If you didn’t know already, Brazil is a nature lover’s paradise with a huge diversity of wildlife and birdlife to excite even the most experienced of enthusiasts. Most of Brazil’s best known areas for wildlife and nature are The Pantanal, the Amazon and Iguassu Falls but with such as huge country there’s no surprise that there are many other spectacular areas too. Fabulous national parks such as the Chapada Diamantina National Park, the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, the Aparados da Serra and the Lencois Maranheneses National Park to name but a few.
Outside of Rio de Janeiro one of Brazil’s most visited destinations is the spectacular Iguassu Falls. The falls span Argentina and Brazil with close up views on the Argentine side and panoramic views on the Brazilian side. Wildlife abounds in the park with lots of birdlife, coatis, monkeys and occasionally jaguars being sighted too.
The Pantanal is a vast expanse of wetlands which straddles the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia and is without question the best place to spot wild animals in the whole of South America and therefore the best place to spot wildlife and animals on a Brazil holiday. It is the world’s largest freshwater wetland and one of the best places in the world for birdspotting. The Pantanal in Brazil is split across two states, Mato Grosso (the northern Pantanal) and Mato Grosso do Sul (the southern Pantanal). Both areas offer the visitor a fabulous opportunity to see Caiman, Anaconda, Capybara, Ocelot, Marmoset, Howler Monkey, Giant Otter, Tapir, Peccary and for the lucky few, the Jaguar. In fact, it’s the best place to see wild mammals outside of Africa and is home to eight of South America’s ten types of wild cat. The Pantanal floods seasonally which gives it very distinct times of the year in which to visit. The incredible array of birdlife on offer between June and August is amazing. Parrots, Toucans, Macaws and a variety of other birds cover the sky and the trees and even lazing in a hammock can offer a fabulous platform for seeing birdlife in Brazil.
Think of Brazil and you think of the Amazon, the vast river which dissects the north of the country. The Amazon though is far more than just a river. It is a huge area of rainforest and waterways covering six of Brazil’s states stretching from its mouth at the Atlantic at Belem all the way to the Peruvian, Colombian and Bolivian borders. A journey along the length of the Amazon is the stuff of adventurers, boat-hopping and spending a couple of weeks in a hammock. If this appeals then it is something we can arrange, however there are many other ways to explore the Amazon and get up close to nature in differing levels of comfort. Contrary to common belief, the Amazon is not the best place to see wildlife in Brazil. Although the rainforests teem with wildlife it tends to stay out of sight yet nevertheless the area is one of the world’s most iconic destinations. We can arrange jungle lodge stays, journeys by river boat and indigenous visits as ways to explore the area giving you the chance to get under the skin of this immense area and the chance to see local communities, pink river dolphins, piranhas and much more.
In southern Brazil and in Bahia there are great opportunities to see Right Whales close up to rival any similar destination in the world. In the south of Brazil the Southern Coast of Santa Catarina becomes the stage for an amazing natural spectacle, with the arrival of the Southern Right Whales. Escaping the Antarctic winter, they migrate north in search of warmer and calmer waters for reproduction and nurturing of their young calves. In the small, half-moon shaped bays of Santa Catarina, they come very close to the shore and on clear days they can be seen from your hotel room or the beachfront. The boat trips though are a must for a close encounter with these giant mammals on a holiday to Brazil.
If you are considering a luxury holiday to Brazil and want to immerse yourself in nature, then here’s where and how to do it.
Caiman Ecological Refuge is located on a 53 thousand hectare ranch in the southern Pantanal of Mato Grosso do Sul and is a wonderful destination. The property has two lodges, the Baiazinha Lodge and the Cordilheira Lodge which are spread 22kms apart. The Baiazinha Lodge is a bird-shaped house, located on the shores of a lake, with 6 standard rooms decorated in traditional ranch style. The Cordilheira Lodge has 5 double suites, decorated in contemporary style.
Each of these has a separate bedroom and living room, bathroom, powder room and balcony. There is also a pool on a deck, surrounded by the vast expanse of the Pantanal landscape. The lodges are accessed by road or light aircraft from Campo Grande. The 2 lodges function independently as they are remote from each other, are self-contained and have their own restaurant, pool, guides, vehicles and excursions. The lodge runs a superb jaguar conservation programme and it’s possible to see jaguars even outside of the dry season if you’re lucky. A jaguar tracking safari is included in both lodges in the high season and many optional jaguar safaris are available all year. For a luxury stay in the Pantanal, it’s the place to stay.
The incredible Cristalino Jungle Lodge is an amazing property in a 29,000 acre private reserve, named by National Geographic as one of the best hotels in Brazil and certainly is the best hotel in Brazil for anyone who wants a bird watching holiday to Brazil.
