NÓMADAS #6 -João Oliveira at PANTANAL

This week we will return to Brazil, this time we will accompany João Oliveira on an adventure to a place considered as one of the largest continuous wetlands on the planet and one of the richest ecosystems in the world with regard to the diversity of animal species.
Let's fly to the Pantanal!

Why choose that destination?

Since I was a child, I watched wildlife documentaries with my grandfather. In several episodes, the images that were shown on television were in Brazil. Many of them in the Amazon and many others in the Pantanal and since then I dreamed of visiting those landscapes rich in biodiversity. Two decades later, I was finishing my degree in Ecotourism and I didn't think for a minute and applied to work as a guide / translator at a Pousada in Pantanal. I was accepted and left, to make another dream come true.

Short itinerary and points of interest for your trip?

The Pantanal covers a huge area and a large part is flooded. In other words, access to more privileged and interesting places is difficult to access. It is often only possible to arrive by boat or plane. At the time of the year that I visited the Pantanal it was possible to arrive by car. The best option is to choose an inn and from there explore the region. I stayed at a Pousada two hours from civilization, which at certain times of the year is also possible to arrive by plane. It was also from this inn that he explored the region better. Undoubtedly the best way to explore the region is on horseback, as I could even visit parts where the terrain was flooded and on foot would be impossible and we are in greater harmony with nature. The rivers of the Pantanal are also "hotspots" of biodiversity, so I had to venture into their huge rivers, and in small boats led by local guides we went to find out what the banks of the rivers had to show us and where you can see the huge Ariranha or Giant otter or some species of primates that watch us hanging from the branches of trees on the banks of the river.

Undoubtedly, what attracted me the most to visit the Pantanal was its biodiversity in terms of both fauna and flora. Vegetation is abundant along the banks of rivers. I had the pleasure of witnessing in their natural habitat several species of animals such as the Anteater or better known in Portugal as Papa ants, Capivara, the largest rodent in the world. In particular the Avifauna, it is impressive, there are hundreds of species that can be seen in the Pantanal, such as the famous Arara or the Tucano with its long beak. Some animals that are also the main attraction of this region are the Alligators, the anacondas, the Tuiuiu a bird that measures almost 1.50 m high and the dreaded Jaguar, which is quite difficult to spot.

Two or three moments that marked you most during the trip?

Undoubtedly what most impressed me was the abundance of wildlife. In the wetland, we feel super tiny and we have even more the notion that we humans are just another species on this planet. I also had a moment that started with a moment of pure joy and adrenaline, when I discovered the footprints of a jaguar, but that joy turned into fear and fear. But I managed to stay calm. When in addition to seeing their footprints well marked on the ground, I started to hear their roar, very close to where I was, just a dense vegetation separated us and less than a hundred meters. Fortunately we had a jeep next to us and we kindly walked away. And I wanted to make it very clear that, on the one hand, yes I was afraid because in situations like those it is difficult to deal with emotions, but on the other hand I know that attacks on humans are rare, the vast majority of times the jaguar follows yours way because he has no interest in attacking us.

The biggest difficulties you faced?

One of the biggest difficulties was adapting to the Pantanal diet. I spent a long time in the Pantanal, and the diet is not very varied. And eating the same things over a long period of time was what it cost me the most. And for a while it was difficult to get used to the number of mosquitoes that wanted to attack me for having new blood in the wetland!

Curiosities about differences in culture?

There is a well-rooted culture, the “Pantaneira Culture". In which pedestrians or “cowboys” are the main piece. They take with pride a simple way of living and live on what is available around them. strong in this region, their diet has beef as the main and daily dish, taking advantage of the animals' skin and recovering as much as possible, they are able to transform this skin into various pieces of leather, such as belts, boots or material for harnessing horses.

Pantaneiros in general are super simple people who, unlike us, don't have that materialistic need that most of us do. They live happily with little and prefer to spend hours around the campfire than drinking tereré (a kind of cold tea with yerba mate) and playing on their guitar, traditional music, than spending hours on the internet, even though they already have access to the internet.

What not to forget to take to this destination?

It is very important to bring comfortable shoes, a wide-brimmed hat, light clothing and long sleeves to protect yourself from the sun that can be quite strong, as well as to protect from mosquitoes that are quite a lot depending on the time of year. Always have a bottle of water to keep you hydrated and don't forget your camera to capture moments you will never forget, like the best sunset of your life. And binoculars to better observe the birds.

What time of year did you go? Do you advise this or another time?

The Pantanal has two seasons. The rainy season from November to April and the dry season from April to November. I arrived at the beginning of the dry season, but I had the opportunity to visit it also during the rainy season. For me, both seasons are special. In terms of landscape, the rainy season is magnificent because the rivers are very full and the vegetation is very green and we can reach several river channels that during the dry season is not possible. But the dry season is ideal for wildlife watching. Animals have to walk longer distances in order to find food or water and this facilitates the sighting of animals.

If you came back what would you do differently?

If I return to the Pantanal, I will definitely visit other parts of the Pantanal. As I said earlier, the Pantanal is huge and the times I went there I mostly visited the southern part of the Pantanal. So in the future, on a next trip to the Pantanal I will explore more of the North of the Pantanal.

For those who want to follow more adventures of this nomad:



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