GO ON AN EXTRAORDINARY SAFARI IN VIVID BRAZIL
There is a Brazilian proverb that goes like this, Não cutuque a onça com vara curta. ‘Never poke a jaguar with a short stick.’ We won’t do that whilst on safari in beautiful Brazil but watching this elusive beast in its habitat in the dry season between June and October is an adventure unlike any other. Okay, there is also a favorite local saying, É de pequeno que se torce o pepino. ‘When the cucumber is small, you can wrap it easier.’ We’re not sure what this one implies and think perhaps you should instead ask your safari guide to explain. SHE LOOMS LARGE Brazil is undeniably gigantic, and not only in the border department. The 5th largest country on Planet Earth and largest in the continent, she looms over the map of South America. She has the biggest share of the Amazon Jungle and River, with the Atlantic coastline stretching out to a beautiful 7,500 km (4 660 mi). Brazil has a classic and iconic identity, and we’re not only talking about Pele’s ability to find the net. A Brazilian safari holiday really does arrest the senses. So, there are ecosystems aplenty. The most well-known of these is the Amazon – a true biodiversity stomping ground. The lowland area of the Pantanal is another of country’s wildlife safari havens where the various regions with their own distinctive ecosystems burst into life with a staggering amount of species, no matter the season. IN THE JUNGLE, THE MIGHTY JUNGLE With roughly 60% of the verdant rainforest comprising the Amazonian region sitting in Brazilian territory, there is a lot of terrain to explore in what is the mightiest rainforest on earth. Many a safari-goer that has been to the Amazon will tell you that nothing quite compares to the audio of the jungle at night… At Manaus, the Rio Negro and the Solimões shake hands with the formation of the Amazon River as a result. Kick-start your safari right here. Check out the protected reserve, Mamiraua, and hey presto, you’ve got yourself a launch pad extraordinaire for your journey into the Amazon. Let the stats break down the fauna and flora offering of this magical rainforest: one in ten of the total of the planet’s species and one in five birds are found in the Amazon... incredible really. Roundabout 427 mammals, 378 reptiles, 428 amphibians, 1 294 birds, 3 000 fish, 40 000 plants and 2.5 million insect species have this as their home address. Jaguar, anaconda, caiman, capybara and many monkey species form the larger jungle tribe. THE TOP PREDATOR IN THE AMAZON BASIN The jaguar’s favored prey is the capybara (the largest living rodent in the world and family of the guinea pig and the chinchilla), tapir (an herbivorous mammal similar in shape to that of a pig) or doe-eyed deer. Mister Jay has the strongest bite of any cat relative to its body weight; it quite often hunts turtles on Central America’s beaches and can rip through their tough protective shells quite unceremoniously. (Not a fair fight, we think...) This high-powered bite is classic, and utterly different from all other cats, as jaguars bite through their prey’s skull and into the brain. EXPLORE WILD WETLANDS You’ll also find the elusive jaguar, caiman (a crocodilian alligator), giant river otters, tapir and armadillo on safari in the low-lying wetlands of the Pantanal. This wonderous area is broadly separated into north, south and the Taiama Ecoreserve. The best time to visit this neck of the woods: December to March sees most of the region flooded; it transforms into an aquatic party of anacondas, piranhas, giant otters and caiman. In drier seasons, the landscape changes to dry grassland, lagoons and wooded islands, with fauna romancing the riverbanks. Brazil's Amazon Basin is also home to a beautiful array of fish species, most notably the red-bellied piranha. Despite its reputation as a fierce freshwater fish, ol’ red-belly is actually a generally timid scavenger. They live in shoals in the flooded forests of the Amazon but do not opt for group hunting, although, on occasion, they may go into feeding-frenzy mode – a school of piranha will converge on a large individual prey and scoff it down wildly. These attacks are usually extremely rare and are due to provocation or starvation. Watch out you herons and especially those poor capybaras. (Shame, if it’s not the jaguars, it’s the piranhas.) LOCK EYES ON THE IMPRESSIVE IGUAZU FALLS The thundering waterfalls