Beaches to Waterfalls: My First Dragoman Experience

Hollie, one of our fantastic sales consultants, experienced our Wetlands, Waterfalls & Wonders overland tour recently. Here is her account of what she got up to on the road with Dragoman...

Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires (ZBR)

This was to be my first time in South America and also my first group tour. I had previously done all of my travelling independently so I was unsure of what to expect on my first Dragoman adventure. It turned out to be a really exciting experience. Our group were a mixed bunch from across the globe who bonded very quickly. (Due to other travel commitments I departed the tour in Foz du Iguazu)

Day 1 - Rio de Janeiro

I arrived in Rio early and had the whole day to myself so decided to take part in some optional activities. I got up nice and early and rode the train up Corcovado to witness the astonishing feat of craftsmanship and engineering that is Christ the Redeemer. Not only is the statue breath-taking but so are the views of the sprawling city below.

After lunch, I took the cable car ride up to Sugar Loaf Mountain for an equally stunning vista which I enjoyed with an ice cold Caipirinha – the national cocktail of Brazil.

The evening was spent getting to know the group over dinner in a local restaurant, followed by more Caipirinhas in a bustling square in the Flamengo district.   

Day 2 to 4 – Paraty 

After a fabulous breakfast at the Hotel Argentina, we packed up the truck and headed south out of Rio for a spectacular coastal drive to the colonial town of Paraty.

We arrived at lunchtime and had the afternoon free to explore the picturesque streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site. The evening was spent at a pool party hosted by a nearby hotel. We were promised some traditional dance music performed by a local band. What we actually got turned out to be some hairy Brazilian rockers playing some classic rock and heavy metal covers. Although not what we expected, the band were excellent and the dancing and singing went on in to the early hours.

We awoke the next day to overcast skies – not promising for our included boat tour of the beaches and islands. Despite the uncertain start, we enjoyed a whole day of warm, sunny weather on board our vessel. There were plenty of stops for swimming and exploring the beaches and we even spotted turtles basking in the warm waters.

The final day was free for us to do our own thing. I went on a walking tour of Paraty, did some Geocaching, and later joined some of the group for a meal in a highly rated Thai restaurant.

Day 5 to 6 – Brotas

It was a very early start this morning as we had a whole day of driving to get through before we reached our next destination – Brotas.

The Jacaré campsite was our home for the next two nights. It is very well equipped with cooking areas, a toilet/shower block, and a swimming pool. There were also options to upgrade – little chalets sleeping up to eight people in dorm style accommodation – and so a few of us decided to part with a small amount of cash for the comfort of nice soft beds and a solid roof over our heads.

The next day was free to laze around at the lush green campsite or take part in some of the adrenaline-fuelled activities on offer including white water rafting, tubing, and canyoning. 

Day 7 – A long drive day and a wild camp

Today was another long day of driving as we started the two day journey to get to our next destination – the Southern Pantanal. Luckily the roads in Brazil are very good and the service stations (which have free wifi!) are even better so the drive was a pleasant one.

The night was spent wild camping out in the wilderness and the skies were so clear that we could see the Milky Way – such a beautiful sight.

Day 8 to 9 – The Southern Pantanal

We made another early start today so we could arrive at the Fazenda San Francisco by lunchtime where we were promised a feast.

A Fazenda is a cattle ranch and the one we were staying at was also an eco-tourism centre concerned with protecting the abundant wildlife in the surrounding area.

The afternoon was spent horseback riding through the grounds of the Fazenda, getting to know the ways of the Gauchos. We also spotted some Capybaras (giant Guinea pigs) bathing in the mud as well as some beautiful macaws, parakeets, and toucans.

After our evening meal, we set out on a nightime safari in a purpose built truck. With the help of our guide we were able to spot a pair of Maned Wolves, Crab-eating Foxes, Marsh Deer and even an Ocelot.

The next day we continued to tick off creatures on another safari tour through the wetlands of the Fazenda, including more Marsh deer, many Caimans in varying different sizes, and some incredible birds like the enormous Jabiru stork. The highlight for me though, was seeing two Anacondas.

In the evening the staff at the Fazenda threw a big party for us with a bonfire, BBQ and lots of traditional dancing which we got involved in.

Day 10 to 12 – Bonito

We arrived in Bonito – the capital of eco-tourism in Brazil – and had the late afternoon and evening to enjoy the nightlife of the town.

The following day I visited the Buraco das Araras which is one of the world’s largest sink-holes while some others from the group enjoyed the river snorkelling at nearby Rio de Prata. The trip to the sink-hole included a guided walk around the edge and stop-offs at viewing platforms so that we could see the macaws and toucans nesting there.

The final day in Bonito was free for us to relax by the pool, explore the town and do some souvenir shopping.

Day 13 to 15 – Foz do Iguaçu

To reach our next destination, and sadly my final destination on this trip, involved a full day’s drive. To pass the time we played a music quiz as well as touring more of Brazil’s fine service stations.

Our first full day at the Iguazu Falls was spent on the Argentinean side exploring the vast complex of trails and viewing points. Nothing quite prepares you for the sight of one of the biggest network of waterfalls in the world; it is beyond stunning, particularly from the vantage point overlooking the Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat).

A group of us decided to do the optional activity of taking a speedboat to the base of the falls which was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. Quite possibly the best shower I have ever had! If you ever get the chance don't miss it!

On the second full day we stayed on the Brazilian side to see the falls from a different vantage point. The difference is that on this side, you can see almost the whole network of falls from afar and so can appreciate the scale slightly better. It is also possible to take helicopter rides from here to appreciate the views even further.

In the afternoon I visited the Parque das Aves bird park, a brilliant conservation project which is home to many different species of macaws, toucans and other interesting birds.

Before my flight home I had just enough time to pop over the border into Paraguay to for a quick look around and then it was time to leave, as the rest of the group continued on to Buenos Aires.

Hollie was on Dragoman's Wetlands, Waterfalls & Wonders (ZBR) tour, find out all about this amazing overland trip below...


Contact the team if you have any questions about this or any of our other tours.