When researchers first documented the canopy, it changed how we thought about the world’s rainforests. Canopy findings rocketed up previous estimates and we now think 60 to 90% of all rainforest life is in the trees. Many animals were found high in the branches that never set foot on the forest floor. This means the canopy can be a fantastically bio-diverse area to explore for interesting animals and plants. This is also the place where many of the Amazon’s most sought-after animals and plants live, such as Howler Monkeys and Harpy Eagles. Here I’ll write a bit about the canopy tower at the Cristalino Lodge followed by the tour activities of this fantastic rainforest lodge.
Cristalino Lodge Canopy Tower
– Richard Hoyer (Published Bird Watcher & Volunteer Guide)
Many lodges in the Amazon Rainforest have canopy towers or different ways to experience the treetops, such as the canopy walkway of the Explorama Lodge or the Canopy Zipline at the Tahuayo Lodge (the longest in Amazonia). But for simply standing and observing the canopy to spot birds and other tree-living life, it doesn’t get better than the Cristalino Lodge.
The Cristalino Lodge in southern Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest, just north of the Pantanal, is a nature lover’s paradise. The lodge established two giant 50-meter (165 ft) galvanized steel observation towers to get a truly bird’s eye view over the rainforest. Trees in the Amazon usually range from 25 to 45 meters (80 – 145 ft), with some emergent species growing even taller. This presents a difficulty if viewing animals from the ground. Other lodges have canopy towers, but no other reaches this height with such unobstructed views over the Amazon’s ocean-like canopy.
When standing atop the towers, you can see all the layers of the rainforest from the ground up. You will be looking out over the lush-looking greenery spotting colorful birds flying over the forest. Although spectacular at all times of day, we recommend the view at sunset or sunrise for clear reasons. The birds you are likely see from the canopy towers include macaws, parakeets, parrots, tanagers and cotingas, among many others, as well as monkeys, such as the white-whiskered spider monkey (Ateles marginatus) and the white-nosed saki monkey (Chiropotes albinasus).
Some of the forest you will see from the towers is protected in the Cristalino Private National Heritage Reserve, which was established to combat logging in the region and to preserve the area’s exceptional diversity of animals and plants. This 11,399 hectare (28,167 acres) protected area, along with the Cristalino State Park, serves as a wildlife corridor for the high number of animals only found in this part of Amazonia.
When you’re looking out over the canopy from the Cristalino towers, think of the animals that are living their lives under the foliage. Here you can find jaguar, bush dog, puma, giant anteater, sloth, over seven species of monkey, including the endemic white-whiskered spider monkey. Other forest dwellers include the giant armadillo, giant otter and many species of butterfly and frog. A third of all Brazilian birds – of a total of 1,800 species, including the harpy eagle, wrens, macaws, parrots and toucans – can also be seen in and around the reserve.
Tour Options Available At Cristalino Lodge
Cristalino Lodge offers many different tour options and activities where you can experience the canopy towers. You can choose the standard ecotourism tour where you are guided along different trails to spot rainforest inhabitants of the forest and of the fully protected River Cristalino. If you have a specific interest in photography, you can choose the Cristalino photography option, suited for both amateur and professional photographers. Activities will start in early morning, before sunrise, for the best wildlife spotting. Photography tours are accompanied by a private guide who will do his best to maximize wildlife watching opportunities. Your guide will look for subjects of special interest to the photographer, such as birds, monkeys, landscapes, butterflies, reptiles, insects, plants, fungi or flowers.
There are many trails around the Cristalino Lodge for wildlife observation and experiencing the Amazon rainforest. The trails can be enjoyed by people of all ages and are not long, ranging from 2 km and 4 km (1.2 – 2.4 mi). On forest walks your guide will point out birds, plants, monkeys and interesting things. In addition to the trails, the lodge has access to the River Cristalino for canoeing and also Ariosto Island (567 hectares) where there are many different birds. This is also the study base for the Cristalino Foundation for rainforest research. Watching the sunset on the river is a very beautiful attraction. Since canoeing is a quiet, peaceful activity, it frequently provides excellent opportunities to observe birds and monkeys along the river banks. It is always a good idea to head with the current down river, passing through different types of scenery. Another great option is to combine canoeing with hiking, walking a trail in the morning and returning to the Cristalino Lodge in a canoe.