of the Iguazu River are to be witnessed on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. Welcome to the largest waterfall system in the world! There’s a beautiful legend permeating down the falls: some or other deity wanted to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover, Tarobá in a canoe. In a rage, the deity lost his marbles and proceeded to slice the river (as you do), thereby creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. Talk about sour grapes. Nature is an architect, alright. The natural staircase design of the falls comprises a two-step waterfall formed by a trio of basalt layers. These steps are 35 and 40 m (115 and 131 ft) in height. Numerous islands along the 2.7 km (1.7 mi) edge split into waterfalls and cataracts, somewhere between 60 and 82 m (197 and 269 ft) high. The number of smaller waterfalls ranges from 150 to 300, depending on the water level. Hereafter, half of the river's flow decides to drop into a long and narrow chasm – called the Devil's Throat (Garganta do Diabo as it’s known in Portuguese). Devil's Throat canyon is 80 to 90 m (260 to 300 ft) wide and 70 to 80 m (230 to 260 ft) deep. It doesn’t stop here. To the left, another part of the river forms 160 to 200 separate falls. When it’s flooding time, they converse into a jaw-dropping single front. The most significant falls go by the names of San Martín, Adam and Eva, and Bergano A LANDSCAPE RESEMBLING CRUMPLED BEDSHEETS It is paramount to explore Lençóis Maranhenses (the name literally means ‘the bedsheets of Maranhão’) National Park in Maranhão state in northeastern Brazil, to the east of the Baía de São José. Get a load of this… ribbons of dunes trapping the rains – 15,000 ha (380,000 acres) of park with 70 km (43 mi) of coastline, and that magical interior comprising rolling, undulating, white sand dunes. Some safari-goers have described the sight resembling white linen hanging out to dry. It’s not a mirage by any means, it’s real, and that’s what’s so magical. When the rain starts falling, the valleys amidst the half-moon-shaped dunes fill with numerous midnight-blue freshwater lagoons, as they cannot drain because of rock beneath that doesn’t permit any passage. You are afforded the unusual choice of exploring The Bedsheets on foot, on horseback or via 4X4. Shoals of silvery fish swim in these sparkling blue and green pools left behind by the rain. You might pass shepherds leading their caravans of goats over these dunes or clusters of fishermen heading towards the sea. SHIFTING BEAUTY According to National Geographic, Manoel Brito, the late patriarch of Queimada dos Britos (a tiny settlement in an oasis of Lençóis Maranhenses), used to keep a herd of 500 or so goats that roamed freely through the sands. Wandering over the dunes with his herd, he would marvel at the way the sands kept on the move. "Everything here always looks the same. But every day, if you look carefully, you'll see that the sand is in a different place. God created these white mountains and made the wind play with them forever." BEAUTIFUL BEACHES AND CORAL-FILLED ISLANDS It’s so easy to get carried away by the vistas and jaguars you’ll experience whilst on safari… we haven’t even touched on Beach-Day Brazil. Right, the massive coastline is home to many fascinating beaches: unwind on powdery-white sands under the sun, go with the flow alongside an international and local contingent of surfers, snorkel, SUP board, fish, dolphin spot and get your kicks whilst kitesurfing. OVER TO THE WEATHERMAN A wide range of weather conditions prevail across gigantic Brazil with diverse topography on tap. The country is mostly tropical though, wonderfully warm all year round, so when the rain does come, it’s often in quick bursts. There are six major climatic subtypes: desert, equatorial, tropical, semiarid, oceanic, and subtropical. Across the country, the warmest months are November to March – perfect for enjoying New Years and of course, the intense and mesmerizing carnival. The coastal climate is wonderfully ambient. Brazil has been called a ‘crab civilization’ because most Brazilians live on or near the coast – wouldn’t you prefer to bask in warm tropical conditions too? We’ve got to wrap up with the world best, cheesiest and most classic joke: What a do a bunch of people in Brazil speak? Portuguese. What does just one Brazilian speak? Portugoose… Tell this one on safari!