Pantanal, Brazil - August 2006
One of the typical bridges around the Transpantaneira

The Pantanal is a tropical wetland, the world's largest of any kind. It lies mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul but extends into parts of Bolivia and Paraguay, sprawling over an area estimated at between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometers (Holland measures 41,500 square km’s). Some 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing an astonishing biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping support a dense array of animal species.

We visited the Pantanal in August 2006, flying from Sao Paulo to Cuiabá and traveling by car to Poconé, where the Transpantaneira road begins, leading into the heart of the Pantanal. Unpaved, around 150 km’s long and crossing some 100 log bridges, the Transpantaneira leads travelers south along many Fazienda’s (ranches) and Pousada’s (lodges) to Porto Jofre, which is essentially a camp for anglers at the borders of the Rio Paraguay. Moving south at a leisurely pace we stayed at Pousada Piuval, Pousada Curicaca, Pousada Sta. Tereza and Porto Jofre, and made day trips from there.

The picture below gives a rough impression of the sheer numbers of birds one encounters on the road itself, and many many more can be found at the countless pools on each side of the road. Walking the Transpantaneira alone is not advisable, there are jaguars on the loose, although we didn’t see any on our trip. Leaving the vehicle is usually not a problem, however, and we had ample opportunity to see and photograph Capibara, Cayman (by the thousands), Pantanal deer, Coati, Howler Monkey and – on a special trip – the Giant Otter.

Primarily we came to see and photograph birds, however, and we were not disappointed. From the minute Hummingbirds to the giant Jabiru stork (the symbol of the Pantanal), and countless species in between, we enjoyed a trip of incredible natural richness.

Still, the Transpantaneira was not overloaded with tourists (at least when we visited). That may have been caused by a total lack of nightlife/entertainment (be thankful while it lasts), the inadvisability of camping rough and the fact that the Transpantaneira is a dead end road. At Porto Jofre it simply stops at the water’s edge.

Click the pics on the right to view a small collection of our Pantanal shots.

Birds, pools and red dirt; the Transpantaneira in all its glory.
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