Cristalino Jungle Lodge
Alta Floresta, Brazil
At a Glance
A very comfortable jungle lodge accessible only by river
In pristine and primary rainforest in a private reserve along the southern belt of the Amazon
Experienced local guides take guests on walks through the jungle trails and by boat on the river
Combines very well with the northern Pantanal with direct flights from Cuiaba for an ultimate wildlife experience
Fantastic bird life
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
All year round destination. The climate is hot and humid throughout the whole year. Between June and November, it rains less (although it is a tropical rainforest and therefore can rain at any time) and it is hotter. From December to May the rainfall is more intense and the water levels increase and large marshlands form both in the archipelago and on the mainland. The flooded land reaches the highest levels between March and April and the lowest between August and October. When the land is flooded, more areas can be accessed by boat however during the 'drier' season beaches are formed along the archipelago and there is more chance to see wildlife such as caiman and capybaras on the river banks.
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Cristalino Jungle Lodge is a magical wildlife destination and conservation project nestled in a pristine private reserve in the Alta Floresta region in the Southern Brazilian Amazon rainforest state of Mato Grosso. Cristalino is only accessible by boat.
Hidden amongst huge tropical trees on a small bend of the Cristalino River in northern Mato Grosso State, the remote and rustic Cristalino Jungle Lodge is one of South America’s foremost conservation projects and eco-lodges. Arrive by motorised canoe and walk up the path to a series of simple but unexpectedly comfortable and spacious solar-powered wooden bungalows set in a jungle clearing.
The surrounding private reserve is home to an astonishing 580 species of bird and is also particularly rich in butterfly species. There are also excellent opportunities to spot the local mammals, including tapir, capybara, anteaters, river otters, deer and agoutis. Seven primate species (Night Monkey, Dusky Titi Monkey, Brown Capuchin, Red-handed Howler Monkey, White-Whiskered Spider Monkey and the endemic Red-Nosed Bearded Saki Monkey) also call the reserve home.
A series of trails (22 miles in total) and river trips take you to the six different ecosystems within the reserve, that vary from rocky savannah to dense primary rainforest. There is also a spectacular 50-metre canopy tower, arguably the best in the Americas, ideal for viewing the colourful birdlife. The tower allows the viewing of many rainforest layers and, on the top, you stand above the canopy. The sight is remarkable, especially during sunset and sunrise.
Accommodation at Cristalino Jungle Lodge is in eight standard rooms and four bungalows with private bathrooms. The lodge is located in the midst of the forest, with accommodations that blend with the native jungle.
The highlights are the bungalows and the superior rooms, which were carefully designed in wood, with ceramic tile floors, presenting the perfect balance between design and comfort. All rooms have solar water heating and biological waste treatment, which emphasizes the preoccupation with environmental sustainability.
Sustainable practices are present in the solar heating, gray-water treatment system, black-water treatment system and in the roof design with air-escapes to maintain a cooler temperature.
Standard rooms have two or three beds with rustic and simple regional decoration, fan ceiling and private bathrooms. Each room has 23m2 and accommodates from one to three people. Each block has four rooms with opposite entrances.
These rooms are slightly smaller than the Private Bungalows and don't offer sofas. Each bungalow has two comfortable master beds - choice of queen size or twin - reading table, ceiling fan, large screened windows and natural ventilation. Each room has a private modern bath facility with separate wash basin, toilet and glassed-in shower with a view to the private outdoor cold shower. In the entrance there is a small veranda with a hammock.
The Bungalows are perfect to provide a rich experience with the surrouding environment and is ideal for families, couples and friends. Two comfortable master beds - choice of queen size or twin, and two additional sleep sofas for children or small adults, ceiling fan, large screened windows and natural ventilation. Spacious modern bath facility with separate wash basin, toilet and glassed-in shower. This bungalow also has an outdoor cold shower with garden view. In the entrance there is a spacious private veranda with a hammock.
This accommodation is similar to the private bungalow, however it has an additional outside bathtub, with hot and cold water, in a private garden setting-ideal for relaxing at the end of the day. Each room has 68 sq meters (731 sq feet) distributed in one bungalow, allowing for a greater privacy. These bungalows can accommodate from one to four people (two adults with two teenagers) with comfort.
