Welcome to South American Escapes Blog

estrela-jpgJill Siegel – Brazil Travel Specialist – Biography

I am a Brazil Travel Specialist with over 25 years experience working exclusively with the Brazilian and South American travel industry.  For the past 7 years I have been one of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine’s “Top Travel Specialists” for Brazil travel.   My interest in all things Brazilian began during my flute performance studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Many Brazlilian students attended this famous international music school, and I felt drawn to the friendly outgoing nature of these talented classmates whose infectious enthusiasm inspired my immersion in all things Brazilian including music, Portuguese language, literature, history, art, politics and wonderful cuisine. I was fascinated by the novels of Brazil’s famous literary genius, Jorge Amado, “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”, never imagining that 17 years later I would find myself spending a wonderful day with him at his home in Bahia, Brazil.

jill-and-angelaWith a strong desire to live and work in Brazil, I sought a position with a Boston based travel company called International Weekends and was soon on my way to Rio de Janeiro to manage an inbound charter tourism program. During this working hands on experience I was completely immersed in the Brazilian culture and found myself fluent in Portuguese after one year. Working with travelers visiting from all over the United States quickly became a challenging and educational way to learn a great deal about the Brazilian Tourism Trade.

ariau-best-arial-viewAfter 6 years working in Brazil, I returned to the United States and became the Official Travel Coordinator of NGOs for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development also known as The Earth Summit, which took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This was the largest environmental conference to date, gathering together heads of state from over 120 countries. My client list ranged from the Natural Resources Defense Council to recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. Many of my clients were scientists, environmentalists and politicians from all over the world who had a great interest in visiting the Amazon Region during their participation at the Earth Summit. The Amazon State Tourism Authority sponsored my visit to Manaus and I was able to research many travel options available ranging from a unique tree top lodge to Amazon River cruises.


carybe-and-isabel-allendeisabel-and-friendjorge-amado-isabel-allende-carybeIn 1997 I was contacted by the great Latin American author, Isabel Allende, to design and arrange an itinerary for an upcoming visit to Brazil including the Amazon, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. It was during this trip with Isabel where I found myself visiting Jorge Amado in his home in Bahia. What a thrill it was to spend the day with two great Latin American writers, and Amado’s dear friend, Carybé, considered one of the greatest Brazilian Artists of all times. Carybé’s famous mural stretches across the International Arrivals Building at JFK Airport.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the years I have also had the pleasure to know and work with the great ethnobotanist – Dr. Mark Plotkin, author of “Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice”, and featured in the Oscar nominated Imax documentary “Amazon.” Nothing can compare with the fascinating experience of accompanying Dr. Plotkin on a trek through the Amazon Rainforest. Dr. Plotkin’s vast knowledge of plant and wildlife never ceases to amaze me.

I have also had the opportunity to bring National Geographic photographers to the Amazon region as well as the Pantanal in Western Brazil. These trips have allowed me to see these regions through the eyes of some of the world’s best nature photographers including Mark Downey and Rick Sammon.

Other clients have included Susan Sarandon, director George Tillman Jr. (Men of Honor), The Ralph Lauren Family, director/photographer David LaChapelle, and Matthew Chapman, great great grandson of Charles Darwin.

I am available for consultations, custom designed travel itineraries, and all aspects of travel planning to Brazil and South America.

Watch a fascinating video with Dr. Mark Plotkin:


Dr. Mark Plotkin visits Google to discuss his book, “Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature’s Healing Secrets.

Contact:  Jill Siegel