Described by nearly every travel publication as one of Brazil’s must see destinations and one of the best places in Brazil to see wildlife, the Pantanal is a beautiful wetland and UNESCO World Heritage site, but is it worth it?
Realistically, a trip to the Pantanal can only be done with a tour and these will start either in Corumba or Campo Grande in Western Brazil, very close to the border of Bolivia. Most tours will be between two nights/three days or three nights/four days but both are very similar, the extra day usually adds horse-riding, canoeing or more free time. There are two price options, the more expensive one will have you staying on a nicer ranch with better food and the cheaper ‘backpacker’ option will have you staying in cheaper accommodation with more ‘Brazilian’ food (less fruit, more rice) but activities will be nearly identical with both prices.
Drive two hours from Corumba to the ‘heart’ of the Pantanal. Free time until 6pm then dinner (rice, spaghetti, fish, chicken wings) and then a night walk around the lake where we spotted Caimans, tarantulas, capybaras, horses and pigs.
Breakfast (rice only) and a walk around the same lake where we saw more caimans, parrots, toucans, an anteater, more capybaras and a couple monkeys. Lunch (rice and fish) and then fishing for piranhas in the same lake which were then eaten afterwards. More free time and then dinner (rice, fish, spaghetti and beef).
Breakfast (rice, eggs and cake) boat tour for an hour where we spotted caimans, parrots, toucans, herons and an iguana. Lunch (rice and fish) more free time and then drive back.
Pros and Cons
Everyone was disappointed with the wildlife; while you do get to be up close, there isn’t much variety and unfortunately by the end of day one you will have seen everything you are going to see. Don’t go expecting to see jaguars!
The food was also very repetitive and plain. Our ranch ran out of food which is why we had so much rice but other travelers told us how they got more fresh fruit, eggs and different kinds of meat.
The ranch was also falling apart, shower was cold and tap water brown, swimming pool without water and bar closed.
Too much free time, while it is a beautiful area to relax in, it would have been nice to have more free-time activities like a boat, canoe, golf club, swimming pool… anything!
Don’t go expecting a jungle, the wetland really is just a farm with cows, pigs and horses!
The area was beautiful and relaxing but the price was too much for poor food and too much free time. If you want a stunning area to relax and unwind and want to see bird life up close I would recommend it wholeheartedly but if you have seen wildlife in Ecuador, Costa Rica or anywhere else in Latin America or are expecting more of an adventure you will be sorely disappointed.