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PANTANAL CRUISER TOUR
Few people even realise that the Pantanal reaches Paraguay, but unlike the well-touristed Brazilian side, the Paraguayan Pantanal is rarely-visited by foreigners and makes for a fascinating voyage to an unspoilt paradise. A vast wetland teeming with birds and mammals, this is an unforgettable journey into one of the most unspoilt areas on the planet. Taking a boat through weed-choked waterways overflowing with birds and caiman we will be hunting (metaphorically of course!) incredible mammals such as Giant Otter and ticking off the birds we see along the way.
Broad-nosed Caiman (right) Caiman latirostris
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The Paraguayan Pantanal is home to a series of birds with an isolated range in Paraguay which will be our main targets. These include Grey-crested Cacholote, White-backed Fire-eye, Mato Grosso Antbird, Golden-collared Macaw, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, White-lored, Rusty-backed and Cinereous-breasted Spinetails, Green-cheeked and Blaze-winged Parakeet, Silver-beaked Tanager, Fawn-breasted Wren and Common Tody-Flycatcher. On river cruises Giant Otter and Marsh Deer are amongst the more exciting possibilities.
To get the best from this tour we suggest at least 9 days - longer trips increase the chances of seeing more larger mammals. A minimum of 7 days is required to complete it.
Best time to visit:
This tour is available from May to October only, weather permitting.
Day 1 - Wildife-watching along the Humid Chaco en route to Loma Plata. Optional night drive.
Day 2 - Wildlife-watching along the dirt road Madrejón, PN Defensores del Chaco. Night drive.
Day 3 - Wildlife-watching in PN Defensores del Chaco. Night drive.
Day 4 - Continue to Fuerte Olimpo León. Night drive.
Day 5 - River cruise and wildlife-watching in the Fuerte Olimpo area. Night drive.
Day 6 - Continue on to Bahía Negra. Night drive.
Day 7 - River cruise and wildlife-watching in the Bahía Negra area. Night drive.
Day 8 - Return to Loma Plata.
Day 9 Return to Asunción and end of services
(Itineraries are subject to change according to levels of animal activity or client´s preference.)
What else might we see?:
We have a long drive ahead of us to the Central Chaco so we start out early. This will give us time to leisurely bird the roadside pools in the Humid Chaco which are often replete with waterbirds. We might expect to see various heron species, Jabiru, Maguari and Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbill, Savanna, Great Black and Black-collared Hawk, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Giant Wood-Rail, Wattled Jacana, Plumbeous, Bare-faced and Buff-necked Ibis amongst the huge flocks that gather. We´ll make a brief stop for lunch at Pirahú, famous nationally for its empanadas and also a decent birding stop, we might see Swainson´s and Brown-crested Myiarchus, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Vermillion Flycatcher, White-faced Whistling-Duck and Brazilian Duck amongst others whilst Spectacled Caiman is another possibility.
We arrive in the Central Chaco mid-afternoon and there will be time to clean up before heading out on our night drive. Nightdrives in search of mammals are a major bonus on this tour and as many as ten species in a single evening may be recorded, species like Geoffroy´s and Little Spotted Cat, Three-banded, Six-banded and Lesser Hairy Armadillo, Crab-eating and Azara´s Fox, Crab-eating Raccoon, Grey Brocket Deer, White-lipped and Collared Peccary and Chaco Mara being frequently encountered. Of course we´ll also be looking for birds too - Great Horned Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl, Scissor-tailed and Little Nightjar, Pauraque for example. At certain times of year this area is alive with a chorus of frog song. We may see Paradox Frog, Fuscous Frog, Horned Toad and Granulated Toad, Shovel-nosed Chamber Frog and Weeping Dwarf Frog amongst others. Reptiles might include Green Jungle Runner, Western Collared Spiny Lizard and Pointed-nosed False Chameleon.
The following morning we´ll make our way through the Dry Chaco towards the Pantanal. En route we will make some brief stops in Chaco scrub and forest in search of some Chaco specialities - we´ll be looking out for Scimitar-billed and Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Stripe-backed Antbird, Great and Barred Antshrike, Golden-green, Checkered, Cream-backed and White-fronted Woodpeckers, Lowland Hepatic and White-lined Tanagers, Chaco Earthcreeper, Black-capped Warbling-finch, Orange-backed Troupial, Little Thornbird and Many-coloured Chacofinch. Other characteristic species of the area include Lark-like Brushrunner, Solitary Cacique, Crested Hornero and Chaco Chachalaca.
As we get closer to Fuerte Olimpo we will notice that the habitat becomes gradually wetter and more humid. Here we may find Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Blue-crowned Trogon and Rufous-fronted Thornbird and we will look out for Dusky Titi and Black Howler Monkey in the tree-tops. Fuerte Olimpo itself is set on the Rio Paraguay and we will arrive in time for a delicious fish lunch of fresh oven-baked Pacu caught that same day - we can eat whilst watching the Green Iguanas chase each other through the riverside vegetation. If your energy levels are up for it we will make our first night drive in the surroundings, looking not only for mammals but also at the amazing diversity of frogs - everything from Purple-barred Tree-frog and Warty Snouted Tree-frog, to the distinctive White-lipped Tree-frog and larger terrestrial species like Ocellated and Chaco Frogs. Mammals may include Tamandua and Giant Anteater, both of which are fairly common in the area, as well as Crab-eating Fox, Coati and others.
The following morning we take our first boat cruise on the river, exploring tangled channels for Marsh Deer and Capybara. The sheer quantity of waterbirds here is breathtaking, with flocks of Neotropic Cormorant, egrets and waterfowl such as Muscovy Duck and Fulvous Whistling-duck scattering before our boat. If we are fortunate enough we may even catch a glimpse of a Sungrebe on one of the weed-choked waterways, whilst the throaty voice of Mato Grosso Antbird will betray its location.
Heading north from here we are in the Pantanal proper. Crested Oropendola and Golden-collared Macaw will be two of the more conspicuous species that we begin to notice, but we will also be birding wet marshy areas in search of Xenopsaris and White-lored, Rusty-backed and Cinereous-breasted Spinetails. Fawn-breasted Wren and Common Tody-flycatcher are charismatic inhabitants of scrubby areas, but we´ll need a bit more patience to call out White-backed Fire-eye. Our destination is the tiny and isolated settlement of Bahía Negra. Birding around the town might bring Crane and Bicoloured Hawk, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Suiriri Flycatcher, Green-cheeked and Blaze-winged Parakeet, while after dark we will look out for Band-tailed Nighthawk flying along the river. The following morning during our river cruise however we would hope to add both Grey-crested Cacholote and Silver-beaked Tanager to our lists, and maybe even Rufous-tailed Jacamar, while Giant Otter is the more exciting possibility amongst the mammals. We will also visit the "three-frontiers" area where Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil all meet.
Night drives staking out watering holes around the time might bring us Lowland Tapir, Tayra, Azara´s Agouti and if we are lucky maybe even a Jaguar or Puma.
Capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
What does it include?:
The price includes pick-up from and return to Asunción hotel, accommodation, transport, food, non-alcoholic drinks and guiding fees.
It does not include travel insurance, personal expenses, alcoholic drinks or travel costs incurred before the beginning of the tour or after return to Asunción.
For further information or to book your tour email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Available May to September only.