How easy is it for an independent birder to do Brazil? The country has an awesome avifauna but relatively few birders go there under their own steam. I think there are four main reasons for this:
One, the country is dauntingly vast.
Two, the inhabitants speak Portuguese, a language that is for most people pretty impenetrable. Very few people speak English, even in Rio.
Three, Brazil has a bad reputation for crime.
Four, Brazil has a poor environmental reputation, perhaps the most obvious example being the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest.
The aim of this report, based on a visit I made to south-eastern Brazil in November 2007, is to see what the reality is, to suggest one means of visiting the country that worked for me, to highlight some dos and don’ts, to focus on some top birding areas, including one apparently not previously visited by a Western birder, and to describe the excellent local guides that I encountered.
I also set out some of the birds I saw. However I should stress that any serious birder with a guide is likely to see more than I did, save possibly on the Agulhas Negras road in Itatiaia where I did quite well. Whilst I am at times a serious birder, I am also at times a serious tourist and quite often a serial loafer. I fear that to some this may mean that I have ossified into a dude. Furthermore, I have some interesting medical conditions that prevented me from spending as long in the field as I would have liked and from doing strenuous hikes. And on top of this heavy rain wiped out several hours at Itatiaia.
South-eastern Brazil is famed for the large number (100+) of endemics found there, especially in the Atlantic rain forest near the coast. Some are common, some are beautiful, some such as Black and Gold Cotinga and Itatiaia Spinetail have absolutely tiny ranges. Having previously visited Venezuela and Ecuador, I was pleasantly surprised to find how distinct the bird populations of south-eastern Brazil were: of the species I saw there, I had seen relatively few elsewhere in South America. Endemics or near-endemics in this report are shown in bold print.
WHERE I WENT.
Because my wife and I could only spend 16 days in Brazil we decided to visit just one segment of Brazil, and to omit the Pantanal, Amazonia and the north-east. We flew into Rio via Sao Paulo on 30th October 2007. We spent 3 days in Rio, and then drove south-west to Itatiaia National Park for 3 nights. After this we spent 4 nights on the coast at Angra dos Reis. We then returned to Rio for a night before flying north to Brasilia, where we were met and taken to Sao Jorge at Chapada dos Veadeiros. Finally, after returning to Brasilia, we flew direct to Iguazu Falls where we spent 2 nights.
GUIDES ARE GOOD.
I am a great believer in the use of local guides on foreign birding trips. It is what eco-tourism should be about: paying talented locals to find birds you would not find on your own means that the birds and their habitats acquire a financial value and a higher profile. If this leads to preservation of birds and habitats, as it does in many places around the world, then ecotourism is encouraging biodiversity. I hired four different guides, three in Brazil and one just over the border in Argentina at Iguazu. I used the site at Birdingpal Brazil to locate some of them and one was a recommendation from somebody on Birdingpal. I was very pleased with them all. Judging by the CVs/resumes of other guides on the site, I have no doubt that there are other top guides in Brazil that I did not get to meet.
HOW TO TRAVEL IN BRAZIL.
The long distance journeys were simple. Flying was quick and efficient, although it is worth mentioning that, when we flew into Brazil, we had to check our luggage off the carousel at Sao Paulo even though it was through ticketed to Rio.
The quandary I had was over road transport. Normally I rent cars and drive the two of us, but travel books made much of the danger of crime to rental cars and their drivers. And my very experienced London-based travel agent, Journey Latin America (JLA), said flatly that they had never sold car rental to any of their clients and did not like the idea of doing so: they were even uneasy about my suggestion of renting a car at the out-of-town international airport in Rio. I have, on a previous visit to Latin America, been targeted by professional thieves whilst driving a rental car, and I did not want to repeat the experience.
Furthermore I found that the cities and towns have unfathomable traffic flows and directions and few signposts save on the freeways. You cannot stop and ask directions because hardly anybody speaks English. The urbanised areas are huge. In short, I advise against renting a car unless you are young, brave and speak some Portuguese, at least in this part of Brazil.
