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What makes this wildlife location particularly interesting is the long association with the monks who live in the spectacularly located monastery in the heart of this protected area. Indeed it is the protection and care that the monks have afforded the wilderness all around them that has allowed the wildlife to flourish.

This location is actually quite famous within Brazil due to the controversial but intriguing decision of one of the head monks to start feeding some of the local population of Maned Wolves. This started nearly 30 years ago and initially just involved some food being placed at the edge of the Monastery grounds. Gradually the food was brought closer and closer to the building itself and is now put out just in front of the steps to the chapel where mass is held in the evening.

Maned Wolf

It really is a 'surreal' experience to be sitting out in the chilled night air, listing to mass being taken and at the same time observing this incredible Wolf (actually a member of the Fox family) slowly walking up the stone steps to the plate of meat left just metres away from the people gathered to watch the nightly spectacle. Having glimpsed 2 Wolves at Canastra but from a fair distance away, I have to say that it was a privilege to see this animal at such close quarters and for it not to be enclosed. You really got a real idea of the huge size of their ears as they used them to scan the Monastery grounds and beyond for signs of other Wolves closing in on 'their' food.

Having said all this, people including myself who prefer a genuine wildlife experience will have concerns about feeding wild animals in this way and the impact it has on their lives by encouraging such interaction. We were very fortunate when I visited for 2 nights as there were only a handful of observers and they were very respectful with regards to controlling their noise and staying a respectful distance from the Wolf. I would certainly have been uneasy if the Monastery had been full and a large crowd was gathered.

Even for people not sure about witnessing this type of 'staged' event there is so much more at this beautiful unspoilt location. There are some wonderful undemanding walking trails maintained by the monks that are fantastic for birding and also for observing primates. There are specific walks that give you a chance of seeing Masked Titi Monkeys and Black Tufted Ear Marmosets.

Finally there is the location of the monastery itself and its impressive history as a transport point for the very early days of the Portuguese colonisation. It is almost impossible not to stop and take a picture of this beautiful building nestled in the valley and surrounded by spectacular mountains on both sides. From cooking your own eggs on the vast wood burning stove to trekking in the mountains for the more adventurous; this is a location that will fill all your senses.

HIGHLIGHTS

Viewing up close the magnificent Maned Wolf as it comes for it's evening meal provided by the monks.

A chance to see Masked Titi Monkeys and the Black Tufted Ear Marmoset

Just staying at this converted Monastery with its emphasis on cooking your own breakfast, a sense of community and a real passion for the environment

A brilliant location for birds; some highlights being, Pin Tailed Mannequin, Blue Mannequin, Gilt Edged Tanager, Magpie Tanager, White Shouldered Fire Eye. Rarities include Swallow Tailed Cotinga, Hyacinth Visor Bearer and Okhha Rumped Ant Bird

 

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