Travelogue: The Pantanal
To help keep their knowledge and expertise in top condition, our travel teams regularly visit the countries and regions they specialise in. One of our Latin America specialists, Melissa, recently returned from a trip to Brazil's magical Pantanal region. Follow her fascinating journey as she explores its wildlife-rich landscapes and luxury eco-lodges.
As the sun sets over the Southern Pantanal, the so-called Formula One frogs begin their evening ritual. For the uninitiated, it doesn’t take long to understand why these amphibians have gained their local nickname. ‘Neeeowwww, neeeowww’ - their remarkable calls create an incessant background noise, more akin to a racing car than a frog.
Some parts of the landscape in this region of central Brazil resemble parkland in the UK, with only the odd palm tree thrown in to confuse the matter. But it’s the appearance of a large, spotted feline slinking carefully through the long grass that lets us know that we’re somewhere very different indeed. A beautiful pair of jaguar eyes peer at us between the branches, and for a moment it’s hard to breathe at the thrill of it all.
I stayed at Caiman Eco Lodge, a magical place where the wildlife is protected, blue hyacinth macaw thrive, and you get the feeling anything is possible. The lodges here enjoy idyllic locations, perfectly positioned to appreciate the stunning wild landscape and the creatures that pass through it. A night drive through the surrounding reserve will demonstrate just how abundant the wildlife is here. Shine a torch on a river and unblinking caiman eyes will stare back at you, reflected eerily in the light. Even upon arriving back at the lodge, a pair of ocelot were spotted skirting the building.
Guided walks in the jungle are to be savoured, each step an education in where not to walk. We learned to avoid the termite and ant paths, to watch out for spiders, and that we will smell the hog-like peccaries before we see them. One of the stand-out moments was walking past the trunk of a tree that had previously been used as a jaguar’s giant scratching post. The deep gashes in the bark left a lasting impression, not just on the tree but on me too.
A flight or two away, within touching distance of the mighty Amazon, lies another jewel in Brazil’s crown. Cristalino Lodge is a huge reserve bursting with wildlife. A troop of howler monkey appear to greet visitors on arrival. The Cristalino River, home to giant river otter, carves a twisting route through the dense jungle, where lianas and vines loop from tree to tree. During my visit, Braulio, our expert guide identified distant bird calls to us on a jungle walk. After scaling to the top of one of the 50-metre-high canopy towers, his keen eye managed to spot a specific bird in a far-away tree on the distant horizon. It only revealed itself to me through the lens of a powerful telescope. I’m thankful for the pair of capybara that regularly grazed the lawn around my bungalow - their overgrown rodent physique was much easier to see.
The hikes at Cristalino Lodge are not all about the huge butterflies, the birds or the beasts, but also about the trees. We came across one such specimen, a giant, 800-year-old brazil nut tree that climbed straight and true into the high canopy above us. It took seven of us to link hands and hug the enormous circumference of its trunk.
Back at my comfortable bungalow, surrounded by the dense jungle and all its wonderful wildlife, I’m reminded of a phrase often spoken by our company founder, Geoffrey Kent: “Adventure by day, luxury by night”. It’s the ethos that Abercrombie & Kent was built on, and couldn’t be more suitable for my visit to the Pantanal.