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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Brazil: Marvelous Mato Grosso

The Pantanal, Chapada dos Guimarães, and Cristalino Jungle Lodge

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Brazil. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING BRAZIL: A passport and visa are required for Americans traveling to Brazil for any purpose. Your passport should be valid for at least six months after the date the tour ends and have a blank page available for the entry stamp. Brazilian visas must be obtained in advance from the Brazilian Consulate General with jurisdiction of the traveler’s place of residence. There are no “airport visas,” and the airline will not let you check in for your flight without one. 

For current entry and customs requirements for Brazil, travelers may contact the Brazilian Embassy at 3009 Whitehaven St. N.W., Washington, D.C., 20008; telephone (202) 238-2818, e-mail consular@brasilemb.org.; Internet: http://washington.itamaraty.gov.br/en-us/.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/brazil.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Brazil at:: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/br.html .

PACE OF TOUR: We will be making early starts most days (5:00-6:00 a.m.) so as to be out in the field for the first few hours of the day when birds are most active. We will normally have very early breakfasts at our lodging before birding, rather than come back for a later breakfast, but some days will start with an option hour walk at dawn for birds, followed by breakfast around 7:00-7:30. There will be occasional optional owling excursions before or after dinner or even before breakfast, and these will of course be longer days. Such days could start as early as 4:30, allowing us to have a later breakfast, but we’ll also end earlier on such days. Other days might have us owling and out until 10:00 p.m., after which we won’t have an extra-early morning. 

Although we walk at a slow to moderate pace on rainforest trails, we will bird for up to five hours at a time on some mornings. Be aware that you may not be able to return to the lodge or vehicle on your own if you become tired. Participants should be able to walk at a slow to moderate pace for five hours at a time with frequent long stops (the longest trails are only about 2 km). A small travel stool is handy for those who find stand for long periods especially tiring. If you have any concerns regarding your physical ability for the walking demands of this tour, please contact the WINGS office. 

While at Cristalino Lodge, we will return each day for lunch and a siesta, venturing out into the field again in mid/late-afternoon. Whenever possible we will schedule optional birding trips so as to give those who wish the opportunity to take a few hours off. Most trails at Cristalino Lodge and in the Pantanal are flat and well maintained but may have numerous exposed roots and rocks. Only one trail we walk one morning has a half kilometer ascent to a granite hilltop, very steep in short stretches, with large rocks and irregular steps, requiring a higher level of fitness, strong legs, and good balance. A metal handrail has recently been installed on the steeper sections, making this hike doable for most people, but still, a hiking stick would be useful on this trail. If there are walks you do not feel you are able to do, there is excellent birding around the grounds of all of our hotels and lodges.

On some mornings or afternoons, our main activity will be a relaxing boat ride. We will also spend at least one morning on one of the canopy towers. If you have a fear of heights or physical limitations including vertigo or inability to climb 50 meters of steps (250 steps on one tower, 224 on the other), we recommend that you discuss this with the leader before attempting the tower climb.

EXTENSION: The first night of the extension will be in Cuiabá in order to catch a flight to Foz do Iguaçu the next morning. One day of the extension will be a long day, leaving the hotel around 7 a.m. to enjoy the cool hours with the best bird activity, staying in the field the all day (with a sit-down lunch in the national park) and coming back to the hotel around 6 p.m. The second day we leave around 6 a.m. for a longer drive but come back to the hotel for a late lunch.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. 

Malaria: Malaria is basically nonexistent in the areas we’ll visit, and the CDC considers the risk low. There have been no outbreaks in over 20 years, and we’ll be here during the dry season. If you choose to take anti-malarial drugs, please remember that many must be initiated one or more weeks before the period of exposure and continued for several weeks after it concludes; there are some potential side effects to consider. 

Zika: This virus is expanding northward from tropical South America into the northern Caribbean and southern United States and health authorities are still trying to gage its full impact. Couples who expect/hope to become pregnant should consult their physician. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes, a day-flying mosquito typically found near people in crowded urban environments that have only a minimum of public services like sanitation, window screens, and drainage; in other words locations that aren’t on most tour itineraries. WINGS tours spend most of their time in natural areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is altogether absent.

Yellow Fever: A current Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended by the CDC. 

Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure, as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations for Brazil can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/brazil

Elevation: Locations visited during this tour are at low elevations, from sea level to about 1,000 feet. 

