So after the force of nature that was the Iguazu Falls we began our journey to the next part of our trip!
We took short flight from Foz do Iguacu to São Paulo and transferred onto our next flight to Campo Grande (approx 4 hours in total). When we arrived our private guide and minbus awaited to transport us to where we would stay for the next few nights Caiman Ecological Refuge. Given the isolated nature of the Pantanal the drive took 3 hours. We watched the towns and villages of Brazil speed past our windows as the heat of the day turned to pitch black night and clear skies. Something that I never knew about Brazil was how early the sun sets each day!
As we hit the last part of our drive our son (I won’t confirm which one!) decided he couldn’t wait any longer and desperately needed a quick toilet break. By this time we were well into the Pantanal… in Jaguar territory… and I was not willing to get out of the minibus to stand guard!!! (Neither the guide or the driver looked willing to step outside!). So my other half reluctantly agreed to stand guard behind him. I’ve never seen either of them run so fast back to the minibus. Picture this road… in the dark of night!
Tired and a little frazzled (particularly as our second flight was VERY turbulent) we stepped into the lodge from the darkest quite outside into a very welcoming and friendly room of people. Both the lodge staff and the other guests introduced themselves straight away.
Caiman Ecological Refuge is located on a 53,000 hectare ranch 36 km from the small town of Miranda, in the Pantanal wetlands in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul.
As mentioned in the first part of my Brazil blog we had booked our trip via Bespoke Brazil and were ecstatic when they recommended the Caiman Ecological Refuge. It was exactly the type of experience we had dreamed of. To quote the description from the itinerary they sent us…
“Located on a 53,000 hectare ranch, in the magnificent setting of the Pantanal wetlands of Mato Grosso
do Sul state, Refugio Ecologico Caiman is a cattle farm, an important centre for nature conservation
projects and home to the region’s most exclusive ecolodges. Caiman Lodge was established in 1985 as
the first ecotourism operation in the Southern Pantanal. Since then it has aimed at creating and offering
visitors a means of getting close to the region’s nature and culture, while pursuing excellence in
hospitality services and gastronomy. Its two lodges Cordilheira (5 suites) and Baiazinha (6 rooms) are 22
kms apart and run independent operations. Caiman operates an important Nature Conservation
Programme, which is recognised domestically and internationally. This consists of maintaining a Private
Reserve of Natural Patrimony (RPPN) on a 5,600 hectare area and supporting various research and
species management projects carried out on the whole ranch. Important conservation projects focus on
the stunning blue hyacinth macaws and Americas’ biggest predator, the elusive jaguar.
And we were not disappointed! (It even had a resident Capybara)…
We had booked two double bedrooms within the Baiazinha Lodge and each one had it’s own balcony and view of the lake. There are 6 rooms in total in this lodge so we shared our 4 nights with another family of 4 and two couples.
We spent the next four days and nights experiencing the wonders of the Pantanal. Our group of 8 were taken all around the Caiman Ecological Refuge by a local cowboy who taught us all about how the cowboys live and work on the land, and the projects that their families are also involved in. We also were lucky to have very knowledgeable and experienced biologists as our tour guides for the bird watching safaris (see above!).
I would love to go back again and again to see the Pantanal! It really was a trip of a lifetime and true inspiration to see some of the conservation projects they have going on. In particular the ONÇAFARI JAGUAR PROJECT and the HYACINTH MACAW PROJECT.
My favourite moment of the whole trip was the last morning… we had been out searching for jaguars and hadn’t had any luck. On the very last drive back to the lodge the rumblings of our jeep disturbed a jaguar resting under the shade of the road in a flood water pipe. I was so excited I only managed very shaky snap of him – who we later worked out to be “Brutus” (you can meet the other jaguars here).
I hope you get to experience the Pantanal too one day!
Digital Sunshine x