Brazil – Bonito & Pantanal

Wanderlust – a strong desire or urge to travel and explore the world

Bonito

Bonito is a town and ecotourism hub in Southern Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul state. The surrounding area is known for its crystal clear rivers and is a great snorkelling destination with an abundance of fish to see and swim with!

Stunning colours of the fish whilst snorkelling

Abismo Anhumas is also an undergroundi lake in a huge stalactite covered cavern. Its an area of stunning natural beauty, with spectacular caves, lakes and waterfalls!

To get there from Iguazu involves a very long 12 hour bus journey. So long you actually cross a time zone en route and move back one hour. You also see very little for hours. You couldn’t drive that far in Europe without seeing something. It’s worth the effort though!

I stayed in Muiti Bonito, a hotel and an agency that sells all the local tours. Most of the tours involve water though there are other options available such as canopy walking and cycling.

Such clear water in the river!

The river snorkelling was brilliant. They are very protective of preserving the area and the environment for the fish, and limit the number of visitors each day. You have to shower before entering the water to remove any suncream or bug spray. And you aren’t allowed to put your feet down so as not to damage any coral, they ensure you’re comfortable floating before you set off. You must wear a wetsuit, as it’s river water and the temperature is a bit cool. Lifejackets are provided which also help with floating if required.

We took the Silver route which involved a 30 minute walk to the river – in our wetsuits! There was the option of a cool shower part way, well a shower of sorts anyway!

Quick shower to cool down!

During the walk the tour guide pointed out local wildlife, plants and fruit. We saw some male and female howler monkeys, and this relative of the ant eater.

The first half hour was the best for snorkelling with fish surrounding you at all times. After this we still saw plenty but the water gets a little deeper so there’s not quite as much around. Still great snorkelling though.

It’s also pretty easy to float along with little effort as the current takes you and you only need to move your arms a little.

There are minerals in the rocks which give the water the beautiful blue colour and keep it transparent so you can see everything clearly. It cleans the water, and also creates craters so there are lots of caves too.

It’s not cheap at around 400 real, but was worth it. This included transport to and from the park and a delicious lunch. We also saw a fair amount of wildlife on the way to and from the park.

Restaurants

A good restaurant I’d recommend is Pantanal grill gourmet. Their speciality is alligator and there is a great choice of dishes. I opted for the piranha ceviche which was delicious! And a local fish called Pacu for my main which was an enormous portion and also really good.

Pantanal

From Bonito we headed to The Pantanal, a couple of hours drive before you change into a more heavy duty open vehicle for a further hours drive with some wildlife spotting.

The Pantanal is a natural region encompassing the world’s largest tropical wetland area. Located mainly in Brazil in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, though it extend into Mato Grosso and also in part into Bolivia and Paraguay. Its sprawling area covers somewhere between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometres.

Its possible to visit The Pantanal all year round, though unfortunately for me the dry season is usually better (May – September), as the wildlife tends to concentrate around the reduced water. That said it was so hot and it hasn’t rained for months so the river was very low and there weren’t as many animals around due to the heat. Except for mosquitoes aplenty and snakes seeking refuge from the heat in the shower!

On our last evening it rained, the locals were grateful and wildlife started appearing from every direction as things cooled down.

Chilling out before piranha fishing 🎣

I stayed in Santa Clara Pousada and camping, and we were in the camping area not the hotel. There’s one room with hammocks surrounded by a mosquito net. A bonus when we arrived was that we found out there was also one room with beds! That said I opted for the hammock! I think it was the better option as most people chose the bedroom so there was less of us in hammocks. Main benefit also was that it was fewer people opening and closing the door – so less mosquitoes!!

Up close and personal with the Caiman!

It was a great experience and whilst it put me out of my comfort zone I really enjoyed it. We fed Caiman, went piranha fishing, hiking and horse riding.

Feeding the Caiman!

We were well looked after by Pedro who helped us with the activities and was really informative. And also Delores who did all the cooking and I enjoyed some of the nicest food in my whole trip to Brazil. I think she tried to kill us with the caipirinhas though! They were SO strong! Pretty good value as one would last quite some time.

Delores and her bar!

We woke early with the birds and did some activities after breakfast. Which meant that by 10.15am most people were ready for a beer!

Next stop Bolivia!!

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