The Pantanal was always going to be a highlight for me on our trip, and it did not let me down. The cost to get there and do an organised tour is a shock, especially after coming from Bolivia, but it is worth it, and even more worth it to do it with a well reputed company. We had arranged for a 4 day tour, just before the high season starts, so the place is not swamped with tourists, but the slight chance of seeing a Jaguar is even slimmer. Another reason for us visiting at this time is that the Pantanal is in a state of transition, with the raining season finishing up 4-6 weeks ago. This means that there is still a good amount of water draining from the area, but also sections of dry savannah available to walk through. However, it is also mosquito breeding season and it is phenomenal the sheer numbers that the little blighter's swarm in. They can sting you through two layers of clothing, and even 80% DEET is not guaranteed to keep them at bay for too long.
It is around a 3.5 hour drive from Cuiaba to the Pousada that we
are basing ourselves at, with half of the time spent driving on the first section of the Transpantaneira highway, a dusty, bumpy piece of road that was supposed to connect the north and south regions of the Pantanal. They gave up after 150km's and 170 wooden bridges, but it has created one of the most amazing roads in the world to see animals, mainly as the majority of the area surrounding the road is under water. During the day there are thousands of caimans and waterbirds in the marshes, and parrots, birdsof prey and monkeys in the trees. At night, the mammals such as the big cats and anteaters use the road to traverse from one area to the next.
Our Pousada is 35km in from the beginning of the hwy, and 3kms off it, on the banks of the Rio Claro. It is an old cattle ranch that like many others in the region started to do ecotourism around 15 years ago. We have our own private guide, Flavio, who grew up in an Amazonian tribe near the Venezuelan border, and has been a guide for nearly 30 years, the last 12 in the Pantanal. He has eyes
and ears like a hawk and tracks mammals via their prints in the sand. Without him, we would have missed 95% of the animals we saw.
After arriving in time for lunch, we tucked into a massive assortment of food in the buffet that would become the norm three times a day, plate after plate after plate, we need to do a diet now. The pattern for each day is the same, with the following break down:
• up at 5am to go spot lighting in the car or by foot
• back for breakfast at 7am
• 8am, an activity for 3 hours, such as hiking, river boating, canoeing, horseback riding,
• 12pm lunch
• 1-3 free time to wonder around the grounds, go through photo's or take a siesta
• 3-6, an activity
• 7-8 dinner
• 8pm night safari/spotting
I will keep the blogs for each day brief, just providing an overview of what we did and publishing some photo's
Our first activity after lunch was a 3 hour walk where we saw an assortment of birds, Howler and Capuchin Monkeys and Marmosets. After dinner we went night spotting along the road to the hwy and up the
highway for a bit. At first we only saw lots of Caimans and Capybara's (the largest rodents in the world) and the odd bunny. But as i learnt on this trip, you need patience, as you will eventually see stuff. On our way back to the Pousada we saw crab eating foxes, a Tamandua anteater who had had the misfortune of walking through a Tarantula's web and had the spider attached to his head! And then right at the end we glimpsed a Giant Anteater before he quickly scurried off into the scrub. We tried to track him for another 45 minutes, and for the next 3 days but could not find him. At least we got a glimpse of this impressive creature.
Still recovering from the 70hr ordeal to get to Cuiaba, it was quickly to bed to bed after a showering to wash off the layers of DEET and squashed mosquito's.
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