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Day by Day Itinerary

Join us to experience the best of Brazil on this adventure in South America’s largest country, an emerging superpower whose history and natural diversity are equally remarkable. You’ll encounter a unique blend of Portuguese, African, and indigenous cultures from the beaches of Rio ...  to the Pelourinho neighborhood in Salvador da Bahia ... the Amazon River capital of Manaus ... and beyond. Explore the tropical rain forests of the Amazon River watershed during a river cruise, then discover the wildlife-rich Pantanal region, the world’s largest wetland. And what you’re likely to remember most are the Brazilians you’ll meet who eagerly share their country’s spirit with you, from the family who welcomes you for a Home-Hosted meal in Salvador to the village fishermen of the Pantanal. Join us in Brazil to experience a country where the food, drink, dancing, and music feel as exuberantly alive as the lushness of the tropical rain forest.

Rio De Janeiro The Pantanal Expand All
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    You depart from the U.S. on an overnight flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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    Arrive this morning in Rio. As the home of the bossa nova, world-famous beaches, and a renowned annual carnival, Rio is a city known for its exuberant zest for life. With lush mountain peaks jutting upward dramatically from a sand-wrapped coastline, it’s a city blessed as much with natural beauty as with cosmopolitan delights. In recent years, Rio has also ascended to the world stage as a major cultural capital.

    When you arrive, an OAT representative meets you at the airport and arranges for your transfer to your hotel. After lunch on your own, join your Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those joining us from the Santiago & Chile's Atacama Desert pre-trip extension, for an orientation walk. This walk will acquaint you with the neighborhood near your hotel and give you a first look at the city.

    Afterwards, we meet with our Trip Leader and fellow travelers for a briefing on our upcoming trip. Later, on our way to dinner, we'll drive along the shoreline for a look at the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Then we'll enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a churrascaria, a traditional Brazilian restaurant where meat reigns supreme. Churrasco is the Portuguese word for barbecue and it applies to all kinds of grilled meat, from beef to pork to duck and sausage. The most common preparation is beef top sirloin, known as picanha. At a churrascaria, the grilled meats are brought to your table on long metal skewers by passadores (waiters) who carve it for you. The passodores will keep returning as long as you want—the choice is in your hands.

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    This morning, we’ll visit Corcovado, the site of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Completed in 1931, the 625-ton statue rises 124 feet on its pedestal atop 2,300-foot-high Corcovado Mountain, with its outstretched arms spanning 92 feet. After decades of exposure to the elements and erosion of the soapstone exterior—plus being struck by lightning and marred by graffiti from an itinerant house painter— the statue was restored to its full luster in 2010. Then we'll walk through Santa Teresa, a Rio neighborhood with a bohemian atmosphere, and see the Selarón Stairs, an outdoor staircase of 250 colorfully decorated steps created by artist Jorge Selarón.

    Next we'll savor an included lunch featuring Brazil’s national dish, feijoada. To prepare it, smoked meat is simmered for hours in black beans, before the meat and beans are served separately, accompanied by collard greens, farofa (toasted manioc) and hot sauce. Originally a slave dish, the end of slavery saw feijoada become more widely known, and soon it was being served in the best restaurants of Brazil. By the 20th century, it had become a comfort food and staple.

    The rest of your afternoon and evening are free for relaxing or making your own discoveries, and dinner is on your own.

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    After breakfast this morning, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Salvador, in the Brazilian state of Bahia. This is northern Brazil’s largest city, and a center of Afro-Brazilian culture: more than 80% of the population consists of descendants of Africans who were brought to Brazil during the slave era. We transfer to our hotel early this afternoon, then enjoy an orientation walk to get acquainted with our surroundings.

    Later this afternoon, we enjoy a panoramic driving tour that brings us to the coastline and past the Barra Lighthouse. As we travel through the city, we'll see how African influences and Portuguese colonial touches entwine in a setting where the sweeping Atlantic Ocean meets glittering Todos dos Santos Bay. This evening, the warmth for which Salvador is known will be on full display as we share a Home-Hosted Dinner with a local family.

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    Today, we explore the Pelourinho, the historic neighborhood the locals call the Pelo. The heart of the Portuguese colony of the 16th-19th centuries, it is a district of great beauty and some tragic legacies. The pastel facades of the centuries-old buildings surrounding the cobbled triangular plaza speak to the elegance of the colonial era, but the very name—which means pillory, or whipping post—speaks to the brutality of the slave trade that occurred on these same streets.

