Saturday, August 18, 2018

Brazil Day 15 - Rio

"Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand".  How can you be in Rio de Janeiro and NOT get that Duran Duran song stuck in your head?  Well, I certainly couldn't get it out of my head after we woke up today. It was a picture perfect morning.  Looking out the window, the Copacabana was pretty much deserted:

Copacabana Beach in the Morning

For our two days in Rio, we booked Ricardo Barbosa from Pica-Pau Tours.  Ricardo is a birding guide but grew up in Rio and knows the city like the back of his hand.  So, he was also going to take us to a couple can't miss tourist sights and we hired him to take us to the Golden Lion Tamarin reserve outside of Rio.

The plan for today was an AM visit to see the Golden Lion Tamarins (GLT) and a PM visit to Sugarloaf Mountain.

The breakfast buffet at the Arena hotel was very good.  The scrambled eggs were very creamy which isn't my style so I didn't finish them but everything else was fine. So, after some good food and coffee we were all ready to go at 6:45AM.  Ricardo was right on time and we piled into his truck for the 1.5 hour drive out of Rio to where we would meet the GLT project representatives.

The meeting place was at a gas station and we had a few minutes to kill while we waited for other guests to arrive so I naturally took some pictures.

Savanna Hawk building a nest:
Savanna Hawk Building a Nest

Common Tody Flycatchers:
Common Tody Flycatchers

Soon we met Junior from the GLT project and we proceeded to take a short drive to the forest where we would search for these animals.  I liked the logo on his truck:

Golden Lion Tamarin Association Logo

The Golden Lion Tamarin is a fantastic looking primate and I have wanted to see them for a long time. But, the process to book a trip to see them is quite difficult these days. For the details on how this worked for us, see this post on

The work that the GLT Association has done is amazing.  There were only about 200 GLTs left in the wild in 1970 and they now have over 3,200.  There are still lots of problems including the GLTs living in fragmented forest but the association is working with private land owners to try to connect the forests as much as possible.  So, I feel optimistic that this project will continue to see good results moving forward which is great because it is really hard to feel optimistic about anything nature related these days.

Of course, to do what they need to do, the association needs money.  One of the biggest money makers is eco-tourism.  So, they have an area of forest that is home to 3 GLT families.  They "Sacrifice" (their word, not mine) these families for eco-tourism.  That means that they are radio-collared and at times given bananas to ensure that the groups coming to see them actually see them.  Because of this, I would call the group we saw pretty habituated to people.  I don't necessarily see anything wrong with that given the circumstances but these are not 100% wild any more.

So, with that information out of the way here is how the visit went.  We had about a 20 minute hike through some forest and pasture to a fence line at the edge of the forest.  There waiting for us were a couple association team members and some primates.  Besides the GLTs, Common Marmosets also can be found here and since people like seeing them they have not been removed even though they compete with the GLTs for food.

Anyway, the Golden Lion Tamarins were just as fantastic in person as I hoped and the Common Marmosets were great as well.

Golden Lion Tamarin

Pregnant Female:
Pregnant Golden Lion Tamarin

Golden Lion Tamarin

Some of the GLTs had black on them like this one:
Golden Lion Tamarin

Here is one of the radio-collared males:
Radio Collared Tamarin

As I mentioned, the GLTs were very used to people and even groomed in front of us:
Self Grooming

Golden Lion Tamarin

The GLTs have a very high-pitched call and would call back and forth a lot:
Tamarin Calling

Common Marmoset:
Common Marmoset

Common Marmoset

Common Marmoset

While we were watching the tamarins, this gorgeous Brazilian Tanager was spotted:
Brazilian Tanager

As was this Yellow-lored Tody Flycatcher:
Yellow-lored Tody-flycatcher

There were over a dozen tourists with us and the picture taking and talking got a bit out of control.  I do have some video coming later but it was hard to find any I took without LOTS of talking going on.

Anyway, despite the GLTs being habituated I was glad that we did this tour.  There is really 0% chance of seeing wild ones since they don't give out the locations of other families. So, if you want to see them you need to do this tour.

After seeing the GLTs, you drive another 20 minutes to the association's HQ where they give a tour to talk about the history of the project and show a film.  The tour was in Portuguese and the film room was being used for a meeting so this part of the day was underwhelming.  But, Karen did buy a cool T-shirt at the HQ.

