Birding Brazil - Amazonian Brazil - Rio Cristalino

The Amazon at Alta Floresta on the Rio Cristalino

11birdPhotographer: Federico Tavares

Alta Floresta lies just west of Brazilʼs geographic center in far northern Mato Grosso state, between the upper reaches of the great Tapajos and Xingu rivers. The Cristalino Jungle Lodge is nested in the middle of a Private Rainforest Reserve in the Southern Amazon, allowing visitors to have a great immersion in this ecosystem. The pristine Cristalino River, with clean and beautiful water, lies just in front of the lodge. This region is recognized as an important area of the Amazon in terms of biodiversity. The exceptional number of species, even for the Amazonian standards, makes this one of the richest places in the Amazon for observing birds, mammals, butterflies and orchids in a Primary Forest environment. There is a great variety of endemic species.

 The lodge forest reserve is located just beyond the borders of the Cristalino State Park, an extremely important conservation area with 456,800 acres. The park is connected to other protected areas forming a huge conservation corridor in the Southern Amazon. Here in the depths of southern Amazonia, based in a single comfortable forest lodge on the beautiful Rio Cristalino, we’ll immerse ourselves in one of the richest avifaunas on the globe. A visit to Alta Floresta is a birding experience of the highest order, for here we are based directly in the forest, with trails and the beautiful river just out our doorstep. And two wonderful canopy towers make all the canopy specialties here much easier to see eye-to-eye! This is a huge forest preserve where there are no indigenous or outside people where large game birds such as Curassows are almost tame and Lowland Tapirs are seen with some regularity along the Cristalino. Such places so still exist and we realize how special this is as we see the massive scale of forest destruction around the town of Alta Floresta (only an hour or so away and across the upper Tapajos River), which has been in existence for only about forty-five years. Among the regional specialties are Red-throated Piping-Guan, Santarem Parakeet, Dark-winged Trumpeter, Crimson-bellied Parakeet, Kawallʼs Parrot, Black-girdled Barbet, Natterer’s Striolated Puffbird, Red-necked Aracari, Bare-eyed Antbird, Glossy Antshrike, Zimmerʼs Tody-Tyrant, Snow-capped Manakin, Tooth-billed Wren and recently described new birds to science only found between the Xingu and Tapajos rivers. Tapajos Hermit, Xingu Scale-backed Antbird, Xingu Woodcreeper, Rondonia Woodcreeper, Madeira Stipple-throated Antwren, Para Foliage Gleaner, Santarem Parakeet and Alto Floresta Antpitta and more.

Day 1: Cuiaba Ro Alta Floresta

Arrive in Cuiaba or finish the Pantonal tour and catch the flight to Alta Floresta. On arrival we’ll grab lunc before heading downriver to the Rio Cristalino lodge. Time to unpack and prepare for this total birding immersion experience. B:L:D

Day 2- 6: Alts Floresta

Our days spent at this magnificent lodge are spent exploring trails through terra firma and floodplain forests. We will be situated on the southern edge of the Amazon rainforest, between two large rivers (the Rios Tapajós and Xingu), which have, over time, acted as barriers to the dispersal of many bird species. The 630-hectare privately owned forest reserve surrounding the Rio Cristalino Lodge is well protected and is bordered on three sides by 250,000 hectares of almost completely undisturbed jungle. The Rio Cristalino is a black water river, a natural phenomenon whereby tannins leaching out from the forest vegetation through the sandy soil give the dark color to the water. A major and much appreciated advantage of black water rivers is the relative lack of biting insects.

One of the main attractions of the reserve is the 50 m high aluminum tower that offers extraordinary views over the surrounding forest, which stretches away to the far horizon. In the early morning and late afternoon, squabbling flocks of macaws, parrots and parakeets pass by between their roosts and distant feeding trees. Scarlet, Red-and-green and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Painted and Golden-winged Parakeets, Dusky-billed Parrotlet, and White-bellied, Blue-headed and Red-fan Parrots may be seen but it is the recently-described Kawall’s Amazon that is most sought after along with the Crimson-bellied Parakeet. The canopy flocks, led by the White-winged Shrike-Tanagers may hold Black-girdled Barbet, Tooth-billed Wren, Red-billed Pied-Tanager and the rare Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak. In the flowering or fruiting trees we might find Red-necked, Curl-crested or Lettered Aracari’s and Gould’s Toucanet along with a host of Tanagers.

