One Of The Best Places For Wildlife In South America
The Brazilian Pantanal is the world's largest freshwater wetland which straddles the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. It is regarded as the best place to spot wild animals in the whole of South America. You can spot Caiman, Howler Monkey, Giant Otter, Anaconda, Capybara, Ocelot, Marmoset, Tapir, Peccary and if you are lucky, the Jaguar.
There are a number of lodges and ranches where you can stay and explore the area. The best way to experience the wetlands is by boat, and spotting wildlife as you gently move through the lagoons and waterways is a fantastic experience. One of the most popular times of the year to visit is from June to September because of the incredible array of birdlife. At this time of year you will see Parrots, Toucans, Macaws and a variety of other birds covering the sky.
The Pantanal is split across two states, Mato Grosso (the northern Pantanal) and Mato Grosso do Sul (the Southern Pantanal). The Southern Pantanal is the most visited and the town of Campo Grande is the access point for the area. Each lodge is located in a different part of the wetlands and most lodges include full board and a programme of excursions into the wetlands with their own guides.
Best Time to Go
The Pantanal has two seasons - wet and dry. The dry season runs from April to October and temperatures range from 23C - 28C. The best time for watching birds is July to September. We do not really recommend travelling during the peak of the wet season from December to February.
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It’s a common misconception that the Amazon is the most wildlife-rich area in South America, however that badge of honour belongs squarely to the lesser-known Pantanal. A mix of the Amazon Rainforest, the Caatinga, the Brazilian Savannah, the Atlantic Rainforest and the Paraguayan Chaco, it’s no wonder that this area contains such fantastic biodiversity.
This sprawling wetland, stretching through three countries; Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay is a seasonal floodplain, with plenty of wide open spaces which makes spotting wildlife a breeze. With nearly 700 species of bird, 80 mammals, 260 fish and 50 reptiles, the Pantanal offers a wonderful opportunity to spot wildlife you simply can’t see anywhere else.
Each and every day in the Pantanal is different, and a few days here will bring you in touch with nature on a level you never thought possible. Delight in spotting rare and exotic mammals which call this area home such as the lowland tapir, the giant anteater, marsh deer and characterful capybaras. Peer into the marshes and see the occasional giant river otter looking back at you.
Of course the rarest species is also the most prized. The elusive Pantanal Jaguar is on everyone’s ‘must spot’ list but if you do manage to see one, then you’re amongst just a select few. These majestic creatures keep well away from the prying eyes of people, crouching in the lowlands and hiding in the bush. The Pantanal Jaguar measures around 2.7 metres long and weighs up to 100 kilograms, and seeing one of these giant beasts in the wild is sure to raise your pulse.
Turn your attention to the skies and you’ll be rewarded with such delights as the Toco Toucan, the Bare-faced Curassow and the Hyacinth Macaw which, at around 1-metre-tall is the most spectacular sight to behold.
Shutterbugs will be in their element in the Pantanal, with some of the most photogenic wildlife on the planet, as well as gorgeously picturesque marshlands and water glinting in the sunlight. Our guides can help you get the best from your Pantanal experience by offering tips on how to capture the perfect photograph, as well as locations to give the best chance of spotting rare wildlife.
There are plenty of ways to get out into nature on a visit to the Pantanal. The easiest way is to strap on some walking boots and hit one of the many trails designed to give you the best chance of spotting a range of species. Most lodges offer guided hikes through the jungle and guides are truly experts in their field, giving a wonderful commentary along the way to help you get the most from your wildlife spotting experience.
Of course for an area with more water than land, the Pantanal is the perfect place to board a boat and strike out onto the water for the day. Seeing this area from the water offers a wonderful perspective as you watch deer gingerly drinking from the water’s edge, or caiman and alligators glide through the murky waters. Don’t worry, you’re in great hands with your experienced guides looking after everything for you.
Jeep tours are another extremely popular choice for those who want to cover a lot of ground in one day. Specially customised jeeps with open sides offer unparalleled views in all directions and have enhanced suspension to be able to get off-road and find those animals hiding in the woodlands.
Another way to see this richly populated area is to climb into the saddle and take a horse ride through the marshes or a cycle through the well-marked pathways. Listen out for howler monkeys swinging overhead as you ride, and don’t forget to put that camera away every once in a while, to be fully in the moment.
Where to stay
Araras Eco Lodge
This lovely lodge offers rustic accommodation with a wide range of activities including jeep safaris and trekking through the heart of the Pantanal.
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Pousada Rio Mutum
Hear birdsong as you wake in cosy well-equipped cottages in a striking corner of the Pantanal.
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Refugio Ecologico Caiman
Stay on a working cattle ranch and experience one of the finest lodges in the area, with experienced English speaking guides showing you the way.
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