Pantanal the alluvial plain of South America

The Pantanal is the largest ecosystem in the world after the Amazon. An alluvial plain that boasts an incredible variety of flora and fauna, and offers beautiful wild landscapes that wind through Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil. The largest share belongs to the latter and that’s where we are. We arrive at Cuiabá, the capital of Mato Grosso which means dense jungle. Located on the banks of the river this tributary of the Rio Paraguay is not particularly interesting. It consists of colonial buildings, the city park in Praca de Republica and the fish market. It is primarily a strategic point for excursions in the Pantanal or the Chapada dos Guimaraes, a beautiful park with the waterfalls Veu de Novia and Cidade de Pedra.

Pantanal Parrot

Pantanal Parrot

Pantanal River

Pantanal River

Pantanal waterfall

Pantanal waterfall

We arrived late at night and after a taxi travel of 7 km separating the airport from the city center. We found a place in the Global Garden hotel and rent a car leaning to an agency in town to traverse a small part of the immense marsh that extends over 200.000 square km. It is not necessary to rent a 4 × 4 and if the road is dry. The only difficulty is to overcome the more than 120 wooden bridges which are narrow and shaky scattered along the 147 km from Poconé to Porto Jofre. The next day we were already on Transpantaneira MT 060, the main road that runs through the Mato Grosso Pantanal in Brazil from which you can see most of the wildlife that lives in this ecosystem. Paradise for birdwatchers with over 700 species of birds, birds of prey and parrots including the beautiful hyacinth macaws, tuiuiu the symbol of the Pantanal but also mammals and reptiles such as Jacare, capybara the largest existing rodent tapirs, anteaters , monkeys, giant otters or rare jaguars, anacondas and more.

Pantanal herd

Pantanal herd

Pantanal Lake

Pantanal Lake

The first hundred km from Cuiabá are not particularly interesting. The area is reclaimed and transformed into agricultural crops, horses are the only animals that graze on ranches. But just past Pocone, the Transpantaneira turns into forest areas alternating with ponds, rivers and lakes to immerse ourselves in swampy areas as we get closer to Porto Jofre, the end of the road. In 3 days we have the opportunity to observe the length and breadth of the alluvial plain from different angles. By boat sailing along the rivers with the inevitable piranha fishing with reference to the rarest giant otters in the world, attracted by the fish brought by rail , by horseback hiking in the forest in search of monkeys, parrots, deer, but above all by our self from the Transpantaneira.

Pantanal Panorama

Pantanal Panorama

Pantanal swamp

Pantanal swamp

The best time to visit the Pantanal is from May to September when the weather is dry and the waters begin to recede. During the rainy season the surface is submerged, huge quantities of mosquitoes lurk and the temperature exceeds 40°. The hotels are few and in high season we suggest to book them in advance. They are quite expensive but very comfortable. They often offer all inclusive packages with transfers to and from Cuibà, boat trips, horse riding and jeep.  The most economical solutions are represented by the many ranches or pousada encountered along the Transpantaneira as Pousada Araras Pantanal Eco Lodge in Araras or the Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso Pocone. The owners of these farms take advantage of increased tourism and are gradually gearing up to offer simple accommodation to visitors who move mainly on their own but it is often possible to organize excursions by boat or horse even at these facilities.

Pantanal Sunset

Pantanal Sunset

Pantanal Beauty

Pantanal Beauty

Pantanal photos: Jason Conradt, Jovens, Everton Amaro, Roberto Hungria, Fernando Donasci, reisezeiten2, Alexandrehuang, Eivind Fonn.

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Categories: What to See, Where and When

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