Insects: Many potential health problems can be prevented by adequate protection against insects. Even when mosquitoes may be sparse, biting gnats, ticks, and chiggers can still be a nuisance, with tiny ticks sometimes numerous at Cristalino (though they are not known to harbor any diseases). To be protected, bring plenty of spray repellent and wear long sleeves and pants when in the field. 

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Miscellaneous: We do not often encounter snakes and take time to observe them whenever possible; most are not venomous, and venomous ones are not aggressive; we’ll always be within driving distance of medical assistance in the case of an emergency. 

One can never completely escape the risk of parasites or fungal infections. Please consult with your physician.

We avoid tap water but filtered and bottled water are readily available. Gastrointestinal problems are always a possibility while traveling; you may want to bring Imodium or some other reliable anti-diarrhea medication. Finally, you may wish to bring a broad-spectrum antibiotic in case of stubborn bacterial infections. 

CLIMATE: We’ll be in Mato Grosso in the middle of the dry season. While there is always a chance of an afternoon or evening rain or two, it probably won’t rain during the tour; having a poncho or travel umbrella in your daypack is still recommended. Trails will not be muddy enough to warrant rubber boots in any event.

As we’ll be at lower elevations during the entire tour, it will be hot in the sun, with daily highs usually in the mid-90’s° F, though a heat wave could see temperatures top 100°F. The passage of a cold front is a distinctive possibility, and if this does happen, be prepared for mornings that could dip below 50°F (10°C), meaning a warm jacket , wind breaker, and light gloves will be necessary.

EXTENSION: Northern Argentina is sub-tropical and rain can occur throughout the year. But this is mid-winter, so expect temperatures between 55°F and 80°F, and high humidity. In the unlucky event that our short visit coincides with the passage of a cold front, morning temperatures could even dip into the upper 30’s°F, so be prepared with a warm jacket, light gloves, and a hat.

ACCOMMODATIONS: We’ll be staying in hotels or lodges throughout the tour, ranging from good to excellent. All rooms will have a private shower and toilet, including hot water. Most hotels have internet but signal strength varies and can be weak or non-existent at times. 

Our lodge at Chapada dos Guimarães is very comfortable, with air conditioned rooms if needed, and Wi-Fi. Meals are served in an open-air building next to the main lodging.

Accommodation in Rio Cristalino Lodge is in solid recently renovated bungalow quads in a small clearing in the rainforest with other quads and cabins nearby. Electricity is provided through a generator and is available from about 10:00 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; our rooms here are the only ones on the tour with ceiling fan rather than air conditioning. Wifi is usually available, at least for a few hours each day. Meals are in a beautiful new complex with a dining hall, library, meeting room, and deck for relaxing, surrounded by rainforest.

Pouso Alegre, Pousada Piuval, and Porto Jofre Hotel in the Pantanal have air-conditioned rooms and have wifi (but not always reliable), and limited cell phone coverage.

EXTENSION:We’ll be staying a good quality hotel. The first night of the extension is in Cuiaba near the airport; the rest of the nights are on the Argentinean side of the falls in Puerto Iguazú. All rooms will have a private shower and toilet, and offer Wi-Fi access.

FOOD: The food is varied and scrumptious throughout, typically served buffet style. A green salad (often with locally grown greens), rice, and beans are standard fare among the options, and the main dishes, sides, and desserts vary continually. 

Drinks: Bottled water and/or a soft drink or a beer is provided at lunch and dinner, as is coffee or tea. All other drinks or ‘personal’ drinking water for use in your room etc. is the responsibility of the individual; filtered water will always be available for refilling your own bottles, either from the lodge or from carboys in our van. We also keep bottled water on the bus for use during the day. As it can get hot and dry, we recommend you bring a large, good quality water bottle and keep this topped up.

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

TRANSPORTATION: During the tour a combination of buses and vans will be used for transfer to and from the hotels and lodges and for birding activities reachable by road from Cuiabá. Some roads may be quite bumpy; anyone susceptible to motion sickness should bring an appropriate remedy. Participants should be able to sit in any seat in our vehicles. Getting to Cristalino Jungle Lodge will include a half-hour boat ride up-river, and some of our birding will by done by boat here as well. 

Transport to and from Alta Floresta (the jump-off town for Cristalino Jungle Lodge) will be by internal flight to Alta Floresta in a standard commercial jet (such as Embraer 190/195, with two seats on either side of the aisle), and by bus and by aluminum outboard motor boats between there and the lodge. You should have protective coverings for cameras, lenses and binoculars.

Updated: 07 August 2017