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Brazil. Southern Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul

Updated: May 27

Alejandro Pinto.





The Brazilian Pantanal has direct influence by huge biomas: Amazon, Cerrado, atlantic forest and the Chaco and there is one place where you can find all of them, Mato Grosso do Sul.


Despite the popularity of the Transpantaneira located in northern Brazilian Pantanal, the Brazilian Southern Pantanal has much to offer, the strategic location of the state allows you to watch birds and wildlife in four huge and different biomas. Into the boundaries of the Mato Grosso do Sul state, you have: to the north the typical Pantanal – seasonal flooded wetlands and savannas – to the southeast a portion of the Mata Atlantica, to the southwest the Chaco and all the central portion of the state is dominated by Cerrado. One of the advantages, is having the main city and Capital of the state, Campo Grande completely centrally located, which allows you to travel in every direction.





During our trip we visited part of the Pantanal area, the Cerrado and the Mata Atlantica, in 10 days we recorded 228 bird species, 10 mammal species and at least 4 snake species among other animals. We walked with Anacondas, had a close meeting with a Giant Anteater and enjoyed a Lowland Tapir having a sunbath!




Baia das Pedras

Located 5h northwest from Campo Grande, Baia das Pedras is a 15.000 hectares ranch which work with cattle ranching and conservation.


The main feature is that the property is located along the “Vazante do Castelo”, a lower flooded area that serves as water regulation for Rio Negro river and is extended over 200km.


We had multiple safaris and walks around the property and it was quiet spectacular, having not only great sights of a lot of animals but also high-end service in the lodge.





During our safaris we spotted over a hundred bird species, some of the highlights: Hyacinth Macaw, Blue and Yellow Macaw, Red-shouldered Macaw, Turquoise-fronted Parrot, Plumbeous Ibis, Maguari Stork, Rufous Casiornis, Red-legged Seriema, Greater Rhea among many others, but also plenty other wildlife like: Six-banded and Nine-banded Armadillo, White-lipped Pecari, Pampas Deer, Coati…

 

During the first morning Safari we spotted a Yellow Anaconda in one of the ponds, we quickly jumped out of the car and had close views of this impressive animal who was quietly having a bath, we kept driving in the property and five minutes later we spotted a Lowland Tapir female with a cube walking along a gallery forest border, too fast to get a photo, but what a sight.




In our second day safari we made some stops in gallery forest borders, we saw some forest mix flocks a couple of times and we made some additions to our already big bird list, some of the most important ones: Pale-headed Woodpecker, Plush-crested Jay, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Rufous-backed Antwren among others. During the Safari our local guide Manoela spotted in the distance a Lowland Tapir in one of the ponds, we jumped out of the car and walked to get closer and have a front row view. The Tapir was very relaxing having a sunbath and was not uncomfortable with us – 20 meters away – enjoying such a great animal. The very same afternoon we spotted about 60 White-lipped Pecaries in 3 different groups. A Six-banded Armadillo and a couple of Crab-eating Fox.



During the next morning leaving the property on the way to our next stop, we spotted the Giant Anteater 3 times and the Southern Tamandua!




Bais Das Pedras has been such a great place and we leave with good memories, we want to thanks to owners and staff of the reserve, drivers and guides who made our experience an exceptional adventure, specially to: Vicente, Amanda, Manoela and Donateli.





Fazenda San Francisco.

San Francisco is a 16.000 hectares property which turns into a private reserve, the land is split  for different purposes: 7000 hectares for cattle ranching, 4000 hectares for rice crops and 5000 hectares for conservation.


The 5k hectares provides to the local fauna an important refugee where visitors can enjoy the natural sights for a great number of animals, including the Onca Pintada (Jaguar).




During our visit, the local guide Edir Alves (aka GG or DD) and Vinicus and the expert biologist Alyson Vieira guided us throughout the reserve. During our first night safari we spotted several times the Stripe Owl who loves to be near the water catching small animals, but also Pauraque and common Potto where around, at least 3 pairs of Crab-eating Fox and the Brazilian Rabbit were also spotted during the night, an excellent way to start our visit.




Our full day in the reserve was highly productive, we watched at least 110 bird species including some very important and eye catching: Mato Grosso Antbird, Hyacinth Macaw, Nanday Parakeet, Red-legged Seriema, Greater Rhea, Peach-fronted Parakeet among others, but definitely the highlight of the day was to spotted an incredible Great-horned Owl with a prey at day time into the forest.




Tons of Marsh Deer in the several ponds of the area, being by far the place with the largest population of this mammal but also Six-banded Armadillo, Opossum a lot of Crab-eating Foxes!

