The Pantanal: Jaguars & Jabirus!

A 13-day, small-group birdwatching & wildlife tour to Brazil

Limosa’s Brazil birding tours tackle this immense country in ‘bite size’ chunks... Covering more than 70,000 square miles, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland - and one of most important areas for wildlife in South America. Seasonal rains flood the immense lowland plains of western Brazil, but as they dry in the austral spring the shrinking waterways and lagoons concentrate the spectacular birds and wildlife of the region. South America's biggest cat, the Jaguar, is the star attraction of this outstanding birdwatching tour to Brazil - and we have chances of seeing Giant Otter and Giant Anteater, too - while the abundant birdlife includes a huge variety of species, from the enormous Greater Rhea, Southern Screamer and Jabiru to Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Helmeted Manakin and Hyacinth Macaw.

Tour Dates & Prices

Sun 23rd August 2020

Fri 4th September 2020

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8 Spaces Available

Tour Cost: 13 Days from £5995 inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £700Single Supp: £525Land Only: £5295Group Size: 10Leaders:  Colin Bushell & local guides

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Expert English-speaking Brazilian bird guide
  • Return flights - London Heathrow-Sao Paulo, nonstop with British Airways
  • Brazil domestic flights - Sâo Paulo-Cuiaba and return
  • 10 nights accommodation in Brazil, staying at comfortable hotels and lodges
  • All main meals (with drinking water provided)
  • Minibus transport
  • 4WD vehicles where necessary
  • Boats trips - for Jaguar at Porto Jofre
  • Boat trips at Pousada Piuval and Rio Claro
  • All excursions, local guides, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips (inc. driver, boatmen and local guides) & taxes
  • Map and Limosa checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport meals/snacks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack


The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights. • Please note on this tour the Land Only price includes the cost of the Brazil domestic flights from Sâo Paulo-Cuiaba and return, but excludes the cost of all other flights.

Tour Highlights

  • The vast Pantanal wetlands - home to Jabiru, Southern Screamer, Sunbittern and Maguari Stork
  • Boat trips at Porto Jofre in search of Jaguar, Large-billed Tern and Blue-throated Piping-guan
  • Giant Anteater, Giant Otter, Capybara and Brazilian Tapir also possible amidst the floodlands
  • The big, blue and beautiful Hyacinth Macaw about our lodge - plus Greater Rhea and Toco Toucan, too!
  • Red-billed Scythebill, Grey-crested Cacholote, Helmeted Manakin, Planalto Slaty Antshrike
  • 2 nights in the scenic chapada seeking the declining Blue-winged Macaw, White-eared Puffbird, White-rumped Tanager
  • Small group tour - maximum of 10 participants
  • Led by Limosa's South America expert Colin Bushell and an English-speaking Brazilian bird guide

Outline Itinerary

  • Evening departure from London Heathrow, overnight to Brazil

  • Early morning arrival in Sâo Paulo (Brazil), with onward domestic flight to Cuiaba. Lunch and drive south into the Pantanal. Pousada Piuval (3 nts)

  • Two full days to explore the wonderful Pantanal from Piuval, including a boat trip at ‘Piuval Bay’

  • We travel on to our second base in the immense Pantanal - Porto Jofre. Birding and boat trips, looking especially for Jaguar. Porto Jofre (3 nts)

  • Time for a last look around the Pantanal today. Late afternoon boat trip on river. Night Rio Claro

  • We head to Chapada dos Guimaraes for two days birding in the more arid habitats of the chapada and the cerrado. Chapada dos Guimaraes (2 nts

  • Morning birding at Chapada; afternoon transfer to Cuiaba, where we catch the evening flight back to Sâo Paulo. Night Sâo Paulo

  • Late breakfast and midday transfer to airport. Afternoon departure from Sâo Paulo to London

  • Morning arrival at London Heathrow

Trip Info
Trip Reports
The Pantanal is a major stronghold for South America’s largest parrot, the magnificent Hyacinth Macaw - or 'Big Blue' as it is also known © Colin Bushell

The vast lowland plains of the southern Mato Grosso - meaning ‘large forest’ - in Brazil are seasonally inundated with water during the rainy season. Known as the 'Pantanal' (the Portuguese for swamplands), these immense floodlands comprise the world's largest tropical wetland and are one of the most important and best areas to see birds and wildlife in South America. As the wetlands begin to shrink during the dry season however, they create spectacular concentrations of wildlife for which the area has become world famous.

