By Claire Andrews
Brazil has an incredible variety of landscapes; from table mountains and red rocks to watery wonderlands. Epic sweeping views, on a scale we don’t get in the UK, are found in every state.
Let me take you on a tour through some of the best places to walk on the wild side in Brazil, from the well-known to some you might not have heard of yet.
My visit to the Amazon remains one of my best travel memories, but so often people come away disappointed. Why? It’s all about doing your research. Many people arrive in Manaus and book a jungle tour at a resort that’s only an hour or so out of town. The opportunities to spot wildlife are reduced closer to the big city, but it’s important to know that wildlife spotting can be tricky in the Amazon. You need to visit a lodge that takes tours early morning or late afternoon for the best chance.
If you’re looking for a unique experience, the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve, near Tefe, is an amazing place. A floating lodge sits over a channel off the main river stream, caiman slowly circling below. The lodge is set in an area of flooded forest which sees the river break its banks every year. Canoe rides and guided walks (in the dry season) allow you to spot parrots, toucans, uakari monkeys and if you’re lucky, sloths, plus many more. It’s consistently mentioned as one of the best jungle lodges in Brazil for its environmental programme working with local villages (but don’t expect 5-star luxury!)
The Chapada Diamantina is a land of table mountains, waterfalls, caves and hidden pools in the vast state of Bahia in Brazil’s North East. Many of the its secrets require a bit of scrambling over rocks, trekking down into caves and catching the light at the right time. Start your visit with a trip up Pai Inacio for a panoramic view of the region set out below. It’s easy to join a tour for the day – you’ll normally be sharing a car with other travellers.
If you have a few days to spare, the Chapada is a great place for trekking, with everything from day-treks to four or five day routes – you’ll need a guide.
The best place to stay is the little town of Lençóis, a mix of arty shops, cool bars and restaurants and everything from pousadas to luxury hotels.
If you think the Amazon is the best place in Brazil to spot wildlife, think again – it’s the Pantanal. The vast wetland in the west of Brazil teems with birds, caiman, capybara and even jaguars.
You can base yourself either in Campo Grande, for the southern part of the Pantanal or Cuiaba for the northern half.
The best time to visit is during the dry season from April to December, as the lack of water means wildlife concentrates around any water source.
(If the prices for the Brazilian lodges seem too high, hop over the border to the Parque Nacional Otoquis in Bolivia for the same experience at a fraction of the price)
Chapada dos Guimaraes
There’s many unknown places in Brazil. Take Chapada dos Guimaraes. It may be the official geodesic centre of South America, but until we started researching a trip to Mato Grosso do Sul, I’d never heard of it.
Discover the spectacular mountain scenery, watch the sunset over the red rocks or go zip lining. It’s a popular weekend escape from the baking heat of Cuiaba which is an hour away.
You need to take a tour to access a lot of the sites in the Chapada national park. Often the guide will collect a key for the access gate to a site some 50km off before heading off down dirt tracks, red dust spraying everywhere. Don’t take your best shoes. Waterfalls dot the landscape, falling gracefully from a precipice (Veu de Noiva/Bridal Veil) or closer to ground level.
Claire Andrews is the avid traveller behind Saltwater, where she shares her South American stories and travel tales from around the world. Saltwater is inspired by her travels and the belief that while not everyone can take a year off to travel the world, there’s a lot you can fit into two or three weeks. From South America to Sri Lanka, Saltwater takes you around the world to hopefully inspire a little wanderlust.