The author travelled to Brazil with Audley Travel (01993 838610, audleytravel.com). A similar 13-day tailormade trip costs from £7,929pp (based on two sharing), including flights, transfers, four nights at Caiman Ecological Refuge, one night in Cuiabá, two nights at Cristalino Jungle Lodge in the southern Amazon, one night in Rio and three nights at Casa Cairucu, Paraty. The price also includes the Hyacinth Macaw Project and a private excursion with Onçafari at Caiman.
Getting there & around
LATAM (latam.com, 0800 026 0728) flies from London to São Paulo from £630 return. British Airways (ba.com) also flies direct. From São Paulo, there are flights to Campo Grande (from 1hr 50 mins), the main gateway to the southern Pantanal, and Cuiabá (from 2hrs 20mins), gateway to the north. Domestic carriers include LATAM and Azul (voeazul.com.br). Independent travel in the Pantanal is difficult. Roads are unsurfaced and most land is private. Transfers are usually arranged by tour companies or lodges.
Cost of travel
Lodges offer packages that usually include food, accommodation, transport and activities. It is easier and often cheaper to book via a tour operator, who can arrange lodge stays. Brazil tends to be cheaper than the UK; beers cost from BRL3 (65p), bottled water around BRL5 (£1).
Caiman Ecological Refuge (caiman.com.br) is in the southern Pantanal, 240km west of Campo Grande. The author stayed at Caiman’s Baiazinha Lodge, which is set overlooking a lake. Included activities and guiding are excellent; excursions with the Onçafari team and the Hyacinth Macaw Project cost extra and should be booked in advance.
Food & drink
The Pantanal is cattle-ranching country, so expect a lot of beef. Lodges such as Caiman also offer plenty of variety with fish (catfish), beans, veg, fruit and vegetarian dishes. Expect to become addicted to pão de queijo – cheesy gluten-free dough balls. End the day with a refreshing caipirinha, made with cachaça (a sugarcane-based spirit), sugar and lime.
What to pack
Don’t forget binoculars – though Caiman does have spares to hire to guests. Insect repellent is advised, especially outside of dry season. The author took trousers, a shirt, a gilet and socks from Craghoppers’ repellent-impregnated Nosilife range – highly recommended.