Family, friends and regular readers will know that we began our round the world trip in South America. Among the large number of amazing things we got up to, one of our favourites was a Brazilian Pantanal tour. Until now we have only written one post about the Pantanal, being a #PhotoFriday post. We would love others to share the fantastic experience we had. The following two posts will therefore be a review of the tour followed by an overview of the activities together with some great photos.
the brazilian pantanal
Whilst planning our trip, we read various travel blogs and checked out backpacker tourist routes. We discovered an opportunity on our route through Brazil to Bolivia that we couldn’t pass up.
The Pantanal, from the Portuguese word “pãntano” meaning wetland, is a massive, (140,000-195,000 sq km) natural land area, encompassing the world’s largest wetlands. It is a veritable cornucopia of wildlife just waiting to be discovered, whilst indulging in some fun activities!
There are many options for seeing and exploring both the northern and southern Pantanal. We booked a four day-three night tour with Gil’s Pantanal Discovery, staying at the Jungle Lodge. Gil is mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide as the best of the budget options; to say the whole booking process and travel arrangements were bizarre would be an understatement!
A Strange Beginning
Booking and all communication was via WhatsApp; whilst this is normal in Brazil, it felt very weird and a little unprofessional to us. We were staying in Campo Grande and as part of the price, we were picked up from our hotel. However, the transfer was not in a labelled minibus or jeep as we had expected, but a plain, black sedan, with just Gil and a driver.
Gil was a really friendly guy and showed us pictures of his family, whilst giving recommendations for future trips as we drove along. Then, all of a sudden, the car stopped and he got out; we were left with just the driver and given a voucher saying “paid in full”, even though we hadn’t paid anything yet!. Ten minutes down the road, the car stopped again and D was asked to get out to go and pay. D was led into a hotel lobby and asked to pay the agreed amount. It was very bizarre, as there appeared to be no affiliation between Gil, the hotel we were making payment to, and the lodge we would eventually be staying in. Five hours (and a drink/toilet stop) later, we arrived at our lodge in the middle of the Pantanal.
We arrived at the Jungle Lodge in the early afternoon and were greeted with a breathtaking sight. A string of connected, wooden, cabin-like buildings all sitting on stilts in the water, surrounded by nothing but nature. Bird song in the trees and a family of capybaras were our welcoming committee (okay so that’s a slight exaggeration, but they were in sight!). It was surreal, as the lodge was completely empty; we had arrived towards the end of the rainy season (late March) so the lodge was not busy at all.
We were given a brief rundown of the activities we would be doing over the next four days, and shown to our room. Originally we had booked beds in a dorm room, but were told that it was full (not sure how?). As a result we were given a private double room – score! The room was basic but did have an en-suite, a fridge and a small porch area with table and chairs.
Cost: We paid R$1,000 each, which is approximately £200 each. We should point out that having discussed costs with our fellow guests, it appears that everyone paid slightly different amounts. Depending on who you book with, what time of year and I guess some luck, will determine how much you actually pay. In addition, this was the price quoted for a bed in one of the dorm beds. As above we were lucky to be upgraded to a private room!
– Pick up from our hotel (airport and bus terminal available too)
– 3 nights accommodation at the Jungle Lodge.
– Use of on site swimming pool, hammocks and washing facilities.
– 9 meals, vegetarians catered for (D on day 1, B, L & D on days 2 and 3, B & L on day 4)
– All activities including horse riding, canoeing, piranha fishing, boat & jeep safaris, guided hike, river swimming and pool noodling.
– Transfer to next destination (bus ticket provided, dropped off at pick up).
– Drinks (available for purchase from the bar)
the actual tour
Too much happened for us to include it in this post, together with all of the information. We are therefore in the process of writing a second post which will appear here. This will contain a much more detailed overview of our experience, together with some amazing pictures of the wildlife we saw.
A brief overview of the tour:-
Following our arrival we had time to relax before an afternoon’s activity of floating down the Miranda river with pool noodles. After a buffet style dinner, the evening consisted of a boat ride down the river. Once it got dark we went cayman hunting. Day two began early, with a jeep safari on the way to horse riding. The afternoon saw us out canoeing as the sunset. The third day included a long boat trip down the river which and the chance to go swimming. Some more river drifting with pool noodles, was followed by Piranha fishing! The evening finished with a night jeep safari. Our final day in the Pantanal began with a long jeep ride and then a guided wildlife walk, during which we spotted armadillos and monkeys. We were then dropped off on the side of the road and left to wait for a bus to Corumba.
We thought the tour was absolutely fantastic. The price of £200 per person was a bargain and a half! Whilst we are aware we got very lucky, what with the room upgrade and paying slightly less than everyone else. However, for what was included we would gladly have paid a little extra.
The booking/arrival was slightly peculiar but it meant that we avoided the risk of tour touts at the airport/bus terminal. (Plus it added to the experience!) The majority of the food was delicious and as a vegetarian C was well catered for. Each meal was buffet style so you could eat as much or as little as you wanted and there was always a good selection. Finally the accommodation was lovely, both in terms of facilities and location. It was always so quiet, there was a pool to cool down in, laundry facilities and weirdly, great WiFi!
Our only criticisms of the whole tour are that we ended up repeating activities. We still enjoyed the activities, I mean who doesn’t want to float down a river on a pool noodle, whilst gazing into the trees at toucans and hawks! But it would have been to do something else. The promised ‘transfer’ to the next destination has a little to be desired too. We had read up on it so were not surprised, but being given a bus ticket and told to wait for a bus in the middle of nowhere, does not constitute a transfer.
The activities were great fun; we spotted some amazing wildlife which many people will never get to see. As it wasn’t too busy, the social aspect was great too as we got to know the other guests in a smaller group setting. For the price we paid we couldn’t really fault it.
Overall we would give it 8.5 out of 10.
Have you taken a Brazilian Pantanal tour? What did you think? Who did you book with and where did you stay? Get in touch in the comments below, or drop us a message on any of our social media channels!
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