In the vast regions of Matto Grosso and Matto Grosso do Sul in Brazil, lies the Pantanal, a paradise of nature and wildlife. Despite the mistaken belief that it is part of the Amazon, this vast wetland of almost 220,000 km² is the best place to spot animals in Brazil, with the elusive jaguar as its main star.
The Pantanal: Jewel of Nature
The Pantanal, declared a World Heritage Site, is flooded by the rains of the “Cerrado”, a savannah that covers the central zone of Brazil. This flooding, together with the abundant rainfall from October to March, creates a unique ecosystem. Acting as a regulator of rivers such as the Paraguay and Paraná, the Pantanal offers a variety of green landscapes and an almost unaltered biodiversity.
Dry Season in the Pantanal
In the dry season (April to September), the level of vaporization is high, however, areas with constant water and seasonally flooded areas exhibit wetlands and swamps. This delicate balance faces threats such as climate change and human intervention, although the population in the area is sparse, composed mostly of ranches and “fazendas”.
Flora and Fauna Wonders of the Pantanal
Fauna of the Pantanal
The biodiversity of the Pantanal is exceptional, offering unique sightings. The dry season is ideal to observe animals, from caimans on the beaches to stalking jaguars. Ornithologically, it is a paradise with 650 species of tropical birds, including macaws, toucans and the majestic “tuiuiú”. Other notable inhabitants include tapirs, capybaras, macaques, giant anteaters and giant otters.
Flora of the Pantanal
The floral diversity is equally impressive, with almost 3500 different species. The aquatic flora, in remarkable concentrations in rivers and swamps, sometimes hinders navigation. This balance between fauna and flora creates a unique visual and ecological spectacle.
Exploring the Brazilian Pantanal
The main gateways to the Pantanal are the state capitals of Matto Grosso and Matto Grosso do Sul: Cuiabá and Campo Grande, respectively. Let’s focus on the Cuiabá route, which offers high chances of spotting jaguars and immersing yourself in the heart of the ecosystem.
Transpantaneira: A Pictorial Journey
The Transpantaneira is a gravel road that stretches from Cuiabá to the last paved town, Poconé. With 122 wooden bridges along 145 km, this scenic route was built in the 1970s to transport cattle. It offers captivating views of the fauna and flora of the Pantanal.
Porto Jofre: The Epicenter of Enchantment
On the outskirts of Poconé begins the final stretch to Porto Jofre, where the experience reaches its maximum expression. Touring the canals of the Encontro das Aguas State Park here is a must to fully appreciate the grandeur of the Pantanal.
Practical Tips for Explorers
Pantanal Guides and Agencies
Exploring the Pantanal without an agency and guide is unusual due to its complexity. Since 2008, nighttime driving in the Transpantaneira has been restricted, and a vehicle permit is required. Although agency costs can be high, the experience justifies the investment. We opted for Ecoverde Tours, run by Joel Souza, recognized for its competitiveness and quality of service.
Logistical and Economic Considerations
The reality is that access to the Pantanal often involves considerable costs. Tours from various agencies, including Ecoverde Tours’ Jaguar Tour, can be priced similarly to safaris in Africa. However, the unique experience and the possibility of spotting jaguars make every penny worth it.
Discovering the Brazilian Pantanal is like entering a unique place in nature. Here, you can admire the grandeur of the jaguars, enjoy the diversity of birds and immerse yourself in the beauty of the flowers. This sanctuary is truly one of the most fascinating destinations in Brazil. To live an unforgettable experience, it is important to plan carefully and choose a reliable agency. It is also essential to fully immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the Pantanal.