Category: Brazil, 2014

Into the wild

May 2

We’re picked up at the hotel by Luiz and driver at 5:30 A.M. and drive to the airport, where we have a farewell coffee with Luiz.

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Our flight leaves Rio a bit after 7:30 AM, stopping in the capital, Brasilia, where we change planes to fly to Cuiaba. We’ll arrive a bit after 11, but have to wait a couple hours for our van to the lodge. While it’s frustrating to kill days in this way, there’s no alternative.

Stretching across Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, the Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland. Although not as well known as the Amazon Rainforest to its north, this gigantic seasonal floodplain is also home to a staggering variety of plants and wildlife.

Imagine a huge soup plate that slowly fills up with water and overflows in the rainy season, gradually empties during the dry season and then starts to fill up all over again. That image gives a good idea of what the Pantanal is like; a unique, rich, but threatened ecosystem located in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.

​​The Pantanal covers an area of some 81,000 sq. miles, 10 times the size of Florida’s Everglades.
​​The Pantanal is home to about 3500 plant species, 656 bird species, 325 fish species, 159 mammals, 53 amphibian and 98 reptiles.
​​Average yearly rainfall is 40-55 inches.
​​Over 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons.
​​The name “Pantanal” comes from the Portuguese word pântano, meaning wetland, bog, swamp or marsh.

A plethora of animal species can be found in the Pantanal. There is estimated to be about 1000 bird species, 300 mammals and 9,000 invertebrates (note the variation in these numbers from those quoted above from a different source; you can take your pick, because I’m not going to count them), in addition to countless fascinating insects and other species. Some of the very rare and / or endangered animal species include:

• Marsh Deer 
• Giant River Otter 
• Hyacinth Macaw 
• Crowned Solitary Eagle
• Jaguar 
• Maned Wolf 
• Bush Dog 
• Capybara 
• South American Tapir 
• Giant Anteater 
• Yacare Caiman

We are met at the Cuiaba airport by our guide, Aynole, and we are transport by air conditioned van with two women from the Toronto area, Jean and Karen. We stop at a roadside restaurant for a melted cheese sandwich, then make many stops along our two and a half hour drive to spot various birds and caiman (Caimans are alligatorid crocodylians within Caimaninae. The group is one of two primary lineages within Alligatoridae, the other being alligators; aren’t you sorry you asked?) I don’t really have a long enough lens for shooting birds, so the photos are going to be somewhat disappointing.

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We are staying at the Araras Pantanal Eco Lodge, which is quite basic, but comfortable enough. There’s air conditioning and wifi, so nothing else much matters. Carol took an afternoon walk around the grounds, but I was exhausted from lack of sleep, so I crashed. We attended part of an interesting slide presentation on jaguars, then had a perfectly fine, but unexceptional buffet dinner. There are quite a large number of people here, including families with small children. We ate with our guide and Jean and Karen, then took about a 45-minute walk with Aynole under the stars and with the sounds of the swampy land loud in our ears. Managed to spot water buffalo, caiman, bats and a few other animals back to the room to blog and retire at a decent hour.

Into the wild

  • Zoe-Bug

    Wow! I love the aligator pics. Have fun!

    Zoe-Bug

  • Maxi

    Whenever Mama says that we are going to see Bop, I always say Gee-Gee. I love the pictures.

    Maxi

  • Wendy

    Neat birds! Cool alligators! Maz, KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!

  • Eve

    Love the bird photos! Thanks!

  • Barbara Sandler

    Sorry for my silence but I’ve gotten back onboard the tour now. Plan to continue keeping pace with your timing.

    Spotted Carol immediately. Must have been the neon glow of her powder blue blouse. Or, all my experience finding nemo.

    Great getting back to Nature, felt so familiar. And, as you know, ever since Peppy (Alev ha-sholem), I’ve been very into birds. So, you can well imagine, I was mad about your swamp selections.

    Look forward to the rest of our journey.

    P.S. I know they can be devilishly hard to open, but what is a plastic bag suppose to do to protect your camera?

  • PRskie

    WOW! I don’t think that the pictures are disappointing at all! Good work!
    Phoebe

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