Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF MATO GROSSO?
Mato Grosso is Portuguese for “Thick Forest” and for biodiversity it rivals the Amazon. In terms of wildlife it is even more impressive than the Amazon.
WHAT IS THE PANTANAL?
The Pantanal (literally meaning “swamp”), straddling the Paraguay River of west-central Brazil, is the world's largest wetland, an area where the water is above ground at least part of the year. Early explorers believed that it was an inland sea. It covers about 96,500 square miles (225,000 square kilometres) (two-thirds of which are in Brazil, about the size of the State of Kentucky, USA and almost the size of England) spilling across the border of Brazil and Paraguay. Every summer, the waters of the Paraguay River rise by 16 feet (5 metres) and flood the area.
Hundreds of different animal and bird species thrive in this marshy land, including capybaras, caimans (alligators), giant anteaters and the jabiru stork, which, with its black hood and scarlet collar and standing 5 feet (1.5 metres) tall, is the biggest stork in the world and symbolizes the region. The Pantanal also contains the world's richest variety of water flowers. Wildlife is easier to spot in The Pantanal than in the Amazon rain forest. This is largely due to its wide open savannah and meadows which offer few hiding places for its inhabitants. The Pantanal has butterflies the size of bats, insects the size of birds, birds as big as children and rodents as large as pigs.
Much of the land of the Pantanal is still owned by ranching families that have been here for generations. The Portuguese had begun colonizing the area by the late 18th century and today it is home to more than 21 million head of cattle and some 4 million people, most of them living in the cities.
It is widely held that the Pantanal is the best place in all of South America to view wildlife.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO SEE WILDLIFE IN THE PANTANAL?
Animals and birds in the Pantanal are the most active and noisy between sunrise and midmorning. As the day gets hotter, they settle down, conserve their energy and nap. When the sun drops low in the sky they start up their activity again. Tropical birds are the most colourful creatures in the high canopy. Red, blue and green parrots, scarlet macaws, hyacinth macaws and toucans live in the topmost branches. Smaller birds like flycatchers, kingfishers and parakeets also move through the trees. Hawks, falcons and vultures soar overhead while long-legged herons, egrets, cormorants, ibises, and storks wade along rivers and swamps.
During the rainy months of October to April, when waters are high in the north of the Pantanal, the birds feed on fish in the southern sector. From May to September, when the waters from the north flood down south, the birds move to the shallower waters in the north. The very best time to visit is during the cooler and dry winter months of June, July and August. January and February are very hot and humid. The Pantanal can be noisy during the dry season since that's when birds are nesting by the hundreds in swamp trees. When the waters recede from the northern Pantanal in the winter months, wide sandy riverbanks are exposed. This is when the large alligators called jacarés like to sun on the sand.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ANIMALS THAT CAN BE SEEN IN THE PANTANAL?
You can see howler monkeys, capuchins, spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, sloths, opossums, coatis, peccaries, tapirs, otters, capybaras, giant anteaters, deer, jaguars, ocelots, pumas, caimans, snakes, leaf-cutter ants, piranhas, wolves, foxes, turtles, butterflies, lizards, etc. etc. Brazil actually contains the most variety of animals of any country in the world. There are about 600 species of mammals, 30 different types of monkeys, 1,500 species of fish and 1,600 species of birds. With 3,000 different species living in every square mile (1,150 per square kilometre) of forests, biologists are discovering new ones all the time. So far 100,000 different insects have been listed!
WHAT SPECIES ARE AT RISK IN BRAZIL?
The Brazilian environmental agency lists 395 endangered species in the country including 166 fish, 160 birds, 96 insects, 69 mammals, 34 invertebrates, 20 reptiles and 16 amphibians. Some of these you can actually still see and photograph in the Pantanal, such as the harpy eagle, the hyacinth macaw (which is the largest flying parrot in the world), the jaguar, the spider monkey, etc.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO THE PANTANAL?
Bring insect repellent, sunscreen, a hat, long sleeves and trousers, socks and hiking boots. Binoculars are a good idea and of course a camera with a long lens. Other items that might add to your comfort are a hairdryer, an adapter and a tripod.
WHAT KIND OF ACCOMMODATION CAN I FIND IN THE PANTANAL?
There are different kinds of places to stay: fazendas (ranches), pousadas (small hotels), pesqueiros (fishing lodges) with rods and boats for hire and botels (expensive floating hotels). Prices for all usually include three meals a day, local transportation and tours.
CAN I GO HORSE RIDING IN THE PANTANAL?
The Pantanal with its sometimes marshy lands is perfect for horseback tours. You can keep your feet dry and spot wildlife from a higher view on a horse. Horses are able to go into areas that are not possible even for 4WD vehicles. Pantanal Jaguar Expeditions offer horse riding depending on the type of tour, the length of tour and subject to the availability of horses at the pousada at which you are staying.
WHAT OTHER ACTIVITIES ARE AVAILABLE IN THE PANTANAL?
Besides horse riding, the Pantanal offers opportunities for hiking, cycling, caving, snorkelling, swimming, fishing, canoeing, motorboating, sunset and sunrise safaris, and, of course, bird-watching and photography.
WHAT IF THINGS DON'T GO EXACTLY AS PER THE ITINERARY YOU SEND US?
Please bear in mind that Brazil is a country that is still developing. Because of this, even with the greatest forethought and the most diligent pre-planning, things may not go as foreseen. Acts of nature (weather conditions) may make the roads impassable, rain may cause the animals to seek shelter and you will not necessarily see them. Hotels and pousadas may have problems with their electricity, their plumbing, or their cooking or cleaning staff may suddenly go on strike. We have had to deal with such contingencies in the past. In Africa when such things happen they say “Africa is Africa.” Well, we could also say “Brazil is Brazil.” Things cannot go perfectly every time and we suggest that you be prepared to have an adventure in whatever the form it takes; relax and go with the flow. Rest assured that our guide will do all in his power to make your trip an unforgettable one in the best way possible. Please feel free to discuss with him once you are there the daily itinerary, if it is of a concern for you. After all, our customers' comfort and enjoyment is our first priority.