This wonderful Limosa tour is timed to coincide with peak bird numbers in the Pantanal as well as an abundance of flora and fauna, and the most favourable weather conditions. After five days enjoying the species-rich open landscapes of the Pantanal, we next head northeast to explore the chapada (plateau) and cerrado (savanna) habitats beyond Cuiaba, where a whole new ecosystem with its own very different wildlife awaits us.

The Pantanal lies in the great basin of the Rio Paraguai, a southward-flowing river of little gradient which crosses Paraguay, joins the Rio Paraná and empties eastward at Buenos Aires. The climate is characterised by a pronounced dry season (running from March to November), but due to poor drainage much of the region is inundated during the rainy season to form the vast Pantanal - the largest freshwater marsh in South America.

‘As seen on TV’, the Pantanal is today renowned as perhaps the best place in the world to look for Jaguar - and our tour is designed to provide a very real chance of seeing this amazing big cat! The Pantanal’s seasonal lagoons and slow-flowing rivers are also home to an array of other charismatic mammals, including the Giant Otter and the sociable Capybara (the world's largest rodent), while out on the dry grasslands we may find the brush-tailed Giant Anteater. Crab-eating Fox, Black-and-gold Howler Monkey and the prolific Yacare Caiman are more commonly encountered.

Birding in the Pantanal is brilliant, too! Around and about our comfortable lodgings, we should encounter strutting Greater Rheas and the sought-after Hyacinth Macaw - largest of the world’s parrots, and oh-so-blue; the comical looking Toco Toucan, with its bizarre bill and unseemly nest-robbing habits; and the aptly named Great Rufous Woodcreeper, perhaps shinning up a tree trunk right beside us.

But as you would expect, it is wetland that birds dominate the scene: from serpentine Anhingas, Black-collared Hawk and hook-billed Snail Kites to the ‘man-sized’ Jabiru, elusive Maguari Stork and five species of ibis - including the large and loud Plumbeous! We should see aptly-named Southern Screamers, thousands of Wood Storks, snail-eating Limpkins, dapper Capped Herons, the odd-looking Boat-billed Heron and the curious Sunbittern, too. There's even a chance of the furtive Sungrebe, with its unique 'dazzle camouflage' feet.

After a thorough exploration of the Pantanal - during which we’ll enjoy several super boat trips - we journey northeast to spend some time at Chapada dos Guimaraes, savouring the magnificent contrast in both scenery and birds. Here we’ll find a completely different habitat: the arid cerrado, a stunning highland plateau with a quite different community of birds. Patches of gallery forest follow the rivers and streams down to the east, providing a chance to observe many interesting Amazonian species.

From our hotel here we'll explore the cerrado and forested areas. Although somewhat arid and with stunted vegetation, this distinctive habitat holds numerous interesting species: Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Great Dusky Swift, Blue-winged and Red-and-green Macaws, White-eared Puffbird, Curl-crested Jay, Fiery-capped and Helmeted Manakins, White-rumped, Swallow and Black-faced Tanagers, plus Black-throated and Buff-throated Saltator can all be found -and if we are lucky, we might see the unique Horned Sungem, a spectacular hummingbird much in decline through habitat destruction.

