Brazil’s Picture Perfect Pantanal

F41F38DE-3A3E-4733-8CC5-9B0C8CCDEC7BThis post is originally from March 7, 2019

Hey Everyone!

Yesterday we left Bonito in a minivan and drove for 5 hours to god knows where?? From there we were picked up by a truck and loaded into the back of it just like cattle. This is where we 4×4’d it deep into the bush of the Pantanal.

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The Pantanal is the largest wetland in the entire world and is about half the size of France! It spills from Western Brazil into Bolivia and Paraguay and is the most bio diverse region in all of Brazil. There are hundreds of species that live in the Pantanal and it actually has the world’s highest density of jaguars!

We were supposed to stay two nights at this lodge but calling it a lodge is putting it a tad loosely. It’s this wooden structure built on stilts. Upstairs is a dorm room of about 20 beds where the floor is so uneven that it looked like we all might go crashing down at any moment. There were dead cockroaches on the floor, no sheets on the bed and just a couple of fans that oscillated from the ceiling. And to top it off, IT WAS HOT AS HELL!

*** I have to admit that sleeping in the dorm was not as bad as I had expected. The worst part was when I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Navigating down the rickety, uneven steps was treacherous, especially with a gibbled ankle! As I walked through the grass towards the bathrooms I was pretty convinced that a jaguar was lurking and ready to eat me at any moment. In the bathroom however I was greeted by a gang of frogs instead. Nothing like peeing with an audience!

Anyway, back to day 1 ~ For the first evening our scheduled activity was … drum roll please … HORSEBACK RIDING (again!!). Just call me John Wayne! The problem with this horseback excursion is that we had to wear long sleeves and pants because of the mosquito situation. It was stifling hot remember and there was no shade in sight. My ankle was hurting quite a bit and I questioned sitting this one out, however I worried that if I didn’t go I’d miss out on seeing some amazing animals.

They made us wear these silly plastic helmets that sat propped on the top of our heads. There’s no way that this helmet could save your noggin if you were to fall. I didn’t bring my backpack this time so I slid my two litre water bottle down the front of my pants. Let me tell you that I looked like a top notch classy bitch!

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The first part of the ride was absolutely brutal. The sun was beating down and there was no shade in sight. As well, the horses were going at a snails pace so all the wobbling back and forth was making me very sleepy. I started to close my eyes and ‘narcoleptic Heather’ took over. I actually fell asleep twice where I’d head bob and realize holy shit I’m on a horse! By the end, the horses started to pick up their pace and I was able to finish in fine form. And by fine form I mean the trotting had pulled my helmet off my head and my body was flailing in all directions. Even the goucho was killing himself laughing at me.

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Today we woke up to the sound of the howler monkeys (a deep growling sound) as well as all the birds chirping in various choruses. It’s quite cool actually! Our 7am activity was … get this … piranha fishing! That’s right! We all had bamboo fishing rods with beef fat hooked on the ends. We stood on the bank of the river and threw our bait into the water. All the while giant caiman crocodiles lurked near the edge and some even came up on land! You literally had to strategically place yourself so that you were not in reaching distance from a caiman!

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This guy in front had his tail chewed off by the piranhas! 

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We fished for two hours and unfortunately I went through a lot of bait but no piranhas took my hook. Most of the others caught at least one and let me tell you, those teeth are razor sharp! I wish I could add this skill in my resume but I’ll have to live vicariously through Kris, as she caught a baby one. The adult piranhas were kept to eat at lunch but the babies they fed to the caimans.

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Next on the agenda was a boat ride down the river. It’s really hot here so after a while it was a bit uncomfortable. Thankfully we had spurts of rain for a few minutes which really helped the situation. It’s not like we could jump into the river for a quick dip with the caiman and piranha infested waters. I was afraid to even dip my fingers in the water. We saw all sorts of beautiful birds, a capybara, a giant otter, caimans of every size as well as the most vibrant green iguana I’ve ever seen. It was all really cool until our boat got stuck. The motor got caught on some of the branches and it was touch and go for a few minutes. Thankfully our trusty tin boat started up again and we were able to make it back to the lodge.

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After lunch a bunch of us upgraded to the rooms that were down the road. They are definitely rustic as well, but what can you expect when you are so far from civilization?! The cool thing was that they have bird feeders in the common areas so we were able to see great big beautiful macaws and parrots right up close. What was even more jaw dropping was when flocks of them would swoop right over us. It made me get all teary because the only time you really see these guys are in pet shops and here they were flying as high and far as they want. It was funny because we saw both a macaw and a parrot fly into the lounge area where there was a water cooler and they twisted the tap so they could drink from it! So freaking smart!

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Tonight our group splits as half go to Bolivia for another 10 days and the rest go back to Rio. It’s always so sad leaving a group when you’ve created such amazing memories with them.

Until Rio…

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventure’s Wonders of Brazil

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