The Pantanal – jaguars, macaws and wetland wildlife
The Pantanal is a place of superlatives – the world’s largest fresh-water wetlands, ten times the size of the Everglades, covering about 200,000 square kilometers.
‘Pantanal’ is derived from a Portuguese word meaning ‘swamp’. It is a gently sloping basin with meandering rivers which slowly releases water to a single drainage channel, the Paraguay River. During the dry season, the great wetland shrinks to more manageable pools and channels, and the animals are drawn to these water holes.
The Pantanal is particularly famous as the best place in the world to see South America’s big cat, the Jaguar, and rightly so. We have a good chance of our own encounter with this beautiful predator along the banks of the Cuiaba River near Porto Jofre, where we will be staying on a very pleasant floating hotel. We have a very good chance of finding other notable ‘megafauna’ of the Pantanal including Giant Otter, Giant Anteater, Ocelot and South America’s heaviest animal, the Lowland Tapir, along with various monkeys, deer and foxes, abundant Capybara, Yacaré Caiman and Yellow Anaconda, the world’s largest snake.
This holiday should appeal to anyone with a general interest in wildlife, but we will be paying particular attention to mammals, and the abundant birdlife of this amazing wetland.
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Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
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Return flights from the UK. Local transport as specified in itinerary, including two internal flights. All park entry fees. 14 night’s accommodation, full board basis. Services of leaders and local guides.
Drinks with meals and refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance.
To be confirmed
Day 1 Our evening flight takes us from London, arriving in Sao Paulo early on Day 2, where we transfer to our internal flight heading inland to Campo Grande. After leaving our luggage at our hotel, we head out for our first taste of Brazilian bird life. After a gentle afternoon, we will return to the hotel and catch up on some sleep.
Day 3 We set off westwards into the southern Pantanal. After an hour on the tarmac, we will strike off across the campo, making stops along the way to look for animals of the plains. This area is particularly good for Giant Anteater and we hope to have some close-up encounters with this bizarre animal during our time here. In the afternoon we will head out for our first ’safari’ excursion to discover more of the rich wildlife of these dry grasslands.
Day 4 Our morning will be spent on the river. Four species of kingfisher make their home on these waterways, while at least eight species of parrot make their home in the area and will provide noisy entertainment for us. An afternoon truck safari will give us the opportunity to see some of the mammals of the area, perhaps including Yellow Armadillo, Pampas Deer and South American Coati. A night drive will give us the chance to look for some of the shyer inhabitants of the campo, including Crab-eating Fox and Collared Peccary. Both Puma and Jaguar are present in the area, although we would have to be very lucky to catch sight of either of these two big cats
Day 5 Another full day here will give us more opportunities to enjoy the wildlife of the southern Pantanal, as well as to spend some time relaxing around the lodge.
Day 6 Our morning walking tour will take us out into the gallery forest of the Rio Aquidauana, where we hope to encounter Campo Chachalaca, Bare-faced Currasow and White-fronted Woodpecker, as well as more monkeys. From here we head on a two hour drive across the southern Pantanal to our next lodge set in a 15,000 hectare ranch where cattle and rice production sits alongside wildlife. After lunch we take a boat ride on the Sao Domingo arm of the Miranda River, in the company of Black-collared Hawk, kingfishers, herons, monkeys and caiman.
Day 7 We spend today exploring the rice fields, wetlands and gallery forest of the ranch. Waterbirds gather in large numbers, with the elegant Marsh Deer grazing out on the grasslands. Fazenda San Francisco is famous as supporting a high density of Ocelot, and after dinner we will head out on a night drive to search for this elegant spotty cat, along with other nocturnal inhabitants.
Day 8 After one last morning birding around the ranch, we will set off for the long drive back to Campo Grande.
Day 9 A morning flight takes us north from Campo Grande to Cuiaba, from where we head south to Pocone, the gateway to the northern Pantanal. After lunch we will set off on the famous ‘Transpantaneira’, a 150km long unsurfaced road that takes us deep into the Pantanal. Today we are heading just 30km south to the Pouso Alegre. The surrounding ranch has several lagoons and water holes; as the heat of the day fades the animals come out to drink, and we will be keeping our fingers crossed that one animal in particular, the Lowland Tapir pays us a visit.
Day 10 A second day getting acquainted with the wildlife of the northern Pantanal. Trails leading out from the lodge into the surroundings offer the chance to see Black-tailed Marmoset, Southern Tamandua and Giant Anteater.
