Botanical Discoveries in Brazil’s National Parks and Amazonia

Botanical-Discoveries

1st day, Thursday

Arrival > Foz do Iguaçu > Brazilian Side of the Falls

Arrival in São Paulo (GRU) and connecting flight to Foz do Iguaçu(IGU), to the biggest cataracts of the world. Pick-up and transfer to the hotel Tropical das Cataratas Eco Resort. Beside its exclusive location right next to the falls the hotel features lush tropical gardens and swimming pool. After relax, visit of the Brazilian side of the falls. The view from the Brazilian side is the most panoramic. Formidable views of the spectacular Devil’s Throat, Garganta del Diablo, where fourteen falls drop 350 feet with such force that there is always a 100-ft cloud of spray overhead. Watch for the rainbow!

For a close up view, walk with the guide through the subtropical forest of Iguaçu National Park to the base of Salto Floriano and take the elevator to the top of the falls. On your way you encounter the lush growth within the perpetual mist of spray in the lower parts of the park, where tree ferns like Cyatheaceaelianasand epiphytes, with species ofIlexPodocarpusAspidospermaCedrela and Philodendron can be observed. Dinner at the hotel. Overnight.

Higher and twice as wide as Niagara Falls, 275 cascades spreading in a horseshoe shape over nearly two miles of the Iguazu River, Iguazu Falls are the result of a volcanic eruption which left yet another large crack in the earth.

These matter of fact details do nothing to describe the grandeur of the falls, the tremendous amount of water (an average of 553 cub ft per second) thundering down 269 ft, the tropical location and the sheer beauty that led Eleanor Roosevelt to say « Poor Niagara ». Four times the width of Niagara Falls, Iguazu Falls are divided by various islands into separate waterfalls. During the rainy season of November to March, the rate of flow may reach 450,000 cubic feet (12,750 m³) per second.

Iguazu Falls, called Foz do Iguaçu in Portuguese, and Cataratas del Iguazú in Spanish, lie on the Argentina-Brazil border and are a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. The falls are part of a singular practically virgin jungle ecosystem protected by Argentine and Brazilian national parks on either side of the cascades.

The name of the falls comes from the Guaraní word for « great water ». The first Spanish explorer to see the falls (did you see the film « The Mission »?) was Álvarez Núñez Cabeça de Vaca in 1541.

Foz do Iguaçu, Argentine Iguazú National Park 2nd day, Friday

You will spend the whole day to discover the falls on the Argentine side of the river, where two thirds of the falls are. From the Argentine side you take a series of catwalks over the water rushing into Devil’s Gorge. Protective rain suits are provided. On guided excursions to theSendero Macuco and the Circuito Yacaratia you botanize through the mainly humid subtropical deciduous forest of the Iguazú National Park. Umbrella-shaped Paraná pine Araucaria angustifolia, Assai palmEuterpe edulis, the delicious palm hearts, wild coconut palm Cocos romanzoffianaImbuya or ‘Brazilian walnut’ Phoebe poros and Ficus monckii are only some of the species that can be found.

Returning to the Hotel in the late afternoon. You may want to take a refreshing swim in the splendid pool of the hotel, but there is also time left to pay a visit to the Parque das Aves, right next to the hotel, featuring exotic birds from all over the world in a gigantic open-air aviary.

For the evening, we suggest to go to a folkloric show that features music and dances with colorful decorations of the Paraguayan / Argentine / Brazilian border at Iguazu. Otherwise dinner at the hotel. Overnight.

