After two days of long drives and camping in petrol station forecourts (thanks Tucan Travel) we reached our destination of the Pantanal. It is a huge wetland area located in the south west area of Brazil which is famous for being home to many of the countries jaguars.
Upon arrival I headed straight for the camp site bathrooms as it had been a long journey, as I came out of the bathroom I realised I had many many mosquito bites and that was a sign of things to come. There were mosquitos, a lot of them, probably more than I’ve ever seen in my life and it made the next three days rather challenging.
Our campsite was located right on the river bank which meant we had resident cayman hanging out as well as piranha which was our first activity during our three day stay. Piraña fishing was super fun and something I didn’t think I’d love as much as I did.
The river seemed like it had an endless supply of piranha because everyone around me was catching them at a rapid rate but I stuck at it and after an hour…I still hadn’t caught one. I could feel the piranhas eating the bait but I couldn’t pull the rod out of the water quick enough. The staff at the campsite cooked them up for dinner but I didn’t try them.
Everyone assumes if you get into piranha infested waters you will be eaten to the bone (cheers cartoons from my youth) but actually the campsite owner was wading in and out of the water and he was fine. Plus it turns out they only like open wounds so it was all good.
The second day in the Pantanal our group was split in two and we went off on different activities. My first activity was a ‘jungle walk’. The mosquitos were out of control, I had lots of clothes on and 100% Deet all over me but they managed to bite me through my clothes and specifically on my thighs and butt (probs the most meat there). The bites were huge, like nothing I’d experienced before and the jungle walk wasn’t exactly amazing either so by the end of it I was pretty pissed off. I counted over 100 bites in just two hours.
After the jungle walk we found ourselves at the nice part of the campsite which had a pool, bar and restaurant and also resident macaws. These birds had been hand reared by the owner because he found their eggs on one of his walks on the ground with no mum in sight. They can’t fly very well but they were very inquisitive.
Later on that day we went for a ‘safari drive’ for sunset, the group jumped on the back open truck and we saw some wildlife. Toucans, monkeys, cayman, stork and a few other various birds throughout the two hour drive. It was sunset so that made for some great photos over the wetland and as the sunset over the skyline it was a nice moment where we weren’t getting ravaged my the mosquitos as we were on a moving vehicle.
We did another jungle walk, this was just as bad as the first one and again I spent over an hour just swatting my t’shirt in front of my face whilst trying to spot animals. We didn’t see many but what was cool was that it became apparent that I was walking through jaguars habitat, I can see how they live there and even though I knew I wasn’t going to see one just knowing they were around was exciting enough.
After the walk we did get to witness a beautiful sunset over the wetland and it really did show just how beautiful it was. One of the good things about staying in the Pantanal after camping for a couple of weeks is that I had a bed and that it was also a room protected by mosquito nets.
One of the good things about staying in the Pantanal after camping for a couple of weeks is that I had a bed and that it was also a room protected by mosquito nets. On my final day in the Pantanal my group did a boat safari, the previous day the other half of our group had seen a jaguar so expectations were high but I also know that nature isn’t something you can plan and by all accounts the group the day before were lucky to see one. So off we set on the boat, the temperature was extremely high, I was sweating, luckily the mosquitos were at bay and we kept our eyes peeled for a good two hours along the river bank but of course given our luck in the Pantanal it wasn’t likely.
We did see capybara swimming in the river as well as many cayman and lots of different birds but sadly no jaguars.
After the boat trip I skipped the horse riding and decided to chill out in the hammocks, during the morning the mosquitos didn’t seem as bad and the closer to the water you were the better it was it seemed.
To say I was pleased to be leaving the Pantanal the following day was an understatement. For three days straight we’d eaten beans and rice morning, noon and night. I had well over 150 bites and I had sweat more than enough for any normal person I and couldn’t wait to wash my clothes.
Unfortunately my Pantanal experience wasn’t great but I’m sure there are other campsites that offer great protection from mosquitos and if you are lucky enough to spot the illusive jaguar it would make it all worth it.
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