When writers proposed the concept for Rio, the animation studios must have been laughing. Who would watch a cartoon about tropical birds and their bid for freedom in Brazil? But the resulting film was a hit, grossing nearly half a billion dollars worldwide and getting nominated for an Oscar for the Best Original Song. In fact, it’s become one of the most popular family movies that 20th Century Fox has ever made.
Behind every story there’s a reality, and in the case of Rio that’s the extraordinary biodiversity of the Brazilian rainforests. The birdlife is especially impressive, with feathers reflecting every single colour of the rainbow. Whether you’re an amateur enthusiast or a serious birder, the Amazon Jungle is breathtaking in the variety of the species which live there. When you're there, you’ll not only find the riches birding hotspots but the very best birding guides in Latin America as well.
1 — Reserva do Ibitipoca
The Reserva do Ibitipoca is both a nature reserve and a hotel in Minais Gerais, Brazil. It was originally a farm, but since 1981 it has steadily been transformed into a protected birding area, benefiting from its stunningly beautiful location alongside Brazil’s Ibitipoca State Park.
The ecosystems here are diverse, ranging from Atlantic forest to open fields. Indigenous species have been given an environment in which they can thrive, and those which are threatened have been introduced. More than 350 species of birds have been recorded here, including the rufous collared sparrow and the saffron toucanet.
2 — Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge
Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge is a magnificent property in the heart of the Brazilian Rainforest, right on the edge of the Anavilhanas National Park. The dark waters of the Rio Negro surround the property, making it a prime site for adventures by river as well as in the forest. Here you’ll want to hike through the Igapo Forest in search of birds; 58 of the 194 species recorded here are found nowhere else.
3 — Cristalino Lodge
Cristalino Lodge has caught National Geographic Traveler’s eye: they consider it to be one of the very best eco lodges in the world, and who are we to disagree? This sanctuary within the southern Amazon is purpose built for birding as you can birdwatch not only from the forest floor but also from observation towers which raise you up to canopy height. World class photographers often choose to lead their masterclasses here, making the most of the landscapes and the proximity and concentration of the wildlife. You can expect to see nearly 600 species of birds in and around Cristalino - around 50% of all the avifauna in the Amazon - and many of them are endemic. Highlights are the rufous capped nunlet, the dusky cheeked foliage gleaner, and the ornate antwren.
4 — Amazon Clipper Premium
Some of the finest birding in the Brazilian Amazon is not on land at all but from the water. Journeysmiths’ guests can sail away along the Amazon River onboard Brazil’s most exclusive cruise ship, the Amazon Clipper Premium, which offers a truly unique way to experience the rainforest. Travelling at a sedate speed there is plenty of time to watch what is going on around you and to observe the wildlife on the riverbank as well as in the water. Nothing beats sitting on the deck of the ship as hyacinth macaw circle above you, or as you listen to the chattering of the blue fronted Amazon in the trees.