Brazil – the Pantanal

Driving from Poconé down the Transpantaneira and into the Pantanal, the original, large wooden sign over the road announced “Here Begins the Pantanal – Welcome”. I think it has since been replaced, but the words are still included somewhere on the new sign.  On that first trip I only spent two days in the area, but I knew I had to go back. So in August 2010 and again in August 2011 I made my return journeys.For both of these relatively recent trips, since I knew what the area was like, I decided to do some research to find the ideal location where I could indulge my wildlife photography without crowds of people around and in an environment free from regimented tourist expeditions where you jostle along with the crowd. I wanted to be independent and able to do my own thing.

A downside to my 2000 visit was that I was by myself, and I find it’s nice to be able to share experiences with partners and friends, so in 2010 and 2011 I went with my wife and in 2011 we also had a friend come along. Of course my wife is convinced that she gets invited primarily to help carry camera gear! That’s not really true…not really.

After some searching on the www and an exchange of emails with various people, we finally found a guide who understood what we were looking for, Laurent Lefebvre.

Laurent told us about a small fazenda (farm) that was located in an ideal area of the Pantanal, away from the main roads, and he was happy to take just a few people in a group. So it was, that in 2010 and 2011, we met Laurent at the airport in Cuiaba and travelled together to this place, Fazenda Caranda for our wildlife odyssey.

Many of the Fazendas in the Pantanal are cattle ranches and in relatively recent times, have taken to supplementing their incomes by providing accommodation for tourists who come to see the wildlife. Fazenda Caranda is quite typical of this and is indeed a working cattle property, and so you get to see farm life happening all around as you explore the countryside.

The wildlife! What can I say about the wildlife?! The Pantanal would have to rate as one of the World’s top locations for birds and mammals. I would go so far as to say that if you are a wildlife enthusiast, you must visit the Pantanal at least once in your life! In 2011 we spent 10 days at Caranda and saw approximately 150 bird species and about 10-15 mammals. I must have photographed close to 100 bird species. I have put about 400 images from our 2011 trip in the website’s gallery (Brazil > Pantanal).  I think the mother otter trying to get her largish baby into the water and the tapir are my favourites.

The best time to visit is in July-August in the height of the dry season when the water has retracted into small pools and the Little Paraguay River has stopped running but is still navigable by dinghy.

You do need a guide for Caranda because the roads south of Poconé are a labyrinth of lanes and dirt tracks and so you need someone who knows where to go, and also where the best places are to see wildlife on the Fazenda. IMG_7586

The dry forest and grasslands appear to be quite innocuous, but in fact they harbour some expected hazards for the novice adventurer, in form of numerous bees and wasps. Not that they are a problem if you are looking for them, but there is no doubt that you need  to avoid stumbling into a nest of these charming little insects on your photographic quest! Laurent is very attuned to buzzing noises!!

Laurent can cater for couples or small groups and is available in July / August.  He can be contacted by email:    laurbvre “at” hotmail.com

Unfortunately Caranda has now closed its doors to tourism, but there are still many places that offer a similar experience. Ask Laurent.

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