3rd day, Saturday

Foz do Iguaçu to Curitiba > Train ride through Atlantic Coastal Mountain Range to Morretes > Sapitanduva Private Reserve > Paranaguá

Early check-out and transfer to the airport. Flight from Foz do Iguaçu to Curitiba, capital of Paraná state. Your guide botanist Dr. Gerd Hatschbach will pick you up und transfer you to the Serra Verde train station. From here train down to the coast. The beautiful ride leads you through the Atlantic costal mountain range, called Serra do Mar, with its primary mountainous rainforests. Alongside 14 tunnels and 41 bridges and viaducts, innumerous steep precipices, springs and waterfalls will be passed on the 110 km railway built in 1885. Arrival at Morretes, a 1721 founded town with beautiful colonial architecture located hillside forming the entrance to the coastal valley. Lunch in a riverside restaurant, e.g. the local specialty Barreado.

In the afternoon Dr. Hatschbach private nature reserve Sapitanduva with 300.000 sqm extension and 4 km of paths. Here, more than 95% of the native flora and species from other regions, sometimes already extinct in nature, can be observed. He will present you the species typical for the Southern Atlantic Rainforest like Spirotheca passifloroides with its strangler roots and thorn trunk. Very photogene isVochsyia bifalcata because of its beautiful yellow blossoms. Cecropia glaziovii produces active components, which are used for cancer treatments. Delicious palm hearts are extracted from the up to 25 m high Euterpe edulis palm trees, while increase of virility is awarded to the fruits of Bactris lindmaniana. On the relatively small area many rare and endangered species like AraceasOrquidaceas or Cactaceas are cultivated. Transfer to the seaport of Paranaguá and check-in at the Camboa Resort Hotel. Fresh sea fruit is served for dinner in a fine seafood restaurant. Overnight.

4th day, Sunday

Paranaguá Bay with the Honey Island and Superagüi National Park

After breakfast you embark for a 3 hs boat ride through the Paranaguá Bay. Passing the Ilha do Mel (Honey Island), with its each year more narrowing isthmus splitting the island in two, you ship through the channels of the river delta system along its mangrove forests and many islands to the historic fishermen village ofGuaraqueçaba. Check-in a simple, but clean seaside guest house.

In the afternoon, accompanied by Dr. Hatschbach and Mrs. Guadelupe Vivekananda, the parks director, you will visit the National Park and will surely be thrilled by its exuberant flora and fauna. You encounter some the typical plants of the coastal lowlands next the Atlantic mountain ranges, e.g. Galesia gorarema, with its penetrating garlic smell, the giant Pseudopiptadenia warmingii, one of the tallest trees of the Atlantic rainforest and the Schizobium parahybum of which’s trees the local fishermen build their log boats. Dinner and overnight in Guaraqueçaba.

5th day, Monday

Superagüi National Park and Guaraqueçaba Bay

A full day botanical discoveries in the Superagüi region lies ahead. The National Park is the 3rd National Marine Park, with its unique environment of 21.000 hectares of subtropical forest / lagoon / oceanic island vegetation. The islands are home of the endangered macaw species red-tail amazon. The Superagüi National Park was created by federal decree on April 25th, 1989, and recognized as biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1993. Dinner and overnight in Guaraqueçaba.

6th day, Tuesday

Guaraqueçaba > Paranaguá > Curitiba

Early departure by boat to Paranaguá and car drive to Curitiba. Check-in at the Four Point Sheraton Hotel. In the afternoon you will be taken for a sightseeing tour in the « most European » Brazilian city, including a visit of the futuristic museum built by the extraordinary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Dr. Hatschbach will take you to his « working table » the exiting Botanical Museum, where he is as head researcher, with a collection and taxonomy of 320.000 plants. The Museum is nationwide reference. In the nearby botanical gardens an over 200-year-old Araucaria angustifolia can be admired. Overnight in Curitiba.

7th day, Wednesday

Flight from Curitiba to Brasília, Chapada dos Veadeiros

After breakfast transfer to the airport. Flight to Brasília (BSB) and transfer to the Chapada dos Veadeiros by private car.

The National Park of Chapada dos Veadeiros is located on Brazil’s Central Highlands, in the northeast of the state of Goiás about 200 km distant from Brasília, the capital. The climate is subtropical and continental, with rains from November to March and very little or no rain at all for the rest of the year. The average temperature is: 22ºC. The average rainfall is 1.500 a 1.750 mm.

