Brazil's Southern Amazon: Rio Azul & Cristalino Jungle Lodges: Sep 23—Oct 08, 2017
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Amazonian forest birding at its best, based out of two comfortable lodges, both offering great food and good accommodations, excellent forest trail systems, and relaxing afternoon boat trips, with many highly prized regional endemics and specialties, as well as a wealth of primates and other mammal possibilities.
The southern tier of the Amazon Basin is one of the least known sectors of Amazonia, and also one of the most threatened, lying as it does at the edge of a broad ecotone between humid forest and nonforested cerrado, an ecotone that continues to broaden as human settlers race to convert native, old-growth forest to cattle pastures and soybean plantations. Bordered to the north by the Amazon River, to the south by the infamous “Arc of Deforestation,” and bracketed between two major Amazonian tributaries, the mighty, silt-laden Madeira and the clear blue Tapajós, lies an important center of endemism and impressive biodiversity from which new species of birds and even primates are being described on a regular basis. But the Amazon does not offer up its secrets easily—it takes time to ferret out many of the less common and most desired birds and mammals of these forests.
This new tour is designed specifically to allow us sufficient time to immerse ourselves in this exceptional avifauna, while based out of two wonderful lodges: the Rio Azul Jungle Lodge, and the Cristalino Jungle Lodge (CJL). Both lodges are accessed via the town of Alta Floresta (northern Mato Grosso state). The Rio Azul Jungle Lodge lies in extreme southern Pará, about four hours by car from Alta Floresta. The mostly open country in between boasts impressive numbers of parrots, particularly macaws, including the spectacular Hyacinth Macaw, and, increasingly (with deforestation), the smallish Blue-winged Macaw. The lodge itself is a charming, family owned-and-operated facility, which offers an intimate Amazonian experience. Nestled along the crystal-clear Rio Azul, which forms the boundary between lodge property and the pristine forests of the vast Serra do Cachimbo Reserve (protected by the Brazilian air force), the lodge was originally conceived as a base for catch-and-release sportfishing. Recent ornithological investigation has revealed the presence of a number of the most sought-after birds of the southern Amazon, foremost among them the recently (2002) described Bald Parrot. In fact, the Rio Azul may be the single best spot to find this bizarrely beautiful parrot with the naked, bright orange head! The lodge actually lies in an ecotone between the vast forests of the Cachimbo region and pockets of stunted campinarana habitats growing on nutrient-poor, white-sand soils. This no doubt accounts for the regular presence of a number of species that are much harder to find (or don’t occur) in the nearby Alta Floresta/Rio Cristalino region. Among these are Crimson Topaz, Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Tapajós Hermit, Spotted Puffbird, Bronzy Jacamar, Pavonine Quetzal, Yellow-browed Antbird, “Snethlage’s” Gnateater, Pale-bellied Mourner, Cinnamon Manakin-Tyrant, Black Manakin, Pará Gnatcatcher, Fulvous-crested Tanager, Short-billed Honeycreeper and many more. It is also an excellent spot for seeing primates, and our scouting trip even turned up Harpy Eagle and Zigzag Heron, two iconic species of much wider distribution.
Alta Floresta’s famed Cristalino Jungle Lodge provides our second venue, and one that needs little introduction. In 1991, VENT pioneered tours to this amazing spot, which has become one of the best-known lodges in the entire Amazon Basin. Located along a beautiful black-water river, and boasting an extensive trail system, two fantastic canopy towers, comfortable accommodations combined with excellent food, and a bird list of more than 600 species (nearly one-third of the entire Brazilian list), the CJL has something for everyone. With no less than six full days to explore the many trails, drift along the river, and survey the canopy from atop the two towers, we expect the bird list to be an impressive one, especially when combined with the many offerings of the Rio Azul region.
Among the possibilities are Harpy Eagle, White-browed Hawk, Cryptic Forest-Falcon, Dark-winged Trumpeter, Razor-billed and Bare-faced curassows, Crimson-bellied Parakeet, Kawall’s Parrot, Long-tailed Potoo, Ocellated Poorwill, Blue-cheeked and Bronzy jacamars, as many as 11 species of puffbirds (including Rufous-necked, Collared, and Brown-banded), Black-girdled Barbet, Red-necked and Curl-crested aracaris, Gould’s Toucanet, Glossy Antshrike, Bare-eyed Antbird, Sclater’s Antwren, Alta Floresta Antpitta, “Tapajós” Scythebill, Snow-capped Manakin, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Tooth-billed Wren, Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak, and many, many more.
Join us for this in-depth survey of Brazil’s southern Amazon, based out of two very comfortable lodges.
Good accommodations; excellent food; birding off your doorstep, with full mornings exploring mostly easy, level forest trails (one trail at the CJL involves an uphill climb) or from atop canopy towers, followed by midday breaks and relaxed afternoon boat trips; warm, humid climate.