Situated in the upper Paraguay River basin, straddling Brazil’s border along with Bolivia and Paraguay, is the world’s largest freshwater wetland, of which Brazil claims 80%. Spanning 68,000 square miles in size—nearly 10 times that of the Everglades, the area is regarded as the most preserved of wetlands in the world.
The Pantanal boasts the Americas’ largest concentration of wildlife: 1,700 plant species, over 400 fish species, 80 mammal species including capybaras, marsh deer and jaguars—the Pantanal the only place on earth where encountering them is highly probable; over 1,100 butterfly species and 656 bird species—the Pantanal one of the most diverse bird communities, as well as one of the best places to see parrots in the wild, in the world.
The Pantanal is seasonally flooded by the tributaries of the Paraguay River, a lush cycle that is renewed each year. As 80% of the wetland is submerged during wet season, you will also find aquatic species here, which makes the Pantanal an even more fascinating destination to visit.
Horseback riding, trail walks and trail hikes, game viewing and photography, exploration by canoe or boat, catch-and-release fishing, and bird-watching are just a few of the organized tours and activities available in the Pantanal.
At a higher elevation than its southern counterpart, the North Pantanal is fairly drier, and possibly more accessible via its gateway city, Cuiabá (the capital of Mato Grosso state). With a size of about 77,220 square miles, the area is teeming with nature and life, much of it untouched by the outside world. Only a single road comprising some 100 wooden bridges crosses the region, known as the Transpantaneira Highway (placed in the Guinness Book of Records as the highway with the most bridges in the world). The large artificial trenches flanking both sides of the highway are filled with water throughout the year, the pools haven for wildlife during dry season, which in turn makes for excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities throughout the year. The North Pantanal especially stands out for its several species of birds that can be found in the Amazon such as the sunbittern.
Campo Grande its gateway (the capital of Mato Grosso do Sul state), the South Pantanal is a massive nature preserve averaging some 86,992 square miles in size and comprised mostly of swampy terrain. Here you will find an abundance of wildlife. The rainy season finds the south’s large, open plains vastly flooded, which spawns a profusion of aquatic vegetation and fish. But ideal April weather promises a great time to photograph the region, the concentration of different species around July, once the waters have reduced to ponds, making for a birdwatcher and nature-lover’s paradise.