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The vast empty lowlands of thePantanal extend southwards from theplateau of the Mato Grosso in Brazilto the borders with Paraguay and Bolivia.This area, roughly the size of France, issparsely populated and contains manyhuge cattle ranches which provide themain source of employment in a regionlargely devoid of industry. In the north, lowdry woodland, damp grasslands andgallery forest along the banks of ameandering river system create a mixedvariety of habitats. Further south thewoodland is relieved by broad expansesof swamp and marsh which arerecognised as one of the most importantwetland areas in the Neotropics.The relative lack of human disturbanceand the open nature of the habitat meanthat wildlife is often easier to observe thanelsewhere in South America. Herds ofCapybara, the world's largest rodent,browse the swamps within the watchfulgaze of many large Caimans. These NewWorld crocodiles reach an impressive sizehere, but are fortunately mainly fish-eaters. Anacondas also occur in theswamps but are less often seen. Theedge of the wetland is home to the rareMarsh Deer and in the adjoiningwoodlands it is possible to encounterherds of Red Brocket Deer. The tallerwoodlands are frequented by agile Brown Capuchin Monkeys and echo tothe weird calls of the more lethargic Black Howlers. Along the quieter stretches of the large rivers a watchshould be kept for Giant River Otters.These endangered animals are often very confiding and will approach to within a few metres of observers, anendearing characteristic that has all toooften led to their destruction.As we journey south, we will check theswamps for Brazilian Tapirs which oftenspend the hotter parts of the dayimmersed in the water. Many of theanimals here are nocturnal of course andspotlighting at night could produce suchspecies as Racoon, Crab-eating Fox, GiantAnteater, Ocelot and a range of nightjars.That supreme South American predator,the Jaguar, is by no means rare here and,although always hard to see, the Pantanalis probably the most likely area of thecontinent to chance upon one. As might be expected the Pantanal boastsa rich and varied avifauna, from the giantJabiru Stork to tiny hummingbirds such asthe Glittering-bellied Emerald and White-tailed Goldenthroat. Herons, storks, ibisesand Limpkins throng the marshy areaswhere raptors such as Great Black, Black-collared and Savanna Hawks and SnailKites are common. The gallery forests andscrub hold a bewildering array of tropicalbirds. Antbirds, woodcreepers, toucans,tyrant flycatchers and colourful parrots arewell represented but pride of place mustgo to the huge Hyacinth Macaw, theworld's largest parrot. Under threatthroughout most of its range, thischarismatic bird is still relatively easy tofind in favoured parts of the Pantanal and will certainly represent one of theholiday highlights.To ensure that we have the maximumopportunity to enjoy the wildlife of thePantanal, we spend three nights at Pixaimnear the beginning of the unpavedTranspantaneira road and later move to the Upper Pantanal for a further two nightsat Porto Jofre. Boat excursions andnocturnal spotlighting will greatly increaseour chances of seeing the more retiringinhabitants. A final three days in Chapadados Guimaraes National Park introducesyet more variety of habitats includingcerrado forest and open grasslands.At the end of our stay in the Pantanal weretrace our steps to Cuiaba and thence byinternal flights to Iguazú for a stay of fivenights. The spectacular waterfalls on theborder between Argentina and Brazil areset amidst an ocean of tropical forestwhich is protected as a national park. Over2,000 plant species have been recordedhere, and the stunning birdlife offers ahuge range of possibilities, includingrepresentatives from such typical SouthAmerican families as toucans andwoodcreepers. We will visit both sides ofthe border during our stay and follow trailsinto the forest to look for birds andmammals. There will also be plenty of timeto simply admire the spectacle of the fallswhich can be viewed from various vantagepoints. Iguazú is ranked among theworld's greatest waterfalls and attractslarge numbers of visitors to the area. Few,however, venture along the forest trails, and we can be assured of many superbwildlife encounters. The length of stay at each location on thistour, and the combination of habitats,make this a most unusual South Americanholiday and will provide a rare opportunityto absorb the atmosphere of each placevisited and become familiar with a uniqueselection of birds and mammals.Brazilian Pantanal & Iguazú Falls A 17-day birdwatching and wildlife holiday in Brazil visiting the Pantanal wetlands and the Iguazú Falls.Monday 5th August - Wednesday 21st August Cost: £5,195Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Arrive São Paulo andtransfer to Cuiaba.Day 3/5Rio Pixaim, Pantanal.Day 6/7Porto Jofre, Pantanal.Day 8/10Chapada dosGuimaraes NationalPark.Day 11/15Iguazú Falls.Day 16Depart Iguazú.Day 17Arrive London.AccommodationSimple but comfortable hotels withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Gentle walks only.FocusBirds and mammals.LeaderMario Mosquiera.Single room supplement£650.Web quick search: BRA03200Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryURUGUAYPARAGUAYBOLIVIAARGENTINAPERUCOLOMBIAVENEZUELACUIABAMATOGROSSOIGUAZÚFALLSSÃOPAULOATLANTICOCEANBRAZILPANTANALIguazú FallsHyacinth Macaws

