The Pantanal is one of the most impressive areas in Brazil and an essential destination for nature or animal lovers. Often overlooked in favour of the more well-known Amazon, the Pantanal is a far better location to see wildlife as the landscape is much flatter and therefore animals find it less easy to hide. The Pantanal is a key farming area in Brazil, indeed, most of the touristic lodges are also working cattle farms.
The area is also the largest floodplain in the world. During the months of November to January, the Pantanal receives heavy rains which fill the rivers and flood the creeks and many lodges will close during this time. As the waters rescind, the wildlife is easier to spot, and the months from May to October offer the best opportunities to see the bigger wildlife. The big draw in the Pantanal are the jaguars. The Pantanal is the best location in the world to see jaguars and the best time to see them is from June to October although you can see them at other times of the year in certain lodges. After much conservation work, the jaguar is now growing in numbers are there are a high concentration of cats in a few specific areas. Seeing jaguars is a highlight for many visitors to the Pantanal and so it’s highly recommended to plan a holiday to try and include sightings. To see jaguars in the wildlife there are essentially two options, either to stay in a lodge and head out on daily explorations by jeep or small boat, or to stay on a boat and explore the river system. Jaguars are most usually spotted roaming the river banks in search of food, be it capybara or caiman.
Aside from jaguars, the Pantanal offers you the chance to see a variety of wildlife such as tapirs, pumas, ocelots, giant otters, capybaras, caiman, giant anteaters, yellow anteaters, various monkey species, anacondas and a huge variety of bird life. The Pantanal is an important destination for birders as Brazil has a vast number of endemic species which are found here, perhaps the most famous being the Hyacinth Macaw, which a number of lodges have successfully been able to reintroduce. Accessing the Pantanal is done by flying to either Campo Grande in the southern Pantanal or to Cuiaba in the northern Pantanal. From either airport it is then either a light aircraft flight or around a 3-hour drive to reach one on of the many lodges. Most of the lodges are of a mid-range standard, as are the boats, with the exception of one lodge in the south, Caiman Ecological Refuge. If you are visiting the southern Pantanal then the area combines very well with the town of Bonito, a centre for eco-tourism and a favourite with families, where it is possible to snorkel in aquarium-like rivers, visit one of Brazil’s deepest caves and abseil into caverns. The Northern Pantanal combines well with the Chapada dos Guimaraes, which is excellent national park for trekking, whilst Cuiaba offers the only direct flight to Alta Floresta, a gateway to the southern Amazon.