Our problem of transport was solved everywhere we went by the flexibility of the guides. They provided transport, they fetched and they returned us.
RIO DE JANEIRO.
Our guide here was Ricardo Gagliardi. We asked him to take us out for one day: he would have happily taken us out for 2 or 3 days, for there are many fine birding sites close to Rio. In the morning we went to Jardin Botanico and to a coastal footpath running through secondary forest at Playa de Vermelha. In the afternoon he drove us up to the wonderful statue of Christ the Redeemer. There is good forest below the statue, and we walked down through it. An experienced guide ( last year he guided the British politician and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Ken Clarke) with fluent English, he obviously knew his birds and was quick with his tapes. And as he expertly navigated the seething mass of Rio, I became gladder and gladder that we had not rented a car.
Birds we saw included Rufous-thighed Kite, Rusty-margined Guan, Slaty-breasted Wood Rail, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Sick’s Swift, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Channel-billed Toucan, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Sooretama Slaty Antshrike, White-flanked Antwren, Swallow-tailed Manakin, Long-billed Wren, Gray-headed Tody Flycatcher, Masked Water-Tyrant, Golden-crowned Warbler, Green-headed Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Violaceous Euphonia, Blue Dacnis, Sayaca Tanager and Brazilian Tanager ( common on the footpath at Playa de Vermelha).
The remarkable Bruno Renno was our guide for the next few days. He drove about 150 miles from his home to collect us, right on time, from our hotel in Rio early in the morning on 2nd November. He was just 24 years old, but thoroughly professional, and drove us very steadily and with impeccable politeness to other drivers: were we really in Brazil? In fact, once we were on the freeway, I thought Brazilian drivers were pretty good.
Bruno’s English was a bit limited, although he knew all the bird names. As he apparently did with all his clients, he avoided any language problems by the simple expedient of bringing his own interpreter, free of charge. In our case he brought an attractive university student named Marcelle. Bruno was jovial and Marcelle delightful. I could tell that this was going to be a good road movie.
The road to Itatiaia passed inland through miles of severely denuded hills, where once had stood virgin Mata Atlantica forest. Eventually the Itatiaia massif hove into view, happily covered in forest. Bruno was on his home turf: he has lived close by all his life and seemed to know everyone and everywhere intimately. He drove us up into the National Park. We climbed to about 3000 feet where we found the Hotel do Ype.
HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE “YPE”?
“Ee-peh”. I had chosen to stay in Itatiaia because there was no room at the well-known Serra dos Tucanos Lodge in the mountains on the other side of Rio, even though I had enquired 9 months beforehand. How good an alternative would Itatiaia turn out to be ? In fact one leading birder has told me that a serious birder really needs to visit both areas, since each holds species that are much easier to find than in the other area. I had chosen to stay in the Hotel do Ype because of recommendations on the internet. It turned out to be an excellent choice. There are 3 main hotels in Itatiaia: the Hotel Donati, at low elevation, has gardens that were full of good birds, but the place had a desolate feel – there seemed to be hardly anybody about – and the water in the swimming pool was a curious, limpid black: a leisurely dip seemed unlikely. The Hotel Simon, at a higher elevation, was very different, being very busy with large numbers of guests and visitors. It too had very good birding close by, in particular the start of the Tres Picos trail near the tennis court. For our tastes it was a bit too big, but a number of birders write highly of it on the internet, and a hotel that draws good numbers of people into the Park is, in my book, doing something valuable. The Hotel Do Ype, higher still, is set right amongst the forest trees, with comfortable chalets anchored to the mountain slope. The views were brilliant. The swimming pool looked large and fabulous, though we never got round to using it. The food was good, outstanding at weekends when they put on a big spread. There was a balcony with hummingbird feeders, though there was no room on it for chairs. In the early morning the balcony windows held large numbers of extraordinary tropical moths. The gardens held plenty of birds.