 

 


Bonito and Jardim area: Mimosa, Rio da Prata and Chacara Beija Flor

The area of Bonito and Jardim is a real example of sustainable eco-tourism, big projects like estancia Mimosa and Rio da Prata eco-park are pioneers in implementing a tourism model with sustainability guidelines and climate positive focus that shows a commitment of these places with the environment. On the other side Chacara Beija Flor, a family run project that protect more than 20 hectares of Cerrado forest is again another example of how small initiatives ccan create big impacts in conservation.

 



Despite we only had one day to visit these 3 places, our walks were very nice, patches of forest, nice clear water forest rivers and good birds: Planalto Woodcreeper, Band-tailed Manakin, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Plush-crested Jay, Variable Oriole, Red-legged Seriema, Spot-backed Puffbird, Thrush-like Wren among many others.




Buraco das Araras

We spent one morning in Buraco das Araras – Macaws hole – a project leading by a family who turns their cattle ranching land in a reserve which protect a patch of Cerrado forest and during 20 years + they have been taking care of such a place. This hole is a huge sandstone crater and is home of a population of Red and Green Macaws. After our arrival one of the family members guided us throught the forest, we spotted some birds and suddenly we were in front of this amazing hole. Very impresses by the beauty of this place, we enjoyed the Macaws for a while and then time for photos shoting! During the walk and our time in the viewpoints of the hole we spotted other birds like: Blue and Yellow Macaw, Toco Toucan, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Spot-backed (Chaco) Puffbird among others and finally a huge Boa!





Parque estadual das Varzeas do rio Invinhema

Our final spot during this trip was this impressive state park, which protect 73.000 hectares of seasonal flooded savannas of the Invinhema and Parana river mainly, but other several smaller rivers and creeks around. Also patches of tropical forest with a influence of the Mata Atlantica.


During our days here, our local guide Diodi was in charge of taking us all over the area, by car and by boat, is simply and amazing and wild place!




Our safaris were fully loaded with birds and my impression is: there is a mix of everything here – mata atlantica, cerrado, open areas and forest patches…- so there was no time to be bore, specially having such a huge place only for us! Our first morning the several bird species were singing near the lodge and the views of the river with the first sun light was amazing. After our breakfast we went into some patches of forest, a mix flock was moving around and we saw already some good birds: Spot-backed Puffbird, White-wedge Piculet, Barred Antshrike, Red-billed Scythebill, Rufous Casiornis and last but no least a Small-billed Tinamou crossing the road!





In the open areas we spotted some big birds and some birds of prey: Toco Toucan, Long-winged Harrier and Crane Hawk, Red-winged Tinamou was singing very close and also the Streamer-tailed Tyrant.

 



The boat rides were very productive, but I have to say, before the birds, the scenario is outstanding. The several creeks, Invinhema river and the Parana are so beautiful and Diodi knows all the good places for birds, during our boat rides we spotted: Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Horned Screamer, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-capped Donacobius, Chestnut-capped Foliage-gleaner, Rusty-backed Spinetail and many more.




During our last afternoon, we went to try to found a very special bird, the Crested Doradito, a range restricted bird only found in seasonally flooded tall grass and once again thanks to Diodi we found it, the cherry on top of the cake, what a beautiful bird!





We leave Invinhema and started our drive back to Campo Grande, once on the highway we saw a Giant Anteater crossing the road, we turn on our parking lights to advice other cars on the road to drive carefully and luckily we found a spot to park the car and try to have a closer view of the Anteater, we jumped into a gravel road and saw the footprints on the sand, we heard the Anteater into a patch of forest and thought was gone…but it came out once again and walked right into us, stopped in front of me, smelts me and continued its way calmly, with no doubt one of the best moments – if not he best – during this trip to southern Pantanal.




last stop on the way to Campo Grande...yes we could not leave without the last target - and lifer - a very quick visit to Instituto Cabral, Adriana the manager opened their place last minute and welcomed us with great enthusiasm.


White-striped Warbler in the pocket!



Highlights of the Southern Pantanal trip.

1.       Close encounter with a Yellow Anaconda, 2 ft. away in a natural pond

2.      Close encounter with and impressive Lowlands Tapir, 20 ft from us.

3.      Enjoying a Southern Tamandua while was feeding 10 ft away from us

4.      Face to face meeting with a Giant Anteater!

5.      And most important: all the encounters in natural scenarios without handle any of the animals and for sure without disturb them.

 



 

Many thanks to: Embratur Brazil, Visit MS, Brazil Ministerio de Turismo, Baia das Pedras and their fantastic crew, Fazenda San Francisco, Estancia Mimosa, Rio da Prata, Chacara Beija Flor, Buraco das Araras and their owners, what a project! Imasul, Vale das Aguas MS, Parque estadual Varzea do Rio Invinhema, Instituto Cabral and also to all the local guides who shared their unvaluable knowledge in the field: Edson Moroni, Manoela Bernardy, Edir Alves, Alyson Vieira de Melo, Roberta Pru, Bruno Wendling and Dione Sales “GG” and Adriana.



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