Pantanal is absolutely my favorite place in Brazil. It’s the biggest wetland area of the world and it’s known for amazing wildlife. It’s the best place for nature and wildlife lovers, and the activities in the Pantanal are awesome. In this travel guide I tell you everything you need to know about the Pantanal.
Animals in Pantanal
The main reason to go to the Pantanal is all the wildlife. It’s one of the best places in the world to see jaguars. It has the biggest and healthiest jaguar population of the world. I didn’t see them but my guide told me he sees jaguars three or four times a week. That’s amazing!
Besides the jaguar, you can see pumas, anacondas, tapirs, anteaters, big otters, monkeys, capybaras, caimans, macaws, armadillos and more. So cool!
In the Pantanal you can do so much activities. You have to book a tour of several days if you want to some activities. I did seven activities in four days and I loved six of them. Let me tell you which ones.
I don’t like fishing so I thought I wouldn’t like this activity, but I really liked it. Right after you put the fishing rod in the water, you can feel them eating from the meat. They are pretty strong and you can catch several piranhas within seconds or minutes. The river is full of them. But it’s harder than you think: they’re so quick so you really have to pull at the right moment.
Boat ride during the sunset
Jaguars are getting active during sunset, when it’s a bit cooler. Their favorite place to hang out is next to the river, so you go for a boat ride during the sunset. But also pay attention to the river itself: a lot of caimans are relaxing in the water and you can see them watching you. In the evening, when you shine on their faces, you can see the eyes very clear.
Boat ride in the morning
Another great moment to spot the jaguars is in the early morning, so you will have a boat ride the next morning. The tour takes about four hours and you will see so much animals. I’ve seen a lot of capybaras, caimans, otters, macaws, other birds and one monkey. You can actually swim in the river, although all the many creepy animals and piranhas.
Canoeing on the river
Time for more water activities. Canoeing on the river is a great way to see the environment in a different perspective. It’s a beautiful ride and it’s so peaceful, without a loud engine. It’s more about enjoying the peaceful landscape.
A safari per jeep, who doesn’t love that? During a full day tour you see the coolest animals. I loved this activity the most and I’ve seen so much great wildlife.
After the jeep safari you will do a walking safari for two hours through the jungle, looking for jaguars, tapirs, macaws, anteaters and monkeys. I saw many animals that I didn’t see during the boat and jeep tour.
Horseback riding through the swamps
Hated this one. I really don’t like horses, because I think they’re so unpredictable and scary. My horse decided to swim in the river a couple of times, with me on him. And that’s not even the scary part. He dragged me into the water and the swamps are FULL of caimans. I was terrified. But the landscape is gorgeous so if you like horses, you definitely should do this.
Where to sleep in the Pantanal?
I really recommend staying in the Pantanal Jungle Lodge, a great accommodation. It’s located right next to the river and in the evenings and early mornings you see so many capybaras, parrots and macaws. And you can hear the howler monkeys nearby. So cool! The food is pretty good and all the activities and food are included.
You can choose between dorms and a private room. I normally go for a private room, but the price difference was too huge so I’ve chosen a dorm and this was totally fine. The lodge also offers a pool and enough space to relax and hang out, like hammocks and enough chairs. They also have wifi, but this one doesn’t work that great.
How many nights in Pantanal?
A lot of people online say that two nights is enough, but it really isn’t. You want to do all the activities possible, because it’s all so awesome. I recommend staying for three nights, so you can do six till eight activities in total. You don’t want to skip anything.
North or South Pantanal: the difference
You can choose between the north and the south. You can’t combine the two, because the Pantanal is extremely big. Most people do south and I did the same, because of the location. If you come from Bonito or Campo Grande, you always have to choose the south. The north is a bit better for seeing jaguars, but you can also see them in the south.
How to get to the Pantanal?
Like I said before: if you have booked a tour of several days in the Pantanal, they will pick you up. They picked me up in Bonito and they dropped me in Campo Grande at the end of the tour. I’ve booked my tour via Pantanal Discovery (not sponsored) and the lodge, the food, all the activities and transport were included. It takes about four or five hours to get here and this is great with a car.
Best time to visit Pantanal
The best time to visit Pantanal is between July and November. It’s a little less wet, so you have more chance to see all the wildlife. In October and November it can be dry in some parts of the Pantanal, how crazy! I was there in September and there was water for sure, but that not much. It’s also the best time to spot jaguars.
Want to read more travel tips for Brazil? Check out all my Brazil articles, with a lot of travel guides and practical information.