One of my favourite places in South America is the Pantanal, unfortunately it is also the favourite place of half South America’s mosquitoes. But, really that is a minor point; you can defend yourself.

Buraco das Piranhas, that’s all there is; not exactly a comfort stop

For backpackers, there are two points of entry to the Pantanal, one from Campo Grande and the other from Corumbá. The Campo Grande trip is the longer because you bus from CGR to a Policia Florestal station at Buraco das Piranhas. Now I have never seen piranhas there, but mosquitoes like you wouldn’t believe. Transport from the camp meets you there, if you are lucky both will arrive at the same time, if not, you enjoy the company of mosquitoes until it arrives. Then you are faced with a six hour drive into the camp. The Corumbá entry is easier, the transport which is a Toyota truck leaves from the city and takes the same six hours to camp.

Now you have seen one

Once you leave Passo de Lontra (CGR trip) or Ladário (Corumbá trip) civilisation stops. The road is dirt punctuated with lots of potholes; in the rainy season, it is mud punctuated with puddles. The bridges have to be seen to be believed.

During the trip you will see lots of wildlife, apart from the birds, you’ll see capivara, black Paraguayan caiman at every turn. You may be lucky enough to see deer, anteaters and an anaconda. Birds, the most magnificent is the Tuiuiu (Jabiru stork), but many parrot species and toucans as well. So it’s not just a boring trip over a bumpy road.

Curva do Leque, the fork in the road. Behind is Corumbá, to the right the road to Passo da Lontra, to the left Estrada da Boiadeira

Half way into the camp you pass a fork in the road. The place is called Curva do Leque.

A quick pitstop, yes there is a shop at Curva do Leque.

And off down Estrada da Boiadeira (Cattle Drive Road). It goes nowhere, it’s eventually a dead end (I know, I have been there) it passes many of the fazendas (cattle farms) and one of them São Joaquim is where the campsite is.

The campsites are basic, the most basic level of basic. If you are used to five star hotels, don’t even think about these camps. Personally, I think they are wonderful.

Basic camp

This is one of the better camps, most don’t have permanent structures.

Morning view across the camp, worth the discomfort

In the photo you can see one of the many campões, they are islands of dense bush high enough so they don’t usually get flooded. It is here that you find many birds, and where we hunt for wild honey. Exploring these campões further from the camp, it is possible that you will be tracked by onça (jaguar), I have been several times when taking groups for nature walks; crossing our tracks to find jaguar paw prints on top of ours. In all my time in the Pantanal, I have only ever seen one and that was at a distance of about 400 metres.

A baby bat that had fallen on to the shoulder of a tourist

Tourists get the chance to fish for piranhas, which we cook for supper and generally experience the chance to commune with nature.

It is a time when the unexpected can happen; like this small bat fell on to a tourist and found safety clinging to her T-shirt.

Insects, like butterflies, bugs and beetles are common.

Brilliantly coloured butterflies are common

While I have seen many of these, I have never been able to identify this one, any help appreciated.

As well as the exotic Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho menelaus)

Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho menelaus)

Lots and lots of jacaré (caiman)

Sucuri (ananconda)

Capivara, the world’s biggest rodent


Image: dondeandoporai

You can check out Wandering Educators for some more brilliant photos

The uncropped photos and the butterflies are mine, sorry, I was lazy tonight.