Limosa has been operating bird tours to Brazil since 1998 and this August 2020 tour will be our 27th visit to this amazing destination for birding. Guide Colin Bushell has lived in, travelled and guided extensively throughout South America, including repeat visits to the Pantanal and this will be his twelfth trip there.

giant otter brazil pantanal colin bushell card new.jpg
Something fishy going on here?... Giant Otter caught in the act on our August 2019 tour © Colin Bushell, Limosa

Day 1

Our birdwatching tour to the Brazilian Pantanal begins with a British Airways overnight flight from London Heathrow nonstop to Sâo Paulo, in southeast Brazil.

Days 2-4

Following our early morning arrival in Sâo Paulo we catch a two-hour Brazilian domestic flight northwest to Cuiaba, capital of the state of Mato Grosso - gateway to the superb Pantanal!

We’ll pause for lunch and drive southwest from Cuiaba along the Transpantaneira Road, deep into the heart of the wetlands. We should arrive in good time for dinner at our lovely first lodge - Pousada Piuval - and with wonderful birding right on its doorstep.

Situated in a peaceful location away from the Transpantaneira, the varied habitats surrounding our accommodation at Pousada Piuval hold an excellent variety of species. The highlight here should be our first Hyacinth Macaws... or ‘Big Blue’ as it is sometimes known! This spectacular bird - the world's largest parrot - breeds in large holes in trees and has benefitted from special protection schemes. Strutting in the fields, we should encounter the impressive Greater Rhea and vocal Plumbeous Ibis, while Toco Toucans and even Chestnut-bellied Guans frequent the trees about the lodge.

One of many delights (!?) here is that we may be woken by the most of exotic of alarm clocks - the raucous calls of the Hyacinth Macaw! But it'll be worth it, for an early morning walk will surely reward us with the sight of many waterbirds: cormorants, herons, storks and ibises, all taking advantage of the rich pickings left by the now retreating floods. Perhaps the most striking of all these birds is the enormous Jabiru, a distinctive and familiar sight in the Pantanal.

Birds of prey are well represented throughout the Pantanal, with the ubiquitous Snail Kite and Black-collared Hawk being two of the most frequently seen raptors, perching by open water on the look out for snails and fish respectively.  We should also see many storks, herons and egrets - even Southern Screamer - and with a little luck, we will locate a Sunbittern on a quiet pool. White Woodpeckers and Campo Flickers may perch on dead tree stumps, while deeper in the dry forest Rufous-tailed Jacamars and Blue-crowned Trogons add splashes of colour.

The most visible mammal here is the Capybara, the world's largest rodent, which occurs in good-sized family groups, browsing the lush wetland vegetation under the watchful gaze of numerous Yacare Caiman. A boat trip at 'Piuval Bay' might well produce Purple and Azure Gallinules, and with a little bit of luck we could even see Least Bitterns and Yellow-breasted Crakes here. In the drier countryside, fortunate observers might occasionally see the amazing Giant Anteater, loping across the fields as they feed on the termites which dot the landscape with their impressive mounds.  

Birding opportunities abound near the lodge and Great Rufous Woodcreepers can often be found. But we'll also venture away during our stay here to explore the dry forest and gallery woodlands. The splendid Helmeted Manakin makes its home here, alongside Rufous Casornis and Planalto Slaty Antshrike. In damper areas bordering the small pools and streams we may find Mato Grosso Antbird and Yellow-chinned Spinetail, and as the afternoon draws on we'll likely hear the haunting song of the Undulated Tinamou - though they are tricky to see! At dusk, we should come across the inquisitive Crab-eating Fox as we search for Tropical Screech Owl, Great Horned Owl and Common Potoo. Three nights Pousada Piuval

Days 5-7

Bidding farewell to Pousada Puival, will head southwest 100kms or so today, to Porto Jofre at the end of the Transpantaneira, for a three-night stay. Travel is slow along this highway at the best of times, which will give us the opportunity to look out for some uncommon roadside birds - such as the beautiful Scarlet-headed Blackbird.

