Brasil 4: Southern Pantanal in Mato Grosso do Sul

We pushed on, keen to get to the southern Pantanal, our route took us via Apucarana to Paranavai, where we called it a day and we parked at a huge and busy truckstop for the night – together with approx. 50 rigs or more. From here we drove to Novo Londrina, crossed the large Rio Paranapanema, passed over the 10km long damwall of the Usina Hidreléctrica Sergio Motta, which is a 150km long dam in the Rio Parana called Repr.Porto Primavera. All along the typical Mato Grosso do Sul cattle ranches farms accompanied us.

Then we passed Nova Andradina, Deodápolis, north via Maracajú and finally camped at Seu Assis ( for Real 30 pPpN) after we had left the town of Jardim behind.  We had now reached the start of the southern Panatanal in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. At this campsite we observed a number of birds, including the beautiful bare-faced Curassows (Muitú), some Tucan Grande and smaller animals like Agoutis and Capybaras. In the evening we were surprised by the many fireflies around us.

It had taken us 3660km from Montevideo to get to the start of the south Pantanal.

Before proceeding to Bonito, we decided to pay a visit to the closely situated park Baraco de Araras – not quite sure what to expect. This sanctuary is a 100ha farm,which, after it was bought the owner, he discovered that 30ha of it could not be used due to a big sinkhole approx. 70m deep – it then turned out that red-white green-winged Macaws were nesting on its sheer walls.

The owner decided to plant more Butiá palms, clean up the debris in the sinkhole (even some skeletons were found (a vintage Brasilia vehicle still is unrecovered and overgrown) and today there are about 30 breeding pairs and in total about 100 Macaws that have made it their home thanks to the foresight of the owner.

This is worth a visit if you are in the area.

Bonito is a small town entirely geared around the many tourist attractions of the area.

We booked a snorkeling outing down the Sucuri river at Estancia Barra do Sucuri as well as a visit to the nearby Gruta de Laguna Azul, a grotto with a clear blue lake in it. For the night we camped at Camping Rio Formosa next to the municipal balneario – a quiet night awaited us, plenty of birds including some green-winged Macaws feeding in the wild mulberry trees as well as some Tucan Grande. An afternoon swim in the Rio Formoso cooled us down, the waters relatively clear with small fish deciding to nibble on our legs.

The snorkel trip at Barra do Sucuri consisted of rowing upstream for about 1400m then snorkelling down in the clear waters while observing Dorado and other fish species. A wetsuit and booties were issued with mask and snorkel. It was enjoyable but we were told by other participants afterwards, that the Rio Prata is much clearer and the fish more plentiful and larger and we should consider visiting it as well.

After we were given safety instructions, signed the customary indemnity forms and donned the hard hats, the climb down the 305 steps in the Gruta Lago Azul was quite manageable and we marvelled at the 90m deep clear and azure blue waters of the lake.

For the night we camped at Balneario do Gordo a few km out of town, a little more rustic, but quite nice. Here we met the young French couple Jeremy and Sophie, whom we will probably meet again during the next months as they also intend to be in Patagonia in summer.

After booking for Rio Prata in town at the dive shop, we returned to Camping Seu Assis in the afternoon as the Rio Prata snorkelling was to be quite close by. Being a Saturday night we found a few other campers and day visitors, however it remained quiet and nobody decided to party through the night. A group of locals immediately welcomed us and invited us to a typical Brasilian dinner for the night. It was a stew as the truckers often have it and tasted delicious.

At 9:30 our snorkel trip at Recanto Eco Rio da Prata would start, so we left early and had luck in being able to observe a giant anteater on the way.

The snorkelling down the Rio Prata was really excellent and can be recommended.

After a short trip by vehicle to the forest near by, a 2km walk through forest followed with the guide, we finally reached the spring of the stream – Olho de Agua –the eye of the water, an underwater hole where this river starts. The water was crystal clear, plenty of fish and by the time the stream joined the Rio Prata, we were surrounded by large and old Dorados and many other species we did not know. Never before have we been in such clear waters, in the stream we estimated 50m visibility, or better. This trip can be strongly recommended, it is longer (about 2 hours drifting), well organised and well worth the extra money spent.




As we had to do some shopping before departing towards the northern Pantanal, we decided to camp at Pousada Peralta just outside Bonito, where we watched in the late afternoon gauchos practicing the lassoing of a calf (artificial and pulled by a motorcycle). To our surprise 3 bus-campers arrived late suddenly and we were surrounded by luxurious giants for the night.

This post covers 18-24th September 2017

Author: Dieter

A passionate traveller and photographer with an urge to share the beauty of our planet.

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