The Pantantal is roughly the same size as the UK and is located on the border between Brazil and Bolivia, in the Upper Rio Paraguay Basin, in the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. Over half of this area floods ever year from November to March, absorbing the waters from the Paraguay, Taquari and Cuiaba rivers and creating a huge area of wetlands teeming with wildlife, fish and exotic birds.
There are good flight options to the Pantanal: Corumba is the south west is the main airport, Campo Grande to the south west and on the border with Bolivia and Cuiaba in the north with a road link to Porto Jofre (Transpantaneira road) in the centre of the Pantanal and to Chapada Diamantina in the northeast for trekking.
Discover the wilderness with local people passionate about conservation
The local people are mainly cattle farmers who embrace responsible tourism by combining combing land space for nature with space for cattle, by creating fazenda-lodge (or posada) accommodation and guided tours to obverse the nature and wildlife. This focus on tourism has turned most farmers into the protectors of this very special natural habitat, so visitors can enjoy in the future.
The south east around Campo Grande has the most farming. The area south of Cuiaba, either side of the “transpantaneira” road to Porto Jofre has the most vegetation. And Corumba is the largest city with busy connections between Brazil and Bolivia, with the most flights, river boats and the most tourists, mainly Brazilian.
As you can imagine, the Pantanal has few roads and a very small population. When you visit, you’ll be transported, away from people, into the countryside, where nature and wildlife take precedence over humans. There is a special feeling of adventure and exploration rarely found in the today’s industrial world, brought to life by the local people who realise how important it is to protect this remarkable region of Brazil.
When best to go
Each season shows a different perspective of the area. The main rainy season from late December to the end of February should be avoided due to floods that hides the wildlife and dulls the landscape.
From March onwards the floodwaters start to receed, the fish spawn and a time of abundance starts. At this time, the large fish eat the small fish and the birds eat the fish. You may see a “Lufada” where the large fish corner the small fish on a bend of the river to eat them, and there a tremendous melee of fish jumping out of the water, until quiet returns, only to reappear, somewhere else on the river.
From March to July, particularly in the north Cuiaba and central areas, where the vegetation is more dense, birds nest in large flocks on trees - you can see huge numbers of birds concentrated in spectacular exuberance.
August to October is the dry season, with a tradition of seasonal fires, particularly in the south east area around Campo Grande. You can see more wildlife, deer, giant, ant-eater, caymans and numerous species of birds, in the open ground, with limited water pools and lack of vegetation,
The Pantanal is one of the world’s best areas for observing the iconic Jaguar. Although numbers have reduced in the last 20 years, you will still be able to admire this powerful big cat perhaps devouring a river turtle. The 80 odd species of mammals include the big-eared maned wolves, howler monkeys, giant otters, anacondas, giant anteaters, capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), acelots, ring-tailed coatis, marsh deer, lowland tapir and of course the black caiman. A Jaguar is so strong it can kill a black caiman. The rivers and swamps have a vide variety of fish including piranha.
Some 650 species of birds
There are several thousand hyacinth macaws in the Pantanal. This beautiful bird is the largest of the Macaw family. Also well-known as an emblem of the Pantanal is the jabiru stork, the tallest flying bird in South and Central America. Equally striking is the Golden Collared Macaw. Other bird species you will see are many herons, terns, cacholote, wrens, Jays, Owls, hawks, cookoos, Parakeets, kingfishers, woodpeckers, vultures and toucans.
Planning your trip
When you include a visit to the Pantanal with other destinations in Brazil, we recommend at least a 3 night stay, which will give you 2 full days of guided visits learning about this natural wonder and observing mammals and birds. If you are especially interested in wildlife or ornithology, then you could stay 4 nights or more, so you have 3 full days or more for excursions.
We recommend several lodges, all of which include road transfers from Cambo Grande or Corumba, accommodation, all your meals and included or optional guided tours by 4 x 4 vehicle, trekking, bike and local boat.
Pousada do Rio Mutum is located in the Northern Pantanal, a 3 hour drive from Cuiaba Airport. The lodge offers cosy chalets in a natural setting with a good dining room and pool area to relax. The rates include daily tours exploring the Pantanal.
The Fazenda Baia Grande is in southern Pantanal reached by road in 4 hours from Campo Grande. The posada is a cattle and ecological tourism estate, owned and managed by a family that has lived in the Panatela for 150 years. This cosy and friendly lodge accommodates up to 15 guests, offers superb meals and includes many activities including bird watching, horse riding, wildlife observation, night-time caiman spotting, piranha fishing and hiking.
The Caiman Ecological Refuge has its own air strip; you can take a private plane or 4 hour road transfer from Campo Grande. The refuge is within a massive 53,000 hectare private reserve whose main activities are cattle ranching, pioneering conservation and ecotourism. The refuge has 2 lodges, each with a pool, restaurant, bar & own guides. Included in the rates are a range of three daily activities, including safaris, a Pantanal tour, canoe rides and ecological walks. Other optional activities include bird watching excursions, bike rides, a Jaguar Safari, caiman spotting and a Hyacinth Macaw Research day.
Veloso Tours knowledgeable travel advisors can create the perfect itinerary for your in Brazil featuring the Pantanal.