Mark Smith Nature Tours
Natural History   •   Birdwatching   •   Flora   •   Wildlife   •   Travel Photography

and the Atlantic Forests

led by Marc Egger

September 13 - 28, 2015


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If the group size is eight participants or fewer, the tour may be led by only one guide.

Marc Egger has led many Central American tours with Mark Smith. Throughout his life he has been intensively studying nature, culture and conservation in his native Brazil. Marc grew up in Brazil and the US, speaks five languages fluently, and studied natural history while living seven years in Costa Rica. His special interests include tropical botany, birds and photography. He recently completed a film on the Pantanal. Marc lives with his wife and son in Sao Paulo and in New York.

Regional naturalists and resource people will co-lead throughout the tour.

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Accommodations, Activities and Rigors

All accommodations have attached bathrooms and are of comfortable, if not excellent, standard. Usually the best lodgings available are utilized. Most days there will be morning and afternoon walking or driving outings. Brazil is vast, and even though we fly into local airports, some three-hour drives through interesting country will be required to reach the parks we are visiting. Tropical wildlife is active early, and in some cases we will have pre-dawn departures; travelers are always free to relax at our lodgings, or to organize different options. September is the Austral spring, and with most of our trip between 20 to 23° S. latitude (except in Amazonia), it will be delightfully cool much of the tour, especially in early morning. We are visiting at the end of the winter dry season, and mosquitoes will be at a low ebb, but certainly there will be some in Amazonia and the Pantanal. Rain and mud could find us at any time, even in this "dry" season. Walks will seldom be over three miles and in most places the terrain is fairly level.

Trip Cost and What's Included

Pantanal and Atlantic Forest: September 13 - 28, 2015
Ground Fare $4785
Air Fare $1500 +/- from Miami
Single Supplement $1050
Ground fare includes double occupancy accommodations, all meals, transport by small bus and boat, all entrance fees and all tips. Not included are airport taxes, excess baggage charges, bar beverages, laundry, phone calls and other personal items.
Air Fare from Miami is currently about $1400. Round trip from Miami to Sao Paulo on Varig or American, including two internal flights (roundtrip Cuiaba-Sao Paulo). Delta Frequent Flier mileage can be applied to Varig flights.
Ground fare includes double occupancy room, with services included as in Pantanal.

Reservations and Final Payment

A deposit of $1000 made out to Mark Smith Nature Tours and sent to Mark Smith, PO Box 3831, Portland, OR 97208, will ensure you a place on this tour. Include your address and phone, and the name of the trip. You will be sent a letter acknowledging your deposit. The final payment is due 60 days before departure. Mark's phone is 360-566-0458. This tour is limited to 14 and requires a minimum of 8 at the stated price. If the group size falls below 8, a reasonable small-group supplement will be added.

Mark’s travel agent is Pam Davis of Willamette Travel
Reach Pam at,  503-224-0180
Pam will know of local lodgings and extensions in the area.
Mark can also suggest Portland hotels.


Travelers canceling more than 90 days prior to departure will receive a full refund less $50. Those canceling between 90 and 60 days before the departure will forfeit $800, and cancellations made within 60 days of departure will forfeit 60% of the ground cost. Travelers should consider cancellation insurance, available from Pam Davis above.


Reading and bird lists, articles, maps and travel information will be sent to participants well before departure

ITINERARY: Pantanal and Atlantic Forest

Day 1 Sunday, September 13 Miami to São Paulo
Most travelers will meet in Miami for our 8:30 p.m. flight to São Paulo.
Day 2 Monday, September 14 São Paulo to Cuiabá, drive toChapada dos Guimaraes
Our American Air flight arrives at 5:40 a.m. in Sao Paulo allowing us to connect easily at 9:00 a.m. with a two-hour flight to Cuiaba, in the heart of central Brazil in Mato Grosso State. Upon arrival in Cuiaba, we are met by our bus driver and drive one-hour to our hotel in the savanna ecosystem locally known as the Cerrado. En route we'll savor the ochre-colored cliffs and mesas that make up a good portion of the Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park. We stay two nights exploring the cerrado, beginning with a beautiful walk to see Brides Veil Falls, one of the many moist gorges created where rivers cascade off the high plateau. Macaws, parrots, raptors and swifts careen through the gorge. This 2500 ft. plateau divides Brazil into its major river basins--the Amazon to the north and the Paraguay, draining the Pantanal, to the south.
Day 3 Tuesday, September 15 Chapada dos Guimaraes Park
furry beast anteater? clipart Cerrado is the biome that covers the sprawling Planalto Central, the central plains of Brazil. It consists of several different habitat types. Grasslands, or "campo," covers much of the region. Campo sujo has shorter grass and sparse woody vegetation. Twisted trees with waxy leaves and cork-like bark make up a large portion of the fire-resistant species. Moist gallery forests follow the watercourses. Some 90% of the plant and animal species of the Cerrado are found in the gallery forests. Birds of the area often exhibit the colors of the landscape, and include Coal-crested Finches, Black-throated Saltators, Collared Crescent-chests and Rufous-backed Antwrens. Taking on the tan, orange, and black of the substrate they form an unusually handsome set of birds. The open grasslands are home to the rare pampas deer, maned wolf and giant anteater, as well as the ancient Red-legged Seriema, which is rather like the secretary bird of Africa. Other highlights we will be looking for are Red and Green as well as Blue-winged Macaws, Swallow Tanagers, Horned Sungem, Sungem, Pearl Kite, White-eared Puffbirds and an assortment of Cerrado-specific flycatchers and tanagers.
Day 4 Wednesday, September 16 Sierra (Mountain) das Araras

