If you’re looking for a new destination for your family vacation this year, why not consider one of the most remote and naturally unique regions in all of South America? The Pantanal region of Brazil offers incredible wildlife viewing and the opportunity to spend quality time together as a family in an unusual and amazing natural setting.
The Pantanal is the largest wetlands on the planet, with the majority of it being located in western Brazil. Home to the elusive jaguar, colorful parrots, and fun-loving giant river otters, it’s no wonder families are starting to notice this destination and making plans to visit.
The key to planning Pantanal family travel, of course, is being able to cater your chosen activities for the ages of your children and family preferences. To help plan your family adventure, here are the top seven things to do with kids in the Brazilian Pantanal.
One of the biggest draws to the Pantanal is the elusive jaguar. For the best chances of seeing several, make your way to Porto Jofre. Situated along the Cuiába River here, look for the big cats sleeping in the overhead trees or wandering the river banks. You may even see one chasing after lizards or other small prey. There are various jaguar expeditions to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that fits your family. Children of all ages will enjoy a jaguar watching river boat tour where other animals may be sighted as well. Various lodges are located near the big cats’ natural habitat and offer daytime safaris via their 4-wheel drive vehicles. Conservation and jaguar protection are key themes here in the Pantanal, and wildlife biologists and naturalists often serve as guides.
Located throughout the Pantanal are offerings for horseback riding through the lowlands of the region, making exploration even more exciting for the youngsters in your family. One location recommended for those ten and above is within the Parque Ecológico Formoso in Bonito, where guides start by showing how to mount, ride, and control the horse. Enjoy the ride through high grasses, muddy trails, and occasional streams. You can also choose an eco-lodge that offers horseback riding excursions to see various flora and fauna as well as wetland birds and other animals.
One of the better ways to experience the Pantanal for the whole family is to book a Pantanal riverboat tour. Sit back as your naturalist tour guides answer questions and point out various flora and fauna. These tours know where to look for caimans, capybaras, the giant river otters, and many colorful wetland birds. Look for the dazzling Hyacinth Macaw, the various toucans and parrots, egrets, herons, and many others. Even younger children will like this way to explore the outdoors here.
A fun experience for children is to go fishing for the toothy piranhas found in some of the waterways in the Pantanal. Guided by experienced naturalists, your child will likely be handed a bamboo fishing pole, already baited and ready to toss in the water. You may even get to watch as your catch is cooked up for an afternoon meal, providing an additional thrill when in the Pantanal with kids.
Wherever you stay in the Pantanal, you’ll most likely have choices to take a day or night land safari tour. These are a great way for you and your children to experience the wildlife together in a safe and fun way. The tours are conducted in 4-wheel drive vehicles with tiered sitting for better viewing by all. Your naturalist guides will know how and where to look for animals and answer any questions you or your children have about them
There’s nothing like immersing yourself in a river spring and seeing the fish and plant life that live there. You’ll all feel like you are in a huge aquarium full of decorations. The Aquário Natural, or Natural Aquarium, located near the downtown area of Bonito, provides for a fun afternoon of snorkeling for families and younger children in particular. Age limits may apply here, so be sure to check ahead of time.
During your time in the Pantanal, consider staying onboard a floating cruise boat like the Peralta. Here you will have all the comforts of home, including private bathrooms in each cabin which can make Pantanal family travel even more comfortable. Spend part of your days exploring land by foot or horseback and the waterways by canoe or kayak. Relax in the lounge areas or the on-deck pool. Cool off in the air-conditioned restaurant with spectacular views of the water and land.
Visiting the Brazilian Pantanal with kids can be educational as well as exciting for children of all ages. As a result, this biodiverse area is an ideal destination for families looking to make new memories.
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