Our trip to Brazil was fantastic! Martin, Bobby, and Charline did an incredible job putting it all together and making it run smoothly. Miraculously, even all of our flights went on time for the entire trip!
Our goal for the trip was wildlife focused with some adventure as well. They came through! We really, really wanted to see jaguars and we didn’t want to be one of many boats watching them on the side of a river! Bobby’s suggestion to stay at Caiman Ecological Refuge and spend 3 days with the Oncafari team was spot on! It was everything we’d hoped…jaguars! We actually saw 8 different jaguars and some of them we saw more than once. The wildlife viewing in the Pantanal in general was incredible! We saw way too many birds to count. We saw tapirs, many capybara, lots of caiman, and many other animals. The only thing we didn’t see was an anteater, which our driver to the airport in Campo Grande helped us with the last morning, when we saw several! This amazing experience happened even though there was a massive fire on the Caiman property just a few weeks before. We were moved to a different accommodation but everything was great. Our guide, Joao and driver, Chipa were fun, informative, and excellent at spotting animals!
We also visited an under the radar place called Bonito where we enjoyed wildlife with snorkeling in the crystal clear water amongst the many fish and visited the macaw hole where I was on a mission to get the perfect shot. We also had some real adventure by repelling 72 meters into a cave and SCUBA diving to see the giant columns- so much fun! We ate great food and were well cared for by Marcos, who was also a wealth of knowledge. With the help of Marcos, Marc even discovered the local craft beer scene which he loved. Wow… Iguassu Falls! We had so much fun and what surprises! We had a WOW moment from Wendy here, a helicopter ride over the falls! This was fabulous not only because getting a bird’s eye view over Iguassu Falls is incredible, but also because it was our first time in a helicopter! What a treat! Seeing the falls by foot on both the Argentinian and Brazilian side was also beautiful. Who knew one could see something from so many vantage points.
We are so glad we stuck with Martin’s suggestion of staying at the Belmond because if we didn’t we wouldn’t have been able to see the Brazilian side before the park opened which allowed us to see it practically alone. This was significant because there are massive numbers of tourists at this site. One of the evenings we had a surprise Cachaca tasting from Martin’s team. I was hesitant because I’m not one who can typically “taste” hard alcohol, but this was really good and so informative. Marc and I each had a different favorite. We loved it and of course we brought some home! Alex was an amazing guide! Yet again, we were so well cared for and he was also a wealth of knowledge! We were also able to get a late check out at the Belmond, which was very convenient!
Though we organized our time in Rio on our own, Bobby’s staff took care of our transfers and chose our hotel. I was hoping to save some money here so requested downgrades in the hotel. The chosen hotel was not on the beach, which we didn’t care about, but instead had a spectacular view of Sugar Loaf from our room! Our stay in the Amazon was very relaxing! We learned a lot about this important ecosystem. We saw quite a lot of pink dolphins as well as a few giant otters! The plane ride back to Manaus was worth it to see the meeting of the waters! In Manaus we had a short time with another excellent guide to see a few sites. Bobby’s staff also made dinner reservations at an amazing restaurant here before our departure home. All in all, this was one of the smoothest run trips we’ve ever been on. No doubt some of this was luck, but clearly Martin and Bobby did their job and did it very well! We would without question, use them again and recommend them to others.
Martin and Bobby planned a trip for my son & I to Brazil. He was graduating college so likely this is our last big trip for quite a while and I wanted it to be special. They nailed it. it took a lot planning and they were so helpful in selecting the right combination of things to experience. The events they planned were truly unique and the guides they used were fantastic. They were enjoyable to be around and struck the right mix of involvement and discretion. they went above and beyond the call of duty in several cases. Both my son & I agree that this was our best trip ever.
On a trip to celebrate our 46th Wedding Anniversary, we were treated to a surprise picnic and anniversary cake on the beach in Paraty during our Day on the Bay boat trip, piranha fishing on the Rio Negro, night treks in the Amazon, a tour of the Manaus Opera House, and a wonderful WOW! Moment helicopter ride in Iguassu Falls, thanks to Wendy’s generosity.