Common hummers at the feeders were Black Jacobin, Brazilian Ruby, Violet-capped Woodnymph, White-throated Hummingbird, and the odd Versicoloured Emerald and Scale-throated Hermit. Bruno had a Frilled Coquette fly by. Common birds in the garden included Red-breasted Toucan, Dusky-legged Guan, Picazuro Pigeon, Cliff Flycatcher and various tanagers.
KNOCK, KNOCK, WHO’S THERE?
Mr and Mrs Igold Knock live in a house some distance down the mountain from Hotel do Ype. This was the main stake-out for the beautiful Frilled Coquette. The other former stake-out, the roadside chocolate shop, apparently no longer has feeders. The Knocks, getting on in years, gave us a warm welcome. We sat and chatted for 30 minutes till a male, with perfect poise and pose, flew in. Bruno then led us on some very gentle birding along the road and a trail. By 4pm I was unfortunately completely beat and we returned to the hotel.
Birds of note at these lower elevations included Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail, Scaly-headed Parrot, Guira Cuckoo, Surucua Trogon, Rufous-capped Motmot, Robust Woodpecker, White-throated Woodcreeper, Scaled Woodcreper, Black-capped Foliage-Gleaner, White-winged and Crested Becard, Swallow-tailed Manakin, Long-tailed Tyrant, Velvety Black Tyrant, Brown-chested Martin, Red-rumped Cacique, Swallow Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia, Golden-chevroned Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Olive-green Tanager, Ruby-crowned Tanager, Black-goggled Tanager, Double-collared Seedeater.
In the evening, because the weather looked promising, we decided to spend the next day trying the high-elevation Agulhas Negras road.
By the end of our first day with Bruno, I had concluded that he was an exceptionally fine guide. At the outset he had presented us with an attractive, personalised checklist of the 351 species recorded in Itatiaia National Park, a checklist he himself had compiled. He obviously knew every bird. He could accurately put a name to any bird sound we heard. He used tapes extensively and with great speed. Some of the calls and songs on the tapes had been recorded by others, many he had recorded himself. There were times, especially over the next 2 days, when he simply hauled bird after bird out of the forest. Few got away. Without him I would have seen just a tiny fraction of what we did see. I was not surprised to learn that his next booking after us was to lead a group of Brazilian birders round Itatiaia. One cautionary note if you can’t book Bruno: we met an American birder and his Brazilian guide. Compared to us, they were struggling a bit. His guide had flown in to Itatiaia; he did not live in the area, he did not know it or its birds so well.
THE ROAD TO AGULHAS NEGRAS:
3rd November 2007. It is a bit of a hoof from Hotel do Ype to the Agulhas Negras road. You have to go south out of the park, west along the main road (BR116) and then north back into the park before you reach the junction where the Agulhas Negras road goes off to the right. Depending on how m any stops you make, it takes well over an hour from the hotel. The junction, I think, is at about 5000 feet. The road climbs gradually to about 7000 feet. Once tarmacked it is now deeply eroded and gullified. It is barely passable for a saloon car.
For birds this was my best day in Brazil. I saw my four main target species, Plovercrest, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Itatiaia Spinetail ( a species surely at risk in its restricted montane shrub habitat if global warming causes forests to encroach upwards) and the swanky Black and Gold Cotinga (several were present on a forested hillside to the left of the road after crossing a viaduct and before the Araucaria grove: its eerily melancholic whistle was unforgettable) . Other goodies were Plumbeous Pigeon, Gray-fronted Dove, White-eyed Parakeet, Campo Flicker, Variable Antshrike, Rufous Gnateater, Mouse-coloured Tapaculo, Pallid Spinetail, Buff-browed Foliage-Gleaner, Sharp-billed Tree-Hunter, Brown-breasted Pygmy (or Bamboo)-Tyrant, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Greenish, Planalto, White-crested, Mottle-cheeked and Serra do Mar Tyrannulets, Blue-billed and Crested Black Tyrants, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Swainson’s Flycatcher, Curl-crested Jay (by the roadside below the park), Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Diademed and Brassy-breasted Tanagers, Uniform Finch, Bay-chested and Red-rumped Warbling Finches, Hooded Siskin. We also heard Brown Tinamou, Golden-winged Cacique and White-browed Warbler.
