Friday, August 31, 2018

Brazil Day 1 - Bacury

It seems we have unknowingly created a trend of traveling to countries whose names are 6 letters long and start with a "B".  It started with trips to Belize in 2008 and 2010.  But, recently the trend has gotten a bit out of control. In 2016 we went to Brazil and then in 2017 AND 2018 we went to Borneo.

All of these trips were really good even the one with an over abundance of mosquitoes (I'm talking to you Belize 2010!).  So, instead of bucking the trend we decided to keep riding our luck and plan a trip to Brazil again.  While the last Brazil trip was fantastic (lots of Jaguars and Tapirs), I just wasn't satisfied with our one distant look at a Giant Anteater.  So, my goal for this trip was to have at least one great encounter with this incredible animal.

Originally, the plan was to visit the Atlantic forests outside Sao Paulo to look for some rare monkeys and then visit two lodges in the Southern Pantanal to maximize our Giant Anteater opportunities.

But, before my planning got too detailed, I discovered that our Borneo traveling buddies Bill and Peggy wanted to share in all the fun (and Caipirinhas!).  Well, that was great since we could share the cost of transfers and private guides and, more importantly, share all the fun with some great friends.  Plus, thanks to Peggy's suggestion, we added a weekend in Rio to the itinerary to finish up the trip.

So, the final plan looked like this:
  • Fly USA to Sao Paulo
  • 3 nights Fazenda Bacury (private bird guide)
  • 1 night Campo Grande
  • 4 nights Fazenda Baia das Pedras (private guide)
  • 4 nights Barranco Alto (private guide)
  • 1 night Campo Grande
  • 2 nights Rio de Janeiro (private bird guide)
  • Fly Rio to USA
  • Drink many Caipirinhas along the way
I must say that we executed that plan very well.  Especially that last bullet. 

So, on a sunny morning in Tucson at 8AM we took off for the airport bound for Sao Paulo.  Once again we sprang for business class seats since I'm too tall for coach.  However, since United sucks, our first leg to Houston was in Economy. But, it was only 2.5 hours which wasn't too bad.  

Once in Houston we had almost 6 hours to kill and we spent it in the new United polaris lounge which was fantastic.  It had comfortable seats, was uncrowded, and had good food.  Plus, we grabbed seats by the window overlooking the airport terminals so we could see all the planes coming and going. It was fascinating to watch everything that goes on just for one plane's arrival.

Since the United polaris lounge was so nice, I was hoping for an equally nice polaris business class flight to Sao Paulo.  Boy, was I mistaken.  I don't know who designed their hard product but it's horrible for something that is brand new.  Instead of United "Polaris" it should be called United "No-roomis".  The food was pretty lousy as well.  I could spend a whole post outlining all the poor things about United "No-roomis" but the bottom line is that we got to Sao Paulo on time and all our luggage was waiting for us.  

Also waiting for us was Carlos Henrique who we hired to be our bird guide for our time around Sao Paulo.  Carlos was not only an outstanding guide but a great guy to hang out with.  He is also a herpetologist and knows his mammals pretty good as well.  He is highly recommended for anyone looking for a guide in the Sao Paulo area and can be reached via his website: www.carduelis.bio.br/

We loaded all our luggage into Carlos' small rental Fiat SUV (it all barely fit) and we headed out of Sao Paulo towards Fazenda Bacury.  The trip took almost 5 hours but we did stop for a sit down lunch.

Fazenda Bacury is a working cattle ranch like most Fazendas in Brazil.  However, the owners Carlos Leoncio and his wife have protected huge portions of Atlantic forest on their property.  The reason I wanted to visit Bacury was because it's the best (and maybe only) place to see the largest spider monkey in the world which is called the Southern Muriqui.  It is also home to some other rare mammals like the Buffy-tufted Marmoset, Black-horned Capuchin, and Hoary Fox.  But, seeing any of these species would be unlikely especially the primates.  And, of course, there would be lots of new bird species to see.

Here is an aerial view that shows the location of the Fazenda and the Atlantic Forest that they have protected (Reserva Florestal):


The Fazenda itself is very nice.

Fazenda Bacury

It has at least 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining area, a living room, and a huge enclosed patio.  We had the whole place to ourselves since Carlos Leoncio only books it out to one group at a time.

Dining Area with Breakfast Spread

Living Room

Our room had two twin beds which were, of course, too short for me.  But, I am used to thrusting my legs out to loosen sheets so they can dangle off the end.

Our Room at Bacury

The grounds of the Fazenda are very nice and alive with birds.  But, in the harsh afternoon light only this shot of a Saffron Finch was decent:

Saffron Finch

At around 4PM we headed off to the forest which is about a 10 minute drive away from the Fazenda.  Along the way we passed by cattle pastures where Burrowing Owls peeked out at us. It reminded me a lot of Point Reyes in Northern California with the pastures, Burrowing Owls, rolling hills and fragments of forest.  There is only one narrow dirt road through the main section of forest and it's only accessible through some private gates so we had the whole place to ourselves as we slowly drove down that one road. 

About 10 minutes after entering the forest Karen yells out "Marmoset!".  Carlos Henrique stopped the car and looked out and agreed something was out there so we all got out and looked for movement in the thick trees.  A minute or two later Carlos confirmed that the Buffy-tufted Marmosets were around. We spent the next 15 minutes or so trying to get a clear look at one but all we saw were flashes of black or a bit of tail.  Finally, one of them crossed the road and I managed to get a shot of most of it:

Buffy-tufted Marmoset

It's not the best looking Marmoset but it's EXTREMELY rare.  Carlos Henrique has been coming to Bacury a handful of times a year for over 10 years and only saw them once before.  So, Karen gets a gold star for spotting one from the slow moving car.

We didn't have much time left before dusk but we did manage to see some new bird species before returning to the Fazenda for dinner.

The food at Bacury was outstanding.  Tonight's dinner was a pasta dish with beef and broccoli and some cheese empanadas that were delicious.  Once we were done with dinner Carlos Henrique pushed a little button sitting on the table and a bell rang in the kitchen.  All of a sudden, the cooks came out, took our dinner plates away, and delivered dessert.  At that moment I fell in love with that button.  A dessert bell! What an awesome invention.   I have to get me one of those.

The dessert was lime cheesecake which was a great way to end our first day.  After the long travel and excitement of seeing the Marmosets, none of us had any problem falling asleep.