Every couple of years we are fortunate to have a chance of seeing Harpy Eagles, the largest of all raptors, at a nesting site not far from the Pantanal. In 2012 the nesting site has already become established at a small property in the Serra Das Araras, a small mountain range. We will travel 200 km to the west and we will spend one night at the Currupira Lodge, which raises a special breed of Pantaneiro horse, but also has a very rich 800 hectare reserve. The forest has a fascinating influence from the Amazon with species such as the Red-necked Araçari, Amazonian Antshrike, Black-tailed Trogon and Dusky-headed Parakeet. The Harpy Eagle nest has been active in the same tree every three years or so. Given luck and patience we may be able to watch these phenomenal creatures bring in prey, most often Capuchin Monkeys, to feed the chicks in the nest.

Day 5-9 Thursday-Monday, September 17-21 The Pantanal

Depending on our success the previous day, we may spend the morning at the eagle's nest in the Serra das Araras. We continue 2 ½ hours towards the Pantanal, arriving at our lodge by evening. We spend the next five days roaming the Pantanal, staying at three separate locations, each with highlights and habitats all their own. From Cuiaba we drive one and a half hours to Poconé, gateway to the Transpantaneira, a dirt road raised some 10 feet above the surrounding countryside which becomes a viewing platform from which we enjoy the many treasures of the region.

Located on Brazil's southwestern border with Bolivia, the Pantanal is the world's largest wetland, covering 55,000 square miles. Occupying an extremely flat, low-lying basin, the Andean and Planalto rivers that feed the Pantanal flood their banks during the intense November-April rainy season. From May through October the vast wetlands dry out, creating thousands of ponds and channels where fish and other aquatic organisms are concentrated. Slightly elevated "islands" support deciduous, evergreen and palm forests, and gallery forests line the rivers. The Rio Paraguay drains the basin to the south, eventually flowing into the Atlantic at Buenos Aires.

Our first two nights will be at Pouso Alegre, a 30,000 acre ranch with perhaps the most rewarding nature viewing in all the Pantanal. Hyacinth Macaws roost above our cabins and nest on the grounds. Greater Rheas stroll by the front lawn and Giant Anteaters have been found on many visits. Over 100 species of birds have been seen from the front porch. The forests on the farm are home to 3 species of primates, crab-eating foxes and coatis.

The next two nights at Hotel Santa Tereza are devoted to exploring the habitats around and on the Pixiam River, which is home to one of South America's rarest mammals, the giant river otter. Other beauties are the Helmeted Manakin, Agami Heron, Pygmy Kingfisher, Anhinga and the reclusive Sungrebe.

Our last night we lodge at the Hotel Porto Jofre, the southernmost point of the Transpantaneira. This region has the highest incidence of feline sightings in the Americas, and we will search for the elusive jaguar and ocelot during our night drives as well as along the Cuiaba River.

The Pantanal is the best place in South America to see a wide variety of large animals. Open spaces facilitate the spotting of animals such as the rare marsh deer, giant anteater, capybara, black howler monkey, yellow anaconda and even jaguar. While the mammals are impressive, it is the amazing abundance of birds for which the Pantanal is justly famous. Common species include Jabiru, Maguari and Wood Storks, Great and Snowy Egrets, numerous herons, five species of ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, four species of kingfishers, Snail Kite, Black-collared and Roadside Hawks, parrots, parakeets and macaws. Some of the regional specialties are Hyacinth Macaw, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Buff-bellied Hermit, Gilded Hummingbird, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Toco Toucan, Plumbeous Ibis, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Unicolored and Scarlet-headed Blackbirds, Chaco Chachalaca, Barefaced Curassow, Rufous Cachalote, Mato Grosso Antbird and many, many others.

