DAY 1: U.S. /Salvador, Brazil
Fly overnight to the vibrant city of Salvador, Brazil.
DAY 2: Salvador
On arrival, transfer to your fine hotel, the Convento do Carmo or Villa Bahia, located in Salvador’s historic Pelourinho district. Salvador, the capital of the Bahia region and a hub of Afro-Brazilian culture, is renowned for its colorful and exuberant atmosphere. This afternoon, set out to explore this well-preserved city. Stroll through the narrow, bustling streets past brightly painted baroque buildings in the Pelourinho district (a World Heritage site), and visit the church of Sao Francisco. Explore Pelourinho Square, the heart of the old town. In the late afternoon, a special performance awaits: the superlative Folclaco da Bahia will show us the rich variety of music and dance of the region. Welcome dinner at the hotel. (D)
DAY 3: Salvador
We have a variety of choices this day, some of which may be combined according to what most interests you.
One possibility is for a full-day excursion to Praia do Forte, a fishing village 80 km. north of Salvador, home to some of the best beaches in Bahia. Hike in the Sapiranga Reserve and visit the headquarters of the national sea turtle preservation project, one of BrazilÂ´s most successful ecological programs.
Another choice is a half-day panoramic tour of the environs of Salvador, seeing the Barra fort and lighthouse at the entrance to the All Saints Bay, and then driving inland to Tororo Lake, site of outstanding orixa statues. Continue to a place with a panoramic view of the city.
Yet another possibility is a visit to a percussion instrument maker’s workshop, where we will learn about and practice playing a number of instruments that are part of the soul of this region.
Another choice is a visit to the headquarters of a social project, set up to street children find their way in society.
Finally, there will be a chance to visit the renowned Mercado Modelo, famous for its handicrafts including embroidery, and to return to Pelourinho to explore on your own.
In the late afternoon we embark National Geographic Explorer and sail southward. (B,L,D)
DAY 4: Ilhas
This morning finds us in Ilhaus, once Brazil’s flourishing cacao capital. Here you’ll have the choice of visiting the world’s only sloth sanctuary and a cacao plantation, or else going on a birdwatching excursion in the Atlantic Forest.
If you take the first option, you’ll tour Ilhaus, seeing the iconic Cathedral of Sao Sebastio and continue to the sloth sanctuary, with close-up views of maned and brown-throated sloths. Head to a traditional cacao farm to learn about the culture of cacao farming. Have lunch at the plantation before returning to Ilhaus. There,’ time to visit Vesaio, the cafe made famous as a setting for Jorge Amado’s great 1958 novel Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon.
If you choose the birdwatching excursion, you’ll drive to an area with one of the highest concentrations of birds in the Atlantic Forest. Search for yellow-rumped cacique, several kinds of hummingbird, blue-crowned parakeet, and the spectacular green-headed tanager and blue-backed manakin. Hike to a fine waterfall and have lunch at a cacao farm before heading back to Ilhaus.
This evening there’s a musical performance by a leading musician of the region. (B,L,D)
DAY 5: At Sea/Abrolhos Archipelago National Park
The waters surrounding the Abrolhos Archipelago are famous for the populations of humpback whales, which come here at this time of year to court, breed, and give birth. We’ll look for adult whales, mothers and calves, and perhaps trios of animals including two adults and one calf. Sometimes the whales watch us as well, and approach the ship for a closer look. Keep an eye out also for masked boobies and red-billed tropicbirds. (B,L,D)
DAY 6: At Sea
We’ll have a full program of talks by our staff and photo team, to prepare us for the exciting days.
DAY 7-8: Rio de Janeiro
Discover legendary Rio on your choices among two days of varied and absorbing excursions, letting you pick the combination that exactly suits your interests. Travel to the top of Corcovado, where the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer sits, and where you’ll find some of Rio’s most spectacular vistas. Distinctively shaped Sugarloaf looks across to downtown Rio and many of its neighborhoods, along with bays and beaches. You may wish to make a full-day visit to see the beautiful, endangered golden lion tamarin. Another full-day option is to explore Floresta da Tijuca, one of the world’s largest urban forests, with a choice of hikes.
Dedicated birdwatchers will have the chance to visit Rio’s outstanding Botanical Garden and the Tijuca Forest, where more than 200 bird species have been recorded.
One afternoon you’ll have the chance to visit a favela, or shantytown, meeting the people who are working diligently to improve the lot of the residents, and seeing a stirring performance of dance and percussion. Also visit the Cidade do Samba, where the following year,™s Carnival floats and costumes are prepared. You may wish to visit renowned Ipanema Beach on your own, and we’ll provide shuttle transportation.
We’ll have a special outing to the fantastic venue Rio Scenarium, where we’ve reserved a private room for a special performance, just for us, by renowned singer Teresa Cristina and her band. On our other evening, we,™ll dine on churrasco, the distinctively Brazilian style of barbecue. (B,L,D)
DAY 9: Parati
We follow the Costa Verde to Parati, once an important center of the gold trade. This charming town (shortlisted for World Heritage designation) has cobbled streets, whitewashed cottages and colonial buildings. If you wish, venture out of town to hike a section of the Caminho do Ouro, the gold trail, built by slaves to convey gold from the mines of Minas Gerais to the coast. And you may also wish to visit a local beach for swimming and kayaking. (B,L,D)
DAY 10: Anchieta/At Sea
This morning, we visit the tiny island of Anchieta, once notorious as a penal colony for the most hard-core political prisoners. Visit the evocative ruins of the prison complex and hear tales of the island’s past from local residents. You may also find the island’s beaches inviting. Birdwatchers will enjoy a guided walk with our ornithologist.
