Southern Pantanal & Bonito
Introduction to Southern Pantanal & Bonito
The Pantanal is the world’s biggest inland wetland, covering an area the size of the United Kingdom. Over half of it lies in Brazil, with Bolivia and Paraguay sharing the rest. The world’s highest concentration of fauna is here, with mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fish and especially birds in abundance. Wildlife viewing here is always spectacular as unobstructed views of large areas of the flooded plains make it possible to spot jaguars, pumas, wolves, deer, anteaters, armadillos, monkeys, around 650 species of bird, and 250 species of fish. It takes a little or a lot of luck to see some of these creatures, but everybody should be able to spot an alligator or two. There are estimated to be around 20 million of them in the Pantanal!
The flooding of the plain makes human encroachment and development very difficult. This has meant that the wildlife has continued to flourish, unlike elsewhere. The Pantanal is one of the world’s greatest remaining wildernesses.
A visit to the southern regions of the Pantanal can be combined with a trip to another place blessed by nature. Bonito has caves filled with lakes and stalactites, waterfalls from paradise, and rivers of impossibly pure water with huge shoals of fish. The visibility of the waters in Bonito has to be seen to be believed!
What not to miss in Southern Pantanal & Bonito
The Southern Pantanal is part of one of the world’s greatest remaining wildlife viewing areas. The concentration and variety of fauna here is higher than anywhere on the planet. The best way to access the area is by staying at lodges on the edge of the Pantanal.
Bonito is the Portuguese word for ‘beautiful’. Visitors to the town and its stunning waterfalls, pools, rivers and caves, all surrounded by verdant jungle, will understand how it acquired that name. River tours to many of the sites in the area are a fantastic opportunity to see the variety of tropical fish that live in the rivers.
Pantanal on Horseback
Saddle up as you head out on a horseback riding adventure through the floodplains and forests of the Pantanal. Setting off from your lodge you’ll be able to spot all types of wildlife from giant anteaters and tapirs to anacondas, giant otters and alligators.
What you need to know
When to go
The best time is the dry season between May and September. In the Southern Pantanal, water levels reach their highest in June. Daytime temperatures are usually 77-86˚F (25-30˚C), dropping 9-18˚F (5-10˚C) at night. Wildlife viewing is a little better when the waters have receded a little. Heavy rain between October and March makes travel and viewing difficult. This is also the hottest time, with daytime temperatures a minimum of a humid 86˚F (30˚C) and nights rarely drop below 77˚F (25˚C). Mosquitoes are also more prevalent at this time, but it does mean that animals have to gather on the few small islands remaining above water.
The best time to visit Bonito is in the rainy season of December to March, when the vegetation is lush and water levels are higher, with daytime temperatures around 86˚F (30˚C) and nights usually over 68˚F (20˚C). The dry season from June to August is a little cooler during the day and up to 18˚F (10˚C) colder at night.
How to get there
Campo Grande, the state capital of Mato Grosso do Sul in the west of Brazil, is the main entry point for excursions into the Southern Pantanal. Flights from major cities in Brazil regularly arrive there. Visitors arriving from Europe or North America will need to connect in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo for the 90-minute flight to Campo Grande. From there, organized tours involve driving up to 124 miles (200km) to accommodation on the edge of the wetlands using 4WD vehicles or boats to access the area.
Campo Grande is also the starting point for visits to Bonito, which lies around 4 hours and 186 miles (300km) to the southwest. The natural attractions of Bonito are spread out and visitor numbers are limited so authorized tours are essential.
Where to stay
Accommodation in the Southern Pantanal ranges from very basic shelters to top-class lodges. Choice of food depends on the type of accommodation you have chosen and perhaps on what you are able to catch! Piranha and alligator both appear on menus in the area, and it is always possible to eat your own catch of fish.
Bonito has developed rapidly as a popular tourist destination, and high visitor numbers means that the top-class hotels are booked up well in advance. This may also be the case with smaller hotels too during peak periods. There are a number of reasonable quality restaurants in the area serving local dishes, especially those using the many types of fish caught that day!
The Southern Pantanal is still mainly a vast area of untamed wilderness, so roads and towns are few and far between, and the roads that are there are can be impassable in the wet season due to mud. Public transport is almost non-existent there so all travel around the area is best conducted with guided tours, especially when venturing into the wetlands.
Bonito is not best served by public transport as yet, and as they are spread out around the town, all attractions are best visited as part of a guided tour.