Changing my itinerary to go to the Pantanal
I was reading a lot in the guide books of Brazil about the Pantanal.
So I decided in the last seconds to change my itinerary and go to Cuaibá, the northern entrance of Pantanal. The urge to visit this beautiful and immense wetland in which you get to see more wildlife in one day than a whole week in the Amazon was bigger than anything else.
My goal was to go to the Pantanal, but I also visited Nobres and Chapada dos Guimarães, while I was volunteering in a hostel in Cuaibá.
Nobres Province, Bom Jardim
140 km (87 miles) far away from Cuiabá, there is a beautiful city called Nobres. It is a two hour drive from Cuiabá to Nobres.
I did a tour with Wild Brazil and the owner Ric is organizing the tour perfectly. From the beginning until the end.
In my opinion, Wild Brazil offers the best Pantanal tours and is greatly organized with friendly guides.
They picked me up at my accommodation and we drove with an air-conditioned van to Nobres. Believe me, Cuiabá is so hot – I might have spent half of my days with eating ice cream.
The weather in August is super dry in Mato Grosso with 33-39 degrees (91- 102 Fahrenheit) during the day, the only thing you are dreaming about is to swim in cold water or at least eating ice-cream to cool down yourself.
Congratulations! If you are going to Bom Jardim it is the perfect escape from Cuiabá’s heat.
What you can expect? Limestone caves, wonderful and crystal clear lagoons and spring water streams. Imagine yourself in an astonishing natural aquarium and drifting with the flow of the river for about 1 km, together with colored fishes. Enjoying the moment and forgetting time and space. I felt pure joy.
The moment I was more than satisfied with my decision to have left the comfort zone and to travel the world.
The program will look somehow like that:
The first day: Departure from Cuiabá around 7 am. 2 hours transfer to Nobres. Visiting Balneario Estivado, a small but beautiful natural swimming pool with loads of fishes. In the afternoon you will visit the “Lagoon of Macaws” until sunset to photograph birds and landscape. It is a wonderful lagoon dotted with numerous palm trees, the
blue-and-yellow-macaws have their nests inside of the palm trees.
Moreover, there are high chances to spot different bird species, such as red-bellied-macaws, kingfishers, woodpeckers, ibis, egrets and so on.
Best yet, it is located in Cerrado, a vast tropical savanna eco region of Brazil. Hence, you might get a bit the feeling of being in the savanna in Africa, even though without the Big Five.
The second day: You will visit a natural aquarium called
“Aquario encantado da lagoa azul” and Rio Salobra, it is truly enchanting and the water is incredibly blue and clear. The equipment for the snorkeling like life vest, goggles and snorkel (the equipment is cleaned and disinfected after every usage, so don’t worry) is included. There is a forest with monkeys and birds and the river is characterized by its clear spring waters.
After lunch, sadly you will get transported back to Cuiabá. Maybe they will leave you there forever.
Just kidding, you will get back safe and sound to relax from this great tour in Bom Jardim.
PS: I saw on the tour more bird species and wildlife than in my whole life in Germany. And this is not even the Pantanal.
More info on: http://www.wildpantanal.com/tour-nobres.php
I am very honest to you guys, but people come to Cuiabá just to leave on the next day to Pantanal, Nobres or Chapada.
I would be one of them if my money allowed me to rush like that.
But no, as you know I am a budget-traveler – I decided to volunteer in a hostel and take everything to a smooth flow.
I volunteered in Hostel Pousada Safari and my boss Laercio was very generous. Therefore I had a lot of leisure time to explore the city.
Maybe a little bit too much time. In a more or less boring city like Cuiabá, I actually wished to work more. It is no joke. Seriously.
Shopping and Food
Okay do you fancy shopping? Here are the 3 shopping malls in Cuiabá with air-conditioners. I only visited two of them, once for buying credits for my SIM-card and the other time for standing in front of an air-conditioner like a snowman who is about to melt. I crack no jokes.
The first one: Pantanal Shopping Mall is one of the biggest in western Brazil. 3 Americas Shopping has the finest stores – I didn’t visit this one, no need to spend serious cash. And Goiabeiras Shopping is close to downtown (20 minutes walk).