The dry grasslands we will pass through are the home to Giant Anteaters so we'll check anything that moves among the huge termite mounds! As we travel south, we should see Marsh Deer and perhaps Black Howler Monkey in the trees bordering the Transpantaneira. As we get closer to Porto Jofre, open wetland areas become more extensive and we will stop to admire the massed ranks of wetland birds - expect to see Limpkins, Maguari Storks, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and many more. The magnificent Hyacinth Macaw is also present and we'll pay an evening visit to a roosting area for the spectacular 'big blue'. As dusk settles over the Pantanal, huge Nacunda Nighthawks begin their evening forays.

We will spend our time at Porto Jofre covering a mix of habitats, either on foot or via short road journeys along the Transpantaneira. However, a particular focus of our time here will be to try and gain good sightings of South America's biggest - the Jaguar! This area has become one of the most reliable places on Earth to see this impressive feline and the famous caiman-eating Jaguars were filmed by the BBC in this region.

Our boat trips here will to concentrate on seeing Jaguars, which retreat to woodlands beside the rivers during the day and have a tendency to lie out near the waters’ edge. Of course, encounters with a Jaguar can never be guaranteed, even though the boatmen are armed with information on the most recent sightings - but there will be a good possibility of success. During our searches we may well encounter groups of Giant Otters on the Rio Cuiaba. We have enjoyed close views of family groups on recent tours and, if we're lucky, this will be another tour highlight for sure!

Birds are also present on the Rio Cuiaba: Black Skimmers roost on the sandbars in the company of numerous Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, and Pied and Collared Plovers should also be seen. Front-heavy Toco Toucans fly over and perch in the bare trees, and others we will be looking out for include the excellent Red-billed Scythebill, Grey-crested Cacholote, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Blue-throated Piping Guan (some here have red wattles!) and the wonderful Crimson-crested Woodpecker. Three nights Porto Jofre

Day 8

Leaving Porto Jofre this morning we retrace our steps along the Transpantaneira towards Cuiaba, stopping to check out anything of interest that catches our eye. We may try to lure out any of those annoyingly elusive spinetails, antshrikes, antwrens and flycatchers we might still be missing - and we'll keep our eyes open for the lumbering hulk of a Giant Anteater as we go.

Beyond the Rio Pixaim, we turn southeast off the Transpantaneira for a one-night stay at the Pousada Rio Claro, lying close to the Rio Claro. This area is favoured by the attractive, black-hooded Nanday Parakeet, so we'll be alert for this ornate-looking bird around the lodge and in the dry country surrounding the property.

Either late this afternoon or the following morning, we’ll take a boat trip on the river. Drifting along the meandering river we will be able to enjoy the incredible wildlife spectacle offered by the Pantanal. Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers could be seen as we board the boats, but we'll need to be in a quieter part of the river to find some of the shyer denizens of the waterways, like the tiny American Pygmy Kingfisher and the retiring Sungrebe. These secluded stretches are often the best place to spot the Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher and in the past we have even seen the spectacular Agami Heron here! Overhead, we'll watch for passing Golden-collared Macaws and soaring Great Black Hawks, while showy Black-capped Donacobius, Lesser Kiskadees and Yellow-rumped Caciques will be hard to ignore in the swampy vegetation close to the banks.

We will focus on the gallery forest during our time on the river, as many species can be readily found from the boats. Band-tailed Antbirds haunt the overhanging branches, Rusty-backed Spinetails build their nests over the water's edge, Little Cuckoos can be seen in the riverside vegetation and sociable Black-capped Antwrens sing from the canopy of the tallest riverside trees. Night Pousada Rio Claro (Pixaim)

Days 9-10

Early risers might like to take the opportunity to look for Band-tailed Nighthawks, whilst noisy Chaco Chachalacas are joined by Chestnut-bellied Guans, Nanday Parakeets, Silver-beaked and Palm Tanagers, Grayish Saltator, Saffron Finch and, with any luck, a Bare-faced Curassow.

