Home UK News Trip of the week: wildlife spotting in the wetlands of Brazil 

Trip of the week: wildlife spotting in the wetlands of Brazil 

44

Spread across an area the size of Great Britain, the Pantanal, in southwest Brazil, is the world’s largest tropical wetland. It is the best place on Earth to see jaguars, and home to a dazzling array of other wildlife too, says Lisa Grainger in The Times. Go in the dry season, between April and October; you can fly to the city of Campo Grande, and from there get a prop plane to one of the region’s excellent lodges. Among them is Casa Caiman, a terracotta-tiled estancia with a swimming pool. Set in a privately-owned 74,000 acre ecological reserve, it plays host to Onçafari, a wildlife organisation devoted to jaguar preservation and research.

Seeing a jaguar in the wild is “more thrilling” than spotting a lion in Africa, because the cats are so elusive. Unlike lions, they live alone, and, with only about 15,000 left in the wild – fewer than were killed annually in the 1960s for their fur – they are wary of humans. Even so, the number of sightings each year at Casa Caiman has increased from 35 to 1,075 in the past decade, and 99% of visitors now spot one. Not that the cats’ future is secure even here. Both water and forest cover are dwindling because of farming – and the diversion of rivers for large-scale soy farms to the north. “If soy farms come to the Pantanal – which is currently the big threat – it will be game over,” says Roberto Klabin, the reserve’s owner.

For now, though, there’s something to see wherever you go on the reserve. Guests strike out on horseback, on foot, and in jeeps, and always in the company of naturalist guides. Among the stars of the show are pumas, “prehistoric-looking” armadillos and long-haired giant anteaters – along with 120 other mammal species – and the birdlife is still more spectacular, ranging from ostrich-like rheas to great flocks of “luminous blue” hyacinth macaws. 

Specialist tour operators include Joro Experiences (joroexperiences.com), Dehouche (dehouche.com) and Plan South America (plansouthamerica.com)

Spread across an area the size of Great Britain, the Pantanal, in southwest Brazil, is the world’s largest tropical wetland. It is the best place on Earth to see jaguars, and home to a dazzling array of other wildlife too, says Lisa Grainger in The Times. Go in the dry season, between April and October; you can fly to the city of Campo Grande, and from there get a prop plane to one of the region’s excellent lodges. Among them is Casa Caiman, a terracotta-tiled estancia with a swimming pool. Set in a privately-owned 74,000 acre ecological reserve, it plays host to Onçafari, a wildlife organisation devoted to jaguar preservation and research.
SEE MORE Trip of the week: an idyllic escape from Bangkok SEE MORE Trip of the week: a bus journey through Switzerland’s high passes
Seeing a jaguar in the wild is “more thrilling” than spotting a lion in Africa, because the cats are so elusive. Unlike lions, they live alone, and, with only about 15,000 left in the wild – fewer than were killed annually in the 1960s for their fur – they are wary of humans. Even so, the number of sightings each year at Casa Caiman has increased from 35 to 1,075 in the past decade, and 99% of visitors now spot one. Not that the cats’ future is secure even here. Both water and forest cover are dwindling because of farming – and the diversion of rivers for large-scale soy farms to the north. “If soy farms come to the Pantanal – which is currently the big threat – it will be game over,” says Roberto Klabin, the reserve’s owner.
For now, though, there’s something to see wherever you go on the reserve. Guests strike out on horseback, on foot, and in jeeps, and always in the company of naturalist guides. Among the stars of the show are pumas, “prehistoric-looking” armadillos and long-haired giant anteaters – along with 120 other mammal species – and the birdlife is still more spectacular, ranging from ostrich-like rheas to great flocks of “luminous blue” hyacinth macaws. 
Specialist tour operators include Joro Experiences (joroexperiences.com), Dehouche (dehouche.com) and Plan South America (plansouthamerica.com)