    Our walking tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site will bring us to the San Francisco Church and Convent, built over the course of a hundred years in the 17th and 18th centuries. Though its twin spires and classic façade are attractive, it’s the interior of San Francisco that dazzles: the ceiling is crisscrossed with paintings outlined in interlocking geometric patterns of wooden framing, and Lisbon tiles outline the lower walls with scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll explore Salvador’s seaside Lower City, including the 18th-century Church of Senhor do Bonfim (The Lord of the Good End). Built in the 18th century to house a statue of Christ carried to this spot all the way from Lisbon by a sea captain, the church is this area's most prominent house of worship. We return to our hotel later in the afternoon; dinner is on your own.

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    We’ll explore more of Salvador today, starting with a visit at the colorful São Joaquim Market, where local people buy everything from fruits and vegetables to manioc flour and candles. Then we’ll get to learn more about the Afro-Brazilian community in a visit to Arte Consciente, a community service center founded by a circus trainer, boxer, percussionist, and graffiti artist who saw the children of their neighborhood lacked positive outlets. Many children now take workshops and participate in community events at this site that has inspired the entire neighborhood.

    Afterward, we’ll enjoy lunch at a nearby restaurant, and you have some time at leisure. If you want to explore on your own, you might stroll the sprawling Mercado Modelo, the largest handcrafts bazaar in South America. In the late afternoon, we'll gather for a percussion lesson that will give us insights into the rhythms of Brazilian music.

    This evening, we enjoy dinner in a local restaurant before a performance of Bahia Folklore, including capoeira. Like an intersection between dance and martial arts, capoeira mixes stylized fight moves with gymnastics and graceful steps. Because of its African roots, it was banned in public for generations, until the 20th century finally saw not only the easing of the ban but the embrace of capoeira as a national art form.

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    This morning, we transfer to the airport and fly to Manaus via Brasilia. Arriving in Manaus this afternoon, we transfer to our hotel and settle in before a briefing about what to expect on our upcoming Amazon cruise. “Manaus” means “Mother of the Gods” in the local indigenous dialect, but as the biggest city in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, it is better known as “The Heart of the Amazon.” Manaus is located where the upper Amazon River and its biggest tributary in Brazil, the Rio Negro, meet.

    Dinner is on your own this evening. In addition to Brazilian fare like feijoada, you might try items made with specifically Amazonian ingredients like pirarucu fish, palm hearts, and acai berry.

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    This morning, we take in the history and culture of Manaus, beginning at the Art Noveau-style Mercado Municipal. In this marketplace, patterned after Les Halles in Paris, vendors offer produce, spices, fresh fish, and handcrafts. We'll also see the Opera House, dating from 1881, which was was designed to be “the jewel of the Amazon." With Renaissance flourishes, a pink and white facade, and a multi-hued dome composed of 36,000 colored tiles, this fine example of Belle Epoque architecture still makes a dramatic impression. After we enjoy a lunch of fresh local fish in a Manaus restaurant , we embark the Premium II for our Amazon River Cruise. Once aboard our 16-passenger ship,  which is privately chartered by OAT exclusively for our group, we gather for a briefing from the ship's naturalist. We'll learn about the activities for our next three days on the river. Please note: This is an expedition cruise, and the order of activities may vary due to weather, water levels, currents, and the season. Afterwards, we'll enjoy a happy hour featuring caipirinhas (the lime and sugar cane liquor cocktails synonymous with Brazil), followed by our first dinner onboard.

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    Early this morning, we begin exploring our rain forest surroundings to see nature’s early risers, like parrots and toucans, and to learn about the diverse flora along the riverbanks.  After breakfast aboard ship, we continue observing the tropical flora and fauna during an interpretive walk in the forest. After we enjoy lunch back aboard our vessel, we ply the waters of Anavilhanas National Park by canoe. One of the largest freshwater archipelagos on earth, Anavilhanas is composed of a labyrinth of waterways and some 400 islands. We return to our ship for dinner this evening.

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    We'll have another early morning rain forest tour today, then return to the ship for a full breakfast. Afterwards, we’ll visit a riverside village where we’ll meet local people and learn about their way of life. After lunch aboard our vessel, we’ll take advantage of the white sand beaches along the river in this area for a relaxing swim in the warm waters. Then we board canoes to look for caiman, river dolphins, or the myriad species of birds in the rain forest. We return to our vessel in time for dinner onboard.

