From Cuiabá into the Pantanal
Find out more about our trip to the Pantanal, the large tropical wetland area that stretches across Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil. A wonderful not so crowded alternative to Amazonia.
From Floripa we go straight out of the forest, into the taxi, into the plane, change once in Saõ Paulo and we arrive in the hot and tropical area of Mato Grosso. We arrive in Cuiabá in the afternoon, the exit is decorated with large statues of jaguars, birds of prey and lizards. We must be in the right place.
We take an Uber into the city and check into our first hotel in Brazil. We booked it for 30€ incl. breakfast via Expedia. Hardly arrived we go to the next supermarket and stock up with water and mosquito spray. Unfortunately the area is not so beautiful and as it gets dark we decide to stay in the hotel and try to order something via Uber Eats. It’s similar to other food deliveries. A short detour to the probably best Barber in Town is also part of our stay (thanks to Buenohair oficial). Since we don’t know exactly how to get to the Pantanal yet and what we want to do, we ask the reception and get some contacts. In the end we decided to go to the Pantanal on our own and book direct through a Poussada. Most organized agencies/guides only bring the guests to the accommodations, who then organize the tours on site. This way we could save 1.000 Reais compared to the cheapest tour provider.
How do you get to the Pantanal?
We decide on the Pousada Rio Claro, which is about 2 1/2 hours away from Cuiabá, on a river in the middle of the Pantanal area. The Pousada made us two offers, we choose the “cheaper” one. Unfortunately the offers are not really cheap, but our offer includes all inclusive, one tour (horse riding, boat trip, kayak or jeep) per day and one hiking tour per day. This sounds just right for 3 nights.
How do you get to the Pantanal? We first travel to Poconé, a small village near the Transpantaneira M60 Road. It connects Poconé with Porto Jofre.
It is best to stock up with drinking water in Poconé, as it can get a little expensive in the Pantanal. We already learned from our mistakes on the Ilha Grande. We ask our driver to make a stop at a supermarket and buy 2x 6L water canisters and two small bottles for a total of 20 Reais. If you compare a 0.5 liter bottle costs 4 Reais in the accommodation.
The Transpantaneira Road is a sand / stone road with many bridges leading through the Pantanal. From our point of view it is not necessary to have a 4×4 vehicle, but it is an advantage, because there are frequently deep holes in the road and you would be faster. But if you drive carefully, you can certainly make it with a normal small car. But please double check with the accommodation during rainy seasons.
Once on this road we continue for about 40 minutes until we arrive at our accommodation. On the way we already see many big birds, two crocodiles on the side of the road as well as a capybara which disappears fast into the water as it sees us. Everything is under water left and right from us. This is how we had imagined the the world’s largest tropical wetland area in the size of Germany.
Río Claro – Mato Grosso
At the accommodation we see some new animals; small monkeys and different birds, hardly one is like the other. One bird in particular is very possessive and makes a real third when we get close to HIS waterhole. The little and loud birds live on the water lilies and protect their offspring. We arrive on time for lunch, which consists of a daily fresh buffet (fish, meat, chicken, beans, salads, dessert).
We apply insect spray for a second time (NoBite has really performed wonders) and go straight on the first tour. We take a boat trip and see birds of prey and many other small birds as well as some curious crocodiles. Our colleague Zip (crocodile) lives right in front of our pier and apparently gets on the boats at night and makes himself comfortable there. A horde of capybaras is also romping around at the Pousada pier. About 10 pigs wallow in a water hole and let themselves float relaxed in the mud. Two little babies stand close to their mother and drink some milk. Our guide speaks only Portuguese, a reason for the low price, we think it’s great so we can learn something new again and the tours are mainly about seeing something, it’s good to keep quiet not to scare of some animals. But we immediately understand the story he tells us about the capybaras. A few days ago a leopard tore two capybaras at around 5 o’clock in the morning – there was a huge scream from the other capybaras. A shiver runs down our spines. These shouldn’t be the only traces of the local leopards we encounter during our stay in the Pantanal.
By Boat, on Foot, on Horseback, by Safari Van
We sign up for a horseback tour the next morning around 8am. Our local guide is Jaque, he comes from Poconé and has been working here in the Pantanal for over 20 years.
The horses are saddled during our breakfast and we leave immediately afterwards. I can already tick off something from my bucket list. There are three of us together with our guide and we ride slowly and properly out of the pousada. Shortly after we pass a few skeletons of animals, the leopard has probably struck again and the vultures have picked the bones neatly. We ride through water, mud and grass, termite heaps which are bigger than we are on the horses, past cattle, cows and other free running horses. At the end we speed up and see some birds and are back at the pousada after 90 minutes. What a trip!
The whole day lies ahead of us, we arrange to meet Jaque in the evening for a hike.
After a few hours rest and an extensive lunch we go on a hike through the Pantanal. Again there are three of us. This time Jaque comes, who is usually dressed in relaxed casual clothes, with a thick jacket, long pants with a machete and boots. He laughs and says, I hope you guys put a good amount of Mosquito Spray on. We are glad that we brought it with us as it must be serious as Jaque mentioned it to us.
About 5 minutes drive by car and we are in the middle of nowhere, noticing the 500 mosquitoes behind each of us in the humid and burning heat. Was this a good idea?
We walk over trees and dense paths, always followed by mosquitoes. Jaque is on the lookout for animals, but they probably don’t want to feed all the mosquitoes. After a good 30 minutes we discover a tortoise which leisurely walks through the tropical forest, we ask ourselves how it manages to survive here. Apart from birds this remains our only bigger animal we discover.
After about 90 minutes we are back exhausted and glad that we only got a few stitches. A few dead ticks hang from our underwear and T-shirts, the spray really knocks over the last tick.
On the following days we enjoy the delicious pousada food and marvel at the many animals that romp on or around the site. We do some more tours on the boat and enjoy the nature as well as the silence which is only interrupted by animal sounds. A wonderful and exciting excursion, we are glad not to have seen a jaguar or leopard and get back on our way to Cuiabá happy and bitten. From there we will travel to Salvador de Bahia to spend two weeks on the Ilha de Boipeba.