Pantanal, a trip through the planet’s most fascinating ecosystem Breathing the pure air while boating on a river in Pantanal or walking along its flat, verdant fields helps one discover the higher meaning of the life that pulses through all creatures and plants. No matter how well you’ve prepared yourself for this experience, everything you see becomes a fascinating surprise. Even what you don’t see: Close your eyes and sharpen your senses. Pantanal’s sounds fill your ears with nature’s harmony. Keep listening and it’s possible to hear the silence in all these sounds. Birds call to wake the sun, which lazily begins to brighten the stage. The show is about to begin. Rise early for a front-row seat to the grand production and watch as the cast members appear. Toucans fly past, one by one; parrots fly in pairs; herons and cormorants form large flocks. The forest smell makes you forget the city’s odors. And the show continues. Chubby capybaras come out to feed. An alligator, moving sleepily, looks for a beach to sun itself. A jabiru stork makes like a statue, standing in knee-deep water, patiently waiting for the precise moment to strike its unwary prey. A white egret paces the riverbank, looking intently into the water. As the sun climbs, the dew vanishes and the perfume of tree blossoms fill the air. Sitting on the house’s large porch, cowhands drink their traditional green tea before heading out to tend to the cattle. Those men who stay behind will go out in canoes and ask the river to give them a few fish for lunch. The show must go on, so in between hooking one fish and another, the sun begins its descent. As shadows lengthen, people once again gather on the porch for conversation interspersed with quiet moments. A perfect opportunity to look up at the stars and appreciate the poetic atmosphere. Experience Pantanal and gain a fresh outlook on life amidst the powerful beauty of nature. Visitors to this region are always impressed by the quality, quantity and variety of life found here. Come see why this Brazilian paradise is recognized as one of our planet’s greatest natural treasures. PANTANAL – Natural Patrimony of Humanity and Biosphere Preserve  The Pantanal National Park, located along the border between the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, has been declared part of the Natural Patrimony of Humanity. This UNESCO recognition represents a significant increase in the region’s ecotourism potential as well as a means of sustenance for local populations. Investments over the next eight years are expected to surpass $400 million. The money is to be used in effecting sustainable development of the Upper Paraguay River basin through wise management of natural resources. Pantanal now has two international designations granted by UNESCO: Biosphere Preserve and Natural Patrimony of Humanity. The difference between the two is in the type of objectives. Biosphere Preserves revolve around management issues, with emphasis on planning and the conciliation of sustainable development interests with environmental protection. Sites of Patrimony of Humanity are selected by an international convention that recognizes the importance of said regions, without which, humanity would be worse off. Brazil’s Pantanal region, formed by the Rio Paraguai’s extensive watershed, defines the planet’s largest flood plain and covers about 230,000 square kilometers in the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. Vegetation creates a veritable mosaic of forests, fields and scrub-covered ridges interspersed with marshes, rivers, sloughs and bays. The rich and diverse fauna includes 230 different species of fish, 650 types of birds, 80 kinds of mammals and 50 different species of reptiles. Biologists consider this area the world’s densest concentration of animal life. Temperatures typically range from 75 to more than 100 degrees Farenheit.  Physical and biological aspects During dry season, rivers shrink and water is only found in perennial rivers, lakes and some swampy areas. At this time, beaches and sandbars are exposed, and visitors can see large groups of birds and other animals that gather around any remaining body of water to take advantage of the easy meals afforded by corralled fish. The landscape changes drastically during high-water season. Heavy rainfall fills every depression and forms immense lakes that extend farther than the eye can see. Pantanal becomes one huge body of water, with lakes, rivers and streams all running together. When early explorers witnessed this incredible volume of water, they baptized it “The Sea of Xaraés.” In this tropical clime, average temperatures vary from 12 to 34C (53 to 93F). Strong cold fronts in July can leave frost on the plants, and hot summer days can surpass 40C (104F). Life thrives above and below the water The waters