The National Park of Chapada dos Veadeiros host an important part of high altitude Cerrado, where over 1400 species of plants have been identified already. The Cerrado landscape, the 2nd largest biome in Brazil, is a tropical savannah mainly formed by graminaceas, exposing thus a wide complexity of the local ecosystems. The biodiversity of the Brazilian Savannah is considered the richest of all the savannahs worldwide, featuring between 8-10 thousand species of vascular plants This Biosphere Reserve is characterized by the Cerrado biome, which includes Cerrado (dense savanna woodlands), Cerrado with twisted short trees and bushes and Cerrado grasslands. It covers areas located in the States of Tocantins, Maranhão and Piauí. The upland grassbeds of Chapada dos Veadeiros, as well as the Parana valley wetlands, harbour unique species. The deciduous and semidecidous forests, with hardwoods that are prized for cattle fencing and construction are also a high priority for biodiversity conservation. The conservation of the Biosphere Reserve of Cerrado focuses on restoration of altered areas and building of ecological corridors.
Only of graminaceas there are 139 espécies identified, of quaresmeiras 69, besides bromeliaceas e orquídaceas, some identified only recently. The gallery forest host: Tabebuia ipeCopaifera grandifoliaAstronium urundeuvaStryphnodendron sp.Arecastrum romanzaffianumJacaranda brasilian, and in the lower parts Mauritia sp,Orbignya martiana. Off the galery forest you find Qualea multifolia,Curatella americanaByrsonima cocaldsifoliaAnacardium sp. e Quaiba sp.The Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park is part of the highest plain in Central Brazil, with its highest point being the Serra da Santana, that comprises part of the major system of the Chapada dos Veadeiros. The region is of outstanding beauty, and is made up of wide plateaus over 1,200 m with waterfalls and crystal clear springs. The uplands give way to deep rocky canyons, with walls up to 40 m high, and valleys up to 300 m in length. The main watercourse is the Preto River, which flows on a north-west to south-west direction; the northern extremity of CVNP is drained by the Santana and Bartolomeu rivers. Several other perennial streams, such as Fiandeira, Montes Claros and Moquem drain the western face of the Serra da Santana. All these watercourses flow into the Tocantins River, which is a tributary of the Amazon Basin. Along the course of the Preto River, there are many waterfalls, such as the Rio Preto Falls (120 m high, 80 m at the base) and the Cariocas Falls.

The activities include daily botanical discoveries in the region of 6 hs to 8 hs duration on non streneous trails. There is always enough time for a relax and a bath at the waterfalls and natural pools in the area. You will be departing after breakfast and returning to the Pousada around 3pm. Your local guide Rafael, biologist, is licenced by IBAMA (Brazilian Environmental Agency) is fluent in English and has a sound botanical background.

You will be staying at the Portal da Chapada Hotel, situated in the vicinity of a romantic waterfall, some 8km the away from the center of the town of Alto Paraiso. The Chalés with rustic finish offer good infra-structure with TV and Frigo-bar. The hotel features also a restaurant, snack-bar and sauna. Next to the hotel there is an interpretive ecological trail in the gallery forest, with many identified tree species. Overnight.

8th day, Thursday

Chapada dos Veadeiros, Vale da Lua

After breakfast you start your first daily tour. After 36 km by car you walk 2 km, passing first through a fertile Mesofític forest and arriving at the curious Vale da Lua (Valley of the Moon) rock formations and the São Miguel river. The Mesofític forest, typical of fertile soil, which antecedes a large rock formation at the bottom of the valley, through which flows the São Miguel river. On nearing the rock area, the vegetation changes from Mesofític forest to shrub and grassland. You return to the hotel in the late afternoon.