Leaving the pousada after breakfast, we then continue our journey northeast, travelling over 200 kms, through Cuiaba, en route to our next, and very different destination: Chapada dos Guimaraes. We spend two nights here, on the edge of a huge escarpment overlooking Cuiaba and the plains to the south.

Chapada Dos Guimaraes lies on an ancient tectonic fault some 500 million years old. When the Andes cordilleras appeared on the west, the flat region of the Pantanal sank and the plateau (chapada) rose up. Water and wind erosion over millions of years has carved natural sculptures, canyons and caves into the cinnamon-buff sandstone cliffs. Rivers and streams have 'dug their way out', creating huge waterfalls typical of chapada scenery. At an elevation of around 800m (2600ft), this fascinating area experiences mild temperatures but it can often be windy, especially in the evening.

From our hotel at Chapada we are well placed to explore the surrounding cerrado (savanna) and forest areas. Although initially appearing rather unprepossessing, being an arid and somewhat stunted looking habitat, the cerrado contains a wealth of localised bird species that will largely be new to us. Specialities to watch out for here include White-eared Puffbird, Curl-crested Jay, White-rumped and Shrike-like Tanagers, Black-faced Saltator and, if luck is with us, the gorgeous Blue Finch and the delectable but dwindling Horned Sungem - males of the latter resplendent with their iridescent blue crown and adornment of twin ‘horns’. Streams running from the high plateau are surrounded by gallery forest, rich in Amazonian birdlife: Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Amazonian Motmot, Fiery-capped and Band-tailed Manakins, Southern Antpipit, and White-lined and Guira Tanagers are among many possible treats in store.

As the day heats up, we will scan the sky for birds of prey such as the stately King Vulture, White Hawk and graceful Swallow-tailed Kite. We should always be alert for macaws coasting over the cerrado, too: both Red-and-Green and Blue-winged Macaws are regularly seen near Chapada. Two nights Chapada dos Guimaraes

Day 11

We’ll enjoy another full morning birding on the plateau around Chapada before breaking for lunch in town.

Our birding all but over, during the hot and relatively 'birdless' afternoon period, we make the 75-minute transfer back south to the airport at Cuiaba and check-in for our evening flight to Sâo Paulo.

Late evening arrival in Sâo Paulo and transfer to our comfortable airport hotel. Night Sâo Paulo

Day 12

Having arrived late at our Sâo Paulo hotel yesterday evening, we will welcome a leisurely late breakfast there this morning before making the short transfer to Guarulhos International Airport at around midday. Lunch at the airport today is included in our tour cost. Check-in for our British Airways afternoon departure from Sâo Paulo, nonstop and overnight to London.

Day 13

We arrive back at London Heathrow around 7am this morning, where our Brazil tour concludes.

Chestnut-eared Aracari Jo Latham.jpg
With its distinctive, 'fierce-looking' bill, the colourful Chestnut-eared Aracari is often seen in pairs, but sometimes small groups © tour participant Jo Latham,

Our improved itinerary now includes international flights with British Airways, upgraded hotel accommodation at Porto Jofre, also for our one-night stops at Rio Claro and Sâo Paulo (in lieu of two nights at Cuiaba), plus two extra boat trips - at Pousada Piuval and on the Rio Claro... And of course a Limosa guide travelling throughout!

Our bird tours to Brazil tackle this immense country in ‘bite size’ chunks... Covering more than 70,000 square miles, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland - and one of most important areas for wildlife in South America. Seasonal rains flood the immense lowland plains of Western Brazil, but as they dry in the austral spring the shrinking waterways and lagoons concentrate the spectacular birds and wildlife of the region. South America's biggest cat, the Jaguar, is the star attraction - and we have chances of seeing Giant Otter and Giant Anteater, too - while the abundant birdlife includes Greater Rhea, Southern Screamer, Red-legged Seriema, Helmeted Manakin and the rare Hyacinth Macaw.

