Colonial capitals, Old World boom towns, plus fascinating ecosystems
Explore the diverse coast of South America, with its vast variety of ecosystems, from tropical to riverine to pampas, and all its iconic wildlife. Live the culture and history amid Old World boomtowns, colonial capitals, and modern urbanity.
Step aboard the National Geographic Explorer and embark on an active, immersive expedition along the wildly diverse and culturally rich east coast of South America. Discover fascinating ecosystems, visit remote isles, explore dazzling cities, and see a vast array of birdlife as well as marine mammals.
Some of the charming towns really feel like a chapter out of Portuguese colonial history with the colonial tiled roofs, the beautiful whitewashed walls, and the colored doors. It’s very photogenic.
Explore with seasoned expedition teams
See, do, and learn more by going with engaging experts who have been exploring this region for decades. Go with an expedition leader, naturalists, and more.
Veteran expedition leaders are the orchestrators of your experience. Many have advanced degrees and have conducted research or taught for years. They have achieved expedition leader status because they possess the skills, experience, and the depth of knowledge necessary to continually craft the best expedition possible for our guests.
Explore with a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructor—a naturalist who is specially trained to offer assistance with camera settings, the basics of composition, and to help you become a better, more confident photographer.
Our naturalists, passionate about the geographies they explore (and return to regularly), illuminate each facet through their enthusiasm and knowledge. Our guests consistently cite the expertise and engaging company of our staff as key reasons to repeatedly travel with us.
National Geographic Endurance sails with an undersea specialist aboard who can dive into the cold waters to shoot video of what lies beneath the waves or deploy an ROV to depths of 1,000 feet to explore regions never before seen.
Life aboard National Geographic Endurance is casual all the way. There’s no assigned seating in the dining room or any of the restaurants. In fact, many tables accommodate uneven numbers, making for easy mingling and the fun of sharing breakfast, lunch, or dinner with different new friends, staff, or guest speakers.
We wake up early on this day, which sadly, is to be the last on this remarkable adventure. Every step of the way we have been challenged, our senses are still tingling with all that we have learned about the wildlife, the people and the food, music, and art that form such an integral part of their culture.
The first group heads off to do some bird watching. Several locations are visited and by the end of the day over 80 species have been sighted. It is an impressive count.
The second group heads off on a tour of the city and there are many highlights along the way. Probably most interesting is the old town, the presidential house, the city center, and the congress, which we were able to go into. It is an impressive building with a lot of fine art and it is an opportunity to learn a little more about this tiny country in South America and its rich tradition in freedom and liberty.
We all meet up for lunch at an estancia, this is the equivalent to a ranch in North America. Along the way one is taken in by the rich pasture lands and the flatness of the humid pampas. Soon enough we have arrived at the entrance gate to Estancia La Rábida, and we then travel along a tree-lined road for 7 kilometers before arriving to the buildings, which make up the estancia steadings. We are greeted by the owners and we are struck by their warmth and generosity. Not far from this point a gaucho is cooking the “asado” (the BBQ). The enormous quantity of meat and “chorizos” (a type of sausage) is being carefully and slowly cooked under hot coals. Fresh coals are being made by two big fires a few meters away.
Once the greetings are completed, we all board some hay trucks and other modes of transport and head off for a tour of this working estancia.
By the time we return the food is ready and before we eat the main course we enjoy some delicious starters comprised of bread, chorizos, and freshly cooked vegetables; all of these well accompanied with a variety of drinks. Asados are traditionally to be eaten with wines and today we are able to sample a cabernet sauvignon and a tannat, both from Uruguay.
The main course is sumptuous and delicious. There are a variety of meats to choose from and many fresh salads. We chat away sitting comfortably on straw bales and the young folk from the family of the estancia ensure that we have enough to drink. Just before the desserts are served we are treated to some traditional folk dances and music from this region. It is very impressive!
After we have finished our lunch we relax by walking to see some pampas rheas in some enclosures and for the more adventuresome there is the chance to ride a horse. Many take advantage of this and ride around the large enclosed area. To finish off the afternoon some decide to accept the opportunity of being pulled by a horse whilst sitting on a large piece of rawhide. There are some spills and of course a lot of laughter.
By now it is late afternoon and we reluctantly board the buses to return to the ship.
After a welcome shower, we head up to the lounge where we are able to enjoy a drink whilst watching a looped slideshow. As we look at these images we relive many of the rich experiences from this voyage. Our Captain then bids us farewell and speedy and safe travels home.
