Pantanal Wetlands, Brazil

Aerial photo of the Pantanal, Brazil, South America

The Pantanal seen from a light aircraft.

What is the Pantanal?

The Pantanal is a massive 150,000 sq km+ wet basin which constitutes the world’s largest tropical wetland. It is located in the central-west of Brazil (west and slightly north of Rio), with Campo Grande as its largest town. Most of the land is occupied by privately owned farms (fazendas) but a 1, 350 sq km section has been designated a national park and is known as Matogrossense National Park because it’s in the state of Mato Grosso.

There is also a private nature reserve of 880 sq km in the northeast Pantanal called SESC Pantanal Natural Heritage Reserve.

Crossing the Pantanal wetlands by ferry, Brazil

One way to get around in the wet season. Photo by Wilson Brito7.

Why visit?

Guira cuckoos seen in the Pantanal, Brazil

Guira cuckoos spotted by Leyo.

This wetlands area is primarily good for viewing birdlife (over 600 species including many kinds of parrots and macaws) and plants (over 3, 000 species), but also offers sightings of animals that don’t mind – or even enjoy – getting wet, such as giant snakes, giant otters, giant armadillos, capybara, tapir, anteaters, caiman (crocodiles), jaguars, panthers, and strangely, wolves.

An anteater in the Pantanal, Brazil

An anteater photographed by Anagoria.

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Like the Amazon, this wetlands ecosystem is also endangered by economic development, burning, deforestation, farm pesticide run-off, uncontrolled hunting, fishing and capture of wildlife for sale.

A Brazilian fisherman with a good size catfish, Brazil

A Brazilian fisherman with a monster catfish. Photo by Riquard Vreekamp.

Best seasons

The best for tourism in this area is from July – October, the dry season, when there is less humidity, less mosquitoes and more wildlife visible. The region’s average temperature is 25 °C (77 °F), but it can vary from 0 to 40 °C (32 to 104 °F). The rainy season is from December – May during which water levels may rise by up to three metres. 

A map of the location of the Pantanal wildlife preserve in Brazil

Pantanal location map in Brazil. South America photo by NASA, text by bugbog