Like so many of our clients, Naturetrekhas always had a fascination for cats, and over the years we have playedan instrumental role in pioneering newtours in search of such iconic felines asTiger, Jaguar, Snow Leopard, Leopard andIberian Lynx, often in some of the mostremote and spectacular parts of the world.With the continuing success of our 'SouthAfrica - Just Cats!', 'Just Tigers!' and'Brazil - Just Jaguars!' tours, amongstothers, we have been on the look out forthe next 'big cat opportunity'. Havingmonitored sightings very closely, we arenow in the position to launch our latestspecialist big cat tour, 'Chile - JustPumas!'. Located in one of the mostbeautiful regions of Patagonia, the Torresdel Paine National Park has developed areputation as the best area in the world tosee Chile's apex predator, the Puma.Working alongside guides with over 25years' experience of tracking Pumas, thistour has been specifically designed to giveus the very best chance of seeing theseenigmatic cats amidst a truly stunninglandscape. While Pumas will be theprincipal focus of this tour, the abundanceof wildlife in southern Chile ensures anexciting supporting cast that includes hugeAndean Condors, herds of Guanacos,South American Grey Fox, Culpeo(Southern Red Fox), Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk, South Andean Deer andHairy Armadillo.Our holiday begins with a flight to Chile'scapital, Santiago, from where we willventure into the heart of the Andes insearch of our first afternoon of Chilean wildlife. In the skies above us we shouldsee our first Andean Condors as they soarmajestically amongst the high mountainsummits, and we'll also hope for otherAndean species such as MountainCaracara, Aplomado Falcon, White-sidedHillstar, Rufous-banded and Creamy-rumped Miners, a variety of Ground-tyrants, Greater Yellow-finch, Grey-hoodedSierra-finch and the endemic ChileanTinamou and Chilean Mockingbird.Mammals, too, are possible including theendemic burrowing rodent, the Cururo.The following morning we will fly south tothe town of Punta Arenas beforeembarking on a scenic drive to Torres delPaine National Park. Journeying throughexpanses of open Pampas, we will stop enroute to enjoy flamingo-lined lakes and thefirst of many encounters with the herds ofGuanaco which will be a frequent sightduring this holiday. Torres del PaineNational Park is dominated by threestunning mountain peaks - the 'Towers ofPaine' - and we will stay deep in theheart of the park at the charmingly rusticHotel las Torres, situated at the foot ofMount Almirante Nieto. This hotel providesan ideal base for our daily (and night-time)wildlife excursions as it has excellentaccess to the park's main trails. With anabundance of large windows we'll be ableto enjoy the magnificent scenerysurrounding us from the hotel, while itsslate floors and log fires create a cosyambience that provides the perfect retreatat the end of each day's Puma quest.Working to an itinerary that will be dictatedby the latest Puma sightings, and guidedby expert trackers, over the following fivedays we will make day and night-timeoutings, exploring a variety of habitats andcovering multiple Puma territories withinthe park. At this time of the year, withgrowing cubs to feed, the hard-pressedfemales are more likely to be seen huntingduring daylight hours and with Guanacosa favourite prey, we'll keep a close eye onthe herds in the hope of spotting a huntingPuma. In particular we will explore theimmediate surroundings of our hotel,spotlighting at night, since it lies within aknown Puma territory. We will also ventureto the Puma hunting grounds on theeastern flank of the park, as well as to thearea comprising the northern coast ofSarmiento Lake, Laguna Amarga andLaguna Azul, which holds one of thehighest concentrations of Pumas in theworld. Our quest for Pumas in thisstunning landscape will bring us intocontact with a variety of other mammalsand birds. In addition to the ubiquitousGuanacos, we will hope to see the localSouth Andean Deer or 'Huemul',Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk and the twocanid species present in the park, SouthAmerican Grey Fox and Culpeo. AndeanCondors are a relatively common sighthere, and we should get some close viewsof these magnificent birds. Other avianhighlights may include Darwin's Rhea,Black-chested Buzzard, Crested Caracara,Cinereous Harrier and MagellanicWoodpecker.After enjoying five full days exploring thisspectacular landscape we will begin ourreturn journey to Punta Arenas and fromthere to Santiago, where we'll share onelast evening in the city, exchanging ourpersonal highlights of this very special trip,before flying to London the followingmorning. For those who wish to extendtheir stay and explore the wildlife of thisexciting region further we can offer a widechoice of options, including whale-watching off Chiloe Island (in search ofBlue Whales especially), the wildlife andbirds of the Atacama Desert, and tours toEaster Island.Chile - Just Pumas!An 11-day wildlife holiday in search of the Pumas of Torres del Paine National Park, plus awonderful variety of birds and other mammals in a spectacular setting.Thursday 14th March - Sunday 24th March Cost: £3,995Thursday 4th April - Sunday 14th April Cost: £3,995Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationCHILOEISLANDPUERTONATALESPUNTAARENASTIERRADEL FUEGOMAGELLANSTRAITSTORRES DEL PAINENATIONAL PARKSANTIAGOARGENTINAPACIFICOCEANPACIFICOCEANOutline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Arrive Santiago;afternoon wildlifeexcursion, AndesMountains.Day 3Fly Punta Arenas;transfer Torres delPaine. Day 4/8Daily wildlife excursionswithin Torres del PaineNational Park.Day 9Drive Punta Arenas; flySantiago.Day 10Depart Santiago.Day 11Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotel in Santiagoand wilderness lodge in Torres delPaine; both have private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade A/B. Mostly easy day walks;some (optional) more strenuouswalks. Night-time spotlighting inTorres del Paine National Park.FocusPumas, other mammals and birds.LeaderEnrique Couve.Single room supplement£550.ExtensionsA wide range of extensions isavailable on request. Please call Danon 01962 733051 to discuss optionsand for further details.Web quick search: CHL03201PumaTorres del Paine National ParkGuanaco