Today was a restful day at sea after a final but rewarding day in Brazil. Our next port of call is Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, one of the smallest nation states in South America, created as a buffer state between the two rival powers of Brazil to the north and Argentina to the south. Montevideo and indeed Uruguay itself are situated on the north bank of
Rio de la Plata
, known by English-speakers as the River Plate, an historic frontier of enormous strategic significance. The huge estuary of the Parana and Uruguay rivers opens out broadly into the Atlantic. In the Age of Exploration it invited the Spanish explorers to nose in search of a navigable route to the silk and spice lands of Cathay. As with other promising inlets along this coast, that particular dream was soon dashed but in the case of this particular inlet an inland route beckoned that was to enable the silver of the Potosi mine to be exported back to Spain ushering in the inflation-racked
that was simultaneously the making and breaking of the Spanish maritime empire. From the times of the first European settlers to the outbreak of the Second World War, when the German cruiser
Admiral Graf Spee
was captured then scuttled off the coast of Montevideo, this has strategic historic frontier zone has been a conflicted one.
English influence has added an additional layer to the cultural mix. In the 1830s,
under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy, with the young Charles Darwin on board, spent many weeks here surveying the difficult but profitable waters of the River Plate, producing charts that are still in use today. The English returned to trade in agricultural produce as barbed wire, tinning, and then refrigeration gave rise to settled business community whose legacy is soccer and rugby football, polo and afternoon tea, the latter through some quirk of time known as
the time when the English took their morning coffee. Our afternoon tea on board was scheduled in the laundry, of all places, a chance for guests to see an important part of the ship usually off limits to them, with every available surface covered in delicacies.
At times during the day poor visibility had us sounding the fog horn, a sign that we had entered the cooler waters of the Malvinas/ Falklands current that are also busy shipping lanes. In the late afternoon, however, the skies cleared to provide brilliant visibility. As dinner drew to a close, a few
s of the green flash gathered eagerly on the bow in eager anticipation.
Our last day in wonderful Brazil started with the arrival of a local pilot who drove the
National Geographic Explorer
Lagoa dos Patos
(meaning “the ducks’ lagoon”), docking in the town of Pelotas. Pelotas is very close to the entrance of the 90 mile-long coastal lagoon, at which opposite end lies the city of Porto Alegre, capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Rio Grande do Sul is Brazil’s southernmost state and borders Uruguay to the south and Argentina to the west. It is also an extremely nice place, with milder weather than the tropical portions of this very large country and a strong influence of its southern neighbors.
We divided into groups and while some went to the
Charqueada São João
, a cattle ranch with all the flavor of the traditional gaucho culture, other went to the TAIM wetlands reserve. The TAIM reserve is a wonderful place that protects a rich environment of grassy, savanna-like
, wetlands and coastal lagoons. Wildlife abounds there and from the very beginning of our hike we spotted all kinds and sizes of birds, some familiar like the Vermillion flycatcher and the snowy egret, but the most new to many of us. Everywhere we looked we discovered some beautiful bird, like the field flicker, the
heron, or the fork-tailed flycatcher. Rufous horneros sang near their balloon-like nests made of mud, Brazilian ducks swam quietly among the floating vegetation, long-winged harriers and snail kites patrolled the wetlands flying at low altitude looking for small prey. One of the most conspicuous members of the avifauna here, without a doubt, is the southern screamer; it’s a large turkey-sized bird and a very noisy one. Its calls add a lively note to the landscape of the TAIM. However, it was a mammal that captivates everyone’s hearts today, the capybara. Even though the capybara is the largest rodent in the world at almost 100 lb, its peaceful manners and interesting looks made it a favorite and we all enjoyed watching it. Big groups were scattered all over the place, most resting in their sandy beds and some swimming or grazing. A few territorial males chased potential competitors away. We also got the chance to watch a broad-nosed caiman, a 6-7 ft long crocodilian that coexists peacefully with the capybaras but that declares war to the abundant snails, frogs, and fish.
After a great day of excitement we returned to our floating home with camera-cards full and big smiles, thanking this beautiful country for all the good moments that we enjoyed here.
Brazil is definitely a country facing the sea. It is also one of the most spectacularly beautiful coastlines on the planet. From the recesses of the Amazon region to the dumbfounding straight lines of the south, through the paradisiacal vertigo in the Northeast and the lush sea-mountain combination of the Southeast, Brazil has it all.
National Geographic Explorer
cruises to the south coast of Brazil, we wonder about the Brazilian beaches that came into existence between 90 and 130 million years ago when tectonic process of colossal proportions separated the mega continent Gondwana, thus creating the coasts of Africa and South America. This movement gave origin to the Atlantic Ocean and it is still at work to this day, drifting three centimeter a year. In the beginning, a great deal of the Brazilian coast was pre-designed with the disposition of a mountain chain of volcanic origin aligned north/south wise, forming this way the element know today as Serra do Mar. This granite formation is very important for the coast design that goes from Santa Catarina to Salvador, in the state of Bahia.
