Sometimes I forget that there are places in the world that are completely silent.
Where the quiet echos in your head like a loose penny in the dryer.
Where you are able to fully inhale and exhale, entirely filling and emptying your lungs naturally (unlike in a yoga class where it always seems like such a struggle.)
The northern Pantanal is such a place.
We were based at Pousada Alegre, a family-owed ranch sitting on 27,000 acres of forest, swamp and waterways about 33km off of the Transpantaneira Highway — a dirt road that stretches 144 km (89 mile) from Pocone and dead-ends in Porto Jofre. The road was supposed to be a paved highway connecting the major cities in the Pantanal, but was abandoned after environmentalists cried foul. Now, it is one of the best places to view wildlife, due to the water-filled ditches on either side that attract birds and other animals looking to grab a drink.
Pousada Alegre is owned and operated by Luis and his wife Mariana; Luis´ cousin owns another ranch several miles away. Clearly, this is in their blood!
Luis is a lovely person — the type you hope to meet when you travel. He picked us up and dropped us off from the bus station in Pocone (free of charge) and knew the name of every guest at the ranch. This man works hard: up early for morning horseback rides and up late for night safaris. Yet, he always had a smile for everyone.
The accommodations at Pousada Alegre are basic, but clean and comfortable. The food is delicious — among some of the best Brasilian food I have eaten since being here.
And the ranch itself? An animal wonderland.
The best animal sighting we had was of a tapir — an animal that I wasn’t even AWARE existed! It´s the size of a bear, looks like a pig, is most genetically-related to the horse and rhinoceroses, and has a nose like an ant eater (yet, isn’t related to those at all) Strange looking beast!
Here is our tapir crossing the street (at :30):
(Video courtesy of Viktor and Monica from Slovenia)
Sadly, my camera wasn’t up to the task of photographing most of the wildlife we saw (a problem I hope to rectify soon!) So you´ll just have to trust me when I tell you that we saw:
>Tons of birds, including blue macaws, green parrots, hawks and the giant tuyuyú
>A family of raccoons
>Scads of capybaras, including mother with babies
>Dozens of camians
>Piranha and other fish, with teeth and without
>Irara (a mammal from the weasel family)
>Howler monkeys with their babies
>Brown capuchin monkeys
We did different types of safaris: by horse, boat, truck (day and night) and foot. Sometimes Luis was our guide and other times is was a freelancer guide named Susan. She is an English-speaking naturalist guide and was really great at spotting animals and knowing a lot about the wildlife and flora and fauna.
Come have a look at some of the animals I WAS able to capture on film, as well as our beautiful surroundings at the ranch:
I also went fishing for the first time in my life. Thankfully, Rodrigo put the raw meat on the hook and removed the fish from the hook in time to toss him back into the water so he could swim away. Our intention was to catch piranhas — and while we saw them when they came up to eat the meat off of our hooks — we didn´t catch any. Despite it´s teeth, my first catch was NOT a piranha, but a traia.
IF YOU GO:
Pousada Alegre: http://www.pousalegre.com.br/
For 2 people, we paid R$ 1516 (US$747) — or about R$190 per person, per day
This included 4 nights, including breakfast/lunch/dinner, and all activities (horseback riding, boat safari, night safari, day safari/walks, fishing)
*NOTE: We were refunded the cost of one day because of a delay in our arrival.
TRANSPORTATION (based on total cost for 2 people):
>Taxi from Cuiaba airport TO #1 bus station: R$25
>Bus from Cuiaba TO Pocone: R$30
>R$10: Taxi from bus station to hotel in Pocone – to call our lodge
>Taxi from Pocone TO Cuiaba #2 bus station: R$60
*NOTE: There are 2 bus stations in Cuiaba, a fact we didn’t find out until we arrived. Taxis were extremely expensive in Cuiaba, and we had some delays, so this threw us for a bit of loop in terms of spending. You can find more detailed logistics about how we got from point to point and what we paid here.
If you decide to hire a private, English-speaking guide, consider Susan Damasceno. She guided our night safari and bush walk and was excellent: