Pantanal : The South American Wildlife Wonderland
Did you ever get a chance to set eyes on a Hyacinth Macaw? If not, then you should probably make reservations to visit Pantanal on your next vacation because this astonishingly pretty species of parrot is simply one of the most bizarre yet beautiful creatures you’ll ever see. Sporting a deep indigo plumage and seemingly clownish yellow eye patches, the Hyacinth Macaw is definitely a treat to see. That said, it is not the only incredible wildlife specimen you’ll come across in Pantanal. Here, you will get a chance to get really close with some of the most exotic, flashy, and sometimes menacing species. Pantanal is not only heaven to wildlife lovers but also one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America, with a huge influx of tourists year-round.
Spread across an area of more than 210,000 sq km, covering Eastern Bolivia, central Brazil, and Northeastern Paraguay, the Pantanal is considered to be the largest inland wetland in the world. Therefore, it is natural that it offers a rich, bio-diverse wildlife curation, comparable to that of the Amazon forest. It is only in Pantanal that you can witness the true grandeur of a jaguar in its natural habitat. All the more reason to pack your bags and explore this top travel destination now, isn’t it?
The usual prejudice with Pantanal is that it’s only for the animal lovers. However, once you are here, it hardly matters if you love animals or not. All that will remain will be your experiences of the time you explored the best wildlife in South America. Pantanal is an open habitat that allows you to observe animals in their most natural form. Here, you can easily witness sunbathing caiman, square-nosed capybaras, and a myriad of majestic water birds. You can also satiate the adventurer inside you by going on a piranha fishing expedition or taking a boat trip to search for more elusive species such as the giant otter or marsh deer. These days, however, Pantanal is the jaguar-watching capital. You can easily make reservations for a 4-day boat trip into the Puerto Jofre area, where the biggest South American feline is a guaranteed-sight.
Where to go
To reach Pantanal, there are two main access points - first is Cuiabá that allows you to explore the northern locations along the Transpantaneira Highway, and the second is Campo Grande, which is the gateway to the Estrada Parque access road in the south. Tourist companies operating out of Campo Grande usually promise a backpacker-style experience, where creature comforts come second to budget constraints. Those operating out of Cuiabá, however, offer personalized and better quality trips (although pricier).
When to go
The months of May to August, which are relatively cooler winter months offer both agreeable temperatures and animal sightings. That said, you should probably avoid the months from November to April when the wet season causes the insects to be at their bitiest. Likewise, the months from December to March see the lowest tourist turnout because of the unpleasant hot, wet, and humid conditions. While Campo Grande tour operators are functional during these hot and humid months, chances are that the Cuiabá operatives would be closed at this time.
(All photographs are courtesy of the original owners unless otherwise indicated)