Pantantal, Brazil 2013: Part 1, Getting There and the Lodge

Full Disclosure:  I was not financially compensated for this post.  We received a small discount for professional courtesy from Southwild.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience. 

We were blessed to have the opportunity to travel to the Pantanal, in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil.  The Pantanal is the Okavango Delta of the Americas.  Chris and I went to the Okavango Delta, Botswana back in 1998, so I felt particularly lucky to be able to also visit the Pantanal.  The purpose of our trip was for Chris to scout out the area as a potential spot to lead photo tours and for all of us to see jaguars in the wild.  And both missions were accomplished!  We had 11 jaguar sightings in 5 days.  These encounters were truly divine experiences.  Read on for more details.

Getting To The Pantanal

I woke up at 5 am on Sunday, October 13, to make a quick breakfast and hot chocolate for the kids.  One hour later, we were in our friend/neighbor’s taxi on for the 3 hour drive from Monteverde to the airport in San Jose.  Since this was the first time we took private transportation down the mountain, we stopped on the side of the road to take pictures of the view.  No matter how many times I see this, I feel in complete awe.  Despite how small the mountain makes me feel, I realize how lucky I am to be living in this beautiful country of Costa Rica.

The view coming down the mountain from Monteverde.

The view coming down the mountain from Monteverde.  Pictures don’t do it justice.

Getting to our final destination was not an easy feat.  We took flights from San Jose to Panama City and then to Brasilia, Brazil.  We got into Brasilia around midnight, and we spent the night at a hotel.  The next morning, we took a cab to the airport and a short flight to Cuiaba, Brazil.  Our guide, Paolo, met us at the airport, and after a nourishing lunch, we embarked on a 4+ hour drive to Southwild Pantanal Lodge on the only road leading to Pantanal.  It took us almost 5 hours to get there, but that was because we stopped along the way for wildlife viewing and pictures.

The kids and Chris on the road from Cuiaba to Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

The kids and Chris on the road from Cuiaba to Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

This is the entrance to the only road leading to the Pantanal.

This is the entrance to the only road leading to the Pantanal.

The kids and I on the road from Cuiaba to Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

The kids and I on the road from Cuiaba to Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

We stopped on the road on the way from the airport in Cuiaba to Southwild Pantanal Lodge to see birds and caiman.

We stopped on the road on the way from the airport in Cuiaba to Southwild Pantanal Lodge to see birds and caiman.

The Lodge

The entrance to Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

The entrance to Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Southwild Pantanal Lodge is a rustic, clean, and comfortable “Fazenda” along the Transpantanal Road.  The rooms were air-conditioned and though there was no bug shortage around the lodge, the rooms were free of cockroaches, which to me is a huge indicator of the cleanliness.  While it is not the highlight of the trip, it is a nice spot to break up the dusty, bumpy, long drive to where the jaguars can be found.  We arrived late in the evening, just in time for a good but simple dinner buffet and a hot shower.  The next morning, Paolo took us horseback riding along the property.  We saw cows and ran into a crazy horse that wanted to pick a fight with our trail horses, but the “cowboy” that led us scared him off.  I have to admit I was a bit terrified, since I have never felt completely comfortable on horses, but Kara and Tristan had a total blast.  Tristan was so proud because this was the first time he has ever ridden without being led or accompanied on the saddle.  Kara was ecstatic because she did not get to go to Camp Honey Creek this last summer so missed out on horse riding lessons.  I just held on for the 2 hour trail ride and tried my best not to fall.  Fortunately, the weather Goddess was on our side and the day was cloudy and cool.  Afterwards, we went back to the lodge where we rested and had lunch.  The kids cooled off at the small pool in the lodge.  Later that afternoon, Paolo took us on a boat ride where we saw many different birds, including a hawk, caiman, and piranha.  Tristan actually caught a piranha that the chef cooked up for him to eat for dinner.

Kara and Tristan at Southwild Pantanal Lodge with capybara in the background.

Kara and Tristan at Southwild Pantanal Lodge with capybara in the background.

Tristan on a horse at Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Tristan on a horse at Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Kara on a horse at Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Kara on a horse at Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Chris and Tristan photographing at Southwild Pantanal Lodge. There is a bit of a difference in their camera sizes...

Chris and Tristan photographing at Southwild Pantanal Lodge during our “rest time”. There is a bit of a difference in their camera sizes…

Kara and Tristan boating through a channel.

Kara and Tristan boating through a channel.

Tristan on a hike to find the Potoo bird.

Tristan on a hike to find the Potoo bird.

Kara on a hike to find the Potoo bird.

Kara on a hike to find the Potoo bird.

Kara at the pool of Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Kara at the pool of Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Tristan at the pool of Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Tristan at the pool of Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Kara and Tristan at the pool of Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Kara and Tristan at the pool of Southwild Pantanal Lodge.

Headed to the Flotel

The next morning, we took a rickety truck on a 3 hour drive to Port de Jofre.  Paolo had us stop along the way in order to look at an owl that lived in an abandoned property off the side of the road.

We took a 3 hour truck drive from Southwild Pantanal Lodge to Port de Joffre.

We took a 3 hour truck drive from Southwild Pantanal Lodge to Port de Jofre.

Once we got to Port de Jofre along the Cuiaba River, we stopped to look at the beautiful hyacinth macaws living on the property and take a potty break.  After rubbing ourselves raw with sunscreen and bug spray, we took a small boat to the Southwild Jaguar Flotel.  Charles Mann, the owner of Southwild, guarantees that you will see jaguars if you stay at his Flotel between June and November.  I thought that was a fairly gutsy statement, but I went in with an open mind.  We arrived to the Flotel in time for lunch and a mid-day rest.  At 2pm, we met Paolo on the deck to head out for our first jaguar safari on a boat.

Kara and Tristan on the boat from Port de Joffre to Southwild Jaguar "Flotel".

Kara and Tristan on the boat from Port de Jofre to Southwild Jaguar “Flotel”.

SouthWild Jaguar Flotel, Pantanal, Brazil

SouthWild Jaguar Flotel, Pantanal, Brazil

SouthWild Jaguar Flotel, Pantanal, Brazil

SouthWild Jaguar Flotel, Pantanal, Brazil

Stay tuned for more pictures and updates of our Pantanal trip.

Pura Vida!

About Noemi Gamel

Noemi Gamel is a physician who prefers writing diverse children's fantasy stories instead of medical charts. She is a geeky nomad, too.
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2 Responses to Pantantal, Brazil 2013: Part 1, Getting There and the Lodge

  1. How fun! This looks like an amazing adventure.

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