Going on a safari to the Pantanal in Brazil might be something you have never considered before since the place is not very well known to us foreigners. Instead of heading to the Amazon where you would normally think of going to I decided to discover the Pantanal which is actually known for its easy-to-spot wildlife due to the open surroundings this swamp has. To make it more obvious why: there are no tremendous amounts of huge trees blocking your view. On a three-day trip I succeeded on seeing a variety of wild animals and my dream of seeing one kind of animal in particular came true. Let me tell you about my visit and you will see why this place is worth your time, money, many photos and which wild animal I so desperately wanted to see!
The Pantanal discovery
I had just arrived at Campo Grande late at night and knew that I was going to get just a couple of hours of sleep since probably I would have to wake up on time again for my 3,5 hours taking transfer to the huge swamp of Brazil. Gil from Pantanal Discovery organized my fantasy of exploring the Pantanal and I highly recommend you to contact him if you want to visit the Pantanal. You will find out later on in this story why 😉
Day 1 Getting it all on the first day
I woke up on time to have a big early morning breakfast at the hotel. My transfer would not leave until 10am so I could relax a bit at the lounge of the hotel where I met another solo female traveler, named Sue, joining the tour to the Pantanal. Gil met us in the morning at the hotel and showed many beautiful photos with what we were going to see in the Pantanal. We were in for a real treat!
In need of air-conditioning!
We reached the Lontra Panatanal Hotel in the afternoon and still had about an hour to relax before our first safari would start. The manager of the hotel, Bruno, showed us around and we met the other two tourists (a couple from France who cycles through South-America, wow!) who were going to join us in the Pantanal for the next days. The four of us had to share a dorm, but not the kind of dorm you are thinking of right now. No. It was quite a luxurious dorm. We had air-conditioning, only four cozy beds, we had air-conditioning, a bathroom in our room, we had air-conditioning, oh, and did I mention we had air-conditioning? It feels so good knowing that you can get back to you room, which is all cooled down, after a hot day in the swamp. Normally I really despise a fan or air-conditioning since it gives me a cold, but at the Pantanal I loved having this technology. It was perfect that Gil arranged this kind of room for us.
An “Orsa” in the dark
In the afternoon we left for a boat safari on the Miranda river with our local guide Israel (also known as Cabelo because of his ponytail) to spot wild animals. Many kinds of parrots and other birds were sitting in the trees making a lot of noise and right beside them some monkeys were swinging from one branch to the other. It soon started to get dark, but we continued to try and spot animals with a lamp on the boat. With the spot on the riverside we found some caimans and kept our hopes up for the rarely seen jaguar.
Believe it or not, but after about fifteen minutes something caught all our attention and it appeared to be the huge cat we all wanted to see. “Orsa, orsa!” Isreal whispers with excitement. Everyone was staring and no one thought about taking a photo because the only thing you can think of at such a moment is how beautiful this huge creature truly is. I was the one sitting very close by and I had my camera ready, but I as well was so stunned with the sight of the jaguar (and also afraid to scare it away with my flash) that the only photo I have exists just in my memories.
Day 2 Kayaks and Piranhas
Kayaking through the swamp
The sound of the busy birds in the trees worked as our alarm, which was quite practical since we had to wake up quite early anyway. We were curious to find out how the breakfast would be and decided to spend at least half an hour trying the entire buffet. It was great! We thought we should eat enough to score some energy since today we were going to the red river for some kayaking. Sue and I shared a kayak and tried to spot some animals on our own. Unfortunately that was quite difficult and we only did see many Herons. However, it was quite fun!
Taking some Piranhas back to the kitchen
Later in the afternoon, after lunch, we left with the boat again, but this time with some fishing gear aboard. It was time to learn how to fish Piranhas in the old fashion way. With bamboo.
With a long piece of bamboo holding a cord and a hook attached to it with a piece of cow-heart we tried to attract the Piranhas. We were making it a competition and said that whoever catches the first piranha must pay for the beer tonight. Guess what. The beers were on me. I caught this monstrous looking piranha and pretty soon after the first one I caught one more. Fishing never appealed to me before and I was doubting if I enjoyed catching a fish and bringing it back to the lodge so that later on we could eat it, but yes, in the evening I realized I did have fun fishing Piranhas and they do taste good!
Piranhas nibbling my toes
After the fishing experience our guide Israel pulled out some churros – you know, those long pipe things you can hold on to that float in the water.
Time for a swim!”
he said. Time for doing what? Are we supposed to swim in the same river where we had just caught Piranhas? It appeared so… and with this not exactly being a no-brainer action I still found myself jumping into the river filled with Piranhas with a “whoohoo” sound…
You, the swamp, the Piranhas, the Caimans around you… sounds a bit weird that I jumped in when I think about it like that. However the experience was quite a thrill! I floated with the churros and swam with the French couple in the middle of the river until we reached the lodge again. The strong current brings you back by itself, so it was not really a hard exercise. Sometimes the leaves or the roots of the water plants would touch us and we would get a bit scared thinking a big Piranha has just past us, but it seems that these carnivore fish only attack once they see blood. We left the river and lived happily ever after with still all of our body parts.
Day 3 The mosquito walk
Our last day was an itchy one. Unfortunately I arrived at the Pantanal in the middle of the mosquito season which was actually all very doable with long sleeves, long trousers, closed shoes, a hat and many, many mosquito repellant. I would highly recommend you to bring some good bug repellant as they only sell one of 25% DEET at the Pantanal itself, so try to bring one with 80% perhaps.
Though the mosquitos did not spoil the fun! We left in the morning for a jeep safari were we saw many animals enjoying their natural habitat and later on started a two hour walk through the Pantanal jungle. There were many Toco Toucans, colorful Macaws, Caimans, Capybaras and Coatis. To be quite frank, I was expecting birds flying everywhere all the time, but come to think of it I had never seen so many different tropical wild animals in such a short period of time. Truly amazing.
At the end of the day I have to say that it was pretty difficult to select my best photos of this trip since I had so many. Thankfully I met Henry (7 years old) and Vivian (4 years old) from the U.S. who helped me to select the most captivating shots 🙂
*The accommodation at Campo Grande was provided by Hotel Nacional (+55 3383 2461, website). The accommodation at the Pantanal was provided by Lontra Pantanal Hotel at the Miranda river (+55 67 3325 8080, website). The entire package was organized by Pantanal Discovery (+55 67 9163 3518, website, firstname.lastname@example.org).
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