The last of my big trips in South America has just been completed. I’ve just gotten back from the Pantanals, the world’s largest wetland. Only at the moment, they’re going through a massive drought, and so what is usually marshland at this time of the year is currently grassland, much like the savanna in Africa.
I stayed at a lodge called Santa Clara, which I’d booked from Iguazu Falls. It was a great deal, especially as I’d start my tour the same day I arrived in Campo Grande from Iguazu instead of trying to find an operator from the city and wasting a day. The lodge itself, like most of them, is set as part of a cattle farm, and you do two activities a day. And in between, spending most of the day in the pool. Bliss.
On the first day, we went on a boat trip in the morning, caught a piranha, and fed it to a hungry caiman crocodile, who jumped right out of the water to catch it. We also saw a Capybara on the water’s edge. And we found out the first and most important lesson of the Pantanal: You need to shower in insect repellent. Seriously, over the past three days I have been eaten alive, you usually have a swarm of about thirty around each person. Unbelievably annoying. In the evening we then went on a jeep safari. While we didn’t see many animals on that, I did see one of the most amazing sights of my life. An entire water hole full of caiman. The largest probably only about two meters long and not dangerous to humans. But there must have been about 800-1000 of them in this tiny watering hole, waiting for the rains to flood the land so they could feast again. Until then, they were stuck. Check out the photos, you won’t believe it. And yes, that is me touching them.
Second day, piranha fishing to start with (I only caught two), and then horseback riding in the evening. Which was fun, but left me quite sore in the gentlemen’s area. And required me to get a tick removed. With a machete. Don’t worry, they just used it to scoop underneath it and pull it off.
Final day was a walk through the forest for two hours. Let’s just say the five caipirinhas we had the night before didn’t agree with me at that point. At least I wasn’t sleeping in a hammock that night though, poor souls.
So we saw lots of Macaws, monkeys, an armadillo, foxes, capybara, more caiman than I’ll see for the rest of my life, and more mosquitoes than deserve to exist. But no jaguar or anaconda, as expected.
Until the ride home that is…
They found a juvenile anaconda curled up underneath the jeep which had taken us back to the drop off area halfway home. And yes, that is a picture of me with it around my neck. Thank god I did it now and not once it reaches fifty times that amount. Certainly wouldn’t want it near my neck then. But yes, that made all of our days, it was just such a treat, and means that in the last week or so I’ve now seen three snakes! Amazeballs.