Our guide Alexandre Bazzi introduced us to Iguassu Falls, and his love of the natural world spilled over into everything we did. When we finally arrived in Rio we thought we couldn’t be surprised any more but indeed we were. We fell in love with Rio, enjoyed bike rides along the beaches, were awed by Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado, and Lais even taught us how to samba one night. Our driver, SaSa, would go home every night and cut up fresh fruit for us the next day! We were treated like royalty every step of the way.
Bobby and his colleagues had a sixth sense about the best guides for us, as we developed an instant connection with all three of them, and enjoyed philosophical conversations as well as lots of laughter. Each one of them made us feel at home and each would quickly change up our schedule if a unique opportunity arrived. We left feeling like we’d made good friends as well as been given a beautiful perspective on their individual cities.
For our surprise WOW Moment, we were told we’d have lunch at a local restaurant in Paraty. A jeep picked us up and we headed up the mountain on an increasingly bumpy road, wondering out loud what kind of restaurant could be at the end of such a crazy road. Our guide Gabriel just grinned. Upon arrival we headed up this spectacular set of steps through increasingly tropical vegetation and arrived at Le Gite Indaiatiba Restaurante. Greeted by the wife of the Frenchman who envisioned this place, a charming open air restaurant with tables surrounded by hundreds of books, she asked what we’d like for lunch. “Go up the mountain and swim in the pool while we prepare your lunch”, she said. So up the mountain, past the heliport for the rich and famous of Brazil, we arrived at the pool and settled into the crisp cold water and surrounding tropical sounds. We were in paradise. Back down to the restaurant we hiked and sat down to a pre-lunch drink and delightful conversation with the owner, as we were serenaded by Grateful Dead music in the background. We had the whole restaurant to ourselves and what an amazing feast! This is the kind of magic Wendy Perrin’s WOW recommended travel specialists plan for you.
And thank you, Wendy, for our lovely helicopter ride over the Falls. It gave us such great perspective on where we’d been hiking for 3 days and was quite an adrenaline rush.
Martin Frankenberg’s initial and very valuable contribution to planning our trip was maneuvering where to go when, and in what order. We had presented him with the challenge of building a vacation around a commitment we had near Sao Paulo. He offered a plan to visit the Amazon, which we ultimately scrapped in favor of his suggested Plan B – a trip including Iguazu Falls and Rio. Once we settled on the itinerary, his team was decisive in their advice about hotels and activities. Hotel Fasano in Sao Paulo’s Jardim district is an elegant, safe oasis in a beautiful neighborhood and a great place to locate for the weekend. For Iguazu, they urged us, and we agreed, that it was most advisable and well worth the price, to stay at the Belmond, the only hotel within the park. Hotel guests enjoy a serene experience when the park is closed to visitors, both in the morning before it opens, and for cocktails on the porch overlooking the falls in the evening. After a day of walking the trails, it was magical to sit on the veranda overlooking the falls, drinking a chilled selection from the gin and tonics menu, watching a bird or two hopping around on the cocktail table, bathed in rosy sunset. And in Rio, Martin’s team recommended the Sofitel right on Ipanema Beach. Not top luxury or price, the hotel was nevertheless a perfect choice for its location on the beach and its rooftop pool and bar providing unobstructed coastal and mountain views. Although anyone could select the most expensive hotels in any market, Martin’s contribution was to suggest spending top dollar where the property was completely unique and compelling, and saving where competitive options were available. His group provided top notch English speaking guides. One of our most interesting and rewarding experiences was touring a favela in Sao Paulo — an eye opener to the rich daily lives of inhabitants of the crowded slums.