9th day, Friday

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park

Today you visit the National Park of Chapada dos Veadeiros. After a drive of 36km you hike a total of 10km on a trail, which alternates between grass and shrub and typical woody Cerrado (cerrado sensu strictu) on sandy soil with surface rock formations. There are also gallery forests along the streams and rivers, with humid fields around the gullies. In the afternoon you will have lunch at the São Jorge village.

10th day, Saturday

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park

You have another full day of botanical explorations in the National Park at hand.

11th day, Sunday

Portal da Chapada > Brasília > Manaus

On your last day in the Chapada dos Veadeiros at a distance of about 8 km from your hotel you walk about 3 km in typical Cerrado bioma with humid field and gallery forest. In this location, practically all the Cerrado eco-systems can be observed: gallery forests, shrub fields, humid fields and surface rock Cerrado. After lunch at the hotel you return by private car to Brasília. There will be time for a short City Tour in Brasil’s futuristic capital, before you take the evening fligth to Manaus (MAO). You will be picked-up at the airport and transfer to the Tropical Eco Resort, the very best hotel of Manaus, and overnight.

12th day, Monday

Manaus to Tefé, Mamirauá Reserve

Morning transfer to the airport and flight to Tefé heading for the Mamirauá Reserve. The Reserve is a state conservation unit located in the middle Solimões River (Amazon). It was first declared a protected area in 1990 as an ecological station. In 1996, after the publication of the management plan, it was categorized as a Sustainable Development Reserve, combining the conservation of the area with the managed use of natural resources by the local population. TheMamirauá Sustainable Development Institute was created by the Federal Government in June 1999. Its mission is « to conserve the biodiversity of the Mamirauá Reserve with participatory management« .

You arrive in Tefé about 11:30 and are transferred to the Areia Branca harbor, from where you depart by boat while you enjoy the breeze and the magic scenery offered by the forest and rivers. You might even be able to spot wildlife, such as pink dolphins at Tefé Lake and tucuxis in the Solimões River, which joins near Manaus the Rio Negro and forms the mighty Amazon stream. Arrival at the reserve is around 14pm at the Uakari Lodge. Presentation to staff and guides. After refreshment and relaxing, guided by a botanist from the reserve, you will set out for a first exploration of the Amazonian rainforest.

Return for dinner. Subsequent you will be discussing with the naturalist guide about the ecosystem and about the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Institute – its work, its research, etc. Overnight. Sleep will come with the sounds of the forest.

13th day, Tuesday

Mamirauá Reserve

Breakfast at 6:30am, because the activities start at 7 in the morning. You botanise under qualified guidance in the lowland rainforest, which belongs to the reserves area. Among many others, you will get to know medicinal and useful plants as Bertholletia exelsa(Brazil nut) and Hevea brasiliensis (caoutchouc, rubber). Return for lunch, followed by a rest in a hammock if you like it the local’s way. In late afternoon a canoe ride takes you through the Igapó forest, where the flooding marks can clearly be identified on the trunks of the mimosa-like Heterostemmeum mimosoides.

Usually guests, guides and staff gather in the evenings to discuss discoveries of the day. As scientists of all over the world regularly frequent the institute, you have the opportunity to participate in the debates and make interesting contacts.

14th day, Wednesday

Mamirauá Reserve

Early breakfast again. Animals in the forest wake up at sunrise, so if you are interested in wildlife sighting you will be ready to go on a walk (during the dry season) in one of the trails. You will be taken with your whole group to do an Interpretative Trail. Both, the naturalist and the local guide, join scientific, traditional indigenous and cabóclo knowledge, which will help you to comprehend the different environments of the rainforest.

The plan for the afternoon is to join in with a researchers team and participate in their field works, receiving thus first hand competent technical information. Thereby you undertake a boat ride through the widely ramified channel and lake system that compose part of the varzea’s ecosystem.

After the dinner, be ready to do a night tour with high chances to see the nocturnal fauna, caimans, as spiders, opossum, two-toed sloth, rats, bats, etc.

