Brazil, The Pantanal

Trip Start Aug 27, 2008
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Trip End Oct 25, 2008


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Flag of Brazil  , State of Mato Grosso,
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sun 28.9.08: Brazil, The Pantanal

PERSONAL:
A 12hr travel overnight by train, then in the morning a 6hr bus to the Pantanal (finally arriving in tropical weather Brazil!).

The best way to explore The Pantanal is staying in lodges on "fazendas" (traditional cattle ranches) - they accommodate guests in their lodges and show what makes the Pantanal a special place.

The hammocks will be the bedding (had a good night sleep in them!).

Planned Activities: horseriding through the wetland, bird spotting by foot, night time excursion to see nocturnal animals, fishing expedition, camp fire. The lodge grew mangoes, papaya, limes, tamarinds (heaven for me!)

I like The Pantanal and the lodge - though the weather could be a bit humid (glad didn't come here in wet season, what with the leeches!)

Rather thrilling to be fishing for piranhas for dinner! Managed to catch 2 piranhas! Their teeth are really sharp! There were a couple of caimans hanging around the wetland whilst the piranha caught the bites (the caimans were so near so there ware heart pounding moments!). The piranhas are then cleaned and guttered for dinner (delicious!).

In the early morning, it was off again for more bird and animals spotting, followed by horse riding in the afternoon. A lot of fun was had on the horse (including galloping!). The least enjoyable was walking through the wetland and the appearance of leeches (how dare they attach to humans!).

Then it was relaxing on the hammock before departing to Bonito.

Attractions:
Wildlife (Colorful Hyacinth Macaw, Monkey, Horses, Caiman, Kingfisher, Stoke, Giant Armadillo, River Otters, Heron, Vultures, Eagle)
Wetland
Shade of Trees
Shade of Sunsets
Piranha Fishing
Horse Riding
Animal Tracking

FACT:
The Pantanal is a tropical wetland (mostly within Western Brazil and portions in Bolivia and Paraguay). In total, the Pantanal covers between 140 kmē to 195,000kmē (making it the largest wetland in the world). The Pantanal covers 12 municipalities and presents enormous variety of flora and fauna, with forests, natural sand banks, savannahs, open pasture, fields and bushes.

The Pantanal is home to over 700 bird species, 100 mammal species, 250 fish species, 80 reptile species. Many species that live in the Amazon and are next to impossible to see there can be viewed in the Pantanal in abundance.

Animals in the Pantanal: capybaras, caimans, jaguars, anacondas, giant river otters, colorful hyacinth macaws, kites, hawks, storks, herons, crowned solitary eagles, mash deers, giant armadillo, maned wolf, bush dog, tapir, giant ant-eater, monkey.

In the wet season (Nov-Apr), rivers swell and spill over to cover a vast alluvial plain for months. Millions of birds are attracted by this aquatic paradise, as mammals take refuge on the remaining few mounds of dry land. As the water drains (from May onwards), the land dries up and the situation slowly reverses: Animals congregate around the few remaining water pools. Fish get trapped in these pools, and birds and mammals alike gather for water and food as they wait for the rains to start.

Most farmers use the land for cattle grazing in the dry season only, moving the cattle when the fields flood. Prior to the first European arrivals, the Pantanal was home to 3 dominant indigenous peoples and many smaller groups. The first Spanish and Portuguese attempts at settling the Pantanal in 16th century were unsuccessful. With the discovery of gold in early 1700s, came in search of gold and slaves, as did a wave of miners and soldiers and settlers.

In 1981, the huge Parque Nacional Pantanal Matogrossense was established, with the aim of preserving the vulnerable ecosystem. It was declared a Ramsar Site of International Importance in 1993.

Piranhas
A piranha (or piraņa) is a member of a family of omnivorous freshwater fish. They are known for their sharp teeth and an aggressive appetite for meat. Piranhas occasionally bite and sometimes injure bathers.

Piranhas are a considerable nuisance to commercial and sport fishers because they steal bait, mutilate catch, damage nets and other gear, and may bite when handled. If underfed, piranhas are likely to become cannibalistic on others in their group.
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