BRAZIL’S PANTANAL WONDERLAND

Hyacinth Macaws Take Flight In Brazil's Vast Pantanal Swampland. Photo: Nori Almeida

Unlike In The Amazon, Wildlife In The Brazilian Pantanal’s Wide-Open Spaces Is Easy to See

Quite a few years ago, I took a couple of trips into the Amazon rainforest, both in Brazil and Peru. I saw all sorts of amazing things—but relatively little wildlife on either occasion. The problem with observing wildlife in a jungle is that the birds and animals are usually hiding in and among all those trees.

But when I made my way into Brazil’s vast Pantanal swampland—a watery plain to the south of the Amazon jungle—I saw all kinds of wildlife. I was able to view caimans, storks, egrets, rheas, capybaras, coati mundis, and even piranha fish—which I caught on a hand line and roasted on a grill. The creature I felt most privileged to see was the hyacinth macaw—the world’s largest parrot, and an endangered species that is nearly solid blue—a striking solid blue—in color.

The advantage of viewing South America’s tropical wildlife in the Pantanal is that, because this is grassland and trees are sparse, the wildlife lives out in the open and on full display. Nor should you be put off by the region’s designation as “swampland.” It really is quite beautiful, and it dries up considerably after the rainy season has passed.

At the time I visited, facilities in the Pantanal were fairly primitive and rugged. Since then, Brazilians have added a great deal of infrastructure for the tourism industry. The Nature Conservancy has also been heavily involved with helping to preserve significant portions of the Pantanal.

If you’re thinking of traveling there, some people to consult might be the Pantanal Wildlife Center, and naturetours.com, as well as focustours.com. —Paul Guernsey

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