Looking for updates?    Facebook Page    Visit our new blog - MILES TO THE WILD!
Pantanal

The Pantanal region of Brazil is one of the “holy grails” of any parrot lover or bird watcher.  This vast wetland wilderness is home to the rare Hyacinth Macaw as well as some commonly found species such as Nanday Conures, Amazons, Quakers and Maximilian Pionus.  I began researching two years in advance on the internet to insure we would have the best possible experience.  I like to give preference to ecotourism projects that benefit endangered species and provide employment opportunities to locals who might otherwise have engaged in the heinous practice of poaching.  After careful consideration, I chose the Refugio Ecologico Caiman because it is home to the Projeto Arara Azul founded by Neiva Guedes.  This project has been instrumental in bringing back the Hyacinth Macaw from near extinction and studying their breeding habits.   The project has succeeded in bringing the population of Hyacinth Macaws from 1500 to 6000!   Since 2007, small groups can arrange to accompany the volunteers of the project on their daily activities and studies. 

 
I arranged our package through Open Door Tur which is a reliable tour operator based in Campo Grande, Brazil.  Campo Grande is the gateway to the Pantanal and is accessed by plane from Sao Paulo or by bus from many Brazilian cities.  We took the comfortable overnight bus from Foz do Iguacu and spent one day in Campo Grande to rest up before our big adventure.



Very nice phone booths!
 

Sylvia from Open Door Tur picked us up at our hotel and took us on the 3.5 hour drive to Refugio Ecologico Caiman. 

We were met on arrival by the staff and immediately shown to a room near the swimming pool at Sede Lodge.

  Everyone was very friendly and they explained about the board with the tours and activities.  They divide everyone into two groups-yellow (English) and blue (Portuguese).  A buffet lunch was served at noon and then we discovered that so far, we were the only tourists to arrive in our yellow group. 

The flights were still chaotic and everyone else was delayed.  While resting after lunch, I heard the distinctive Macaw squawk and ran out into the garden to see two Hyacinth Macaws munching on nuts in a palm tree right there in the hotel garden!  Not even on a tour and already seeing Hyacinths!!!

The afternoon activity was the bike ride and it was only us and the guide, two other guides went along just for the fun of it, nothing else to do.  Rheas which look like ostritches were on the grounds.
We had barely gotten out the gate when we saw about 7 or 8 Hyacinths flying around so I leapt off the bike to grab pics. 

Then we passed the small airstrip and there were 2 mango trees just full of parrots-BF Amazons, Nandays and Maximillian Pionus! 

 


I flat out refused to leave the area, lucky there were no other tourists in the group!  Ina and one of the guides biked on ahead but later on, he said he didn’t see anything else.  The other guide finally managed to drag me away from the parrot trees kicking and screaming!  LOL!! 



We reconfirmed with the people from Projecto Arara Azul for tomorrow.  Cezar and one of the volunteers who spoke English-Julianne would be taking us with them on their normal daily routine.  Neiva Guedes, the manager was out of the area so I didn’t get to meet her.  Cezar runs the show in the field now with help of 3 volunteers.

Dinner was at 7:30, a nice buffet.  Some of the other yellow group tourists had started to arrive, quite a mix-Americans, French, Belgians and Dutch.  We jad a short night safari to see nocturnal animals which were VERY hard to spot and it was freezing cold!  Then we made an early night so we could get up early for tomorrow.

 

Cezar, Julianne and Karla picked us up right after breakfast in a 4WD truck.  They were all kitted out with climbing gear so I knew they would be climbing trees to inspect nests. 

Cezar really knows his birds, every time we passed any bird (or mammal), he would tell Julianne what number it was in the field guide and she would point it out to me so I could see what it was in English.  We saw lots of hawks and water birds  and a jabiru stork nest but I will just talk about parrots here. 
First we went to a nest occupied by two Hyacinths; Karla climbed up and saw no eggs so came back down. 

