Brazil is a destination for everyone – beach-enthusiasts, city-explorers and culture-seekers are all well taken care of in South America’s largest country. But there’s something truly special here for wildlife-lovers; famous for the incredible Amazon Rainforest, Brazil is also home to the world’s largest wetland, the Pantanal. We've adventured into both, discovering the wonders of Brazil’s natural world…


Jaguars in the Pantanal

I started my adventure in the Pantanal, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. On the drive to my base, the Caiman Ecological Refuge, I had already spotted plenty of wildlife, including caiman, colourful macaws and a family of capybara hanging out by the pool.

I visited towards the end of May, as the wet season transitions to dry. Wildlife returns to the plains, and Howler and Capuchin monkeys, Marsh deer and Collared and White-lipped peccary can be spotted. The Pantanal is considered a year-round destination, with the dry season (July-October) being the most popular time to visit. January and February are the wettest months when it’s less likely you’ll spot wildlife.
At Caiman, animals roam freely around the grounds, and it’s not safe to go out at night without a guide. As if I needed proof that the area was teeming with wildlife, I would often find small frogs in my bathroom! But it was a bigger animal that provided one of the undoubted highlights of my trip. 

Based at Caiman, the Onçafari Project is a pioneering conservation scheme that habituates jaguars (so they don’t view safari vehicles as a threat), making it easier to spot them in their natural habitat. In 2016 77% of guests saw at least one jaguar during their stay at Caiman, and within just a few hours of my arrival I was lucky enough to see one of the magnificent big cats for myself. She was strolling through the grasslands and then climbed up onto a tree branch, allowing us to gaze at her and take as many photos as we wanted. It was a surreal experience – little did I know I’d see three more jaguars before I left Caiman.
Looking back at my Pantanal trip, I can’t believe how much wildlife I was privileged enough to see – four jaguars in three days, ocelots, caiman, the Crab-eating fox and even the endangered Hyacinth macaw.

Eco-Friendly Amazon Lodge

Next I headed to Cristalino Lodge, a birdwatcher’s haven set within a private reserve deep in the Amazon rainforest. The reserve is home to tonnes of wildlife, with mammals such as the jaguar, puma, sloth and seven species of monkey resident here, as well as around 600 species of bird. The jungle surroundings are completely undisturbed, and as soon as I arrived I was struck by the natural beauty of the place. The eco-friendly lodge is committed to environmental responsibility and was designed using natural materials. Wildlife is free to roam around, and on the way to my room I spotted some capybaras grazing just outside my door.  

The lodge’s floating deck was my favourite place to relax – spending the day here sunbathing or taking a dip in the Cristalino River before watching the sunset in front of the open log fire. The lodge’s location means there’s a variety of experiences on offer, from hiking to canoeing. Trails through the reserve allow guests to learn more about the eco-system; on one walk I encountered a 500-year-old Brazil nut tree that’s so wide it takes at least six people holding hands to encircle it!

Cristalino’s location so close to the Pantanal and the Cerrado savannah makes it a biodiversity hotspot, and the reserve itself stretches over 44-square miles, encompassing a variety of natural habitats where wildlife thrives. The lodge really is an Amazonian paradise, and is the perfect place to unwind and be totally immersed in nature.

Even though I knew Brazil is famous for its wildlife, I was still surprised by the sheer amount of flora and fauna I saw in a short space of time. Encountering the magnificent jaguar was an unforgettable highlight, but seeing all the conservation work going on in the Pantanal and the Amazon was inspiring, and I can’t wait to go back.



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