Bonito and South Pantanal

Bonito and South Pantanal

Exploring some of the most scenic, verdant landscape in Brazil; this six-day road-trip offers a winning combination of changing scenery, rural living, and abundant wildlife experiences. Starting with a beautiful 5-hour cross-country drive to Bonito, it is easy to see why this part of the country is so popular with those looking to escape the hubbub of city life, and immerse themselves deep within nature. While there, snorkelling the tranquil, emerald waters of the Rio da Prata are a highlight of any trip, before taking a road into the heart of the Pantanal, and Refúgio da Ilha Eco-Lodge. This region is known for its seemingly endless activities and varied wildlife excursions, with the Lodge operating a flexible programme of fantastic tours, adrenaline packed adventures and educational trips under the guidance of the in-house specialists. While at Refúgio da Ilha, you can do as much or as little as you like, so either fill the days discovering this delicate ecosystem or simply relax in its tranquil surroundings.

♦ The ancient sinkhole of Buraco das Araras.
♦ Pristine wilderness and biodiversity of the Wetlands.
♦ Snorkelling the beautiful waters of Rio da Prata.
♦ Discovering the varied wildlife of the Pantanal.


Day 1. Arrival in Campo Grande and drive to Bonito
After touching down in Campo Grande airport, the rental car will be picked up from the Localiza counter and from here; the Pantanal road trip begins. It is a relatively long drive from Campo Grande to the village of Bonito, taking around 4 to 5 hours on well-paved roads. The route, however, is scenic, so plenty of stops can be made along the way to enjoy the verdant landscapes of Mato Grosso do Sul. Bonito is known as Brazil's eco-tourism capital, with the surrounding limestone plateaux and valleys providing endless trekking routes, mountain biking trails, horse-riding, rafting, snorkelling and even scuba diving in underwater caverns and sinkholes. The crystal clear streams and deep lagoons which dissect the landscape are home to scores of multi-coloured fish, and lush green riverbank vegetation, making Bonito and its surrounds as versatile as they are scenic for visitors to the area. Having arrived; the night will be spent at Hotel Olho d´Agua, an authentic eco-retreat on private land, with an inviting swimming pool, bar and restaurant – a real treat after the long drive! +/- 300km

Day 2. Snorkelling in the Río da Prata and bird-watching for squawking Macaws
The Rio da Prata and its surrounds provide the ultimate first day in Bonito, with an abundance of wildlife, impossibly clear lagoons to explore, and lush vegetation to enjoy along the riverbanks; making today an all-around adventure just a few Kilometres from the hotel! The best way to appreciate this extraordinary environment is by taking a dip in the crystalline waters of Olho d'agua, a tranquil tributary of the Rio de la Prata, for one of the most impressive snorkelling experiences in Brazil. The river is a real-life aquarium, with dozens of multi-coloured fish species and endless underwater plants hugging the undulating river-bed, making for a real visual spectacle. After enjoying lunch on the shores of a nearby lagoon, the next stop is the ancient sinkhole of Buraco das Araras. This remarkable spectacle is 124 metres deep, and home to scores of Macaws, Parrots and other tropical Birds who enjoy the safety and shelter of the giant cave walls. The lake which has formed at the bottom of the sinkhole contains Caiman and other marine life, with the flurry of activity around sunset making for a memorable end to the day, as hundreds of squawking birds make their way back to their nests for the night to feed hungry chicks. If you are lucky, the kids may even be able to spot one of their favourite characters from the Disney film ‘Rio’ while out and about today!

Day 3. The Road to Pantanal
This morning, hit the road once more and venture north, towards the Pantanal. The drive should take around 3 hours, along paved roads that carve through forests, meadows and across the Rio Miranda. Along the way, a noteworthy stop is the Boca da Onça Private Reserve, where hiking trails weave through emerald forests and no less than 14 waterfalls, the tallest of which dropping down 156 metres. Allow for 4-5 hours for a visit here, though this is only an option which can be decided on day 2, as tickets must be purchased at least 1 day in advance. Once you reach the banks of the Rio Salobra, you will find your Pantanal accommodation, the Refúgio da Ilha. An intimate lodge, the Refúgio da Ilha is a quintessential family-run farmhouse with a strong focus on eco-tourism. The first night is best spent settling in, and soaking up the homely atmosphere in the company of fellow travellers and of course the host family. +/- 150km

Day 4. Exploring the Pantanal
With all excursions provided and guided by the Refúgio’s team of specialists, guests have the option to enjoy a broad range of tours and educational trips across the Pantanal, learning the intricacies of this unique, and long-time unexplored ecosystem. With over 700 identified varieties of bird; 80 mammals; 50 reptiles; 300 types of fish and countless plant species; this 150,000 km² wilderness is paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, ecologists and tourists alike. Tours here include Boat trips along Rio Salobra and Miranda; horse-back rides; walking trails; birding; 4 x 4 off-road adventures and coneing. This afternoon, a motorised canoe ride is an excellent way to explore the waterways and canals of the wetlands, taking in the extraordinary array of plant life which has adapted to this unique environment over many millennia. Due to its inaccessible location and geology, much of the Pantanal remained completely unexplored until the 20th-century. The result of this is the pristine, natural preservation of an ecosystem, a fact which is abundantly evident while gently cruising the waters, despite some of the Pantanal being affected by human activity.

Day 5. Further explorations of the Wetlands
Today will offer another full day of wildlife discoveries in this eco-sanctuary. Noteworthy companions if looking to take to the waterways will be the colonies of giant otters which call this place home. Typically friendly among each other, and undisturbed by visiting tourists, the animals do have a reputation for animosity and aggression toward other species. Nonetheless, they are a joy to watch, particularly the younger families who have a playful and mischievous demeanour with their infants. Alternatively, discover all that the Pantanal has to offer is on a leisurely horseback ride; a fantastic way to unearth the flora and fauna of areas too challenging, or too remote to explore on foot.

Day 6. Homeward bound
As the time in Pantanal has drawn to a close; make the final drive back towards Campo Grande, which will look entirely different on the return leg, allowing you to soak up beautiful new wetland views as you go. The journey should take 4 hours, plus time needed to return the rental car to the airport before any onward flight.  +/- 230km

Recommended travel period of the year: Possible year round, but best months for wildlife spotting is May – October. October marks the start of the rainy season.

Price Includes:
All hotels based on double or twin in the selected hotel category
Air-conditioned rental car including insurance
Self-drive information pack with itinerary and small route maps

Not Included:
International air fares and Domestic flights
Lunch & dinner and restaurant recommendations unless stated
Transfers from restaurants unless stated
insurance and other personal expenses


Bonito and South Pantanal (Rated 4.85 / 5 Based on 154 Reviews.)
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