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    Today we rise early and have a full day of traveling. First, we make an early-morning excursion to the Lago January Ecological Park. Here, we may see the giant Victoria Regia water lilies, whose wheel-sized flowers—white when they bloom and then pink—sit atop six-foot-wide leaves. We'll also cruise through the "meeting of the waters." Here the dark water of the Rio Negro, a major tributary, joins the lighter brown water of the main stem of the Amazon, which Brazilians call the Rio Solimões upstream from this point. We return to Manaus and disembark late this morning, then transfer to the airport and take a four-hour flight to Cuiaba. It’s then a 3.5-hour overland transfer to our lodge in the Pantanal, the largest wetland area on Earth, which spans 77,000 square miles. The lodge is in the heart of this hotbed of biodiversity and natural splendor and is ideally situated to take advantage of the many outdoor activities that draw ecotourists to this lush region. We enjoy dinner at our lodge tonight.

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    The Pantanal is home to a great diversity of plant and animal species, and we’ll keep our eyes open for all of them as we explore today using three different modes of transportation. We begin on horseback, riding along wetland trails. After an included lunch at our lodge, we board excursion boats for a ride on the Mutum River.

    Our final excursion takes place after dinner. We ride in Jeeps (or boats, at high-water times when roads are flooded) on a night safari, listening for nocturnal animals as they awaken for the night’s activity.

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    We rise before dawn today so that we may enjoy the beauty of the sunrise from our canoes, reveling in the quiet of the day's beginnings. Then, we take to the woods for a walk among the largest variety of flora in the Americas. On our canoe ride and trek alike, we’ll keep our eyes open for sightings of the many species of birds that inhabit the Pantanal.

    After an early lunch at our lodge, we get to know the local people, known as pantaneiros, in a visit to a fishing village situated on the banks of the Cuiaba River. Here, we talk to the fishermen, and try our hands at fishing for piranha. With dozens of razor-like teeth and a tendency to hunt for prey in packs, piranhas have a reputation for ferocity that is not entirely undeserved. Though they can be vigorous predators, they are also part of the local economy, providing food to those who live along the river. We'll linger with our new friends until sunset, learning about how they coexist with the wildlife and make their living from this habitat. This evening, we return to our lodge for dinner.

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    After breakfast, we may do a final trek through the surrounding forest to look for birds and wildlife, or have a relaxing morning. We enjoy an early lunch, then have a long day of traveling, beginning with a transfer of about 3.5 hours to the Cuiaba airport, where we begin flying to Rio, arriving late this evening. Please note: Most flights to Rio from Cuiaba travel via Sao Paolo, with a connecting flight to Rio. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    This morning, we’ll head for one of Rio’s iconic landmarks: the Sugar Loaf, a mountain rising abruptly 1,299 feet from the water’s edge. A cable car transports visitors to the top from the nearby peak of Morro de Urca. The steep granite faces of the Sugar Loaf are popular with rock climbers, and there is a panoramic view from the summit.  We’ll explore some more of Rio, and then sit down with our fellow travelers for a Farewell Lunch to celebrate our Brazilian discoveries. You have the afternoon free to relax or finish packing. Later in the afternoon or evening, transfer to the airport to board your overnight return flight to the U.S. If you are continuing on our optional post-trip extension to Iguassu Falls, you’ll remain at the same hotel in Rio tonight.

Extensions

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 5 locations in 14 days with two 1-night stays
  • We travel about 4,700 miles within Brazil
  • Early mornings during our 6 days in the Amazon and the Pantanal, including 2 pre-dawn departures for sunrise excursions

Physical Requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk approximately 3 miles unassisted in hot, humid weather each day, and be comfortable participating in several hours of daily physical activities

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 75-100°F
  • Tropical climate with high temperatures and humidity
  • Frequent rain year-round

Terrain

  • Travel on city streets, rugged paths, and unpaved roads, and walk over rough, steep, and sometimes slippery trails without handrails
  • Agility and balance are required for embarking and disembarking small boats and canoes

Transportation

  • Travel by 26-passenger minibus, 16-passenger river ship, small excursion boat, Jeep, horseback, and canoe
  • Six internal flights of 2-5 hours each, including connections

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Hotel rooms are air-conditioned and feature private baths with hot showers
  • The Pantanal lodge is 3 hours from the nearest city and has limited medical facilities

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Brazil: Visa required.

