This morning (March 19), we arose bright and early (surprise, surprise!) to start our day with a horseback ride through the wetlands of the Pantanal. Our giant watch frog was waiting for us by the door. The Pantanal, in the Brazilian state of Mato Gosso, is home to the world’s largest wetlands area (over 77,000 square miles). We are here in the wet season, which means that the rains generally come in the late afternoon, and then dump. We are staying at an eco lodge (the Pousada do Rio Mutum) on the Mutum river. Currently, the lodge is primarily accessible by water, as witnessed by our motorized canoe access last night. It is unbelievably hot here, so we need to both guard against sunburn and bugs. However, the bird life here is amazing, with both migratory species as well as stationary species. There are also plentiful large rodents called capybara and a WEALTH of caimans.
Shortly after our ride was over, we got in the motorized canoe for a tour of the wetter areas. Almost immediately, we spotted a caiman nest, and checked out the eggs. Luckily, “Mama” was nowhere to be seen.
One of the most appealing facets of life here is the abundant bird life, but the scenery is also very pretty (and pleasantly bright after our days in the Amazon). However, it is much hotter here, and we were baking as we floated through the water hyacinths. There’s also a cool flower which floats on top of the water. In the morning when it is cool (relatively speaking), the flowers are white, but as the day gets warmer, the flowers turn pink.
The lodge where we are staying is right on the edge of this wetlands area, with part of their property dry year round, but the rest becoming submerged like the rest of the Pantanal. Interestingly, the trees have evolved so they don’t die when submerged in water for up to 6 months a year. Instead, their metabolic processes just slow way down, so it is like they are hibernating during the wet season.
As we came in to dock, we started seeing multiple caimans sunning themselves in the waters right next to the lodge. Apparently, the lodge has also somewhat adopted many of these caimans; naming them all “Zeke” (after some famous soccer star), so the caimans will come to the call of “Zeke, Zeke, Zeke”. I would’ve have been moderately cool to see these guys up close like this, except that the area of the bank they were occupying was only about 75 yards from the pool!
After having been out in the hot sun over four hours, I was feeling pretty whipped, so I opted to go down to the pool area and relaz. The other option was to go for a 2 1/2 hour hike in the jungle. Even though I didn’t take the nature hike, the wildlife at the lodge was still amazing. First we saw a whole heard of capybaras who had gotten out of the water to graze (and make use of the resort’s mud hole).
Then I saw this darling miniature deer that the lodge had adopted.
And finally, we saw a bunch of nocturnal monkeys that are apparently very rare. On the way back to the lodge, I was fortunate to see the iconic bird of the Pantanal, which is a giant stork.
When the tired hikers got back to the lodge, it was all I could do not to alert them to what they had missed. I’m looking forward to another great day in the Pantanal tomorrow!