Except on travel days, our strategy in hot climates such as this will be to start early, bird in the morning and have a protracted rest during the midday siesta time before enjoying the rest of the afternoon back in the field. We will offer occasional evening and after dark excursions for nocturnal birds and wildlife, too. Our various explorations on this tour will be on foot, by boat and by vehicle.

Brazil enjoys a tropical climate. It will be mainly warm-hot and sunny in the Pantanal when we visit in August/September, but some rainfall is possible throughout the year. It will be hot and humid in the lowlands and this can give rise to thundery afternoon downpours. Our tour runs towards the end of the ‘dry season’ (May to October) and, while the chances of a wet day are low, some rainfall could still occur. In the Pixaim area, daily temperatures in August/September are typically in the region of 23-29C (73-84F), but can reach highs of 35C/95F. It averages a little cooler than this in the highlands of the chapada, 18-30C (65-87F); also early and late in the day, which can feel relatively chilly by comparison.

Good to excellent photographic opportunities in more open habitats, including wetlands and at bird feeders around the lodges.

250-320 species

10-15 species. South America's biggest cat, the Jaguar, is the star attraction. Though sightings cannot, of course, ever be guaranteed, our tour is designed to provide a very real chance of seeing this amazing animal.

We also have good chances of other large mammals including Giant Anteater, Capybyra, Crab-eating Fox and Giant Otter.

10 nights accommodation in Brazil, staying at comfortable hotels and lodges that allow easy access to the best wildlife areas. All rooms have private bathroom.

All main meals (usually buffet-style) are included in the tour price, commencing with lunch in Cuiaba (Day 2) and concluding with lunch at Sâo Paulo airport on Day 12.

Food at our lodgings is home-cooked, often featuring local dishes freshly prepared by the lodges’ own cooks; vegetarian needs can also be catered for.

Breakfasts and dinners will be at the hotels and lodges or a local restaurant; some lunches will be picnics. Drinking water is provided during the day. Soft and alcoholic drinks are generally available for purchase at hotels (not included in tour price).

Easy to moderate, chiefly along tracks and trails. In the Pantanal, the landscape is flat and the going is generally easy. In the chapada (Brazil's highland plateau area) there may be some occasional steeper, uphill stretches, but all are taken very gently with regular stops for birds.

Sturdy waterproof walking shoes or lightweight boots with good grip advised, and lightweight shoes to change into afterwards.

Maximum elevation on this tour: 1400m (4600ft). 

Return flights from London Heathrow to Sâo Paulo, nonstop with British Airways. Our office will aim to book the most convenient flights with the best connections. *1

Domestic flights Sâo Paulo-Cuiaba-Sâo Paulo are also included within the tour price and operated by GOL or LATAM (according to schedule).

*1   A note about our choice of flights for this tour:
We have chosen to fly to Brazil with British Airways (rather than use the South American carrier LATAM), so as to avoid a 9-hour 'lay over' at Sâo Paulo Airport between the domestic and onward inbound international flights that's necessary if flying with LATAM. This, coupled with the requirement to check-in early in Brazil, makes for a tiring and very protracted journey home when travelling internationally with LATAM.

To avoid all this, our tour travels back to Cuiaba airport during the heat of the afternoon (when very few birds are about) on Day 11 and picks up the evening flight from there to Sâo Paulo. There, we overnight at a good airport hotel so as to take advantage of the British Airways flight home next day. We will not miss out on any birding by doing this, and it should make for a more timely, relaxed and altogether less frustrating journey home for everyone at the end of our tour.

Land Only Participants: Please be sure to check the confirmed group flight timings with our office BEFORE booking your own flights.

Ground Transport   By minibus, switching to 4WD vehicle/s when the occasion demands.

We will take boat trips at Porto Jofre with the aim of finding Jaguars. There will be birds to see of course, but the main focus here will be on finding these wonderful big cats - we haven’t missed them yet!

Our 2020 tour also includes additional boat trips - at Pousada Piuval and Rio Claro.

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Views of Jaguar like this are things of dreams, but in the Pantanal a reality © tour participant Jo Latham,

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