Highlights and main attractions of the Pantanal Wetlands

Wild and remote, the vast landlocked wetlands of the Pantanal are a lattice of waterways that swell and recede with the seasons. If you like to see animals in their natural environment, the Pantanal is an unmissable destination. 

Covering 230,000 square kilometres, this is the largest of the world’s greatest wetlands and is in many respects a last frontier of nature. These unique low-lying habitats are home to jaguars, giant anteaters, capybara, giant river otters, howler and capuchin monkeys, and green anacondas to name but a few. 

Generally speaking the area can be divided into the North and South Pantanal, with Cuiaba and Campo Grande the respective gateways into each area.

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The Seasons and activities

Seasonality plays an important role when planning your Pantanal visit. During the wet season from December to April, 80% of the Pantanal area is submerged in water making it more suited to aquatic animals like caimans, anacondas and piranhas. The dry season from June to October is recommended for spotting mammals including jaguars, when they can be seen along the riverbanks.  

The area is also a birder’s paradise due to the abundant fish, insects and fruits, with almost 1,000 recorded species, including the endangered hyacinth macaw, parakeets and the jabiru stork. Whilst most of the wildlife viewing is enjoyed from boats that ply the many channels of the wetlands, depending on the area you are in horse riding safaris, jeep safaris and walking safaris can also be enjoyed as part of a varied and active itinerary.

When you go will vary the activities on offer, so we recommend having a chat with us to discuss what you want from your Pantanal journey.

The Pantanal by area

Northern Pantanal

Accessed via regional flights to Cuiaba, journeys into the Northern Pantanal start on the Transpantaneira Highway, a 145 kilometre long dirt road that finishes at the Cuiaba River in Jofre. Already your exhilarating safari experience will begin as you see countless water birds and raptors, capybara and caiman. The Cuiaba River sets the stage for your boat safari adventures in search of jaguar, which may be spotted swimming along streams or shading from the sun on the banks of the river. Other wildlife you may encounter includes giant otters, the elusive tapir and monkeys. Pouso Alegre and Puma Lodge afford beautiful natural settings and abundant birdlife within their grounds and a host of varied activities such as hikes, photographic safaris, paddle boat trips, horseback-riding and piranha fishing in the area.

Southern Pantanal

Reached via Corumba and Campo Grande, the southern Pantanal generally remains wetter for longer following the rainy season, and animals migrate from here during the wettest months. Characterised by an extensive system of rivers and crystalline lakes, including tributaries of the River Paraguay such as Miranda, Negro and Aquidauana Rivers, combined with vast tracts of interior ranches that cover thousands of hectares, visiting here you are likely to experience an impressive array of wildlife despite the density of jaguar being lower. Giant anteater, deer, giant otter, caiman, monkeys, capybara and rhea are all able to be seen here from lodge-based activities in the wetlands, dense bush, open fields and gallery forest that offer a unique safari-like experience. Within the Caiman Ecological Refuge, Cordilheira Lodge is a small lodge that blends with the natural surroundings and offers nocturnal caiman trips and varied activities.

Taiama Eco-Reserve

Able to be combined with expeditions along the Cuiaba River, this remote area of the Northern Pantanal in Matogrosso has the highest density of jaguars anywhere in the Pantanal and, as such, is one of Brazil’s most renowned wildlife sanctuaries. As the area is generally less visited than other parts of the Pantanal, if you are lucky enough to see the elusive jaguars here, there is a good chance you will be alone. We highly recommend this area for those seeking a private Pantanal experience, with plenty of capybara, caiman and tropical birds in the more tranquil setting.

contact Tristan

Speak to our Latin America expert Tristan Whitworth for more information on safaris to the Brazilian Pantanal, including the best accommodation, activities, wildlife and itineraries.

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NWS blogs on the Pantanal

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Speak to our Destination Specialist about planning a trip to Brazil that includes the highlights of the Pantanal, as well as the opportunity to see jaguars in the wild.

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