The Pantanal.

This place is a vast wetland area covering 230,000 square kilometres, which is more than half the size of France. Our visit started in Mato Grosso do Sul, the southern half of the Pantanal.

We journeyed to Campo Grande and onwards towards Corumba making the turn onto the Estrada Parque dirt road that loops into this area for 117kms. Our first impressions were amazing. Hundreds of storks perched in trees, all three varieties, Wood, Jabiru and Maguari. All PanAm members were out of their vehicles with cameras at the ready. Our destination was Pousada Passo do Lontra. This is a typical Pantanal Lodge with a resident guide to help us.

An early morning walk revealed many wonderful birds and animals. We were able to see many varieties of Herons and Kingfishers on the river. Otters in the streams and capybaras in the marshes.

The otters in the streams are as elusive as ours at home so we were very lucky to spot one. We also managed to see Marsh Deer these are under threat and we felt very privileged to see them.

The Capaybara is the largest rodent known and can grow to 1 metre in length. Their eyes, nose and ears are on the same level to enable them to swim in the marshy waters.

We were able to see the Black Caiman and the Broad Nosed Caiman. They feed at night on fish and bask in the sun during the day. We approached quite close to them. During the day at this lodge we wandered the board walks watching the three types of Kingfishers, Amazon. Green and Ringed catching their food with great success. We were awoken by the sound of the Howler monkeys in the trees above us. They sound just like a gale blowing and indeed left their calling card on the vans!

A trip on the river gave us a better chance of seeing many varieties of Herons, including the Tiger Heron and the beautiful Roseate Spoonbill.

The Lodge also own a working farm which we visited for a day and night. The highlight of this was a group of breeding Hyacinth Macaws. These are the largest parrot at 920 millimeters in length. They are simply stunning and in flight the colour is a vivid azure blue. We camped under the palm trees with Monk Parakeets nesting above us. Their raucous calls carrying on all day whilst building their large nests of twigs. Whilst we were here we were lucky enough to see the Blue and yellow Macaw and also the Red and Green Macaw.

When K-Nine returned to the Group we headed off to the Northern Pantanal. Our journey took us over many rickety wooden bridges. This area is somewhat different with more Savannah type vegetation. The raptors here were prolific and we watched Black collared hawks hunting together with the Snail Kites.

But we were here to search for the Mammals of the Pantanal. We stayed at the Jaguar Ecological Reserve which has the best record of Jaguar sightings in the Northern Pantanal. We took a night safari in the hopes that we would be lucky. But it was not to be. However we did spot a Tapir and some Nightjars.

Both Mel and K-Nine had sightings of cats but it was impossible to positively identify them. We wish we could say they were Jaguars but we are not 100% sure! Perhaps the most lasting memory is of the Jabiru Stork which grows to 1.4 metres in length and build a giant nest of twigs in the branches of trees where it raises 2-4 chicks. It is the emblem of the Pantanal and richly deserves to be admired.

Mo (with a little help from Mick) Newing.

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