of Pantanal support a complex web of ichthyologic fauna. The list of native game fish includes dourado, sorubim, pacu, jau, piraputanga and others; species such as jacunda, oscar and peacock bass have been introduced in some areas to offer even more options to sport fishermen. Wooded areas shelter jaguar, peccary, tapir, monkeys and a variety of birds that includes macaw, parrot, toucan, ibis, caracar and South American cardinal. The fields host deer, armadillo, fox, rhea. It’s an endless procession of wildlife. Pantanal contains rich botanical diversity in the form of valuable lumber-bearing trees, fruit-bearing trees, flowers and medicinal plants. The tremendous variety of plants offer food and shelter to many different animals. Palm trees such as copernicia, acrocomia and sheelea provide a source of food for many animals, and offer birds shelter for nest-building. Springtime heralds a multicolored spectacle put on by blooming trees. Ipê trees show off white, pink, purple and yellow blossoms beginning in August. Other plants prefer an aquatic environment and decorate the waters with rare beauty. The Victoria Reggia, with their impressive floating pads, are seen in northern Pantanal near the city of Caceres. Pantanal consists of a constantly changing stage and a never-ending show. To enjoy the performance, visitors need only open up all their senses. In order to understand it completely, you must see, hear, feel, smell, taste and touch the experience. A visit to Pantanal will overwhelm you with its magnitude and complexity, leaving you with no doubt as to the need for protecting and preserving this treasure that nature offers mankind. The importance of water hyacinth (aguape) to the ecosystem Among all the plants in Pantanal, water hyacinth is the most easily recognized and most important. Besides their delicately beautiful blue and lavender flowers, these plants often cover the water with immense and impenetrable floating carpets. They filter the water and replace oxygen; their roots form the basis of an intricate environment. Game fish such as dourado and sorubim hunt baitfish living among the suspended roots. Freshwater crabs, frogs and snakes feed on insects which, in turn, eat microorganisms that live in the slime clinging to the hyacinth roots to complete the food chain. Riches produced by human hands Pantanal’s principal economic activities center around agriculture, commercial fishing and tourism. Raising beef cattle constitutes the largest economic sector. Some ranches cover more than 200,000 hectares and use much of the area for grazing, where the pastures renew themselves naturally in fields made fertile thanks to silt and nutrients deposited by the flooding cycles. Since most fields spend at least part of the year underwater, large-scale plantations do not exist. Farming here is done on a subsistence basis in small areas that remain dry year-round. Tourism continues to grow here. Pantanal offers numerous options in hotels, lodges and houseboat operations to attend the needs of any visitors. Some lodges are devoted to ecotourism and have boats, pickups and other specially adapted vehicles to conduct wildlife viewing and photo safaris. Other lodges are dedicated to sport fishing and offer guide services and complete infrastructure for visiting anglers. Pantanal features a seemingly endless array of tourism possibilities and we can continue to enjoy it as long as we take care to preserve this magnificent ecosystem. Paradise for Ecotourism Magnificent landscapes are seen all around Pantanal, such as the Bodoquena, Amolar and Campina ridges, offering plenty of reasons to take photos and videos. The town of Bonito already enjoys international renown for its natural beauty, receiving thousands of visitors annually, who swim in crystal-clear waters full of fish. Driving along any of the region’s roadways or riding in a boat on one of the countless rivers, visitors are treated to sights of rare animals and exotic birds. Along the riverbanks you’ll see stands of copernicia and acrocomia palms, ant trees (whose lovely red and pink blossoms hide colonies of fire ants), and ipê trees with purple, yellow, red and white blossoms. Other flowering trees fill the air with sweet perfume on springtime afternoons. Overhead, flocks of parakeets and parrots stand out as dancing green spots against a blue sky. Conglomerations of cormorants, egrets, storks and spoonbills gather in chosen points to roost and build nesting colonies in expansive rookeries. On sandbars and at the edges of marshy areas, terns and jacanas stalk fishy meals alongside kingfishers, anhingas, spoonbills, curassows and enormous jabiru storks. Otters splash and roll without worry, knowing they are the true owners of this place. Pantanal encompasses a universe in itself that could easily be called Nature’s Eden.