On the way back to Rio we stopped for lunch at a buffet place for lunch.  We had also stopped at one of these outside Sao Paulo and I really love this whole concept.  You walk in and get a card with a bar code.  Then, you pick all the food you want and they weigh it and add a charge to the card.  So, you are paying by the Kilo.  Then you grab a drink and they charge it to the card.

Once you are done eating, you wind through some rows of stuff to buy (just say "No" unless you are an impulse buyer) to the registers where they take your card and you pay up.  I think paying by the Kilo is a great system.  We went to separate chains outside Sao Paulo and Rio but both were good and I would recommend them.  One was a Graal but I don't remember the other chain's name.

As I mentioned, in the afternoon we visited Sugarloaf which was surprisingly fun.  We tend to shy away from the touristy sights on vacations due to crowds, but this wasn't that bad and it was worth it for the view.

Here is Sugarloaf Mountain:
Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

And, here are some views:
View from Sugarloaf

Yes, that's the domestic airport on the right edge of the picture:
More Views from Sugarloaf

Here is a view of Copacabana Beach from the top:
Copacaban Beach from Sugarloaf

While we took the tram up the mountain, Ricardo recommended walking down to do some birding.  We did see quite a few birds and this Common Marmoset:
Common Marmoset

The walk down is pretty tough on your knees though.  There are lots of stairs to climb down and some are awkward to negotiate. But, the walk down was nice and I am sure it was much better than walking up.

Before dropping us off at the hotel, Ricardo mentioned that there was a place right across the street on the beach that served great Caipirinhas.  So, we decided to go over there for a drink and then go back to the hotel for dinner.  Well, we never made it back to the hotel for dinner.  Story coming...

The place is called Costello and it's literally right on the beach.  Here is a shot from Google street view:

We sat right next to the beach which was great because we could watch people playing football and volleyball.  But, that also put us in a prime location for all the beach vendors that wandered by selling their wares.  Hats, jewelry, buttons, etc.  If you wanted it, they sold it.

Anyway, we order a round of Caipirinhas and they were REALLY good...and STRONG.  There was actually a live singer there who was really good too.  He sang mostly classic songs that people would recognize although for some reason he didn't play Copacabana by Barry Manilow.  This is probably good because THAT'S a song that easily gets stuck in your head.  You know the one...

"At the Co-pa...Copacabana.  The hottest spot North of Havana".  Now apparently the song is about a night club in New York and not the beach in Rio but I don't care.  And, your welcome for getting that song stuck in your head now too.

So, here we were enjoying Caipirinhas on the Copacabana Beach in Rio while listening to live music, laughing, and people watching.  It was one of those vacation moments that really stood out for me and was a highlight.  Wow, a non-wildlife related trip highlight.  What's happening to me?

Anyway, the first round was so good that we HAD to order a second round.  We also ordered some appetizers to try to absorb some of the alcohol but they really didn't work.  Somewhere halfway through round two Peggy decided that she needed to hear The Girl from Ipanema (which is the beach next to Copacabana)  I am sure my extra prodding didn't influence her decision at all.  So, she went up to talk to the singer who knew the song and sang it for us in Portuguese while Peggy danced around.  Add that to the highlight list.

Karen smartly decided to give away Caipirinha #2. I think Peggy and I split it.  It was at around this point that nature called.  So, Karen and I walked (stumbled?) back across the street playing Frogger with the traffic along the way.  We went into the hotel and Karen went in one bathroom door and I went in the other.

Quick tangent...the next morning Karen says to me "You know, the bathroom I went in last night had urinals".  Of course, I laughed at her until I realized that meant I went into the ladies room.   All I remember is opening the door she didn't open and looking for the first place to whiz which happened to be a stall.  Luckily, both bathrooms were unoccupied so no one is the wiser for our faux pas.

So, back at Costello's I think Bill and Peggy ordered round 3.  And, despite Bill yelling "Alan!  Come on Alan!  Alan!!" multiple times, I resisted round 3.   It kind of reminded me of this:

I was at least smart enough to realize that 2 1/2 strong drinks on an empty stomach was my limit.

The acts of getting back to the hotel, getting ready for bed, and falling asleep is all a bit hazy but we must have done all three successfully. 

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