Travelers who are booked on this adventure will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Premium II

    We’ll cruise the Amazon on the newly-renovated Premium II, chartered exclusively for our group of 16 OAT travelers. Each of the 8 air-conditioned cabins features a picture window, a private bath with a shower, and a safe. The air-conditioned dining room is lined with windows, and the ship has a bar. A canopied area on the top deck offers panoramic views, and the amenities include an outside whirlpool bath with showers.

Main Trip

  • Rio Othon Palace

    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    The Othon Palace is located on Avenida Atlantica at Copacabana Beach. Each of the 572 air-conditioned rooms features a TV, minibar, safe, and private bath. Hotel facilities include the top-floor Skylab restaurant and a rooftop terrace with an outdoor heated swimming pool and a bar.

  • Sheraton Bahia

    Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

    The Sheration Bahia occupies a renovated historic building centrally located in Salvador. Each of the 284 air-conditioned rooms features acoustically-designed windows and a TV, high-speed Internet access, a safe, a minibar, and a private bath with hair dryer. Hotel facilities include a pool, a sauna, and two restaurants offering regional, national, and international dishes.

  • Tropical Manaus Hotel

    Manaus, Brazil

    Located on the banks of the Rio Negro, the Tropical Manaus is a resort hotel offering  accommodations with the Amazon rain forest as a backdrop. Each of the 556 air-conditioned rooms features a TV, wireless Internet access, a safe, a minibar, and a private bath with hair dryer. Hotel facilities include 3 bars and 2 restaurants serving Brazilian and international cuisine. Amenities include 2 swimming pools, a sports complex, game room, zoo, shops, and beauty parlor.

  • Pousada do Rio Mutum

    Pantanal, Brazil

    This environmentally friendly lodge features cottages that blend in with the tropical environment. Each of the 22 air-conditioned rooms includes a private porch with hammocks, a private bath, and a minibar. Facilities include a pool with a bar and an on-site restaurant serving homemade Brazilian food.

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  • La Casa de Don Tomas

    San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

    Though it is located just a short walk from San Pedro’s main street, the 38-room La Casa de Don Tomas is a secluded oasis in the Atacama Desert. Amenities include an outdoor swimming pool and coffee bar.Laundry service is available. Each room has a private bath and a terrace with views of the desert and the Licancabur Volcano.

  • Rio Othon Palace

    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    The Othon Palace is located on Avenida Atlantica at Copacabana Beach. Each of the 572 air-conditioned rooms features a TV, minibar, safe, and private bath. Hotel facilities include the top-floor Skylab restaurant and a rooftop terrace with an outdoor heated swimming pool and a bar.

  • Bourbon Cataratas Resort & Convention Center

    Foz do Iguacu, Brazil | Rating: First Class

    The Bourbon Hotel is located near the Brazilian-Argentinean border, a perfect place for visitors to the falls. Each of the hotel’s 229 rooms features air-conditioning, cable TV, and wireless Internet access. Enjoy a variety of cuisines at the hotel’s five restaurants, some pampering at the spa, or a dip in the heated pool and whirlpool.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $5795
w/ standard air $6695

Save 10% when you reserve by 10/31/14

It’s simple with our Good Buy Plan: The earlier you reserve and pay in full by check or electronic funds transfer, the more you’ll save on your 2015 departure of Best of Brazil: Cultural Rhythms & Natural Wonders—a value of up to $874 per person.

This example demonstrates how you can save, based on a 10/21/15 departure:

  ORIGINAL PRICE
per person
SAVE 10%
when you reserve
by 10/31/14
SAVE 6%
when you reserve
by 12/21/14
Small Ship Cruise only price: $6495 $5846 $6105
Add an Rio & Iguassu Falls extension: $1345 $1211 $1264
Add international airfare out of Miami: $900 $810 $846
Total price per person $8740 $7866 $8216

Use our Dates & Prices feature to begin planning your trip, determine your savings with our Good Buy Plan calculator, and Request A Call to speak with our expert Travel Counselors.

Private Adventures—New for 2015

How do you arrange a Private Adventure?

It’s simple: You choose the people you travel with. You choose the departure date. You choose the size of your group. OAT does the rest.

Your lifelong memories are only a phone call away: Call us toll-free at
1-800-955-1925

Group Size Additional Cost
4-6 $6000 per person
7-9 $2800 per person

Now you can reserve an EXCLUSIVE departure of Best of Brazil: Cultural Rhythms & Natural Wonders with just 8 travelers. Enjoy a truly special adventure—starting from only $2800 per person more than our published trip price.

