk along river trails, search for night monkeys, dusky titi monkeys, capybaras, giant river otters and plentiful birdlife. The Araras Ecolodge is helping to prevent deforestation along the Clarinho River and protecting the endangered giant river otters by stopping the use of motorboats and purchasing land along the river to create a private reserve. This afternoon visit the howler monkey tower at sunset, watching for black howlers. From the observation tower we may also spot herons, sun bitterns, purple gallinules, yellow-billed terns, Amazon kingfishers, pygmy kingfishers and more. Enjoy a guided night game drive with our expert naturalist guides. With luck, the night may reveal tapirs, crab-eating foxes, ocelots and other wild cats.
Rise early to enjoy a sunrise walk to the Tuiuiu Outlook Tower. The morning air is sure to be filled with the lively calls of yellow-collared and hyacinth macaws, parrots and the other birdlife that crowds the skies. Prior to breakfast at Ema Ranch, built from the former wooden farmhouse of the cattle ranch, walk along the Carvoeiro Trail. We’ll be joined by a lodge representative to discuss the environmental preservation projects at Araras, which include programs to reintroduce parrots and scarlet macaws. Our Pantanal expedition itinerary is kept free so that you may enjoy an afternoon to lounge at the pool or relax in your hammock. A boat ride along the Pixaim River is the ideal time to look for egrets, sungrebes and frog eating boat-billed herons. Even black-capped capuchin monkeys can be found along the riverbanks. Cap off our day with another night game drive along the Transpantaneira.
Today’s Pantanal expedition itinerary is filled with adventure, offering a variety of ways to see wildlife and soak-up the Pantanal’s “wild west” cowboy culture! After breakfast you can choose between horseback riding or avid birders can join a naturalist-guided bird walk. Our entire small group meets at Ronco do Bugio for a traditional barbecue and chance to meet the pantaniero cowboys. Get back in the saddle to return to the Araras Ecolodge, where we spend tonight around the fire singing local favorites.
Northern Pantanal / São Paulo / En Route
Time permitting, spend the last morning of our Pantanal tour itinerary relaxing or on a walk, with one last opportunity to spot white-eyed parakeets, monk parakeets and red-crested cardinals around the lodge. Leave the lodge and transfer to Cuiaba for our flight to Sao Paulo. Board your international flight bound for the U.S.
Arrive in the U.S. and connect with your flights home.