The lodge plays an important role in conservation by protecting primary rainforest and contributing with important conservation projects in the Southern Brazilian Amazon. The property has a floating deck, perfect for lazing in the sunshine with steps down to the Cristalino River which is perfect for swimming or paddling along in the canoes and inflatable boats which are available for hire. The lodge has a 50 metre high Canopy Tower located in the middle of the Rainforest Reserve which allows you to view the rainforest below and is considered one of the most important in the Americas because of its location. Many birds and mammals that inhabit the canopies such as falcons, macaws, toucans, cotingas, monkeys and coxius can be seen from the tower. The lodge offers a wonderfully remote slice of luxury in the southern Amazon and combines particularly well with the Pantanal.
Set some 180 kms away from Manaus on the banks of the Rio Negro, the Amazon’s main tributary, theAnavilhanas Jungle Lodge offers a real slice of luxury amidst an incredibly tranquil setting. The lodge has 20 exclusive suites, arranged in bungalows or combined cottages and is one of the most unique hotels in Brazil.
There are 4 unique private stilt-suspended bungalows, nestled in the woods with glass walls, 32 inch TV, a spacious balcony and lots of privacy. The 8 stilt-suspended cottages have two separate rooms, each with a private balcony facing the woods. All rooms feature air-conditioning, safe and a minibar. The lodge provides daily tours of the Amazon including an encounter with pink dolphins and is the most luxurious lodge in the central Amazon region.
The Belmond Hotel das Cataratas is the only hotel located inside Iguassu National Park on the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls. Owned by the Belmond group, which also own the Copacabana Palace in Rio, this wonderfully luxurious property is the place to stay on a trip to Iguassu Falls.
The privileged position of the hotel directly in front of Iguassu Falls allows hotel guests to access the walkways in front of the falls at anytime of the day or night. It means that for early risers you can ensure you have the falls virtually to yourself without another tourist in sight which is a wonderful experience. The hotels offers a day spa, swimming pool, tennis court as well as 2 fabulous restaurants and bar. There are four room styles available ranging from superior rooms, deluxe rooms, junior suites through to the wonderful Cataratas Suites. All rooms are designed in a colonial style with unique touches with the suites and rooms with view of the falls being particularly impressive.
Located on Praia da Rosa, widely considered as one of the most beautiful bays in the world and ninety minutes south of Florianopolis, this charming guest house is only 150 metres from the waterfront. It provides exclusive access to one of the best beaches in Brazil by crossing Lagoa do Meio Lagoon.
The beautiful Quinta do Bucaneiro features ten stylish rooms each of which is furnished with handcrafted pieces. All of the rooms have a balcony complete with sunloungers from which to enjoy the panoramic views of the ocean and lagoon. Each ensuite room is air conditioned and contains Wi-Fi, LCD satellite television, DVD player, safe and minibar. The amenities include a restaurant, fitness and pool and Jacuzzi overlooking the ocean. The panoramic restaurant serves a daily buffet breakfast with fresh fruit and regional delicacies and Brazilian and international specialities are available for lunch and dinner. Whales can be regularly seen from the hotel rooms during the right season and the hotel can arrange whale watching excursions.
The Reserva do Ibitipoca is a wonderful 3000 hectare private preservation project in beautiful surroundings and containing one of Brazil’s finest small hotels perfect for a luxury retreat in nature. Located 3 hours north of Rio de Janeiro by car it offers visitors a slice of luxury in the Brazilian countryside. At the heart of the Reserva is one of Brazil’s finest small hotels, the Fazenda do Engenho.
This is a traditional farmhouse dating from 1715 but rebuilt from 2006 and has 8 sumptuous guest rooms, restaurant, and Spa, sauna and hydro-massage pool. The property also has a private airstrip. In an attempt to escape from the daily routine of our busy lives the suites do not contain televisions so that a stay whilst on holiday in Brazil here feels a world away from the humdrum of home. The Reserva also contains two further properties, Viradouro’s House, which has 3 suites and located very close to the river with easy swimming access to the natural pools formed by rocks and two mountain houses located up the mountain, 2km from Engenho’s Farm. The houses are heated with alternative energy and offer a more private setting in the wild. The Reserva do Ibitipoca is perfect for those interested in horse riding and the stable has Mangalarga and Anglo-Arabian horses for guests to set off on horseback to explore the extraordinary natural surroundings of waterfalls and mountains. It’s an ideal property for anyone looking to escape the crowds and return to nature on a vacation to Brazil in luxury surroundings.
Simon Williams is Director of Bespoke Brazil.