15th day, Thursday

Mamirauá Reserve

On your last day in the reserve you have once more the opportunity to go out botanising and for wildlife observation. A list of plants you can prevail in Mamirauá Reserve will be sent to you after booking. Animals that can be observed amongst others are capuchin monkeys, howlers, uakaris and squirrel monkeys, three toed sloths, hoatzins, etc. If you feel like it, you can also practice a traditional fish or piranha fishing.

This afternoon you will be taken on a motorized canoe to Lake Mamirauá, a beautiful lake inside the total preservation area of the reserve. At the lake you will probably have memorable encounters with pink river dolphins, hoatzins and perhaps the pirarucu fish. You will stay there until the sunset and on your way back you will spot caimans, bats, night birds… Return to the lodge, dinner and overnight. It is recommended to pack for the next morning, because departure will be during the beautiful Amazonian sunrise.

The trails are designed not to be physically straining and most of them can be walked in three hours at the longest. Depending on the water levels, some excursions will be done in a small paddle canoe (your guide will paddle you through the trail).

16th day, Friday

Mamirauá Reserve > Tefé > Manaus

Enjoy the morning relaxing in the Mamirauá Reserva. After lunch you return to Tefé by boat. Transfer there to the local airport and return to Manaus. Overnight at Tropical Eco Resort.

17th day, Saturday

Manaus, sightseeing tour > Rio de Janeiro

After breakfast in Manaus there will be time to undertake a sightseeing tour with following attractions: the Amazon opera house(1896), symbol of past great wealth, pomp and glory, brought about by the world monopoly of rubber production in Amazonia. When a British trading company started smuggling Hevea brasiliensis plants to Malaysia, the economic disaster was programmed and, as a consequence the rubber entered the world market at a fraction of the price of the Brazilian product, bringing about the total decline to the region by 1912. Today Manaus is a duty free zone and the center of assembly for technology products from the Far East. Further, you visitthe floating harbor, from which goods and passengers are transported to all parts of Amazonia, and the Mercado Municipal, empathized with « Les Halles » in Paris.

In the early afternoon transfer to the airport. Flight to Rio de Janeiro (GIG). Transfer to the Hotel Excelsior Copacabana right in front of the famous beach. Overnight.

18th day, Sunday

Rio de Janeiro

The morning is free for leisure. In the afternoon we take you for a cable car ride to the top of the 396 m high Sugar Loaf, the outstanding symbol of Rio de Janeiro, featuring fantastic views, the Guanabara bay, the surrounding mountains and the city, not to speak of the exuberant tropical vegetation on this island mountain itself, which belongs to the Bioma of the Atlantic Rain Forest. Epyphites, ferns, palms and cactus like EpiphyllumRhipsalis und Lepismium are quiet common here.On the first stage and on the top of the Sugar Loaf you can watch the common marmosets, several species of humming birds and other colorful birds like the rufous-capped motmot, the Brazilian tanager or the red-necked tanager. Right underneath the mountain is a charming coastal path where we take a relaxing walk. Back at the hotel you have time to refresh and to change as you dine tonight in one of Rio’s fine specialty restaurants and visit a show of Brazilian live music at Vinicius Piano bar, a cozy little bar in Ipanema, featuring among the best of Brazilian singers and musicians.

19th day, Monday

Rio de Janeiro

This morning we have planned to visit the botanical gardens of Rio de Janeiro, considered to be world wide among the 10 most important and been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. You will be guided by one of the Botanists of the Gardens Research Institute. The garden, founded in 1808, also features the only existing School for Tropical Botany in Latin America. The gardens host on 140 ha terrain, some 6500 plants and trees. Particularly attractiv is the Imperial Palms Boulevard, planted by the founder himself, the prince regent Dom João VI. The afternoon is free for activities at your discretion. You may want to visit the Brazilian Gems Museum of Amsterdam Sauer, featuring among international award-winning creations,some of the most fascinating and outstanding gems ever found in Brazil. Within the facilities, there is also a copy of a mine to be visited and, obviously, a shop where gems and jewelry of high quality and reasonable prices can be purchased. The rest of the day and evening is free.

