Today marks the start of our incredible adventure as we make our way from Cuiabá and travel to Curicaca Wildlife Refuge, a journey of approximately 81 miles. After passing through the town of Poconé, we will begin our drive on the famous Transpantaneira Highway. This stretch of road is famous amongst naturalists, wildlife enthusiasts and South American photographers as it traverses the northern section of the acclaimed Pantanal and provides remarkable sightings of the birds and mammals that occupy this area, making this a great way to start your photo safari. On the drive to the lodge you may encounter Capybara, Marsh Deer and Caimans, while conspicuous avians include the giant Jabiru Stork, beautiful Roseate Spoonbill, Rufescent Tiger Heron, several species of egrets, Plumbeous and Buff-necked Ibises, Southern Screamer, Savanna and Roadside Hawks and Scarlet-headed Blackbird.
Our accommodation for tonight is at the privately run Curicaca Wildlife Refuge, which is situated along the banks of the Rio Novo. Aside from eco-tourism, the farm also provides accommodation to scientists, who come to study the incredible biological wonderland that is the Pantanal!
Overnight Curicaca Wildlife Refuge or similar
Majority of the Pantanal territory lies on private land, dedicated mainly to cattle farming. Some of the owners do combine this with ecotourism, but in very few cases is the primary focus on wildlife preservation. Curicaca Wildlife Refuge, which is accessed directly off the Transpantaneira road, is a virgin wooded area of more than 620 acres, bordered by the Rio Novo. Furthermore, the multiple permanent ponds and channels as well as the open flooded and the densely forested areas offer varied opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography in Brazil. An observation platform is a useful structure from which to photograph wildlife, and makes for a great vantage point from which to enjoy the breathtaking Pantanal sunsets.
Overnight Curicaca Wildlife Refuge or similar
Today’s journey will take us on a short drive from Curicaca to the Rio Claro area, just a few miles down the road. This area is marked by a narrow river, which is surrounded by gallery forest and simply put, an outstanding place for Brazilian photography and a photographer’s paradise!
Here we will explore the forests and savannas of the Rio Claro area, which is an extension of the Pixain River. In the northern Pantanal, this is one of the most renowned rivers among both birders and photographers alike. The boat excursions on its quiet waters provide excellent bird viewing and photography in Brazil. We will be on the lookout for Great and Snowy Egrets, Cocoy, Striated and Agamy Herons, Sungrebe, Sunbittern and all five species of South American Kingfishers. A special “assignment” for us here is to photograph the attractive Black-collared Hawks that fly down from their perches along the river to catch fish on the water surface. At the lodge’s bird feeders we might find Red-crested and Yellow-billed Cardinals, Shiny and Giant Cowbirds, Saffron Finch, Grey-crested Cachalote, Black-hooded Parakeet, Red-necked Aracari and perhaps even a lovely Toco Toucan! Other birds we could find on the surrounding trails include Helmeted Manakin, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Barred and Great Antshrikes, Mato Grosso Antbird, Rusty-backed Antwren, and Great Potoo.
Overnight Rio Claro or similar
After an early breakfast and checkout, we will travel deeper into the northern Pantanal, a very large, gently sloped basin that seasonally inundates with water runoff from the surrounding upland areas of the Planalto highlands and will provide us with amazing wildlife and photographic opportunities. There should encounter plenty of wildlife along the road, as we will be travelling the full length of the Transpantaneira Road to a place called Porto Jofre in order to get to our hotel, where we should arrive by noon. After lunch we will embark on a boat excursion and once we get onto the river, the hunt begins. This area is known to house the highest concentration of Jaguars in the world!