This afternoon aboard ship, we’ll have a musical performance by Brazilian singer-songwriter Luasa Maita and her band. (B,L,D) DAY 11: Curitiba & Paranagua At Sea
Today you can choose a ride aboard the iconic Serra Verde Express train, on an excursion to Curitiba for a remarkable mountain rail trip to the tropical lowlands. Alternatively, explore the Atlantic rain forest on a hike to a waterfall.
Riding aboard the Serra Verde Express is one of the great rail journeys of the world. The tracks cling precipitously to the cliffsides as they train winds through these fantastic landscapes, until we arrive at the colonial town of Morretes. We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant, with time to explore this charming, friendly community before we head back to Paranagua and our ship.
Alternatively, explore Atlantic Forest in the vicinity of Guaraqueaba. Begin with a boat to a pretty bay, with the peaks of Serra do Mar dominating the background. Visit a reserve, hiking to a pretty waterfall. There are trails and a natural pool for swimming if you wish. Drive back to Guaraqueaba, have lunch, and tour the historic center before returning to our ship. (B,L,D)
DAY 12: At Sea
Our day at sea is a perfect opportunity to hear talks by our staff about leading South American issues and the natural history of the region, and a chance to catch up on reading and perhaps photo editing. (B,L,D)
DAY 13: Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande is the beginning of the Pampas, vast lowlands that stretch all the way to Patagonia.
One option is to visit a wetland area south of Rio Grande, with some easy, rewarding walks. Look for capybaras and perhaps caiman. The birdlife is outstanding,. We’ll explore a forest of fig trees, walk across the plains and even see some paleodunes.
Alternatively, you may wish to visit the colonial town of Pelotas, which became well known and wealthy in the 18th and 19th centuries because of its immense charqueadas, ranches where beef jerky was produced for export to other parts of Brazil and even to Europe. You’ll visit a charqueada that has been in the same family for generations. Have a riverside lunch at the ranch, then visit the center of Pelotas to see its colonial architecture. Back at Rio Grande, visit the outstanding Oceanographic Museum.
This evening, we’ll hear music of this region of Brazil aboard ship with a performance by the instrumental group Quartcha to. (B,L,D)
DAY 14: At Sea
One more day at sea aboard National Geographic Explorer gives a chance to reflect on our journey and hear presentations about the coming days in Uruguay and Argentina. (B,L,D)
DAY 15: Montevideo, Uruguay
In Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, you’ll have a choice in the morning of touring the city or going on a birdwatching excursion. Then we’ll all meet at an estancia (cattle ranch) for a fine lunch and an enjoyable afternoon learning how the ranch works.
If you choose to tour Montevideo, you’ll walk through part of the downtown area, with elegant architecture that ranges from colonial to art deco to modern. The atmosphere is friendly and upbeat. If it’s open, tour the inside of the parliament building. Alternatively, visit wetlands and an area along the Rio de la Plata in search of birdlife, in the company of our ornithologist and an expert local guide.
We’ll all meet up at a family-owned estancia outside Montevideo. Vintage vehicles take us down to the Rao de la Plata, you’ll have a chance to ride horseback or milk a cow if you wish, and you,™ll enjoy a traditional asado (barbecue) lunch. A stirring performance of music and dance of the gauchos will complete the experience, before we head back to our ship for the night. (B,L,D)
DAY 16: Buenos Aires, Argentina
This morning we disembark in vibrant Buenos Aires, but the enjoyment isn’t over yet. We’ll tour this great city, seeing its beaux arts palaces including the Casa Rosada on the Plaza de Mayo, where Eva Peron famously addressed the crowds from one of the balconies. Immediately after lunch, we’ll take in a performance of authentic Argentinean tango, with live music, at a club that’s been at its present location for 45 years. We then transfer to our fine hotel, the Caesar Park (MGallery), well located near shops and restaurants. The rest of the afternoon and the evening are at leisure. (B,L)
DAY 17: Buenos Aires/Depart
We continue exploring Buenos Aires with visits to the bohemian quarters of La Boca and San Telmo and the Recoleta Cemetery, where generations of Argentina’s elite, including Eva Peron, are buried in elaborate mausoleums. We return to our hotel. The afternoon is at leisure until you transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home, or else stay another night at the hotel prior to taking the extension to Iguazu Falls. (B)
DAY 18: Arrive U.S.
Arrive in the U.S. this morning. For an additional fee and while you are in the neighborhood: Iguazu Falls
POST-TRIP / 3 DAYS / FROM $2,490
Taller than Niagara and twice as wide, Iguazu Falls is situated in a beautiful subtropical forest, home to more than 450 species of birds, including toucans and parrots, and butterflies, orchids, and endangered jaguars.