Wildlife in Brazil travel guide

Only rivalled in its brilliance, abundance and exoticism by Rio Carnival itself, Brazil’s wildlife turns the dial all the way up to 11. Otters are giant, as are rodents – the resident capybara is the biggest of the lot – macaws are vivid blue and a metre long, while Amazon dolphins are a baby lotion pink. Then there is Brazil’s star predator, the beautiful, solitary jaguar, looking like a beefed-up leopard and with a bite powerful enough to pierce a caiman’s skull.
Brazil’s wild, watery landscapes seethe with wildlife: the Pantanal is South America's primary wildlife sanctuary, while the Amazon is famed for its biodiversity.
Whether by boat or canoe, on foot or on horseback, seeing Brazil’s wildlife makes meaningful sense when you understand the complex, biodiverse landscapes it inhabits. Local naturalist guides serve up a healthy dose of context: the threat to the Amazon’s ecosystems from deforestation and climate change, the conservation work naturalists and cattle ranchers share in the Pantanal. Come for the animals, but leave with a richer understanding of Brazil’s wild places.

Is a Brazil wildlife vacation for you?

Do go on a Brazil wildlife vacation if…

You like your wildlife colourful and charismatic. The Pantanal has hyacinth macaws, majestic jaguars, noisy giant river otters, capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), huge anacondas, and peculiar looking tapirs. And more besides… You’ve done Africa. African safaris are the iconic wildlife trip, but if you’ve already gorged on plains teeming with wildebeest and prides of lions, and want a further wildlife fix, head for Brazil, where both the landscapes and the wildlife are way less familiar. You want some big Brazil sights alongside the wildlife. No problem. Most organised tours include Rio and perhaps the Iguazu Falls, too, so you make the most of your time, and the long flight that got you here. You want to understand as well as see. Expert local guides, with a deep understanding of the ecology of Brazil’s Amazon and Pantanal and the conservation issues they face, will take you deep into these environments, both literally and in terms of understanding.

Don’t go on a Brazil wildlife vacation if…

You want luxury lodges. Accommodation in Brazil’s wildlife hotspots tends to be functional and comfortable, rather than luxurious. While some game parks in Africa serve up super luxury lodges with chandeliers and spas, Brazil keeps it real with working ranches in the Pantanal and floating eco lodges in the Amazon.
You don’t do early starts. That’s a shame, because the wildlife certainly does. It’s up and active at dawn, so if you want to see it, you need to be, too.
You want a leisurely trip. While every day includes some down time, you can expect to be pretty active, with canoeing, hiking, horse riding, boat cruises and night time game drives delivering the wildlife sightings.
You’re on a tight budget. Brazil wildlife vacations don’t come cheap. Remote locations which follow a low impact tourism model, without much tourist accommodation, ensure this is an expensive trip, but also one that doesn’t trample all over the wildlife and environment you’ve come to see. Definitely worth paying for.

Our top Brazil wildlife Vacation

Pantanal wildlife vacation in Brazil

Pantanal wildlife vacation in Brazil

Wildlife safari in Brazil's stunning Northern Pantanal

From £3855 to £3995 10 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2022: 7 Jul, 18 Jul, 4 Aug, 11 Aug, 18 Aug, 25 Aug, 1 Sep, 8 Sep, 15 Sep, 22 Sep, 29 Sep, 6 Oct, 13 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Brazil wildlife or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Brazil wildlife map & highlights

Wildlife vacations in Brazil focus on the Amazon, the Pantanal, or both, but look at a map of this behemoth of a country and it’s obvious that seeing one or both takes some serious travel. Internal flights connect Rio with Manaus, the city at the heart of the Amazon, and Cuiabá, hopping off point for the Pantanal. From Manaus you’ll travel by road but primarily boat to get deep into the jungle, while down in the Pantanal, the Transpantaneira Highway will deliver you to Porto Jofre, aka Jaguarland. From here, it’s another few hours’ drive to reach the Southern Pantanal, the only place in the world where you can see semi habituated ocelots.
The Amazon

1. The Amazon

Venturing into the mighty Amazon is about more than just wildlife watching, although you’re likely to spot playful pink river dolphins and all kinds of monkey. Traveling here is the chance to explore deep into the jungle, soaking up its sounds and rhythms, a tiny presence amongst a vast landscape that’s one of the world’s most important ecosystems.
Atlantic rainforest

2. Atlantic rainforest

Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest is a rich mix of forest, wetland and grassland. It supports all kinds of beasts, from tiny marmosets to woolly spider monkeys, and is especially rich in birdlife. Some 930 bird species are found here, including 13 species classified as threatened. The Regua reserve has numerous specialities, including the masked duck and blue bellied parrot, and is just a two-hour drive from Rio.

3. Birdlife

Wildlife vacations to Brazil are as much about the birds as the beasts, with an avian all-star cast ready to impress even reluctant twitchers. Hyacinth macaws paint the Pantanal a brilliant blue, while roseate spoonbills and toucans rock exotic beaks. Over in the Amazon, scarlet macaws look like flying cocktails, kingfishers create a streak of brilliance as they dive, and huge harpy eagles nest in the canopy.

4. Jaguars

The largest cat in the Americas, the jaguar is an impressive beast. This ambush predator has an incredibly powerful bite and sometimes uses it to kill prey by biting right through its skull, piercing the brain – the only big cat to do this. Porto Jofre is the best base for exploring the jaguar rich wetlands of the Pantanal, with boat trips taking you to spy them lolling on the river banks.
The Pantanal

5. The Pantanal

The somewhat underrated Pantanal, eclipsed by the celebrated Amazon, is actually Brazil’s best wildlife destination. And what wildlife: tapirs, capybaras, caiman, giant otters, anacondas, piranhas and, its impressive top predator, the jaguar. The Pantanal’s open wetland landscape makes viewing easy, with boat rides, canoeing, walking and horse riding getting you into the landscape, although wildlife can often be seen strolling amongst the cattle farmed here.
Transpantaneira Highway

6. Transpantaneira Highway

The Transpantaneira crosses the Northern Pantanal between Cuiabá and Porto Jofre, and is something of a wildlife hotspot in its own right. From this 147km raised dirt road, sectioned by small wooden bridges, you can spot legions of birds, including lots of waterfowl, and see anteaters and capybara, feeding nearby. For this reason, don’t expect to race along it. Allow time to stop for photo ops.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Tambako The Jaguar] [Go/don't go (hyacinth macaws): Roi Dimor] [Amazon: Allen Sheffield] [Atlantic rainforest: Bjorn Christian Torrissen] [Birdlife: R. V. Ariel] [Jaguar: Tambako The Jaguar] [The Pantanal: Tambako The Jaguar] [Transpantaneira Highway: Cecilia Heinen]