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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Brazil: Minas Gerais

Tour Information

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 Brazilian immigration authorities will refuse entry to anyone not possessing a valid visa. As the embassies can be slow in processing visas, we strongly urge travelers to begin the process of making travel arrangements and obtaining a tourist visa as soon as the tour is confirmed. 

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 .; website: http://washington.itamaraty.gov.br/en-us/.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: ou 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 have only 12 hours of daylight for birding and make 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 pre-birding breakfasts at our lodging, rather than come back for a later breakfast. Some 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 forest trails, we’ll bird for hours at a time on most 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 four to 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 standing for long periods tiring. If you have any concerns regarding your physical ability for the walking demands of this tour, please contact the WINGS office. 

Most of the days, we’ll leave the hotel for the day, having a picnic lunch in the field. While at Caraça, we’ll return each day for lunch, venturing out into the field again in mid afternoon. Most trails are flat and well maintained but may have numerous exposed roots and rocks. Only one trail we walk is quite steep for about a half kilometer and requires a moderate level of fitness. 

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.  

Yellow Fever:  A current Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended by the CDC but is not required by Brazil for entry. Note that new evidence suggests that a single such vaccination lasts a lifetime.  Please consult your physician.

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 fairly low elevations, from sea level to about 3,500 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.  

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. 

CLIMATE: We’ll be in Minas Gerais roughly at the end of the dry season and the start of the rainy season, when song activity begins to peak. This usually means a good chance of an afternoon or evening rain or two, but it probably won’t rain most days; having a poncho or travel umbrella in your daypack is still recommended, but trails will not be muddy enough to warrant rubber boots. As we’ll be at lower elevations during the entire tour, it will be hot in the sun, with daily highs usually in the upper 80’s F (30 ºC). Night and early morning can be cool (around 50ºF; 10ºC). 

ACCOMMODATIONS: We’ll be staying in good quality hotels in Sao Paolo/Bello Horizonte and at Cipo. The hotel in Sao Roque near Canastra is simple but the best option in town. In Caraça we’ll stay in a Monastery that is accepting visitors (it is not a hotel, so don’t expect hotel services). All rooms will have a private shower and toilet. Wifi is available at all our accommodations (sometimes slow). AC is available everywhere but in Caraça  where the nights are cool and AC will not be needed. 

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, 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; our lodges typically have filtered water available for refilling your own bottles. We also try to keep bottled water on the bus for ‘emergency’ 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: We will use the same minibus during the whole tour. Some roads in Canastra may be quite bumpy. Anyone susceptible to motion sickness should bring an appropriate remedy. The roads can also be very dusty in Canastra, and you should have protective coverings for cameras, lenses and binoculars. The tour includes two long travelling days, so consider bringing a book and/or music to help pass the time during  these drives.

Created: 22 January 2016