A Quick Trip To Chapada Dos Guimaraes

A very easy and scenic drive from Cuiaba (once you find you way out of the town) is Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park.


Chapada 0Z3

Since we had driven all the way from the Pantanal, we arrived fairly late in the day so just made a quick drive through town and went looking for some place to stay.  This is the town square where Hahns Macaws roost in the evening.0Z4 0Z5 0Z8 0Z9

After driving around, we stumbled on this small traditional style pousada with a bird in its logo.  It means “Bird’s Corner” which was a good sign and it was ridiculously cheap, around $10 USD-ish!Z0 Z1 Z2 Z3

After checking in, we hurried back to the main square to wait for the Hahns Macaws.  They did not disappoint!

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A pair of Chestnut-eared Aracaris were also hanging around.C12 C13

I can’t seem to find this one in the book, any help appreciated!C16

We had dinner at one of the little restaurants in the main square, then got to bed early so we could make an early start to the park.

Lodge Review: Curicaca Lodge, Transpantaneira, Brazil

Curicara Lodge has a stunning location along the Transpantaneria in the northern Panatanal fo Brazil.  They don’t seem to have a website of their own, but there is good information here.

We were there in Sept, 2012 so things may have changed.  The one thing that needed improvement was the access road which was very bumpy!  Hopefully they have fixed it up since then.


Once you get to the lodge, it is beautiful and natural with lots of bird-attracting habitat so you don’t even have to leave the grounds to find birds.


This was our cottage – very cute!ZC-06 ZC-03 ZC-04 ZC-05


Monkey keeping an eye on us.ZC-07

This is the dining room – most rates will include full board and you need this because there are no other places to eat except at other lodges.ZC-08 ZC-09 ZC-85


Take a stroll down to the river and look for caiman.ZC-84 ZC-86 ZC-87

Of course I will save the best for the next post – birding the grounds of Curicaca Lodge!

Day Visit To Araras Eco-Lodge

When I was doing the planning for this trip, I really wanted to stay here but it’s just so difficult to book it if you aren’t on some kind of package tour.  Their website doesn’t even have prices or a booking page!  I decided to take a chance they may have unbooked roooms when we arrived and we could get a good last minute deal.  It wasn’t to be, when I called the day before, I found out that they were fully booked.  They did offer day visits in which one of their guides takes you around the property and shows you the wildlife.  In 2012 it was around $25-ish per person and we ended up having a late lunch there too.

Driving into the property

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A Chestnut-eared Aracari welcomed us in.ZA-03

Gift shop and dining room where we had a very late lunch.

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Swimming pool

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Red Capped Cardinals bathing


Now the Chestnut-eared Aracari has a friend


Red Capped Cardinals eating ZA-08 ZA-12

Quakers foraging in the grass and in trees above

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Blue Crowned Conure  ZA-17 ZA-18 ZA-19 ZA-20

Capybaras ZA-21


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Why are these capybaras swimming in the same pond with the caimans?ZA-24 ZA-26

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Quakers, Peach-fronted Conures and other birds foraging on the lawn

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All this in just a couple hours in the late afternoon at Araras Eco-Lodge!

Driving The Trans-Pantaneira – Independent Birding

If you want to self-drive the Trans-Pantaniera in a rental car, the first step is to get from Cuiaba to Pocone.  Pocone is a small town where you can grab something to eat and then head to the Trans-Pantaniera which is a well-maintained dirt road through some prime birding territory.

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Transpantaneira in blue, it’s not that long when compared to the entire Pantanal region but the birds are amazing!


Well-maintained dirt road.P-01 P-02

This map from the German language Pantanal Portal shows the exact position of the various eco-lodges along the Transpantaniera.  For our trip, we stayed at Curicara Eco-Lodge and made a day visit to Araras Eco-Lodge.  On the last day, we called into Pousada Piuval for a mid-morning snack and to see some more birds in their lush grounds.T-P Lodges P-03

For descriptions of the various lodges, this website has a good list in English, also check the latest reviews on Trip Advisor, paying most attention to people with several reviews who seem unbiased.

Here’s a few pics from our drive from the entrance to Araras Eco-Lodge where we made a day visit.