At 2.30pm cloud and rain descended, and we had to call it a day.
The next day we covered an easy trail starting near the tennis court at the Hotel Simon ( Tres Picos trail). Birds here included Planalto Woodcreeper, White-collared Foliage-Gleaner, Spot-breasted Antvireo, White-shouldered Fire-Eye, Ferruginous and Bertoni’s Antbirds, Streak-capped Antwren, a really handsome Black-cheeked Gnateater, Greenish Sciffornis, Black-tailed Flycatcher, Large-headed Flatbill, Brown Tanager. Roadside stops yielded Rufous-thighed Kite, Plain Parakeet, Rufous-capped Spinetail,, Star-throated Antwren, Burnished-buff Tanager, Blue-naped Chlorophonia. And a visit to the area near the car park at Hotel Donati produced Chestnut-crowned Becard, Variegated and Gray-hooded Flycatcher, Gray-headed ( Yellow-lored) Tody-Flycatcher, Gray-hooded Attila, White-thighed Swallow, Masked Yellowthroat, Rufous-headed Tanager and Green-winged Saltator.
At 4.15pm the heavens opened and a titanic storm engulfed us, ending our birding. Bruno said November heralded the start of the rainy season: April till October are usually drier months.
YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW THIS.
As Bruno drove carefully back the hotel, we found a tree had fallen right across the road. Fortunately it was held well above the road by two high roadside banks. We drove underneath it.
I thought I had had an exciting time. But when we reached the hotel, I discovered that a large forest tree, uprooted by the wind, had crashed onto our chalet while my wife was having a shower, leaving two gaping holes in the roof. Throwing on a few bits of clothing, she had clambered over the tree trunk to escape.
This has nothing to do with birding, but I thought you might like to know.
THE MARSH AT RESEDE.
We had done well at Itatiaia, having seen well over one third of all the species ever seen there, even though we had spent less than 20 hours in the field over 3 days. It was time to move on. On 5th November 2007 we left the hotel early. Reaching the main road (BR116) Bruno headed east past the town of Resede and turned off at exit 298. Just north of this junction are a rather degraded marsh and some extensive fields with roads bisecting them. The military is conspicuous here (there is a camp nearby) but gave us no trouble. Birds here included Spotted Nothura, Whistling Heron, Blackish Rail, Blue-winged Macaw, Rufous Hornero, White-rumped Monjita, White-rumped Swallow, Black-capped Donacobius, Chestnut-capped and Unicoloured Blackbird, Yellow-rumped Marshbird, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Grassland Sparow, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch.
Some previous reports refer imprecisely to a marsh near the town of Itatiaia. This marsh near Resede was the only one Bruno could think of.
IN SEARCH OF BLACK-HOODED ANTWREN.
We drove towards the coast to look for the Black-hooded Antwren. This endangered species (perhaps 2500 left) is virtually restricted to a 55 mile stretch of coast between Parati and Angra dos Reis. Bruno took us to a site near Pereque, a wide and flat valley with secondary growth running inland from the town. Previous reports have given directions : drive up Pereque’s main street (narrow and busy) 1.4 kms to a junction where the tarmac ends; turn right and drive several blocks till you reach a football pitch on the left hand side. Turn left and you are on the Pereque valley road.
According to Bruno the bird is actually quite common on this road. In the past he has counted 20 singing males on it. Despite the fact that it was mid-afternoon and that it was raining enthusiastically, he was confident he could find one. And so he did, a lovely male, about 2 miles from Pereque. He also pinpointed Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Pale-breasted and Creamy-bellied Thrushes and Half-collared Sparrow ( a recent split, local). In general terms Bruno rates this area highly: on one recent morning walk he and Ricardo Gagliardi saw over 150 species. I should also mention that the coastal hills from Paraty north-eastwards towards Rio for a distance of perhaps 100 miles remain covered in decent-looking forest: some of these tracts are protected by various national parks. Their species lists are 300+.