They have natural nest which are 95% in Manduvai trees.  They have to compete for these nests with other birds and have lost many potential nests to deforestation so the Arara Azul people have constructed artificial nests.  Their program is very successful as the macaw population was less than 1500 at one point and now there are over 6000 Hyacinths in the  Pantanal!  

As we drove from one nest to another, the parents would fly off angrily and squawk their heads off complaining as the team took turns climbing the tree to see if there were eggs.  Sometimes we got lucky! 

It is just the start of the breeding season now so many couples are preparing the nests with woodchips.  Sadly some eggs the team had found before had been stolen by predators. 

We saw many other birds along the way, including a large flock of Nanday Conures,

several BF Amazons and some Golden Collared Macaws.  There is one pair of Greenwing Macaws who have a nest but weren’t around it so we didn’t see them.  The highlight came at the end of the day when the team inspected a nest that was known to have eggs in it and found two baby Hyacinth chicks!  

 



 They were adorable!  Cezar wouldn’t let me hold them but he held them and we all took pictures and I kissed both their little heads and prayed they would grow up strong and  healthy!

 





After the day’s work, we returned to the Arara Azul office and Julianne showed us the usual slide show they show normal tourists but we had missed because we weren’t on the normal tour.  

 It tells about the Hyacinth Macaw, the Project and what we can do to help.  Don’t buy illegally imported birds stolen from the wild.  Don’t buy products made with feathers  (like this one found in a Rio hotel)  from Macaws and Parrots as the birds are either killed to get the feathers or so badly injured, they die anyway. 



They have a gift shop which helps support the project but unfortunately they don’t take credit cards (I wish I had known that before) so I bought just a few small things as much as I could.  

They currently have an injured Female Hyacinth they named Kris.  She was rescued from certain death as a caiman (alligator) and caught her by the tail when she was either drinking or bathing in the lake.  Thank God a cowboy was nearby and rescued her and brought her to the project to be rehabilitated.  She had lost her tail and couldn’t fly or eat. 

Now she is almost ready to be released back to the wild but she still needs to be able to crack the Acuri nuts by herself.  I wanted to give her a big hug but they don’t encourage showing affection to Macaws that need to be released to the wild and they don’t want them friendly to humans.  I did get to scratch her head a bit while one of the volunteers held her. 

We rejoined the other tourists for dinner.  They had done the usual lodge tours but they didn’t see half of what we did, I was so happy we went!  After dinner there was a slide show about the Caiman resort which was very interesting.

 The next morning, it was back to the normal tourist routine.  After breakfast, we were all taken to the stable and assigned horses that are gentle and trained to take gringo tourists on rides. 
It was a pleasant excursion but we all had sore bums afterwards and didn’t see all that much wildlife except for greedy vultures. 

They made traditional Terere tea and passed it around cowboy style.  Then we went back to the lodge and I walked around the grounds to see the many birds just right there in the garden.  Heaps of Nandays and Quakers!  

We had a buffet lunch, and then went to the lake to paddle around in Canadian canoes.  Ina loved this trip as he is quite familiar with canoeing, I as nervous the whole time the bloody thing would tip over and ruin my camera gear.  It was a pleasant enough excursion but once again, we didn’t see that much wildlife, there were a couple giant anteaters on one side of the lake.  We stayed until sunset to get some nice photos and went back to the lodge to shower and get ready for the Pantaneiro (cowboy) BBQ.



The BBQ was fun; they had a couple people playing guitar and singing and brought the meat around churrascuria style.  Ina started teaching the local to play the spoons which was hilarious!  We stuffed ourselves silly and crashed out. 

 

The final morning, we joined the tourists for breakfast and they went off on a bike ride.  Most people were checking out today as it was Sunday.  I was tired of group activities and just wanted to walk around looking at birds.  We went back to the mango trees, only the two BF Amazons were there. 









 

 






Then we went to Arara Azul to say goodbye to Kris and grab some last minute photos of birds around the lodge.  The driver from Open Door arrived on time, we said our reluctant farewells and returned to Campo Grande full of memories of the trip of a lifetime.


 

 

Website Builder