The benefits of your Private Adventure …

  • Travel in an exclusive group of friends or family members
  • Work with your Trip Leader to create unique experiences and special memories
  • Tailor the pacing of activities—spending more time doing what interests your group most at the speed that fits your comfort level
  • Enjoy the security of knowing we have regional offices nearby

This program is available on new reservations in 2015 only, and cannot be combined with any offer within 60 days to departure or with our Group Travel program. The additional cost of a Private Departure is per person, on top of the departure price and varies by trip. Private Departures do not include any changes or additions to our standard itineraries. Age restrictions may apply to some itineraries and must be at least 13 years old to travel with Overseas Adventure Travel. Ask your Group Sales Team for details. Additional taxes and fees will apply. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to present this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

Brazil’s Pantanal Wetlands

A South American paradise for wild animals

Among other wetland giants, the Brazilian tapir is a large herbivore that can weigh more than 500 pounds.


Near the geographic center of South America in western Brazil, the vast wetland region known simply as “the Pantanal” spans 77,000 square miles—more than 30 times the area of Florida’s Everglades. Most of the rainfall that makes the Pantanal a watery expanse falls during the region’s wet season, between November and March, when the rivers rise and flood low-lying areas, submerging some places by as much as 15 feet. This is followed by a dry season that extends from April through October, when the floodwaters recede and expose large, open areas of grassy savannah that offer some of the best wildlife viewing in South America.

In the Pantanal, you’ll find many of the same tropical animals that inhabit the Amazon rain forest, but instead of being concealed by dense vegetation, they can be spotted in the open by the ponds and streams that serve as their watering holes during the dry season. While wildlife sightings can never be guaranteed, circumstances in the Pantanal are exceptionally good for observing more than 80 species of mammals and 50 kinds of reptiles—so it’s possible to see a large variety of creatures in this expansive natural wonderland.

A land of giants

One mammal that’s a favorite with wildlife enthusiasts is the giant otter. These water-loving animals can grow to more than five feet in length, and they have a wide range of vocal expressions, including whistles, whines, barks, hums, and coos, each with specific meanings. Their inquisitive and playful natures, gregarious social structures, and noisy interactions make them a joy to observe. They haven’t always been popular, however; many indigenous people considered them to be competition for catching fish, and hunted them to the point of endangering them. In recent times, conservation efforts have begun to change attitudes through education and help to preserve the species.

Another “giant” among Pantanal mammals is the giant anteater, the largest of the world’s four anteater species (also called the “ant bear”). Five to seven feet long from the tip of its long snout to the end of its bushy tail, this remarkable creature is equipped with strong front claws for tearing open anthills and termite mounds, and it has a distinctive way of walking with its claws turned under. The collared anteater or southern tamandua is also present in the Pantanal; most often active at night, it is easily distinguished from its larger relative by its tail, which is prehensile (like a monkey’s) rather than bushy.

An abundance of other species

Other Pantanal mammals include the marsh deer, a variety unique to South America that favors watery habitats and is an excellent swimmer; and the Brazilian tapir, a large herbivore that can weigh more than 500 pounds. Capuchin and tamarin monkeys swing through the trees; capybaras and coatimundis roam the edges of the savannah. At the top of the food chain, feline predators including the jaguar and ocelot prowl—though they are elusive and it is a rare privilege to see them.

Although the Pantanal’s array of mammals is impressive, it is a reptile—the crocodilian Yacare caiman—that could serve as the region’s wildlife icon. Millions of caiman inhabit Pantanal waters, far outnumbering the human population of the area. The seven-foot-long Yacare is the most common variety; its diet consists primarily of fish, including piranha, and it is not particularly dangerous to people. Other varieties of caiman are also found in the Pantanal, including the spectacled caiman and the 16-foot black caiman—the largest crocodilian species. And in the region’s waters, a diverse array of turtles and frogs, plus some 260 species of fish, provide food for the caiman and other predators.

The abundance of animals and the favorable terrain for observing them have drawn increasing numbers of wildlife viewers to the Pantanal in recent years. While the area’s natural character faces threats from some human activities, such as dam-building on rivers in the region, awareness of its value as one of the world’s great wildlife habitats is also increasing. The resulting research and conservation efforts may help to keep the Pantanal a paradise for wildlife for years to come.