Day 11 We will do some more morning birding around Pouso Alegre before heading deeper into the Pantanal, strking out along the Transpantaneira. While we will be stopping along the way to enjoy the huge numbers of wetland birds and whatever mammals we may come across, we will no doubt all be eager to arrive at our destination, Porto Jofre.
Days 12 – 13 We spend two days on the Cuiaba River focussing on the South American ’king of the jungle’, the mighty Jaguar. The Pantanal is home to one of the densest populations in all of the Americas, and the banks of the Cuiaba River and its many side streams have become famous as the best place in the world to see this apex predator. The animals here feed on Capybara and Yacare Caiman, both of which will be a common sight during our boat trips. The same waterways are home to several families of Giant Otters, and we can expect to be distracted from our big cat hunt by these equally-impressive animals.
Day 14 We may have one last early morning boat trip out onto the ‘three brothers’ rivers, before it is time to bid farewell to Porto Jofre. Back on dry land, we have a long drive ahead of us as we travel back up the Transpantaneira, stopping at the roadside whereever we find concentrations of birds and hoping to find Yellow Anaconda, the world’s largest snake somewhere along the way. Our last night on the Pantanal will be spent at the Pousa da Piuval, where noisy flocks of Yellow-chevroned and White-eyed Parakeets feed in the mango trees growing by the dining room.
Day 15 One last morning birding excursion, and we will head back to the city of Cuibaba and our flights to Sao Paulo.
Day 16 For our last morning in Brazil we visit the largest chunk of green space in the sprawling city of Sao Paulo, Ibiropuera Park, for some last minute additions to our bird list. After lunch we will head back to the hotel to freshen up, before making our to the airport for our flights home, arriving Day 17.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
All of the lodges and hotels are of a good standard, some with very attractive settings. In Porto Jofre we will be staying in a floating hotel. All the rooms have private bathrooms with hot water and are either air-conditioned or have ceiling fans where needed. Some lodges may have a swimming pool available. Single rooms are available in all locations. The exact lodge or hotel used may be changed if local conditions change or if we feel a different choice would suit our needs better.
All meals are included – some lunches will be in local restaurants, and we will take a picnic on some days.
We will be travelling by small coach or minibus for our transfers. We will do our best to ensure that our travelling is as comfortable as possible.
Some excursions will be by 4X4 vehicles or open top truck: we will also be taking several boat trips, notably during our time on the Rio Cuiaba, when we will be looking for Jaguars.
All excursions are optional.
The group flights are with LATAM from London Heathrow, as follows:
Internal flights are scheduled flights with LATAM or AZUL.
The Pantanal is three hours behind UK time: Sao Paulo is two hours behind.
If you hold a UK passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Brazil, but your passport will need to be valid for at least six months after your trip. If you do not have a UK passport, please check with your local consulate.
We will be travelling during the dry season, when the animals are more concentrated around the wetlands and when we have the best chances of seeing the mammals, particularly Jaguar: the days will be warm (but hopefully not too hot) and dry (although, as with everywhere, there is always the chance of some unseasonal rain). Evenings will be cooler.
No strenuous walking is involved but you need to have a reasonable level of general fitness to be able to participate in the holiday. The tour visits several locations and travelling in the tropics can be tiring if you are not used to it. However, the trip is designed to be relatively comfortable so please discuss any concerns with us.
Although most of the walks are not long, we will sometimes be walking on rough or wet ground. Good walking shoes (lightweight ok) are essential for most areas. There are a few occasions when we walk uphill but this is not excessive.
As we are in the tropics, the sun is very strong, even when it appears overcast. Sun protection (hat, sunglasses and suncream) is essential. We avoid walking far in the hottest part of the day.
We will be visiting areas where malaria is present. Yellow fever vaccinations are not required for entry to Brazil, but are recommended for those visiting the Pantanal as there is a local risk. Dengue fever and Zika Virus are both widespread in Brazil. General inoculations for overseas travel are recommended. You should consult your GP for advice on travel health at least eight weeks before the trip. You must drink only purified drinking water at all times.
At times, we will travel in small boats on the canals and rivers. Safety regulations will be adhered to when travelling in this way. Safety guidelines must also be followed when travelling by open-top vehicles, taking night walks and regarding other natural risks. Safety advice given by the leader and guides must be heeded at all times.