Children of all ages are welcome at Cristalino Jungle Lodge. However, due to the length of the transfer to the lodge and the nature of the excursions we would not necessarily recommend it for very young children. Older children are sure to enjoy the adventurous nature of a stay in the rainforest and looking out for the local wildlife.
Facilities at Cristalino include a floating deck for swimming, wildlife viewing and relaxing, living room and library, restaurant and bar, 50-metre canopy tower, screened treehouse and binoculars for rent.
A variety of activities are included in all stays at Cristalino, including birdwatching, butterfly observation, hiking into the dense surrounding rainforest, canoeing, swimming and boat trips.
This discreet forest hideaway, accessible only by river, is tucked into the heart of an estate the size of Greater London on the very southern fringe of the forest. In Amazonian terms it's a postage stamp. Yet it's stuffed with wildlife and as good a place as any to start.
And so we hit the trail. Each morning our guide Marcos leads us deep into the forest. We duck lianas, clamber over buttress roots and skirt columns of army ants, all the time peering up for movement in the canopy. It's hard work: an occasional crash or squawk betrays monkeys or macaws high above, but the green curtain gives little away.
At ground level, however, it's another story. Marcos points out exquisite bromeliads, electric blue morpho butterflies and the delicate clay funnels of cicada larvae. We gather around the trunk of a statuesque Brazil nut tree, where he retrieves a cricket ball-sized nut from the leaf litter. One swing of a machete reveals the seeds – the nuts we know from Christmas hampers – arranged like orange segments. They taste sweet and oily, like coconut.
There is no shortage of other giants: a fist-sized elephant beetle lumbers across the lodge terrace; a saucer-sized tarantula waves hairy pedipalps from its silk-lined burrow; and sheep-sized capybaras – at 50kg, the world's largest rodent – emerge from the river each night to graze the lodge lawns. We even come close to seeing the world's largest snake when we nervously investigate a fetid swamp where a monster anaconda has recently been spotted. I'm sure it sees us.
Then there are the birds: Cristalino's tally of more than 570 species is exceptional even by Amazon standards. And to make spotting them easier the lodge has built the world's highest canopy tower. Up here, swaying a nerve-jangling 52m above the forest floor, we watch scarlet macaws, channel-billed toucans and swallow-tailed kites commuting over the undulating treescape, while screaming pihas add their hidden shrieks to the chorus below.
The river offers another perspective still. Each crescent sandbank erupts in butterfly confetti as our boat sweeps by. Far upstream we cut the engine and drift silently into a placid backwater. All is still but for the dancing light on the water – and an odd wheezing sound among the overhanging creepers. Paddling closer brings a crashing and flapping, followed by several large, prehistoric-looking birds lurching out across the water. These are hoatzins. They digest food in their throat and produce nestlings with claws on their wings. Not Big Five fodder, maybe, but another A-lister among Brazil's weird and wonderful.
Pantanal, Amazon, Rio de Janeiro, Angra dos Reis
from £7000 pp inc flights & transfers for 14 nights
- Three fantastically different ecosystems to explore - wetlands, Amazonian rainforest and Atlantic rainforest
- Experience the best lodging in each location, and excellent guiding
- Great adventure opportunities, from horse riding to canoeing, and foot safaris to boat trips
Wildlife of Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Amazon, Pantanal
from £6500 pp inc flights & transfers for 10 nights
- Discover the incredible array of wildlife in Brazil as you explore the Pantanal wetlands and the Amazon Rainforest
- Spend time in Rio de Janeiro taking in some of Brazil's most iconic sights
- Enjoy night walks in the jungle to observe the Amazon's nocturnal widlife
Location & directions
Alta Floresta, Brazil
Cristalino Jungle Lodge is set amidst pristine forest in Brazil's south western Amazon region. Hidden amongst huge tropical trees on a small bend of the Cristalino River in northern Mato Grosso State.
How to get there
A 2-hour flight from Cuiaba to Alta Floresta followed by a 2-hour road and boat transfer to Cristalino Jungle Lodge.
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