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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Brazil Southeast: A Photographic Tour

A Week at Itororo Lodge

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for this tour. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they took this tour. Although we do our best to make sure 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 “visas upon arrival,” and the airline will not let you check in for your initial flight without one. As the embassies can be unpredictable in the time needed to process visas, we strongly urge travelers to begin the process of making travel arrangements and obtaining a tourist visa no later than 12 weeks before the start of the tour. As of March 2015, the fee for a tourist visa is $160, not including mailing charges or fees charged by a visa service. We strongly urge travelers to begin the process of making travel arrangements and obtaining a tourist visa as soon as we confirm the tour.

Unless you live in a large city with a Brazilian consulate, we feel that visas are most easily obtained through a visa service to whom you send all forms, materials, fees, and passport to get a visa for travel to Brazil. They have couriers who hand carry your passport and necessary forms to the correct office, collect them when your passport when it is done, and sends it back to you. Please see the end of this document for suggested passport and visa services.

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/.

It is always a good idea to take photocopies of your passport and air ticket with you when traveling abroad. They can prove invaluable in helping you get replacements if your original documents are lost or stolen. You should pack the photocopies separately from the originals.

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 here: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/br.html.

PACE OF TOUR:  As on most of our Neotropical tours we will be making early starts most days (05.00-06.00) so as 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.  Although we walk at a slow to moderate pace on the rainforest trails, we will bird for hours at a time on most mornings.  Be aware that you will 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 to six hours at a time. 

While at Serra dos Tucanos Lodge we will return most days 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 to relax.  Most trails at Serra dos Tucanos are flat and well maintained but may have numerous exposed roots and rocks. One trail we walk is quite steep for about a half kilometre and requires a moderate level of fitness.  

If there are walks you do not feel you are able to do, there is excellent birding around the grounds of our lodge.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Itororo Lodge provides guests with the opportunity to take some amazing close-up photographs! Other opportunities for scenery and memory shots will be plentiful throughout the tour. This may involve the use of hides or specially-constructed observation screens.

Butterflies are much more approachable, and there will be ample opportunities to document those we see with cameras or video recorders. Several rules of etiquette will be advised (and enforced if necessary) to avoid conflicts among photographers and observers. Recharging batteries should not be a problem unless there is a break in the supply, which can happen. Be sure to bring enough batteries to last all week to be safe and remember to bring as many memory cards as you think you may need. Camera equipment should be packed in moisture and dust-proof bags, as a precaution.

Photographic equipment:Some birds can be very obliging and it should be possible to obtain good video or stills with a fairly basic compact camera or a bridge type camera such as the Panasonic Lumix series or similar. Most species however will still require the deployment of more specialist digital equipment to get closer.

For those using a DSLR, any lens of over 300mm should be sufficient to get good shots although as with all wildlife photography a longer specialist lens will allow you to get just that extra bit of fine detail in glorious close-up. For those carrying large lenses it is recommended that you bring/hire your own tripod and head but note this must be packed in your main luggage. Flash maybe used and indeed may be useful when encountering some of the more skulking forest species, although bird portraits with flash are an acquired taste, and it is purely a matter of personal choice to use it. Some modern DSLR cameras are extremely good at coping with low light and high ISO that they make flash an option rather than a necessity.

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: The CDC considers the areas we will visit free of Malaria.

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 mosquitos 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: Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended by the CDC and by the Brazilian embassy but is not required to enter Brazil.

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: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/brazil.

Elevation: Locations visited during this tour range from sea level to as high as 8,000 feet (2450 m) on one day; most days are below 3000 feet.

Insects: Many potential health problems can be prevented by adequate protection against insects. Even when mosquitoes may be sparse, biting gnats and chiggers can still be a nuisance. To be protected, bring plenty of spray repellent and wear long sleeves and pants when in the field. We recommend using insect repellents with a concentration of DEET of at least 20%, and remember that airlines usually do not allow aerosols; a pump spray or cream is best. Care must be taken, however, to avoid getting the DEET repellent on optical equipment as DEET dissolves some rubber and plastics and can damage coated lenses. Camping supply stores and drug stores carry some alternatives that contain natural products and aren’t corrosive.

