Brazil - Mata Atlântica: Exploring Brazil's Lesser-Known Natural Wonders

In August 2022 we went to Brazil to see the beauty of the Mata Atlântica, the Pantanal and the Iguaçu waterfalls. As passionate wildlife photographer I'd love to see all the big cats, and the jaguar was still missing. As birders we were of course also very interested in observing (and photographing) the some of Brazil's gorgeous colourful birds.


After our flight from Paris to São Paulo we were taken by car to Tapiraí, about 4 hours south of SP. We stayed in Trilha dos Tucanos, a simple lodge in the heart of the forest, with cabins that blend in nicely with the natural surroundings. The rooms were quite basic, yet offered everything we needed, comfy beds and a nice bathroom with hot shower. The lodge also has a buffet-style restaurant that serves good local cuisine. I am a pescatarian and was happy with the choice on offer.


The lodge is very well-known among birdwatchers and photographer as it has several hides and bird feeders distributed over the whole property that attract a wide range of bird species, including toucans, hummingbirds, and parrots. Some people may frown upon feeding wildlife but I believe in this case it is the right thing to do. We were there in winter time, that means very little to eat for the birds. As proof, none of the surrounding lodges has any important bird activity to speak of. 

Despite the challenges facing wildlife in the Mata Atlântica, Trilha dos Tucanos is doing its part to protect and preserve the natural environment. The lodge is committed to sustainable tourism practices and works closely with local communities to promote conservation efforts. By visiting and supporting eco-tourism initiatives like this one, we can help ensure that future generations will be able to experience the wonder of the Mata Atlantica and its incredible biodiversity.

The Atlantic Rainforest, or Mata Atlântica in Portuguese,  is a highly diverse ecosystem for both animals and plants. Its biodiversity is even greater than that of the more famous Amazon Rainforest, in relation to its size. It is home to a wide range of bird species, including toucans, tanagers, hummingbirds, and parrots. If very lucky, visitors may also have the opportunity to see various mammals, such as raccoons, pumas, tapirs, jaguars, and monkeys.


One of the highlights of our stay at Trilha dos Tucanos was the opportunity to see a variety of birds up close. The lodge has several hides and bird feeders distributed over the whole property that attract a wide range of bird species, including toucans, hummingbirds, and parrots. The staff is knowledgeable about the birds and can provide you with information about their behavior and habitats.

We had a lot of fun observing and photographing the red-breasted toucans and the saffron toucanets, or 'flying banana' as they called it.

During my stay, I luckily had the opportunity to learn the art of photographing kolibris (hummingbirds) from Sergio Gregorio, a renowned nature photographer who frequently visits the lodge. It was an incredible experience to watch these tiny creatures flutter around and to capture their vibrant colors and movements. I was amazed to get some decent shots of these little beauties!

In addition to the incredible birdwatching opportunities, our stay also provided us with the chance to see some fascinating Brazilian wildlife up close. One of the highlights was seeing crab-eating raccoons, a species native to Central and South America. These animals have a distinctive mask-like pattern around their eyes and are named for their fondness for eating crabs and other small crustaceans but also insects, small amphibians and turtles, fish,  turtle eggs, as well as fruits, nuts, and vegetables.


Another unforgettable sighting was seeing a tapir in the wild. These large herbivores are native to the forests and grasslands of Central and South America, and are often referred to as "jungle cows". I had always imagined tapirs to be about knee-high, but in reality, they are much larger, with an adult weighing up to 300 kg! Seeing one up close was like seeing a miniature hippo with a large snout and barrel-shaped body. The tapir is an important part of the ecosystem in the Mata Atlantica, as they play a crucial role in seed dispersal. They have a varied diet that includes fruits, leaves, and bark, and can travel long distances in search of food. Unfortunately, like many other species in the region, tapirs are facing threats from habitat loss and hunting. 

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