It’s easy to see why Cristalino was once considered one of the world’s best ecolodges. The accommodation and communal buildings have been designed to blend in with the surrounding environment. Our superior room was comfortable, spacious, and well equipped with 24h solar energy and its own biological wastewater treatment system. The only drawback was the presence of a ceiling fan rather than air conditioning. Our activities here included walks along forest trails, clambering up 50 m high observation towers for panoramic views of the forest canopy, passing birds and foraging monkeys at sunrise and sunset, leisurely cruises along the river and through the rapids by boat, night time viewing of wildlife on trails and the river and viewing birds from a hide. Activities were undertaken in groups, with ours declining from 7 guests to just the 2 of us, plus Jessica, our excellent biologist guide, and Edson, our skilled boatman. During the course of our 6 night stay we saw 14 mammal, 91 bird, 8 reptile, and 4 amphibian species plus numerous invertebrates, with most animals spotted along the river rather than in the forest. We also had excellent sightings of armadillo, capybara, capuchin, howler and saki monkeys in the lodge grounds.
High quality buffet-style meals were served in the large airy, subtly-illuminated restaurant adjacent to the bar and spacious outdoor deck with ample, covered seating. Breakfast provisions included freshly-prepared fruit juices, cereals, yogourt, a selection of tropical fruits, cakes, cheeses and cold meats, coffee and tea. There was also a cook on hand to prepare omelettes and crepioca (Brazilian pancakes). Lunches and dinners were based on organic fruit and vegetables from Cristalino’s own farm, freshly-caught fish and a variety of meat dishes. The barmen whipped up fresh cashew apple, watermelon, and cupuaçu juices and acai sorbet – just what one needed before venturing into the afternoon heat.
The highlights of our stay were the stunning, endless views of forest from the observation towers, watching tapirs chilling out at the river’s edge and large troops of monkeys searching for food in the forest.
Our room overlooked the forest and at night the Capybara would graze outside, and the howler and spider monkeys would pass on by. We saw no birds from the room apart from a Nightjar
The walk to the central area was always full on wildlife spotting opportunities, from Tarantula holes in the grass, Macaws screeching away and one day a troop of Saki monkeys. Another guest saw an Armadillo.
The central deck area is a delight with the 2 separate “indoor” areas to use too. Meals are served at set times, and offer limited options, always rice and beans, a fish and a meat dish, chard, salad and sometime another vegetable option. There is plenty of it. Breakfast was bread, a few cold meats and one frying pan option for omelettes/fried eggs, which if there was another group in, this was not an option.
The bathing deck by the river is amazing, chilling out, some people took a swim, it’s a long walk back to your room, even longer to the bar area if you want a drink, so take it all down the first time!
We were assigned to a “group” at the initial boat ride in and we all had to agree on the same excursion options, our guide never asked us what our interests were or what we would like to see.
The first morning we went to an observation tower, it was a bit shaky for me so I bailed 2/3 of the way up, and spent the next 3 hours alone, before the guide came down, passed me, never asked how I was / if I was ok / what I had seen etc.
The boat rides up river were a delight on the one excursion we saw 8 different Tapir. Small numbers of birds, small mammals, an anaconda and a variety of butterflies. We did a hike to the Brazil nut tree, and another to a high ridge with magnificent views over the rainforest. The rest of the time we were going up and down the same bit of river. We were surprised at the lack of birds, the trees are very dense and the canopy is high so the towers offer a brilliant birding opportunity if you can make it to the platforms!
The location, the rooms and service staff are brilliant and how the boat men navigate the river is amazing even in the pitch dark through the rapids.
Down points.. Sadly our guide was unenthusiastic, explaining repeatedly he wanted out of the industry – it showed - he should leave! Route marching us along forest paths with no commentary about the environment or allowances for those taking a little longer in the uneven terrain. In addition, single use plastic bottles of water are still handed out to guest if they request them, rather than supply a reusable bottle as there is a filter water tap on the bar.
The lodge is very beautiful and the public spaces well organised. The rooms were spacious and modern with 24/7 electricity. However my body be of contention which has been stated in many reviews over a number of years is the inadequate ventilation in the bedrooms. The ceiling fan can be on 24/7 on max but because it is located so high up in the “tower” part of the room there is no air movement of any consequence. Either the ceiling fans need to be lengthened or additional stand alone fans need to provided. 18 rooms would be an investment of less than $500 yet management choose to ignore guests comments. It will be hot, sticky and uncomfortable unless it is rectified.
Our guide was Jesse M and our boat driver NayNay. Both were impressive with their knowledge. We say Tapir, Wild pigs, otters and an ocelot.
Food was amazing.
Stayed here for 3 nights and would think this is the minimum to get the best out of the activities on offer and to enjoy the superb lodge and location.
Tucked away by the river on a private reserve but part of a much larger ecosystem, the lodge and bungalows sit quietly in their jungle surroundings. We had a superior room (bungalow) #15 and it was worth every penny - spacious and very well appointed. Food is excellent and plentiful, with fresh baked cakes every day and home crafted fresh meals. The fish is particularly good, but also meat options and lovely veg. Good WiFi if you want it. There is a separate library area and a conference room with air conditioning. Friendly and attentive staff make it a very welcoming stay.
Exceptional guides offer a variety of land and water based activities, including night time walks and river spotting. This was undoubtedly the best rainforest experience we have ever had in terms of quality of sightings and our guide (Jessica) and boatman (Nene) were superb. Lots of Tapirs would have been the highlight had it not been for a night time Ocelot! Bugs and birds aplenty for the full nature experience. As a keen photographer, they also recognise the importance of trying to get you into the best location for a shot which is really appreciated.
Would highly recommend this lodge as an extension to anyone going to the Northern Pantanal via Cuiaba.
One word of warning. In September it can be hot and humid. The rooms do not have ac, so it can be pretty uncomfortable BUT no pain, no gain as they say! And did I mention the cakes..... ;-)
We spent 4 nights here, everything is well organised. We had a superior room which was perfect, plenty of space and very comfortable.
The observation towers give you the most amazing views, I'm not great with heights but it was worth it for both of them.
The boat outings re lovely, lots of birds, tapirs, caiman and giant otters. We also did some trekking which was also great we were lucky enough to see a southern tamandua.
The food was excellent.
We had a very good American guide but I always feel it would be nicer to have a local guide as you get more local knowledge but its a minor thing.
We had a wonderful stay here.