We spent the last three days on the wetlands of the Pantanal, one of the worlds greatest wildlife preserves. The Pantanal is huge, covering an are of over 20,000 square kilometers so we had to settle for seeing just a small part of it. And despite almost constant wildlife sightings, we couldn’t possibly expect to see all of the over 700 species of birds and around 80 species of mammals that reside there!
We were staying in a lodge by a river, sleeping in hammocks (it takes some skills and some getting use to to sleep well in a hammock all night long…) in a very beautiful and tranquil environment. It was a very relaxing time for us, mostly spent swinging in hammocks or watching birds and other wildlife, and doing things like piranha fishing or horse riding. As the lodging options in the Pantanal are rather limited, you’re bound to meet lots of other travellers, including fellow backpackers and share stories over a beer or two. As always, you meet people of all ages and doing trips of all lengths. This time, we’re right in the middle of the table with our three-months long trip, there are some people who only came for 3 or 4 weeks but many are here for 6 or 9 months, or even longer. interestingly, this time we’ve been meeting almost exclusively Europeans (mostly Germans and French) but no Ozzies or Americans (could have something to do with the visa fees or perhaps with the presumed dangers of travelling around South America…).
But most importantly, we saw a lot of wildlife – mostly birds for which the Pantanal is famous. These included numerous toucans and macaws – the huge and colorful parrots which can grow as big as 90 cm in length (some of the ones we saw were certainly close to that). The river by our camp was full of caimans, which are smaller and tamer cousins of crocodiles – still there were some as big as 2-3 metres in length, which made you think twice before swimming in the river (which the locals were happy to do!). We also saw capybaras, a few species of monkeys and giant otters. Unfortunately, we weren’t as lucky as the group the day before, who also saw a beautiful jaguar basking in the sun and an armadillo crossing the road… – perhaps we’ll have more luck in Bolivia! Speaking of which, we’re crossing the border in a few hours, so time to say goodbye to Brazil, our favourite country so far!