Perhaps the best prevention against chiggers (but also mosquitoes) is to treat your clothing with permethrin one to a few days before you leave home. This non-staining, odorless chemical is non-toxic to humans and protective on clothing through several launderings. Camping supply and drug stores sell sprays containing 0.5% permethrin, while online sources also offer pump sprays as well as a more economical 10% concentrate which you dilute and then treat clothing by soaking it in a large bag and then hang out to dry; be sure to look into this option well in advance of the tour. (One currently available brand is Duration, from Traveler’s Supply, Inc., http://www.travelerssupply.com/).

Anyone who is unusually sensitive to insect bites and stings (ants, wasps) should consider bringing an antihistamine such as Benadryl; ask your doctor for more information. Although pharmacies in Brazil are excellent and well-supplied they will be difficult to visit during this tour’s schedule, so bring enough of the medications you normally use to last the duration of the trip. A first-aid kit will be available at all times.

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. In any event, a small flashlight or headlamp is a necessity for navigating the paths between your room and dining areas at each lodge in the evenings.

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.

ACCOMMODATION: Itororo Lodge (Formerly Serra dos Tucanos Lodge) is only two hours’ drive away from Rio de Janeiro and is owned by an English-speaking couple.  The rooms are comfortable and clean. The lounge and a spacious dining room provide plenty of comfortable areas in which to relax. The verandas and patio offer unbeatable vantage points from which to watch hummingbirds flying to and from the feeders, or one of the many species of tanagers feeding on the bird tables.

The lodge offers various types of accommodation including single rooms, twin rooms, doubles, en-suites and two superior rooms with balconies. The solar powered water heating system ensures there is hot running water in all bathrooms. The swimming pool is continually being replenished by water from the two natural mineral springs within the grounds.

WiFi internet connection is also available free of charge to guests but cannot be guaranteed. Due to the location of the lodge not all mobile phones work in the immediate vicinity.

CLIMATE: We’ll be in the Southeast during their spring. Strong cold fronts are unlikely, and it will probably be quite tropical on most days, especially near the coast, so be prepared for warm and humid weather with daily highs usually in the lower 80’s to lower 90’s° F. But weather is fickle here: we could experience rain on several days or none at all; and since we will be at a variety of elevations, a jacket for cool days is also necessary. Since we will continue to bird in light rain or may be out during unexpected showers, a travel umbrella in your daypack is essential. Trails may be muddy in places, but not enough to warrant rubber boots; good quality hiking boots (waterproof is best) will suffice. As we’ll be at lower elevations during much of the tour, it will be hot in the sun and a hat is recommended.

ALTITUDE: The excursions that we will be doing reach a maximum of 7500 feet (2300 m), but most are between 400 – 1000m. 

FOOD:  The food is varied and very good, with home cooked dinners served buffet style. Vegetarians can be catered for if we are informed in advance of the tour.  Free bottled water is constantly available as are juice drinks at meal times. Other beverages are available at extra cost and range between RS$ 3.00 for a Coke and RS$ 35.00 for a bottle of wine.

Drinks:  Bottled water, a soft drink or a beer will be provided at lunch and dinner and bottled water will be available on our vehicle during the day. Bottled water for use in your room at night is the responsibility of the individual tour participants. 

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.

WINGS tours are all-inclusive and no refunds can be issued for any tour meals participants choose to skip.

TRANSPORT: A minibus driven by a local guide will be used when we visit some of the sites away from the lodge itself. Some roads may be quite bumpy. A rotational system will be used in the vehicle to allow everyone the opportunity to experience the most (and least) comfortable seats.

Created: 18 November 2016