Located on the far western edge of Brazil is a surprise destination known only to a limited few. This vast area is known as the Pantanal and is home to diverse wildlife, from jaguars to colorful macaws, and filled with unique landscapes unlike any other.
The Pantanal is the largest flood plain on the planet, ruled by the rivers that flow through it. Home to 700 bird species, 100 mammal species, 80 reptile species, and 250 fish species, this flooded grassland savanna is a must-see for animal lovers and curious travelers alike. Visiting here is a one-of-a-kind adventure, and you’ll have a better chance of spotting the various wildlife than you would if in the Amazon.
If you’re wondering what to do in Pantanal, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find knowledgeable biologists and naturalists throughout the region ready to show you the best it has to offer. All-inclusive lodges and floating hotels dot the landscape also, so you won’t have to give up comfort during your visit.
If you’re ready to experience this unique and biodiverse ecosystem, here are the seven best things to do in Pantanal Brazil.
An exceptional number of bird species call the Pantanal home, and you’ll be amazed at how many you can see during your stay. Expect to see the impressive Hyacinth macaws, sporting their plumage of deep purple and perched in the trees above you at your lodge or while on a tour. Also, look for toucans, parrots, storks, herons, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and numerous others. For an additional treat, take a night tour and get a glimpse of potoos, nightjars, and owls in this birdwatcher’s paradise. You can go bird spotting by way of a jeep safari or on foot. Many lodges in the region offer bird-watching activities with the benefit of knowing exactly where to look for the ones you want to see.
Most lodges and various other locations offer wildlife boat tours where you can enjoy the flora and fauna while seeking out the wide variety of wildlife found here. One of the favorites is the rare giant river otter, a fun sight to see anytime. Also, look for caimans, capybaras, egrets, storks, cormorants, and other gorgeous wetland birds. You may even see a jaguar along the banks of the river, particularly if you are nearing Porto Joffre. On the Cuiabá River, you may also see alligators sunning themselves on the banks.
Hire a driver to take you along the unpaved Transpantaneira Highway between Pocone and Porto Jofre. The short expanse is full of challenging obstacles, including over a hundred wooden bridges. Keep your cameras ready as the lakes and their numerous lily pads here sustain various wildlife. Watch as macaws fly over your head and caimans solemnly float along the reeds.
Climb aboard a 4-wheel-drive vehicle for a land safari tour. You can choose between a day tour or climb aboard just past dusk and rely on a fitted spotlight to showcase the nighttime wildlife. Often providing tier-seating, everyone will get an unrestricted view of animals as they wander around during the day or night. Naturalist guides accompany each tour, so you’ll always know what’s going on and what to expect from the different types of wildlife. Lodges often offer various daytime jeep photo-safari tours, stopping along the way, so you can capture the scenery and wildlife in photos to take home.
After checking into your lodge or floating accommodations, ask about renting Wetlands Horses for a ride through the Pantanal’s marshlands. These strong horses can cross chest-deep streams and trudge through bogs. Horseback riding is a way to put you even closer to the surrounding nature here and experience it in a new way. Your guides will be familiar with the best trails and always ensure your safety. You may even want to stay on a Fazenda (cattle ranch) and head out on horseback with the Pantanal cowboys for a genuine Brazilian experience.
Venture out of the comforting feel of your air-conditioned room and explore the many loop trails surrounding most lodges. You can walk through wetlands, woodlands, and grassy savannahs while marveling at the unique flora and fauna here. You may even hear the Black Howler Monkeys before you see them, or catch sight of the Black-Tailed Marmosets or Capuchin Monkeys. See how many unique birds you can identify and maybe see the South American coati lingering about. Guides can point out medicinal plants as well as other finds along the way.
Perhaps the most famous resident of the Pantanal is the elusive jaguar. Many lodges are strategically located near the jaguars’ natural habitat, providing you with more opportunities to watch them. Perhaps the best places to see them up close are around Porto Jofre or along the Cuiabá River, either on the banks or snoozing up in the trees. Look for jaguar expeditions, including a Jaguar Tracking Tour out of Porto Jofre. Jaguar protection and conservation are a top concern here in the Pantanal, and many projects in the region focus on their well-being.
This remarkable region of Brazil has a lot to offer, and these seven activities are some of the best. Amidst the stunning scenery, mesmerizing sunsets, and illuminating dawns, the Pantanal in Brazil is a one-of-a-kind adventure and one you’re not likely to ever forget.
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