The Pantanal in the heart of South America is one of the largest wetlands in the world. You can explore this fantastic, completely untouched natural paradise on two trails.
The Pantanal is located in the centre of South America and is the largest contiguous inland swamp area on earth. In terms of area, it is about the size of Germany, hardly developed and very sparsely populated. Most of it lies in Brazil, parts of it extend into the neighbouring states of Paraguay and Bolivia. Since 2000, the Pantanal has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also one of our top 10 sights in Brazil.
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PICTURES: Pantanal, Brazil
Flora and Fauna in the Pantanal
The Pantanal is home to 2,000 plant species, 265 fish species, 665 bird species and 123 mammal species. Herons, storks, capybaras, predatory cats and the largest density of caimans in the world can be found here. According to the latest estimates, 35 million caimans live in the Pantanal. All hunting of the proud animals, whose robust leather skin is highly sought after, is prohibited.
The Pantanal is partially protected as a nature reserve. The Pantanal Matogrossense National Park is the largest protected area and a breathtaking paradise for nature and wildlife photographers.
The Transpantaneira - the gateway to the Pantanal
Thestarting point for a trip to the Pantanal is often the city of Cuiabá. Most visitors arrive by plane and rent a car. When choosing a rental car, it is important to check with the rental car company whether it is allowed to drive into the Pantanal, as some rental car companies do not allow this. To be on the safe side, you should also fill up your tank before entering the Pantanal.
The first stage leads to Poconé. Here is the entrance to the national park and the beginning of the Transpantaneira, a filled-in dirt road (calling it a "road" would be presumptuous) that leads over 150 kilometres and about 130 wooden bridges to Porto Jofre.
Some of the wooden bridges are in a very adventurous condition, but your confidence increases with every bridge you cross. In the rainy season, Transpantaneira is hardly passable, because bridges can disappear then. But even in the dry season, you should plan enough time. One day for the entire Transpantaneira is reasonable. Four-wheel drive vehicles are highly recommended.
Alternative route: Estrada Parque Pantanal
The second possibility to enter the Pantanal by land is the Estrada Parque Pantanal. The road is about 120 km long and leads over more than 80 wooden bridges. The start is in Buraco das Piranhas, after 7 km there is a refuelling station. For the next 60 kilometres, there are always pousadas whose families are happy to accommodate visitors.
Don't be surprised if a herd of cattle comes towards you on the track. Then you have no choice but to stop and wait patiently until the herd has passed. This can take half an hour. But in Brazil, stress is out of place anyway.
Best time to visit the Pantanal
The best time to travel to this natural paradise is the dry season from July to October. This is also the peak season. Less recommendable is the rainy season from November to June. Many excursions are then only possible by boat, it is humid and the mosquitoes become a real plague day and night.
Accommodation in the Pantanal
In the Pantanal, there are always accommodation options in the form of pousadas and hotels. Often these are located on a farm (fazenda). From here, you can go on various excursions and tours. The hospitality is usually the same everywhere, but the prices and services often vary enormously. So it is best to try it out and if you are not satisfied, simply move on to the next pousada.