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Introducing The Pantanal

The Amazon gets the press coverage, but the Pantanal is a better place to see wildlife. The dense foliage of the Amazon makes it difficult to observe the animals, but in the open marshes of the Pantanal, wildlife is much easier to spot. If you like to see animals in their natural environment, the Pantanal should not be missed.

Located in the heart of South America, the world’s largest wetland is 20 times the size of the famed Everglades in Florida – some 210,000 sq km. Something less than 100,000 sq km of this is in Bolivia and Paraguay; the rest is in Brazil, split between the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul.

The Pantanal has few people and no towns. Distances are so great and ground transport so poor that people get around in small airplanes and motorboats; 4WD travel is restricted by the seasons. The principal access road that runs deep into the Pantanal is the Transpantaneira. This raised dirt road sectioned by small wooden bridges ends 145km south of Poconé, at Porto Jofre. The much-mooted road connection of Porto Jofre to Corumbá (at the border with Bolivia), long shelved due to ecological concerns and a lack of funds, now appears to be back on the negotiating table.

The Parque Nacional do Pantanal Matogrossense occupies 1350 sq km in the southwest of the region, but most of the Pantanal is privately owned. Cooperation between ecotourism and the landowners in the region (mostly cattle ranchers) has contributed to the sustainable conservation of the environment. By providing ranchers with an income that encourages their coexistence with the wildlife it covers the shortfall created by the seasonal flooding of the area, which would otherwise be covered by more intensive (and hence more destructive) ranching efforts. The national park and three smaller private nature reserves nearby were given Unesco World Heritage listing in 2000.