Pantanal

11 February 2020

Largest tropical wetland in the world

The Pantanal is a very large tropical wetland in the corner of Brazil that borders Paraguay and Bolivia. At nearly 200,000 square kms, it is the largest tropical wetland in the world and a magnificent destination for birdwatching, Jaguar-spotting and piranha fishing. The Pantanal consists of a dense river system that floods annually. It is also relatively open compared to the Amazon or Atlantic Rainforest, which makes it well placed for jungle safaris – just make sure you take the strongest insect repellent available.

Birds, more birds… and a jaguar

On a night safari from our jungle lodge we were fortunate to see a jaguar very quickly into the tour. We followed her for a good 15 minutes as she padded along about 20 meters from the road, and she was incredibly graceful and beautiful. Happily sighted, we could then sit back and enjoy the Milky Way and an eccentric Giant Anteater rummaging in the undergrowth.

Elsewhere in the Pantanal, in less than three days we spotted a rich array of wildlife, including the capybara (effectively a giant guinea pig), piranha, giant otter, the endangered marsh deer and caiman (a smaller member of the crocodile family – there are over 10 million of them in the Pantanal). And then the birds: the yellow-chevron parakeet, the burrowing owl and great horned owl; the red-crested and yellow-billed cardinal, green kingfisher, osprey, hawk and caracara. The quickly spotted rhea, macaw, toucan; and the wetter migrants – whistling duck, snowy egret, tropical comoront and three species of stork (Jabiru, Maguari and Wood, for the record). This is not a complete list!

Macaws in the Buraco das Araras

Buraco das Araras is a sandstone crater on the fringe of the Pantanal. Surrounded by tropical savanna, the sinkhole is over 90 meters deep and 100 meters across, with a green lagoon at its base. The crater itself is picturesque, but what makes this location so special is that it is home to a flock of red and green macaw and toucan. It was fabulous to watch the brightly-plumbed macaws dart cartwheels around the crater and nest along its sandstone walls. There is also caiman in the lagoon and one (presumably lonely) male monkey that sadly can’t get out.

Bonito’s silver river

what it would feel like to swim in a tropical aquarium

Bonito is just south of the Pantanal, and the Brazilian home of eco-tourism for any number of activities based on its beautiful river system, including snorkelling, tubing and zip-lining. The limestone Rio da Prata (“silver river”) is Bonito‘s gem. This is a short river that starts with a freshwater spring from the Artesian Basin and flows through crystal clear water thriving in tropical fish that come back to the spring each season to breed. Starting at the artesian spring (which felt like floating above the creation of a whirling universe), we snorkelled the length of the river and enjoyed the matchless aquatic wonderland of curious and colourful fish, sandy whirlpools and river plants. Thanks to the purifying qualities of limestone, there is absolutely no cloudy water in the Rio da Prata, and it is being carefully preserved with small-group eco tourism practices.

Sunset in the Pantanal Tropical Wetlands

View of the sunset from our accommodation in the heart of the Pantanal Tropical Wetlands, the world biggest tropical wetlands over 190,000 Square KM. Spot the shooting star in the last second of the video!

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