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.