The puma alternative
Emas NP covers 1,320 km2 of the finest preserved campo/cerrado habitats in central Brazil east of the Pantanal. After Torres del Paine (Chile), the park and it surroundings are a very reliable area to see Pumas. The park presents a vivid landscape of golden grasslands dotted with red termite mounds while many clear, rushing streams are dissected by narrow green ribbons of gallery forest. For its abundant mammal-viewing opportunities, vast, endless and unspoiled landscapes, easy birding, Emas can give you a Neotropical savanna experience comparable with those of east Africa.
Abundant mammal-viewing opportunities
Without doubt, Emas is one of South America’s premier mammal watching sites. The area hosts 3 of the Brazilian big 5: Maned Wolf, Giant Anteater and Brazilian Tapir. Jaguars roam in the park too but inhabit the remote and inaccessible areas where, to be truthful, a sighting is not really realistic. Nevertheless, the following list of potential species gives the area a mammal-rich 5 star stamp: Puma, Giant Armadillo, Six-banded Armadillo, Hoary Fox, Crab-eating Fox, Bush Dog, White-lipped Peccary, Collared Peccary, Pampas Deer, Red Brocket Deer, Marsh Deer, Hog-nosed Skunk, Crab-eating Raccoon, Water Opposum (Yapok), White-eared Opossum, Southern Tamandua, Brazilian Porcupine, Jaguarundi and Pampas Cat.
Note: although present in EMAS NP, mammal species mentioned in bold are rare and difficult to see.
Besides mammals, an array of birds inhabit the savanna and gallery forest inside the park boundaries. Typical views while exploring the park are spritely Cock-tailed Tyrants hovering above the grass, flocks of Yellow-faced Parrots and Blue-and-yellow Macaws noisily commuting between roosting and feeding sites in the nearby cerrado, Aplomado Falcons maintaining watchful vigilance atop termite mounds, groups of huge Greater Rheas, improbable in every respect, roaming the grasslands, which resound to songs of Red-winged Tinamous, Grass Wrens and Black-masked Finches. Ephemeral marshes may host flocks of Marsh, Chestnut, Rufous-rumped, and Black-bellied Seedeaters. Another major attraction is the opportunity to see the recently rediscovered Cone-billed Tanager, a bird that was long known from only a single specimen. Once dark and we are out spotlighting for mammals we have a very good chance of coming across – White-winged Nightjars. Emas is one of the few places where these little known birds can be found hawking for insects. Moreover, when perched on the typical termitaria in the park, they can be approached eye to eye! Additionaly, it is an excellent place to see the many specialties of Brazil’s campo-cerrado habitats, including Lesser Nothura, Red-legged Seriema, Rufous-sided Pygmy-Tyrant, Chapada Flycatcher, White-rumped Tanager, Giant Snipe, Planalto Foliage-gleaner, White-striped Warbler, Great-billed Seed-Finch and Yellow-billed Blue-Finch.
Southern Pantanal extension
With a VAN transfer day, the tour can be extended by adding private haciendas/lodges to the intinerary. This being especially good for spotlighting which is conducted in the lodge’s open-back trucks in lightly-wooded grassland habitat, rice-fields and drainage channels. Along with sightings of species like Giant Anteater and Brazilian Tapir one of the haciendas is known for its good number of Ocelots. More over, although not comparable with the Northern Pantanal, there even is a chance of spotting Jaguar here. Staying at one of the two hacienda farms is a once in life time experience as during breakfast the place gets invaded by dozens of Toco Toucans and Crab-eating Foxes and Nine-banded Armadillos are regular breakfast time visitors. Besides that, one of the farms hosts breeding Hyacinth Macaws and has got habituated Ocelots in a nearby riverine fishermen camp.