Thanks to Martin Frankenberg, my husband and I spent an incredible two weeks in Brazil over Christmas break exploring fascinating, rarely visited parts of the country. Though we travel frequently to South America, there was absolutely no way we could have strung together the itinerary ourselves given Brazil’s sheer size—it’s nearly as large as the U.S—and complicated internal flight schedules. But see it we did, from nature on steroids in a remote part of the Amazon, to cutting-edge art at the extraordinary Inhotim museum, to a dive into Brazil’s colonial past in Salvador de Bahia’s Old Town, to one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever walked, at Txai Resort on Brazil’s northern coast. We’ve rarely, if ever, encountered such a diversity of experiences (and so few Americans, i.e., none) in a single trip, and all stops came with first-class accommodations and private guides. Our wonderful trip manager, Charline Desvignes, checked in throughout the trip to make sure everything was okay, but in fact there was nothing we could even quibble about. Perhaps not all that surprising, since everywhere we went, I was told (even by competitors!) that Martin’s team was THE go-to travel team in Brazil.
We were a group of 8 in Brazil on a fabulous trip planned by Martin and Tamiris, who designed a comprehensive Brazilian experience based on our interests in nature and adventure. We started at Iguaçu Falls, staying at the Belmond Hotel within the National Park to get before and after-hours access to this most beautiful site. In Bonito, we were challenged and thrilled to repel down into a 72-meter cave called the Anhumas Abyss and then manually ascend under our own power after snorkeling among the stalagmites below the water in the cave. We also did a beautiful Prata river drift/snorkel to watch beautiful native fish. In the Pantanal, we tracked jaguars and observed over 400 species of birds with a wonderful conservation group, the Onçafari Project. At the Boca da Onça Farm, we did an amazing waterfall hike (there had to have been at least 20!) with swimming under most of them! A four-night Amazon cruise on the Rio Negro included rainforest hikes, meeting with indigenous peoples, a school visit, piranha fishing, a pink dolphin encounter, and a spectacular tree-climbing above the rainforest canopy. Finally, after a private sunrise Christ the Redeemer statue breakfast picnic on Corcovado mountain, we toured Rio by foot and by bicycle, ending atop Sugarloaf. We had specialist guides at each region, but throughout the trip, we always had our main guide and host, Gabriel. He was, without a doubt the finest guide we have ever had and we have all traveled extensively. Brazil is a beautiful country, both in natural wonders, and in the easy friendliness and warmth of its people. We thoroughly enjoyed every wonderful day there, and were absolutely thrilled with all of the astounding national treasures shared with us.
Martin and his staff (we worked with Tamaris and Charline) were very responsive throughout the planning process and during our visit Brazil, which was in November 2017. The itinerary they put together was the perfect combination – 3 nights at a luxury jungle lodge to explore the Amazon, then 4 nights in Rio, where we got to enjoy both the old and new aspects of the city. They recommended a day trip to the charming coastal town of Paraty, where we enjoyed a few hours exploring the shoreline on a boat. The highlight of our trip was a sunrise visit to Corcovado Mountain, to see the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. They were able to arrange for our visit to be private – just the 4 of us, watching as the first rays of sunlight hit the statue, and the city of Rio awakened below. Yes, it was as spectacular as it sounds!
We had four days in Rio de Janeiro before a cruise to Miami and wanted a tour of Rio and Iguazu Falls. It all worked out ideally, from our being greeted at the airport just after customs to being delivered to the cruise ship. There were things I thought our group of six wanted to do, but Martin suggested something better. I am happy to say we were convinced to spend two nights at the Falls and only parts of two days in Rio. After experiencing our four days, it was by far the best way to spend our time. It didn’t make sense to me, after my own research, to spend two days to see one Falls. Well, if you visit both the Argentine and Brazil side (which you need to do) of the Falls with a helicopter tour of the Falls (that was only 15 minutes), that is exactly what you need. The tour guides and drivers were wonderful.
Last July I had a similar experience with a travel specialist Wendy recommended for Cuba. After some research on Cuba, I thought I knew what I wanted. But after detailed discussions with the travel specialist, it was adjusted to something better. In both Cuba and Brazil, it went from a very nice trip to an out-of-this-world experience.