Day 10 Tuesday, September 22 Pantanal to Cuiabá fly to São Paulo, drive to Itatiaia
This morning we boat along the Cuiaba River searching the riverbanks for tapir, otters and jaguars. At this point we have penetrated over 140 km. into the heart of the Pantanal. We return to Cuiaba where we connect with our flights back east. After our arrival in Sao Paulo we drive three hours to Itatiaia National Park, where we spend four relaxed nights at our hotel in the middle of the forest. We may have time for an evening walk, or to catch a few marvels at the hummingbird feeders.
Days 11&12 Wednesday & Thursday, September 23-24 Itatiaia

For two more days we will explore the many beautiful rainforest and streamside trails of Itatiaia. One day we'll drive to the 7,000 foot alpine zone for cool open walks in view of the crags.

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Brazil's Atlantic forests were thriving for 20 million years before the Andes rose from a flat continent and the Amazon began to flow east. Isolated from other wet forests by the dry Cerrado grasslands inland, thousands of endemic plants and animals have evolved in the Atlantic forests. Of the 19 primate species and subspecies that occur here, 17 are endemic, and close to 160 bird species are endemic. Around 1,000 of Brazil's 2,300 known orchid species are found here, although a thorough inventory has yet to be completed. The forests of southeastern Brazil are often likened to those of Madagascar due to the extent, isolation, degree of endemism, and endangerment. Over 95% of the original forests are gone and only isolated patches remain. Many of the world's most striking creatures live a precarious existence in a series of spectacular parks and reserves.

Itatiaia National Park is Brazil's oldest, established in 1937. Rich Atlantic coastal rainforest grows on the lower slopes, and this is where our hotel is situated. Moving up the mountains, the vegetation changes, and at around 5,500 feet a very different flora is habitat to an almost complete change of fauna. Itatiaia is the most famous reserve in the Atlantic forest region. Just 70 miles from the sea, it is easily accessible from Rio de Janeiro. The mountain and rainforest scenery is superb. Trails wind up the mountainside and beside rivers and streams. There are many waterfalls, and the vegetation is particularly luxuriant, with abundant flowers and gaudy butterflies. In the Brazilian Alpine Zone at the summit of the mountains are strange plants in tall grasslands. Towering above are the impressive 9,000 foot granitic Black Needles. Itatiaia provides a last stronghold for many of Brazil's endangered endemic birds. Specialties of the park include Spot-billed and Saffron Toucanets, Green headed, Gilt-edged and Brassy Breasted Tanagers, Mantled Hawk, Plovercrest, Surucua Trogon, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Itatiaia Spinetail, Slaty Bristlefront, Giant and Large-tailed Antshrikes, Swallow-tailed, and Black-and-Gold Cotingas, White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Black-billed Scythebill, Rufous-tailed, Scaled, Ochre-rumped, Dusky-tailed, Ferruginous and Bertonis's Antbirds, Shear-tailed Gray-Tyrant and a fabulous variety of hummingbirds.

Day 13 Friday, September 25 Itatiaia to Rio de Janeiro
After a morning walk we drive 2 1/2 hours to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City). After checking into our hotel, the Rio International, overlooking Copacabana Beach and with a rooftop view of Corcovado and Sugarloaf, we'll see some of the city and ascend the Sugarloaf monolith, from where we have breathtaking views over the city.
Day 14 Saturday, September 26 Rio de Janeiro
Founded in the mid-1500's, Rio grew slowly around its good port and fine sugar cane lands. In the early 1700's the gold rush in Minas Gerais spurred rapid growth, and today Rio is a city of seven million packed into a narrow strip of land between sea and escarpment. The setting of Rio makes it without question the most visually stunning city in the world. Today we'll tour the city, drive past the famous beaches, and have options to visit the world famous Botanical Gardens, Corcovado, and a Broadway-style Samba show.
Day 15 Sunday, September 27 Rio to Miami
We enjoy a casual day in Rio, taking in all the flavor of its street life, markets, beaches. We will have an early dinner and then make our way to the airport for our evening connections to Miami.
Day 16 Monday, September 28 Miami to Home
We arrive in Miami at 6:00 AM and connect with our various flights.
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Red-lored Parrot, photo by Jack Ostlind

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