For all people who are interested to be a cowboy on next Halloween you can equip yourself in Cuiabá with cowboy clothes and equipments in the store “Texas Country” on the main avenue Av. Getulio Vargas.
Please don’t expect Mato Grosso to be a fancy state, it was more an “Howdy and cattle breeding” state. But a nice one, with very friendly people.
Many different cuisines are represented in Cuiabá, like Arab, French or Italian. The base of many dishes is fish or meat. Surprise, surprise!
The Arab restaurant “Al Manzul” is considered to be a very good one. Pastel is very cheap and food in general is cheap – compared to other places in Brazil.
Praça Popular is densed with restaurants and bars.
Things to do in Cuiabá
Like I said there is little to do in Cuiabá. But in the following I am listing some sightseeing.
- Basilica do Senhor Bom Jesus de Cuiabá, a stylish cathedral with stained glass. Beautiful to visit and the heart of the city center.
- Next to the cathedral there is a yellow baroque building called Palácio de Instrução (Instruction Palace) with libraries and a small exhibition. Very small. But, everything is written in Portuguese. For someone like me it means to gaze only at the paintings and photographs. I didn’t pay entrance fee.
- Some city parks and museums like the Museu do Rio Cuiabá.
The center of the city is a greenish square called Praça de República, from there everything is within walking distance like the famous cathedral, churches and Avenida Getulio Vargas – the main road.
The only side I might avoid and don’t recommend is walking along the riverside. Taxis and Uber are inexpensive to get around in Cuiabá
(3$ -10$ to get around the city center).
History of Cuiabá
In the past many gold mines were discovered in Cuiabá and the city was founded in 1727 during the gold rush. Later, in 1835 Cuiabá became the capital of Mato Grosso.
Until the Paraguayan War (1864-1870) the town remained small. But with the war it brought a brief period of an economic boom to Cuiabá due to its supplies of sugar and timber to the Brazilian forces.
After the war the town was forgotten again and used to be an exile for politicians. Starting in 1930 some roads were constructed and the isolation was diminished. The little town became a city and grew rapidly onwards until 1990 – since the roads in Cuiabá were used to transport the Brazilian products to sold them abroad.
The city nowadays has a rich mix of European and African influences with more than half of a million of population and it is famous to be the northern entrance gate to the Pantanal.
Chapada dos Guimarães
Whether you go to the Pantanal or you might visit the highlands in northern Cuiabá. How about some plateaus with red-rock formations, heaps of beautiful waterfalls and swimming caves, fresh air, bird life, hiking, great waterfalls and swimming holes plus viewpoints?
Then Chapada dos Guimarães is the place to be.
Actually, I would highly recommend a one-night-trip to Chapada dos Guimarães, but I did “only” a full day tour to this National Park.
At this point a big thank you to Confiança Turismo and the great team who organized the tour perfectly for me – Fascinating Chapada Tour.
Even though my guide Vitorio could only speak Portuguese, he was very passionate and knew everything I wanted to know. No eye rolling – not even after my hundreds of questions. Moreover, he has been a guide for this agency for more than 30 years.
The tour includes a big lunch at a luxury place and a restaurant with a viewpoint. I have nothing to complain about.
They even consulted a personal photographer and translator for me.
Overall, the service was beyond all my expectations. No doubt, I can recommend this tour agency. In addition, water will be provided during the tour.
They are also doing tours to the Pantanal, Nobres and a city tour in Cuiabá.
Some of their tours
Tour Circuito das Cachoeiras – Chapada dos Guimarães, R$ 150
A great one day tour to do a circuit of the waterfalls in Chapada.
For nature lovers, hikers and perfect for couples or individuals.
Paraíso das Águas Full Day, R$250
One day tour to Nobres, its enchanting natural aquarium and the lagoons.
All the equipments for snorkeling are included. Perfect for couples and family with children.
Fancy tour? Expedição Rota Parecis – 03 Dias / 02 Noites, R$ 1690
Do you fancy a cultural and adventurous tour? How about an expedition to the Parecis for 3 days? You will visit Indian villages and four Waterfalls and experience living amongst Indian tribes. Moreover, you have the chance to learn about their religious and cultural traditions and culinary.
