With all of the outstanding destinations that Brazil has to offer, one that
really surprises is the Pantanal.
The Pantanal is far from Brazil's eastern coastline, located in the center of
South America and far western Brazil. But for all of the golden sand and green
ocean water that it lacks, it more than makes up for in
exotic flora and fauna.
So about now you should be asking yourself:
What is this Pantanal?
The Pantanal is an elevated alluvial plain and seasonal wetland, shared with neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay.
Comparable to the Everglades of Florida, the Pantanal is actually the largest wetland in the
Americas. Technically the difference between the two areas in that
the Pantanal is elevated and the Everglades is at sea level.
Seasonal rains inundate the region between December and March, filling up the
lowest lying areas with small lakes and ponds. Slowing draining into the
Paraguay-Parana' river basin, these waters eventually go on to meet the coast in
Buenos Aires, Argentina. This river basin is third in size only to the mighty Amazon
River Basin (1st) and the Nile of Egypt. (2nd)
What does this all have to do with nature?
These areas of seasonal flooding become full of fish, whereby seemingly every bird
and its grandmother seem to get in on the feast.
As the waters recede, the flooded areas shrink to small ponds and the feeding frenzy begins. After the ponds dry up, the birds leave for the river forest areas.
The fauna of the Pantanal is second only to the savannahs of East Africa, in terms of numbers of species of
animals and birds.
The best part about this adventure is that you aren’t walking around under the darkness of a jungle canopy. The area is a vast open grassland with small patches
of gallery forests that dot the landscape. So what this means is that it is a user-friendly safari destination,
with wildlife easily viewable as you walk on a trail with no
obstacles. Endless and spectacular photo opportunities abound.
The Pantanal holds an area comparable to France, with the states of Mato Grosso in the north and
Mato Grosso do Sul in the south.
Entry cities are Cuiabá and Campo Grande, respectively.
The lifestyle of the people of the Pantanal is distinctly cowboy and country,
with an old American West character to it. The leading industry in the region is
raising cattle and has been for 200 years. The mining of gold, farming (a lot of
soy beans), fresh-water fishing, and tourism all come in behind. These folks have a flair from the neighboring Spanish-speaking countries of Bolivia and Paraguay,
with a relaxed way about them.
Way to see this bounty of nature:
First Option To stay in a local farm (fazenda) in the Pantanal. All of these fazendas have local guides that can be arranged for walks around the farm,
who will point out the types of birds and animals that you will see. The rare
Hyacinth Macaw is actually a fairly common sight in the Pantanal as well as
thousands of other indigenous tropical Brazilian birds and seasonal
accommodations are rustic and simple, but generally clean and with a
Second Option Arrange a three or four day camp/tour in the heart of the Pantanal with a reputable guide company.
Your accommodations? Tents of course. This is very rustic, as in under the cover
This camping adventure will usually take you to the heart of the Pantanal and
allow you to see some wildlife that you might not see on a farm. The camaraderie
with your fellow travelers also provides for a enjoyable experience.
Third Option Rent a sturdy car or 4 wheel drive in
Cuiabá and head south down the Transpantaneiro Highway.
This road was originally planned to connect the two states by cutting through the wetlands. Mother Nature apparently did not feel the same as the politicians,
and the elements of nature won the battle. After an hour outside of Cuiabá, the asphalt ends
as you depart a small mining town called Poconé. Shortly
after, you will enter into the wetland area. This is the on-your-own kind of
trip. Potholes take on a truly deeper meaning on this track, like craters on the
moon, but definitely doable.
The real challenge lies in the precarious crossing of over a hundred bridges (125)
with vintage wooden planks, many with some missing sections.
The road comes to an end in Porto Jofre
after a 100 mile drive, at the Cuiabá river. You would then have to return if you were in a car. You could also camp or stay in the Hotel Porto Jofre.
If you had arrived on foot, bike or motorcycle, there are boats that will deliver you to the other side of the
Cuiabá river. They also have short flights from Cuiabá to Porto Jofre.
The beauty of this Transpantaneiro option is that heaps of the wildlife gather in the area of these crossings, which were dug deeper to build the bridges,
and thus holding more water in the dry season. You will see the wildlife without even having to set foot on a trail.
It would be impossible to get lost if you never left this road.
Fresh-water fishing is great here, so bring some equipment if you have any plans
to do any of that! This link provides a fishing season chart and other info
of the hotel Porto Jofre. The property also has a good camping site
Arrangement can be made for an English speaking guide in Cuiabá with a travel
agent for this drive down the Transpantaneiro Highway or a boat trip direct to
Porto Jofre. The dry season is April - November and the ideal time to go is June
- October when the waters are down. All three of these options are a guaranteed
good time. Bring plenty of batteries, film and insect repellent, and use them liberally. Nature lovers will all be exceptionally rewarded for their efforts.