30.07.2010 - 02.08.2010 20 °C
After a relatively short, 13 hour bus journey from Foz do Iguacu we arrived in Campo Grande, from where we were hoping to start our trip to the Pantanal. The Pantanal is a huge area of wetlands (the largest in the world) in the West of Brazil where it is much easier to spot wildlife than in the jungle (as it is much more open).
We booked our tour with a company called Ecological Expeditions (which if anyone other than our family at home happens to be reading this I definitely WOULD NOT recommend). So the next day we set off on our journey to spend 4 days in the Pantanal. After a 4 hour minibus journey we transferred to the back of a truck for a bumpy trip to the campsite another hour away. On the way a huge caiman made its way across the road in front of us, we saw a monkey dangling from a tree and at one point the driver stopped after spotting a snake track across the road and dived into the bushes in search of the anaconda! Unfortunately he didn´t manage to find anything, but we thought this was a good start and looked forward to what was to come on the rest of the trip!
It started going downhill from when we arrived at the campsite and were introduced to our guide. He barely said anything to us and rudely told us that there was nothing for us to do this evening. Luckily we had a really nice group and passed time chatting and playing cards. We had dinner which was really disappointing after the amazing food we´d been served up in the jungle and then tried to get comfy in our hammocks where we had to sleep for the next 3 nights! In middle of the night I (Danielle) woke up feeling really sick and then spent the rest of the night and the next day being ill (not exactly the best introduction to Brazillian cuisine!)
In the morning we went on a trek which I didn't really feel up to but thought I had to try and make the most of our time there. After trekking for an hour in the heat and without breakfast I was really beginning to regret this decision, and felt really bad about holding up the rest of the group while throwing up behind a tree! We did get to see a few monkeys, hyacinth macaws (which are now endanged) and lots of other birds. We also had to wade bare foot through some of the swamps freaking out about having our ankles nibbled by caiman!
After getting back to camp another member of our group had come down with the illness and we decided to say at camp while Alex and the others went piranha fishing in the afternoon. They managed to catch a few between them to bring home for cooking but the tiddler Alex caught wasn't deemed worthy of the trip back to the kitchen! When the meat bait ran out the guide killed one of the piranhas that had been caught and used that. Apparently, piranha's aren't fussy eaters! They had seriously sharp teeth which looked like they could definitely do some damage, which was a bit worrying as they told us the river was fine to swim in!
Fortunately by the evening I was feeling much better and braved a dinner of plain rice, once I´d picked out all the ants! Everyone else was a bit nervous of the food too and avoided the meat. Before dinner we went on a 'night safari' in the truck, which involved driving up the 'main' dirt road rather loudly. No wonder we only managed to spot a snake. Still, it was a very poisonous one!
After a surprisingly good nights sleep in the hammock, we awoke to a new set of people who´d arrived the day before being ill. People were dropping like flies! We set out on our 'day safari' in the same truck, and on the same road as the night before. We stopped at a lake where there were about 50 caiman lounging around, which was really cool. Apparantly they like this spot because there is a flow of water that brings fish right to them! We got off of the truck and went right down to the bank, some people were even wading in the water! The caiman didn´t seem to like this too much and took cover in the water with just their nose and eyes above the surface.
As we were driving down the road we saw loads of 'toco' toucans flying around, which were really beautiful with their huge colourful orange beaks.
From the truck the guide spotted a giant otter in the water and we jumped off again and went on a short walk to get a better look at them. Unfortunately by the time we´d got there the otters had gone.
After lunch we went on our 'boat safari' which we had high hopes for as the river was quite a way from the road, so hopefully we'd spot more animals. There were loads of cool looking kingfishers perched on trees over the water, and we saw one bird catch a fish and batter it to death before eating it! We also saw lots of Howler monkeys jumping from the trees, and one was even carrying a baby! The highlight though was a pair of 'Capybara' that were sitting right on the bank and didn't move when we got up really close! Capybara are the largest member of the rodent family and they look like enourmous (pig sized) hamsters-come guinea pigs.
Before leaving on our final day we went horse riding through the swamps. The horses were surprisingly well looked after and well behaved and we took a relaxing trot around the area, spotting a few more monkeys up close and about another 100 different types of bird!
And that was it for our 4 day pantanal tour. We were really pleased with all the wildlife we'd managed to spot, especially the capybara and the toucans. We would have to have been really lucky to have seen some of the much rarer animals like jaguars and giant anteaters, so we couldn't really complain. The terrible guide and the food poisoning meant that we definitely wouldn't recommend the company to anyone, but we had an amazing experience otherwise!