This is also a good vantage point from which to see various primates including Dusky Titi Monkey, Black-and-red Howler, Long-haired Spider Monkey and White-nosed Saki. The Rio Cristalino Forest Reserve also has an excellent trail system and we will spend a lot of our exploring the forest floor. Cinereous Antshrikes often betray the presence of an understory flock. This could include Blue-necked Jacamar, Red-stained Woodpecker, Curve-billed Scythebill, Chestnut-winged Hookbill, Rufous-rumped and Buff-throated Foliage-gleaners, Fasciated, Black-capped and Amazonian Antshrikes, Wing-barred Manakin and Long-billed Gnatwren. We shall look for the recently described Cryptic Forest-Falcon at the reserve. The reserve is also very good for the increasingly rare Dark-winged Trumpeter. There is a good selection of Manakins including Snow-capped, Fiery-capped, Band-tailed and Flame-crested Manakin. There are also some stands of guadua bamboo, which hold an interesting array of species including Chestnut-throated Spinetail, Peruvian Recurvebill, Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaners, Manu and Striated Antbirds.

An army ant swarm would be a real treat with its attendant Bare-eyed Antbirds, Black-spotted Bare-eyes and Plain-brown and White-chinned Woodcreeper’s amongst others. The Scaled Ground-Cuckoo has recently been seen here and we shall keep a close eye out for this rare bird. In varzea forest nearby we may see Glossy Antshrike or Dusky-chested Flycatcher. Near the lodge is a granite outcrop covered in dry open woodland where we may see Brown-banded Puffbird and Natterer’s Slaty Antshrike. We will also take boat trips along the river and oxbow lakes to look for Red-throated Piping-Guan and Razor-billed Curassow. We may also find a Zigzag Heron at dusk at one of the Ox-bows where we should also see Great Black Hawk, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Sungrebe, Orange-cheeked Parrot, Hoatzin, Ladder-tailed Nightjar and maybe Amazonian Umbrellabird. Of the more widely distributed species we could also see Blue-and yellow Macaw, Great Potoo, White-necked Jacobin, Great Jacamar, Gold-fronted Piculet, Yellow-throated, Cream-colored, Ringed Woodpeckers, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, White-browed Purpletuft, Screaming Piha, Royal Flycatcher and Rose-breasted Chat. There are also Alta Floresta, Variegated and Thrush-like Antpittas present and we shall try and see them if they call. We may also be lucky and find the pretty little Silvery Marmoset or the now very rare Giant Otter. Nights Rio Cristalino.

Day 7: Rio Cristalino To Alta Floresta

Today we return to Alta Floresta for the night. We shall have time to explore some interesting forest near the Hotel Amazonica in Alta Floresta. The hotel is surrounded by a small area of rainforest, bisected by a good trail. There is a Harpy Eagle nest, which is often active. We may see the recently described Cryptic Forest Falcon and the rare White-browed Hawk, a little-known forest raptor whose range is restricted to southwestern Amazonia. Flight to Cuiaba and connections to Sao Paulo or join the Emas National Park Tour.

 Does not include domestic air within Brazil but we will purchase these on request – the price depends on when we get your full name, deposit and passport numbers – you can check current prices here


Customer Testimonials

Barney A. Schlinger, Ph.D. – USA

First of all, we had a great trip. The guide was terrific. As you may already know, he was at Cristalino lodge at the same time we were there, and he became our guide there for 2-3 days before we left for the Pantanal/Chapado part of the trip. He was a nice guy, had an excellent ear for birds, he was patient with us and also fun to be with. I would certainly recommend him to others.

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First of all, we had a great trip. The guide was terrific. As you may already know, he was at Cristalino lodge at the same time we were there, and he became our guide there for 2-3 days before we left for the Pantanal/Chapado part of the trip. He was a nice guy, had an excellent ear for birds, he was patient with us and also fun to be with. I would certainly recommend him to others.

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