Among the six top biogeographic regions on the planet, the Neotropics (South and Central America) stand out because it displays the highest levels of biodiversity, and consequently it has become the primary target for naturalists from all over the world. The Pantanal is one of the richest ecosystems on earth, and constitutes the largest flooded area in the world (approximately 125,000 miles2!) of which roughly 80 % is located in Brazilian territory, in the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. The remainder of the Pantanal is to be found in neighbouring Bolivia and Paraguay. The tropical climate contributes greatly to the extent of this wetland, and after a period where the land is inundated for roughly six months, the waters recede, and one is left with an enormous patchwork of lagoons and rivers. The biodiversity of the area is immense, and the numbers speak for themselves: 300 mammal, 650 bird, 480 reptile and 400 fish species can be found in this area, not to mention 3500 species of plants! In Brazil it is protected as an Ecological Preservation Area and a section of 541 square miles was declared a National Park. The road on which we travelled, the Transpantaneira road, is in itself protected by the law, as well as its multiple wooden bridges, said to number 122!
Overnight Jacaré House Boat or similar
We have a very exciting four full days ahead of us, with a series of early morning and late afternoon boat rides, searching for our main Brazilian photographic subject, the mighty Jaguar. Although Jaguar sightings are not guaranteed, as is the case with most wildlife species, this region does however offer us the very best possibilities of finding these powerful and elusive cats. Our outings are restricted to daylight hours, when we will navigate the different water channels looking for Jaguars that may have come to the river banks in search of food, water, or just to enjoy the cool breeze.
In addition to this, we will hopefully enjoy fabulous encounters with family groups of Giant River Otters. These otters weigh up to 70 pounds (30 kg) and measure an amazing 7 feet (2m) in length. They are top predators and live in family groups of 4-13 individuals and are an absolute delight to photograph and observe. In most parts of their range they are unfortunately very shy and hard to see, as their numbers are still recovering from the brutal fur trade of the last century.
Other wildlife we should encounter would include Black Howler Monkeys, which may be seen in the treetops along the water’s edge or heard roaring from up to a mile away, entertaining groups of Capuchin Monkeys, sounders of shy White-lipped and Collared Peccaries, huge Brazilian Tapirs (South America’s largest land mammal), hundreds of Capybara, the smaller Neotropical River Otter and, if we are very fortunate, perhaps even Puma and other smaller cat species.
Furthermore, the photographic opportunities of the birds in this region are excellent and some of the species we should encounter and photograph would include the cute American Pygmy Kingfisher, fish-catching Black-collared Hawks and countless waterbirds.
Nights Jacaré House Boat or similar
This evening will find us settling in at Pousada Piuval, our home for the next two nights. This property is a working cattle ranch with over 15,000 acres of forest, swamps, savannas and natural pasture and is one of the best places for birds and mammals in the northern Pantanal. During the drive we might see Bare-faced Curassow, Green and Bare-faced Ibis and the strange looking Limpkin. This place is also home to one of the photographic highlights of our tour, the Hyacinth Macaw, the largest parrot in the world!
Overnight Pousada Piuval or similar
The area surrounding the lodge will provide us with an amazing opportunity to view certain species that we might not encounter anywhere else on the tour. Most of our time will be spent driving or walking the lodge surroundings and the access road in search of species that might include Great Rufous, Cream-coloured and Pale-crested Woodpeckers, Red-billed Scythebill, Blue-fronted Parrot, and Yellow-chevroned and Peach-fronted Parakeets. As we drive through the surrounding plains we might come across the threatened Chestnut-bellied Guan, smart looking Red-throated Piping Guans, elegant Red-legged Seriemas, and Greater Rheas – South America’s version of Africa’s Ostrich. Mammals common in this area include Azara’s Agouty, and both Black Howler and Capuchin Monkeys.
Overnight Pousada Piuval or similar
Today we make our way back to Cuiabá where our amazing Brazilian photography adventure sadly comes to an end!
Brazilian Wildlife photography is a fascinating and most alluring activity. Obtaining incredible images, does however often take an extended amount of dedication, time and a bit of luck! Wild creatures are unpredictable, and it is unrealistic that any situation, sighting or photograph can be guaranteed. However, please be assured that your professional ORYX Photographic leader will do his utmost (within the circumstances, and without impacting on the wellbeing of your subject) to ensure that you obtain the images of your dreams!