YOU REALLY DON’T NEED TO KNOW THIS.
As Bruno drove us contentedly from Pereque to our hotel at Angra, I heard a low musical murmuring coming from the back seat. It was Marcelle. I realised she was quietly singing a hit song from a few years back by the band called The Cranberries. Through laughter she told me that The Cranberries have for many years been big in Brazil. This has absolutely nothing to do with birding, but I thought you might like to know.
ANGRA DOS REIS.
We said goodbye to Bruno and Marcelle at the hotel. There were lumps in our throats. It had indeed been a great road movie.
Our hotel (The Pestana at Angra) was extremely expensive and the grounds were poor for birds, though I did find Blue-winged Parrotlet, Orange- headed Tanager and (offshore) South American Tern. I think birders would be better off staying near Parati, a much more attractive town.
CHAPADA DOS VEADEIROS (CDV).
9th – 11th November 2007. So far as I know this is the first report from a birder about CDV on the internet. I haven’t seen any others and I was told that I was the first Western birder to have visited the area.
CDV National Park lies about 150 miles north of Brasilia. It covers 65,000 hectares and has elevations from 2000 to 5000 feet. It is a place of outstanding beauty, full of stirring vistas of escarpments, waterfalls and deep valleys carved out of the rock. My wife had chosen it out of a brochure as a place to visit because it looked nice and did not seem to have any particular birding connections. Then I looked on the internet and found that it was one of the last strongholds of the Brazilian Merganser. Ho-hum. So it was that I booked our third birding guide.
JLA’s agent met us at Brasilia Airport, and drove for nearly 4 hours via Alto Paraiso to Sao Jorge. The road to Alto Paraiso was excellent, the last section to Sao Jorge was a gravel road. En route we stopped for Greater Rhea and Red-legged Seriema.
COULD I HAVE SEEN A PTEROSAUR BACK THERE?
The landscape gradually changed from farmland to a hilly quiltwork of forest and savannah, known as cerrado. It was very striking. Stills of the landscape featured as background scenery in the BBC’s “ Walking with Dinosaurs”, and it certainly had a “ lost world” look about it. Sao Jorge is the village where the entrance to the Park is found. Sao Jorge is also home to Raphael Texeira, who was to be my guide for the next day.
The main lure of CDV for birders is the resident population of this critically-endangered species. According to Raphael, there are about 70 in the whole area, roughly one third of the world total. They are found, not just in CDV National Park, but in suitable habitat outside it. They are not easy to find, as each pair needs 10kms of rocky, ravined river. The birds like clear water. At the time of my visit the rains were starting and the main watercourses were muddy, the small, less accessible tributaries were clear. Probably going there April – October would give the best chance.
Raphael’s favourite site was in the Park. On his three previous visits he had found the Mergansers twice. Obviously I would have liked to have made the hike, but it was a 6 mile round trip, and that was simply more than I could contemplate. Instead we spent the next day strolling round the village of Sao Jorge at dawn, and then visiting an easily-accessible site on a private reserve where there had been a hot tip about some Merganser sightings: we were unsuccessful, though we saw a good range of other species. The day after that, without Raphael, we visited two more private reserves.
Private reserves in this part of Brazil are, I think, an encouraging development: a lot of landowners are taking advantage of Government tax breaks by designating their land as nature reserves. Many open their doors to the public and put in facilities. On one, at Portal de Chapada, the owner had put in an excellent wooden walkway through some gallery forest from which the magnificent Helmeted Manakin could be readily seen and from which I saw White-striped Warbler, endemic to central Brazil but surprisingly not previously recorded in the area.. In general the land outside the park looked to have pretty intact habitat.
AND ALSO FEATURING...