It’s expensive, but an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Perfect for everyone who is ready to pay this immense price.
The program of the full-day-tour “Chapada Fascinante”
Meeting point: Confiança Turismo (Av. Sao Sebastiao, 2852)
What is written on their website:
“Vehicle equiped with air conditioning;
Drinking water on board;
Visit to the Bride’s Veil Waterfall and Panoramic view of the Salgadeira Complex;
Lunch at the panoramic restaurant Morro dos Ventos;
Visit to the sightview and historic center of Chapada dos Guimarães;
Stop for bathing at the waterfalls (depending on avaliation of weather conditions)
Acompanied by guide throughout the entire trip (Ministery of Tourism)”
We started the tour punctually at 8 am, went to the famous waterfall
Ao Véu de Noivas (Bride’s Veil Waterfall), by the way it looks really like a bride’s veil, hence the name.
Followed by taking a swim in the waterfalls (Cachoeirinha) with almost no one around you. At least in the beginning.
A lunch at a panoramic and picturesque viewpoint, which you will never forget. My translator- Luana, told me that she would like to marry at this place where we ate. Doesn’t it sound promising?
After it you will visit a cotton field and another viewpoint to have a better view of Chapada National Park.
Once we entered the small city of Chapada, my friendly tourguide Vitorio asked some guys if I could ride their horse. If you are lucky enough, you can do horse riding around Chapada city center. Take the opportunity if you see some people with horses, don’t be shy and just ask them.
At around 5 pm they will drive you back to your accommodation. A successful day just ended.
My expectations for Pantanal was pretty high.
To be honest, I didn’t know anything about Nobres, Chapada dos Guimarães, not to mention Cuiabá.
Therefore you might have the impression I was ignorant, maybe it’s even true. I was.
But to defend myself: 90% of backpackers and tourists come to Cuiabá just because of the Pantanal.
And another confession: I didn’t have the slightest clue about Pantanal before I went to South America.
The big brother Amazon is too famous and overshadowing his small brother, the Pantanal.
But don’t underestimate it – the size of Pantanal is actually half as big as Germany and it is the world’s largest tropical wetland area.
Apropos, the tropical heat will drape over you – from the moment you will enter the Pantanal.
Moreover, it also sprawls even into Bolivia and Paraguay.
When it comes to wildlife, Pantanal is the actual star.
You won’t be disappointed, I promise. At least not in the year of 2017.
Why you should visit the Pantanal
Pantanal’s life follows ebb and flow. So imagine yourself that the whole ecosystem is pulsating like a heart beat. Not to mention, that the Pantanal boasts with the highest concentration of wildlife in South America. And there were millions of caimans in the Pantanal, hence it has the highest concentration of crocodilians on Earth.
Due to the rain season, the Pantanal will be a flooded landscape.
While nurturing the plants, it also attracts egrets, storks and other bird species.
Furthermore, you will have a glimpse of Pantaneiros, the local cowboys, moving their cattle herds through the floodplains.
So, you still need more reasons to be convinced?
It is not limited to caimans and bird species.
Jaguars, piranha, anteaters, anaconda, howler monkeys, capybara, giant river otters and many more are the lovely inhabitants of the Pantanal.
Like I mentioned it before, one day in Pantanal and you will see more wildlife than one week in the Amazon, where the thick jungle is impeding the wildlife’s view. The Pantanal is like a broadway stage and reveals its best actors in different acts and plays.
So, what are you waiting for?
I went to Pantanal with Alex, my Korean friend I have met in the hostel and we had a great and super friendly guide- Jose.
Jose was always in a good mood and answered all my questions calmly.
Due to him and Alex my Portuguese got to a better level than ever before.
We did a lot of activities in the lodges of Pantanal.
The rustic lodge Rio Clarinho for example is more than 100 years old and in the middle of wildness and nature. I couldn’t ask for a better stay.
With the years my interests for nature increased crazily.
Besides night safaris, observing birds, monkeys, capybara, tapirs, giant river otters, horse riding, canoeing, fishing etc., I found more inner peace than in any other places of Brazil. Watching all these beautiful creatures and being in the Pantanal overwhelmed me and made me speechless.