Although Dale grew up in suburban London, which certainly isn’t replete with wild animals, his addiction to wildlife films instilled a deep love for animals and the outdoors, and he has subsequently left London and spent the last 20 years travelling the globe working with, and photographing its wildlife.
During this time, he has produced more than 400 nature, travel and photography oriented magazine articles and has worked on numerous wildlife documentaries including for the BBC. His photographs have appeared on high profile front covers and he has won several awards with global publishing companies.
Aside from having guided widely in Africa, his extensive experience in tropics, whether it be the steamy jungles of south-east Asia or South America, or the endemic rich island of Madagascar, make him the natural choice for ORYX’s Brazil, Borneo and Madagascar tours. His sense of humour and relaxed demeanour ensure that he is a hit with all the people he guides, both young and old!
“I want to reiterate Sue’s comments about the extraordinary quality of our Pantanal experience. Having Dale and Giuliano as our mentors on this trip made it just outstanding. Accommodations were also excellent, especially the houseboat. Just to reemphasize: Dale’s photographic expertise and teaching skills were outstanding, matched by Giuliano’s naturalist’s skills and rapport with all of the personnel and staff we encountered at the various venues. Our friends and co-tourists on the trip were equally impressed, and we are still drinking caiparinhas and savoring wonderful memories.”Brazil
“First I want to thank you for all the quick responses to our questions. And for your help in getting us organized. This was one of the greatest trips we have taken. The wild life was spectacular and I got better pictures than I ever have before, due to Dale’s teaching. I admit to being lazy and intimidated in the past and though I have excellent equipment, I never went beyond the programmed and automatic functions. Dale convinced me to start using other functions and to consider the subject from other angles and completely changed the way I will do things in the future. I learned a lot. Everything was well done and the house boat was especially wonderful; it was a 5-star experience with friendly people, wonderful food and skilled boat drivers. We will certainly recommend ORYX to all our friends.”Brazil
“Dale is an excellent travelling companion and teacher, and we had a lot of fun. Giulliano was a great host, and very patient with us all.”Brazil
“We had a wonderful time with Dale and Guiliano. They were a really good match; flexible, thoughtful, understood all our interests and needs. The Pantanal and both young men exceeded our expectations. Dale was tremendously helpful and so enthusiastic. He is also just a terrifically interesting person with a wide variety of life experiences for one so young. He is a pleasure to be with. We found him to be a very good teacher, seeming to know what level of information each participant might need. I think he found the right balance of teaching and just being there and soaking it all in. He helped me be much less intimidated by my camera. The whole experience was first rate, thank you very much!”Brazil
Dale was tour leader on our recent ORYX trip to the Pantanal of Brazil. His love of nature and passion for photography were obvious and the knowledge and experience he shared with us were a huge part of making this an outstanding and unforgettable trip. His photography lessons and advice nudged us into new ways of taking and composing photos and led to the best collection of photographs we have ever taken on any trip. He was a real asset to this trip and his lessons will be remembered and applied. And he also tells great stories.”Brazil
Dale was an excellent guide. His enthusiasm is infectious and knowledge of the wildlife and environment is outstanding. He was a pleasure to be with and we all gained from his photographic expertise. All four of us would travel with Dale on another ORYX trip without hesitation.Brazil
“The Brazil trip was excellent. The wildlife sightings every day were amazing, beyond my expectations. Other arrangements such as for food and accommodation were all good quality, for a very comfortable trip. Dale was great as the photo tour leader, he made sure everyone knew how to use their equipment for every situation, and made sure we were in the right place for best photo opportunities. Giuliano was also terrific, not only for his local knowledge in finding the wildlife, but also with his understanding of best photo opportunities.”Brazil
“We want to thank you and the entire ORYX team for providing an absolutely fabulous photo vacation. We would particularly credit Dale and Giuliano for their care and attention in making this such a memorable holiday. We are especially pleased that they managed to convince the jaguars to show up for us on six of the nine outings on the river portion of the trip. You can rest assured that we will be recommending the ORYX team to all of our travel and nature photography friends.”