On the 29th October 2018 we set off on our Naturetrek, small group wildlife holiday to Brazil’s Pantanal, in search of jaguars. The journey from Norfolk to Heathrow always seems to take forever, but after parking in the long stay we were on our way. We were flying with Latin American Airlines, a first for us, to Sao Paulo. After an early morning arrival in Sao Paulo we had to collect our bags. Alan’s bag arrived but no sign of mine. After waiting what seemed like a considerable time the next flights’ luggage appeared on the belt. My heart sank. A helpful attendant suggested we go to lost luggage. There, much to my relief, in a pile of luggage was my bag. A young Brazilian man commented, ” welcome to Brazil”. Relieved we could now continue our journey.
Sao Paulo to Cuiaba
The connecting flight to Cuiaba was in a different terminal. After carefully following the instructions we had been given we checked in at the GOL desk. In the airport if you are over 60 you are able to use the Special Assistance check in and Priority Boarding queues. This certainly speeds up the process.
Before the flight we identified some of our fellow travellers and sat and had coffee together. We met up with the other members of the group in the departure lounge. Our naturalist guide, Nuan, was meeting us in Cuiaba.
Cuiaba is the capital of Mato Grosso State. On arrival we met Nuan and were taken by air conditioned coach across the road from the airport for a buffet lunch. We were given a mat in the shape of a bull’s head which was green on one side and red on the other. After helping ourselves to the buffet, the meat came around to the tables. Each joint of meat was on a skewer and was carved for you if the mat was showing green. Feeling full we headed back to the coach to continue our journey.
The Transpantaneira Highway.
A 2 hour drive would then take us to the Pantanal and our first lodge Pouso Alegre. The drive started with 100km of asphalt along a very straight road, cutting though red sandstone and tropical dry Cerrado forests to the town of Pocone. Pocone is the county seat of the North Pantanal.
After Pocone we entered the Pantanal, the forests became flat floodplains. Just before the entrance to the Transpantaneira Highway we transferred to our open sided safari truck.Then we travelled through the wooden arch denoting the beginning of the 145km long Transpantaneira highway and its’ 122 bridges. It is the only road to penetrate the Pantanal connecting Pocone to Porto Jofre. Wooden bridges interspersed the straight raised dirt and gravel road . Many of the bridges are in disrepair with planks missing and views through the holes to the caiman beneath. Some of the bridges have been replaced with concrete ones and there were lots of road works on derelict bridges and detours off the road.
Whenever another vehicle drove past, if the weather was dry, the air became full of red dust . After rain it became a quagmire of mud. There were good views of wildlife as we travelled along in our safari truck. We had our first sightings of Yacare Caiman, Capybara, Black and Yellow headed Vultures, Greater Rhea, Jabiru, Limpkin, Hyacinth Macaws and several different herons and hawks. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were also very prevalent. It was hot, 36 degrees.
The lodges addresses are denoted by the kilometres they are along the Transpantaneira Highway. At kilometre 33 we turned off the highway onto the 7km raised driveway to our lodge Pouso Alegre. .
Pouso Alegre Lodge
It was dark when we arrived at the lodge, our home for two nights. Pouso Alegre is an old cattle ranch, and the accommodation is rustic. Our room was basic but clean. There was noisy air conditioning, wifi, lots of plug points, the bathroom and shower were OK although there was no shower gel or shampoo. Not a problem though as we always carry items like these in our travel emergency kit. We discovered that the plug points in the room wouldn’t take the camera battery chargers. After a moment of panic we discovered that a point in the dining room was suitable.
The dining room was rather like a canteen, food was limited with not much choice but very edible. The desserts tended to be very sweet. There was an honesty book to put in any soft drinks or beer taken from the fridge as they were not included in the cost of the trip. There was no lounge area to sit and relax.
The next morning’s plan was to meet at 5.15 a.m. for a bush walk before breakfast at 7.00 a.m. Unfortunately, there would be no coffee and biscuits/rusks before we left. This is the usual custom both in Africa and India before safari.
We decided on an early night as we were all exhausted. A tree frog was gripping to the door as we entered for our first nights’ sleep in the Pantanal.
More images from the journey to Pouso Alegre