Large-scale deforestation in the Gran Chaco has made its way into the international headlines in recent times and although the situation continues, for the time being the Chaco remains a great place to see wildlife. This vast plain – roughly divided into the flooded palm savannas of the Humid Chaco (the first 350km west of Asunción) and the spiny forests of the Dry Chaco (the rest) – encompasses the entire western half of Paraguay and stretches into Argentina and Bolivia.
Bisected by the Ruta Trans-Chaco, it’s an animal-lover’s paradise, with flocks of waterbirds and birds of prey abounding, easily spotted along the roadside. Although the Chaco accounts for more than 60% of Paraguayan territory, less than 3% of the population actually lives here. Historically it was a refuge for indigenous hunter-gatherers; today the most obvious settlements are the Mennonite communities of the Central Chaco.