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Quaker Parrots (Monk Parakeets) were everywhere – check out those humongous communal nests!

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Divided road.P-22 P-23 P-24

Cuiaba – Gateway To The Northern Pantanal, Brazil

The Pantanal of Brazil is so vast that you could spend weeks exploring it if you had the time and money!  After a look at the southern part, accessed from Campo Grande, now it’s time to look at the northern part, accessed from Cuiaba.


Most people will get to Cuiaba on a domestic flight.  Azul, Gol, Tam & Avianca Brasil all fly here and the most common flights originate in Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Campo Grande though there are routes all over Brazil, including to Alta Floresta (for Cristalino) on Azul.

When we were there, IHG just happened to have the Cuiaba Holiday Inn on Pointbreaks so I jumped on the free room for a mere 5000 points.  It’s a nice enough hotel and the staff were lovely, but the location is the complete opposite direction of the road to Pocone starting from the airport.  I did come prepared with printed Google maps back in Sept 2012 but what I didn’t realize was that the city was full of detours and road works in anticipation of the Soccer World Cup and my map was pretty much useless and we got lost several times just trying to get out of the city!  Wasted time that would have been better spent in the Panatanal!  In desperation, I finally offered a taxi driver 20 BRL ($5-ish) to drive ahead of us and show us the beginning of the road to Pocone.

HI Cuiaba - Pocone

Airport circled in red.HI Cuiaba - Pocone2

Cuiaba is a great place for DIY exploring of the Pantanal as rental cars are reasonable and once you get on the right road it’s easy driving via Pocone to the Trans-Pantaniera – where you start to see the amazing birdlife!  We rented a small car from Hertz and it managed ok as the dirt road in the Trans-Pantaneira is well maintained and we had no dramas returning the car.  I wasn’t thrilled at having to drive a manual (stick shift) but it’s flat country and pretty straight-forward roads once you get out of the city.

If you arrive on a late night flight, I recommend heading left down Route 364 towards the Pocone turn-off and pulling into one of the small motels to pass the night.  Some of them may be geared towards “short term” stays but these people won’t bother you and these kind of motels have discreet car parks that are fenced in and guarded.  I would then get up as early as possible to hit the Trans-Pantaneira by dawn, spend the morning birding and then go to your choice of lodging.  More about this to come!


Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco)

The Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco), also known as the common toucan or toucan, is the largest and probably the best known species in the toucan family. It is found in semi-open habitats throughout a large part of central and eastern South America.

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They have a large range covering Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina.  It is very easy to find them in the Pantanal of Brazil especially on the fruit trees.





Neotropical Birds

National Geographic


Some amazing close-up footage!


A Day With Caiman Ecological Resort, Pantanal

Continuing on from the first day we arrive (lodge review) and an exciting day with Projeto Arara Azul, we now would rejoin our assigned English-speaking tour group.

After breakfast, we were all taken to the stable and assigned horses that are gentle and trained to take gringo tourists on rides.  It was a pleasant excursion but we all had sore butts afterwards and didn’t see all that much wildlife except for greedy vultures.
They made traditional Terere tea and passed it around cowboy style.  Then we went back to the lodge and I walked around the grounds to see the many birds just right there in the garden.  Heaps of Nandays and Quakers!

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We had a buffet lunch, and then went to the lake to paddle around in Canadian canoes.  Ina loved this trip as he is quite familiar with canoeing, I as nervous the whole time the bloody thing would tip over and ruin my camera gear.


It was a pleasant enough excursion but once again, we didn’t see that much wildlife, there were a couple giant anteaters on one side of the lake.  We stayed until sunset to get some nice photos and went back to the lodge to shower and get ready for the Pantaneiro (cowboy) BBQ.


The BBQ was fun; they had a couple people playing guitar and singing and brought the meat around churrascuria style.  Ina started teaching the locals to play the spoons which was hilarious!  We stuffed ourselves silly and crashed out.


The final morning, we joined the tourists for breakfast and they went off on a bike ride.  Most people were checking out today as it was Sunday.  I was tired of group activities and just wanted to walk around looking at birds.  We went back to the mango trees, only the two BF Amazons were there.

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The driver from Open Door arrived on time, we said our reluctant farewells and returned to Campo Grande full of memories of the trip of a lifetime!

Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria)

The Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria) is a large stork found in the Americas from Mexico to Argentina, except west of the Andes. It is most common in the Pantanal region of Brazil and the Eastern Chaco region of Paraguay. It is the only member of the genus Jabiru. The name comes from a Tupi–Guaraní language and means “swollen neck”.


They have a huge range over most of South America and are very easy to see in the Pantanal of Brazil.  I was lucky enough to see some chicks in the nest with a parent!





Neotropical Birds



10 point landing!

Fish for lunch!


A Day With Projeto Arara Azul, Pananal

Continued from Caiman Ecologico Refuge review.

This was by far the most exciting part of the trip – a chance to see how the volunteers of Projeto Arara Azul research the Hyacinth Macaws and other birds in the area!

Cezar, Julianne and Karla picked us up right after breakfast in a 4WD truck.  They were all kitted out with climbing gear so I knew they would be climbing trees to inspect nests.



Cezar really knows his birds, every time we passed any bird (or mammal), he would tell Julianne what number it was in the field guide and she would point it out to me so I could see what it was in English.  We saw lots of hawks, toucans and water birds  and a jabiru stork nest.  And lots of parrots!

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Flock of Nanday Parakeets.

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First we went to a nest occupied by two Hyacinths; Karla climbed up and saw no eggs so came back down.  They have natural nest which are 95% in Manduvai trees.  They have to compete for these nests with other birds and have lost many potential nests to deforestation so the Arara Azul people have constructed artificial nests.  Their program is very successful as the macaw population was less than 1500 at one point and now there are over 6000 Hyacinths in the  Pantanal!

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As we drove from one nest to another, the parents would fly off angrily and squawk their heads off complaining as the team took turns climbing the tree to see if there were eggs.  Sometimes we got lucky!

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It was just the start of the breeding season now so many couples were preparing the nests with woodchips.  Sadly some eggs the team had found before had been stolen by predators.


We saw several Blue-fronted Amazons and some Yellow-collared Macaws.


There is one pair of Greenwing Macaws who have a nest but weren’t around it so we didn’t see them.  The highlight came at the end of the day when the team inspected a nest that was known to have eggs in it and found two baby Hyacinth chicks!

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After the day’s work, we returned to the Arara Azul office and Julianne showed us the usual slide show they show normal tourists but we had missed because we weren’t on the normal tour.


It tells about the Hyacinth Macaw, the Project and what we can do to help.  Don’t buy illegally imported birds stolen from the wild.  Don’t buy products made with feathers  (like this one found in a Rio hotel)  from Macaws and Parrots as the birds are either killed to get the feathers or so badly injured, they die anyway.

They have a gift shop which helps support the project but unfortunately they don’t take credit cards (I wish I had known that before) so I bought just a few small things as much as I could.  I really love this clay rosary with birds!


They were rehabilitating an injured Female Hyacinth they named Kris.  She was rescued from certain death as a caiman (alligator) and caught her by the tail when she was either drinking or bathing in the lake.  Thank God a cowboy was nearby and rescued her and brought her to the project to be rehabilitated.  She had lost her tail and couldn’t fly or eat.


Now she is almost ready to be released back to the wild but she still needs to be able to crack the Acuri nuts by herself.  I wanted to give her a big hug but they don’t encourage showing affection to Macaws that need to be released to the wild and they don’t want them friendly to humans.  I did get to scratch her head a bit while one of the volunteers held her.

We rejoined the other tourists for dinner. They had done the usual lodge tours but they didn’t see half of what we did, I was so happy we went!  After dinner there was a slide show about the Caiman resort which was very interesting.

Scaly-headed Parrot (Pionus maximiliani)

The Scaly-headed Parrot (Pionus maximiliani) is a species of bird in the Psittacidae family, the true parrots. It is also called scaly-headed pionus, Maximilian pionus, Maximilian parrot, Maximilian’s pionus, or Maximilian’s parrot.

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They have a large range in eastern Brazil, central and eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, and northern Argentina.  Many people see them in the Pantanal, especially in the Caiman Ecological Refuge area.

maxi map



World Parrot Trust


Neotropical Birds


For some reason these birds always seem to be eating!