The bird list for the area stands at 340 species, but even so I think there is lots more to find, given that I added 3 more myself – the W-S Warbler, Gray-headed Kite and Great Dusky Swift. Apart from the birding potential, I liked the fact that there was a good infrastructure for visitors in place: there are good hotels and pousadas and restaurants in both Sao Jorge ( handy for the park) and Alto Paraiso (handy for some of the private reserves); access from Brasilia is simple; there is a wide variety of scenic and always birdy destinations; and everyone was very friendly and very keen to encourage eco-tourism.
I found Raphael very useful. In his late twenties, he spoke excellent English and was just a nice guy. He knew where to find a number of good birds. He lives in Sao Jorge and so he was right on the spot. He has only been birding for 2 years or so, and I think he has learnt a remarkable amount in that time. However he needs to become more familiar with the LBJs/SBOs. Some got away. But I think he deserves every encouragement, and I would certainly book him again if I was to return. I have suggested to him that he tries to learn even more about the mergansers so that he can turn what is currently a good chance of seeing them into a near certainty.
WHAT I SAW.
Apart from the ones already mentioned , I encountered the following species of note. Again I stress that any serious birder is likely to see more than I did, given my constraints. Small-billed Tinamou, Buff-necked Ibis, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Plumbeous Kite, Blue and Yellow and Red-shouldered Macaws, Peach-fronted and Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Yellow-faced Parrot (described in some quarters as threatened, it was happily common in fruiting trees in Sao Jorge village: it is a seasonal visitor), Green and Rufous Kingfisher, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-eared Puffbird, Black-fronted Nunbird, Toco Toucan, White-wedged Piculet, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Rufous Hornero, Great Antshrike, Black-capped Antwren, Gray Monjita, White-throated Kingbird, Swainson’s Flycatcher, Plain-crested Elaenia, White-naped Jay, Masked Gnatcatcher, Chopi Blackbird, White-bellied Warbler, Guira and Black-faced Tanagers, Pileated Finch, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch.
Horned Sungem is sometimes seen at Portal de Chapada.
ONWARDS TO IGUAZU.
On 14th November 2007 we left CDV. JLA’s agents drove us back to Brasilia, whence we flew direct to Iguazu on the border of Brazil and Argentina. We stayed at the excellent Sheraton Hotel with good views of the falls. The hotel is on the Argentinian side of the border. I am including a brief description of this excursion into Argentina because Iguazu is a standard destination for birders doing Brazil.
The next day I met up with the fourth and final guide, Daniel Somay. He is a long-time resident of the area. He was obviously a highly-accomplished birder. He spoke very good English. He was adept with his tapes and at identifying whatever came our way. I also found him very helpful subsequently when he responded quickly and very fully to my e mail question about a field identification. As with the other guides he provided his own transport and collected me at the hotel. Limitations of time meant that I could not spend more than a morning with him.
On the morning of 15th November 2007 Daniel drove me round some local tracks in the forest. Decent birds included ( bold print denotes uncommon or local species) Great Black Hawk, White-eyed Parakeet, staggering numbers of Great Dusky Swift, Ochre-breasted and White-eyed Foliage-Gleaner, Tufted Antshrike, Rufous-winged Antwren, Yellow Tyrannulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy Tyrant, Lesser Seed-Finch, Red-crested Finch. In the hotel gardens the otherworldly Plush-crested Jay was common. Blue-winged Parrotlets fed on the lawn.
GUAN DAY MY HEART WILL SING.
One bird we had not seen was the rare Black-fronted Piping Guan, in fact still reasonably common at Iguazu. Following Daniel’s directions, I was motivated to get up at dawn on 16th November 2007. I walked along the upper walkway, and there it was, an absolutely stunning male sitting out in the open at close range, framed by the plummeting cascade of a waterfall. I walked back. I heard something below. Was this my heart singing? Naah. It was just my guts rumbling for breakfast. Maybe one day.
And that was it, really.
THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (MOSTLY)
I was with Ricardo Gagliardi of Rio for one day on 1st November. He charged US$100 plus entrance fees and gas (minimal). He collected us from our hotel and returned us there. His e mail address is email@example.com. I found him quick and efficient in responding to messages. His phone is (55)21 2288 9786 (home) and (55) 21 9228 7511 (mobile).
I was with Bruno Renno from November 2nd -5th. He is proud of his full name – Bruno Carlos Renno Ribeiro Soares. He rented a car in his home town, drove into Rio to collect us early in the morning and dropped us at our hotel near Angra dos Reis late in the afternoon. He then drove the rental car back to his home town. He charged US$100 per day plus meals for his services. He would not charge us for entrance fees or gas, though I made sure at the end that he did not lose out. He did of course charge us for the rental car. This inevitably put up the cost of our 4 days with him a fair bit. But overall it worked out very reasonably when you bear in mind that he did not have to charge us anything for his hotel accommodation, since he lived locally, unlike most other guides who have to travel into Itatiaia from elsewhere in Brazil . His e mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a website . His phone number is (55) 24 8114 4983 or (55)24 8125 5085. Contacting Bruno can be difficult, so I advise starting your efforts to link up with him as early as you can. He is a good friend of Ricardo Gagliardi, and if you cannot get a response at first, I suggest using Ricardo to make the link.
Raphael Texeira was with me for one day at CDV. He and a woman named Ana Rosa provided the local transport. As I recall they charged US$170. Raphael can be contacted via an agency run by Brazilian birder Paulo Boute under the name Paulo Boute Expeditions. He has his own website. His e mail address is email@example.com. Paulo’s phone is (55) 65 368 62231. He responded promptly to my messages.
I was with Daniel Somay for a morning at Iguazu. He provided the transport. His normal minimum charge is US$200 per full day for 2 people, but he charged me somewhat less. You can contact him firstname.lastname@example.org. His phone is 03757 421632. He also replied promptly to my messages.
I thought these fees very reasonable, comparing them to, say, the cost of getting a plumber to look at your pipes. Especially if one compares the fun of being shown quality birds with the unfun of having a glum plumber failing to find the fault.
MORE FACTS AND CONNECTIONS.
The Hotel do Ype is sited in Itatiaia NP. Its phone is (55) 24 3352 1453, email@example.com. A girl named Cassia who worked there proved a very helpful English-speaking contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. She successfully made contact with Bruno for me at one time. Booking accommodation there seemed to be best done by using JLA’s local agent in Rio.
A 4 day visit to CDV ex Brasilia is sold by Sunvil Latin America (UK (0) 20 8758 4774) direct from their brochure. I used Journey Latin America (JLA) who, whilst not featuring CDV in their brochure, were able to arrange it for me via the agent in Rio. JLA were competent and quick. I used Caroline Maber ( UK (0)20 8622 8329).
The good things on this trip vastly outweighed and outnumbered the not so good. The guides made all the difference. They took us to the best birding sites, they showed us many of the best birds, and they kept us out of harm’s way. They were interesting, amusing and good company. I recommend our approach as a good way of visiting south-east Brazil.
Clearly it is possible to fall into harm’s way in Brazil, especially in urban areas, as in so many countries. The fear of this in Rio was evident: we were even warned to leave our wristwatches behind in our hotel when crossing the road to Copacobana Beach. However we never had a moment’s trouble, and I would happily return.
As to the Brazilian environment, though we saw some disaster areas, I was on balance pleasantly surprised at what I saw. Large tracts of Mata Atlantica rainforest still survive and are protected. Large tracts of cerrado in the CDV region still survive and are protected. The Brazilians I met were optimistic and enthusiastic about their environment: they were even optimistic that the situation in Amazonia would eventually improve. As I flew back into Britain and looked down on the Yorkshire landscape, I realised I had forgotten how much we had over many centuries destroyed our own forests. So, yes, Bravo Brazil!
To Don Dolga for his inspired photos. And thanks to you for reading this report: I have hugely enjoyed reliving some brilliant memories while writing it.