At the southernmost part of the country, in the northeast and in the north, there is a process of arenization that marks a great deal of the landscape of the Brazilian coast. In the shores of these regions, the sand is transported mostly by the wind. The sand deposition along the centuries resulted in the creation of several transition coastal environments.
For all this, the Brazilian coast is so unique and diverse. The coast is approximately 7,400 km long and it is divided in four great units: North (or the Amazon), the Northeast Coast, the Southeast coast, and the South Coast. The Brazilian beaches, just like the others, were the locus for a process that resulted in the occupation of the coast and the making of the identity of the Brazilian people. Nowadays, the demographic density in the coast is 87 per square km. This population concentration gave origin to metropolis and average size cities. There is also the removal of the natural vegetation, the extinction of fauna, disorganized urbanization and industrial sewages, waste disposal problems, draining of humid areas, the occupation of dunes, and projects of aquaculture. To them, we can add the impact of agricultural sediments brought by the rivers, the spilling of oil and toxic products in the sea and marine dynamics alterations. These events affected the original characteristics of many beaches, polluted the waters, hid the primitive natural beauty, and destroyed the means of survival of original populations.
Fortunately, many natural aspects still survive in shores forgotten by modernity. Places that have been little altered, where we can rest our bodies and coexist in a simpler way of living. Places where it is still possible to read clearly the records of the great book of nature, and learn about the true natural history of the Brazilian coast.
Somewhere in the course of the evening
National Geographic Explorer
passed out of tropics, but just barely. Paranagua lies roughly at 26º south, we began our expedition in Salvador at 13º south latitude so far having sailed nearly 800 nautical miles of Brazil's coastline. This is of significance because the Atlantic forest ecosystem, with the richest biodiversity on Earth, spans that same 800 miles with another 600 more miles lying north of Salvador. Prior to Portuguese colonizing these shores in the 16
century the Atlantic Forest covered over 1.25 million square kilometers now, sadly, less than 100,000 square kilometers remain intact. Of that remaining forest, 99% exists in very small fragments of less than ½ km². Today our time in Paranagua and the surrounding area will be our last day exploring the Atlantic forest as we sail further south the climate and ecosystems transition from coastal forests to the flat and expansive pampas of southeastern Brazil.
One of our outings today traveled to the capital of Parana State, Curitiba, situated in the middle of the Serra do Mar mountains, where we boarded the
Serra Verde Express
train to Morretes. The train winds through the spectacular mountainside terrain with much of the slopes and adjacent hills harboring the remnants of the Atlantic forest. The day was a rather rainy day but even with that the breathtaking scenery and exceptionally lush rain forest were a real highlight. As the train passed through the forest, a channel-billed toucan was spotted perched in a tree adjacent to the railway. Upon the arrival in Morretes a fandango show was performed and the guests experienced the traditional meal of
. A brief time to explore the town of Morretes before departing back to Paranagua and returning to the ship.
A much smaller faction of explorers set out for a more intimate experience in the Atlantic forest, one where all senses were stimulated by this magnificent ecosystem. The heavy clouds clinging to the Serra do Mar mountains foretold of a true rain forest experience ahead of us. This however didn't deter us and in fact added such an important element to the outing to grasp the true value of the rain to the forest system. We set out from Paranagua in a speedboat to cross the massive estuarine system of mango forests and islands to the coastal fishing community of Guaraqueçaba. Arriving there we took a short bus ride into the
Reserva Natural Salto Morato
where we were to spend the next few hours hiking, bird watching, and soaking in the forest sounds and sites. By the time we had reached the visitor center to start our hike the rain began to fall in earnest, the heavy drops percolating through the canopy falling on the large fan leafs of the understory made for a wonderful soundtrack, mixed in with the occasional bird call and singing forest frogs. The director of the reserve had told us that it had been over a week since any significant rainfall and that he was pleased to see the forest getting the much needed dowsing.
Salto Morato is an idyllic and picturesque waterfall surrounded by primary and secondary Atlantic forest. The preserve that gets its name from this waterfall is over 2,500 hectares and is comprised of nearly 75% primary forest, making it one of the largest pieces of primary forest left in all of the Atlantic forest. As we neared the waterfall the rain began to dissipate leaving the lush forest refreshed and rejuvenated. The waterfall plunges some 500m from top to bottom and feeds the stream that winds its way through the forest. Our return trip on the forest trail was soon punctuated with the feverish activity of many species of birds taking advantage of the break in the rain. In total we observed over 50 species of birds in the few short hours we were there. Our time spent here would be the last of our time in the Atlantic forest and a more than fitting finale to what has been an incredible exploration of one of the worlds most diverse and significant forest ecosystems.
Not only does this itinerary take you through some of the most ecologically vibrant parts of the planet, it also offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the region's incredible cultures through music.