20th day, Tuesday

Rio de Janeiro > Macae de Cima

After breakfast you head for the Atlantic Coastal Mountain Range with its mountainous rain- and cloud forests. Destination is the 140 km east of Rio located private preservation area of the botanist David Miller and his wife Isabel near Macae de Cima. Charles Darwin wrote in 1832 during his stay in Rio de Janeiro over the coastal rainforests of the region: « A forest, which of its kind is of unexcelled grandiosity ».

The different vegetation zones of the Atlantic Costal Rainforests, which originally covered the entire littoral from the nowadays state of Rio Grande do Sul to Rio Grande do Norte and penetrated up to 200 km into the interior, are still an ecosystem with one of the highest biodiversities of the world. Today only some 8% of its original extension remained under strict governmental and private protection. Reputed botanist from all over the world meet regularly at David Miller’s field camp in 1,400  m height. David specializes in orchids and identified and has described and photographed more than 300 species of 70 genera at his Reserva Florestal de Macae de Cima, illustrated in:

Miller/Warren: Orchids from the High Mountain Atlantic Rain Forest in Southeastern Brazil

After arriving at the reserve, David Miller gives a short lecture about the ecosystem of the Atlantic Coastal Rainforests in preparation for the following days. Than you hit the trails into the forest to botanise focusing especially on orchids. Return to the lodge in the late afternoon. In the evening you enjoy the hospitality and fine food of your hosts. Accommodations are at the lodge featuring rustic comfort, private toilet and shower, plus a mountain spring water pool.

21st day, Wednesday

Macae de Cima

Today starting for further botanical incursions into the rainforest, which requires regular physical condition. With appropriate footwear even slopes on slippery terrain can be perpetrated. A specialist forepiphytic cacti from Kew Gardens has confirmed the immense biodiversity of the lodge’s surroundings, who identified three until then unknown species in only one hour of fieldwork. During research for a doctoral thesis little time ago another seven unknown Philodendron and three Begonia species were discovered. A primitive mountain forest in 1,550 m height offers incredible dense epiphyte natural covering, practically at eye level. AraceasBegoniaceaeGesneraceae,OrchideaceaeBromeliaceaePhilodendronCacteaceae (Zygocacti, Ripsalis), Arum liliaces should be mentioned as some of the best-known species.

An interesting fact is: a burned area 40 years ago only presents 2-3 bush species, but a large amount of epiphytic soil growth. The dramatic differences of regeneration also can be seen comparing northern and southern slopes, last one with a exceptionally high population of field-orchids of the high-mountain-forests, furthermore many Dicksonias, different kinds of palm trees, Helikonias, Strelicias and Quaresmeras.

22nd and 23rd day, Thursday and Friday

Macae de Cima

You will stay another two days at the lodge where you can make unlimited botanical discoveries having in David Miller a great botanist and specialist as your guide. Normally, botanist from all over the world visit and congregate with Mr. Miller, so that interestings subjects on botany come up and are being discussed.
24st day, Saturday

Macae de Cima and Return

This morning David will be occupying you with botanical activities in the vicinity of the lodge and most probably undertake another walk into the forest. Then, there is also time to relax at the pool and for reflections over what you have experienced on your journey through the magnificent Brazilian landscapes. Have a look at the hummingbirds that are flying constantly about the lodge, 12 different species have been seen here. In the afternoon it is time to say goodbye to David and Bel. Both work with great engagement and personal sacrifices on the protection of this magnificent ecosystem. Your visit certainly contributes to the conservation of the region and you may even want to lobby for the conservation of what remained of this wonderful ecosystem.

Return to Rio de Janeiro and flight to your add-on tour or home country.

End of your botanical journey to Brasil and end of our services.