Planning Your Trip to the Pantanal

Nearly all foreign travelers visiting the Pantanal choose to book a tour either from Cuiabá or Campo Grande. Although it is possible to stay in a hotel in the Pantanal itself, a good tour operator will manage all the considerable logistical challenges of coming in and out of the Pantanal, plus your airport transfers. The price of your tour should include full-board accommodations. The only extra you will have to pay for will be drinks. Check that an English-speaking guide will be available before booking any tour.

Tours out of Cuiabá tend to be more expensive than those from Campo Grande. Operators in Cuiabá say they take you deeper into the Pantanal, usually as far as Porto Jofre, where the Transpantaneira road runs out and the jaguars are plentiful. Tours from Campo Grande tend to be of a larger size, and will base you at just one location in the Pantanal, whereas operators in Cuiabá will often put you up at two different sites. Because of the scale of the Pantanal, be prepared for a lot of driving to and from your accommodations, often on dirt tracks.

For travelers planning to enter or leave Brazil via Bolivia, Campo Grande is the obvious choice. Tour operators will organize travel to and from the sweltering border town of Corumbá. They can also arrange trips to and from Bonito.

Your tour operator will pick you up at the airport or bus station and drive you and other guests to the lodge that will be your first or only base. From here, guides will organize walking treks into the savanna, often at sunrise, as well as horse riding, canoeing, boat trips, and piranha fishing, plus night safaris with powerful lights for spotting caiman. Socializing with other guests in the evening is one of the most enjoyable parts of the Pantanal experience. You will need a minimum of three nights to make the most of your trip.

The most popular time to visit the Pantanal is the dry season from April to October, when it is more pleasant to walk through the wilderness, and when jaguars can often be spotted by the water’s edge.

You should bring light, preferably cotton, clothes that are quick to dry. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are a must for keeping off the mosquitos, as are walking shoes, sandals, sunglasses, swimwear, and binoculars. Other essentials include a hat, sunglasses, powerful mosquito repellent, sunscreen, a flashlight, toiletries, batteries, and camera accessories. Malaria is not a problem, but a yellow fever vaccination is recommended.

If you will be in the Pantanal in the rainy season, from November to March, bring a rain jacket and an extra pair of shoes. In the dry season, it can get chilly at night so you will need a sweater and a jacket.

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