Brazil, with its beautiful beaches and colourful cities, has much to offer the adventurous holidaymaker. But for a unique and really fulfilling experience, I would recommend delving deeper inland and spending some time in the Brazilian Pantanal.
The region known as the Pantanal fills an extensive area in central Brazil, and is home to the largest wetland on earth. What makes it so special is the amount of wildlife found here: thousands of species live in this ecological sanctuary. The largely open landscape means that wildlife sightings happen all the time: a giant anteater will stumble out of a thicket, its bushy tail trailing through the grass; red and blue macaws launch out of the treetops, gliding in pairs; water birds and red-necked jabiru storks dive into water pools, feeding on trapped fish.
Although this is a big farming region and ranching has an important impact on the balance of the Pantanal’s ecosystem, during my three nights here I felt detached from the outside world, in a land ruled by animals and birds rather than humans. For me, the most memorable activity was a sunrise boat trip, paddling gently on the Mutum River in a wooden canoe with a guide and a huge assembly of wildlife. As the crimson sun rose above the horizon and lightened into a bright flame colour, the cries of parrots, toucans and the chaco chachalaca filled the air as they began their day. The river water appeared calm on the surface, but the occasional appearance above water of a caiman’s unblinking eyes and the sight of a family of giant river otters fishing for breakfast in the distance exposed the world of activity below our boat. It was such a serene start to a day and the mix of discovery and relaxation felt like an unbeatable holiday experience. We returned to the dock and Rio Mutum Lodge for a filling pantaneiro breakfast, before beginning the rest of the day’s excursions; which included horse riding through dusty woods spotting monkeys and pineapple plants, cooling down in the swimming pool during the midday heat, and returning to the river in the afternoon to fish for piranhas.
The Pantanal is not the most accessible part of Brazil, but is well worth the effort of travelling into the country’s interior. Even those who are not usually inspired by nature are likely to savour the opportunity to see species not often found elsewhere, such as the shy tapir and the elusive anaconda. If you are interested in venturing into the Pantanal, you may have realised that the region undergoes a complete transformation each year, when the rains arrive in November and the low-lying plains are flooded. This can be a beautiful time to travel; however because excursions cannot usually run during rain storms, I would suggest making your first visit between May and October, in the dry season. At Llama Travel, we have designed our Pantanal extension to ensure you take as many excursions as possible during a 3-night stay, so you have the best chance of encountering the wonderful wildlife found here and become fully immersed in this magnificently unique corner of the planet.
If you have been inspired to venture into the Pantanal yourself, then check out our Spirit of Brazil + The Pantanal holiday, which includes 3 nights in Rio de Janeiro, 3 nights in the Iguaçu Falls, 2 nights in Salvador, 3 nights on the tropical coast north east of the city and of course 3 nights in a lodge on the wondrous Pantanal wetlands. You can see all our Brazil holidays, and you can find out more information on all our amazing Latin American holidays by visiting our Holidays page, ordering our brochure or giving us a call on 020 7263 3000.