BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE!
Your immersion in the Cidade Maravilhosa—the "Marvelous City"—begins with lunch, followed by an excursion to Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio's most famous natural landmark. The city was founded at the base of adjacent Urca Hill in 1565, and it was Portuguese colonists who gave the mountain its name during the heyday of the 16th-century sugar cane trade, thinking it resembled one of the blocks of sugar placed in conical clay molds—a "sugar loaf"—to be transported on ships. Ascend the 1,300-foot monolith via cable car, with summit views showcasing a panorama of Guanabara Bay and its islands, Santa Cruz Fortress, and the gorgeous beaches of Niteroi. Return late this afternoon to your hotel located directly across from Copacabana Beach, and enjoy dinner overlooking the famous strand this evening.
Day 2: Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Project
On a full-day excursion, drive two hours east of Rio into the Atlantic rain forest to learn about one of the world's most exciting conservation success stories—the recovery of the nearly extinct golden lion tamarin. These tiny primates, about the size of a squirrel, take their name from their impressive manes—thick ruffs of golden-orange hair around their charming, wizened faces. The species is critically endangered, as are Brazil's Atlantic coastal rain forests in which they live, under growing pressure from logging, agriculture and industry in Brazil's most densely populated region. The Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Project was established as a collaborative program in conjunction with WWF in 1971 to save the species against enormous odds. The initiative has helped the golden lion tamarin recover from a low point of a mere hundred or so individuals, to more than a thousand today.
Accompanied by an expert local guide using radio telemetry equipment, track the animals in their native habitat on an interpretive walk in the rain forest. In the verdant world beneath the canopy, listen for their high-pitched call and look for flashes of bright orange in the trees, where they spend most of their time. Living in social family groups, they forage for insects, fruit, lizards and birds by day while traveling from branch to branch, sleeping in hollows at night. Some are habituated to human observers, allowing us to watch and photograph a family group as they jump between trees in the canopy. Males help raise the offspring, and you may see them carrying infants, often twins, on their backs. Be sure to bring your camera and binoculars!
On a tour of the educational center inside the Poco das Antas Biological Reserve, watch a video about golden lion tamarin conservation and hear from project staff. When research biologists are present, you may have a chance to meet a scientist who has been integral to the species' recovery. Lunch is included at Sabor Rural, an atmospheric local restaurant specializing in Brazilian churrascaria. Return to Rio this evening, knowing that proceeds from your tour help support the conservation of golden lion tamarins in their natural habitat. Your visit also promotes forest-friendly income generation for the local community, contributing to the long-term protection of golden lion tamarin habitat.
Day 3: Rio de Janeiro—Christ the Redeemer / Sao Paulo
After an early breakfast, check out of your hotel and depart on a tour to Rio's most famous sight. High above the city, the statue of Christ the Redeemer surveys the skyline and coast from atop 2,300-foot Corcovado Peak. The Art Deco statue erected in 1922 is Brazil's most recognized cultural icon, standing 98 feet tall. It was chosen one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. After lunch, transfer to the airport for your flight to Sao Paulo and the start of your Pantanal adventure.
Note: This extension is available for 2021 departures and beyond.