Travel info for Pantanal Matogrossense National Park in Brazil

Endless wetland areas


Poconé-Mato Grosso, 78175-000, Brazil

GPS: -17.654768963837, -57.431607665362

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Travel info for Pantanal Matogrossense National Park, with its humid subtropical climate, is located in the centre-west of Brazil, in the state of Mato Grosso. This huge conservation area has long remained in the shadow of the immense Amazonian forest. Yet the biodiversity of the Pantanal has nothing to envy its illustrious elder. Its wetlands and marshlands are spread out at the confluence of a hundred freshwater rivers, meanders and tributaries whose main streams are the Paraguay River, the Cuiabá River and the São Lourenço River. Some of these rivers take several months to cross the vast Pantanal territory and create flooded areas as far as the eye can see. This abundance of water makes the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park one of the most biodiverse floodplains in the world.

The Pantanal Matogrossense National Park is only a small part of the Brazilian Pantanal, a vast wilderness of 200,000 km² that extends into the neighbouring countries of Bolivia and Paraguay. Discovered by the first Portuguese settlers in the 16th century, the Pantanal region is the ancestral land of the Guató people, the only nomadic Amerindian people who settled on the border of Brazil and Bolivia. Threatened by cattle ranchers to establish their ranches, they were forced to leave the region in the 1940s and 1950s. The region is now inhabited by peões and pantaneiros, peasants and horsemen responsible for the transhumance of the millions of head of cattle in the Pantanal according to the seasons.

The Pantanal Matogrossense National Park is the world’s largest wetland (covering 1,400 km²), made up of marshes, swamps, flooded savannahs and alluvial plains. It includes three private reserves (Acurizal, Penha and Dorochê) and serves as a breeding and nesting ground for many bird species. This ecological place is closely studied by naturalists and biologists in search of new endemic species. Threatened by animal poaching and gold mining, more than 80% of the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park is literally underwater during the rainy season. Travelling by boat or by car through the Transpantaneira road (MT-060) are the best ways to see the park’s wealth of flora and fauna.

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  • One of the best tropical wildlife and aquatic plant viewing areas in the world
  • The great diversity of animals (giant anteater, caiman, giant otter, tapir, howler monkey, jaguar, puma, swamp deer, anaconda…), reptiles, amphibians and insects; the presence of numerous fish (400 species listed) and mammals (more than a hundred species listed, including the capybara, the largest rodent in the world)
  • More than 650 species of birds, including the jabiru (the park’s symbolic stork), the hyacinth macaw (the largest parrot in the world), the Chaco chachalaca (the noisiest bird in the Pantanal), the crested caracara (a raptor similar to the hawk, with a sharp beak), the snowy egret (recognisable by its characteristic white plumage and yellow legs) and the Black-collared hawk (a large bird of prey)
  • The flora (gallery forests, groves of tropical trees, aquatic vegetation, several thousand species of plants…); the pink lapacho, the sacred tree of the Incas (easily recognizable by its pink flowers)
  • The variety of ecosystems (wet grasslands, grassy plains, Gran Chaco lowland, Amolar mountain range, dry forests, freshwater lakes…) and the juxtaposition of different natural environments with a fragile balance
  • Fishing, sport fishing and horse riding; boat and canoe trips; visits to pousadas (farms), cattle ranches and fazendas (large agricultural property)
  • Hiking and horseback riding in wide open spaces; sunset scenes reflected in the water mirror
  • The safari-like Transpantaneira road; the wilderness of Nhecolândia, nestled between the Negro and Taquari rivers; the rivers, waterfalls, caves and springs of Bonito (in the southern Pantanal)
  • The still unknown character of this fascinating region, absent from the main tourist circuits
  • By way of comparison, the Pantanal’s territorial immensity is 10 times greater than the wetlands of the Everglades National Park (United States) or the Okavango Delta (Botswana). Its total area is more than half the size of a country like Germany.
  • The vast majority of the land in the park is privately owned and used for agricultural purposes (most of it is owned by the Brazilian NGO Foundation Ecotrópica which manages it).
  • Less than 5% of the Pantanal’s area is covered by environmental protection or conservation measures. The balance of this natural wilderness area is made uncertain by the increase in human activities in the region (deforestation, intensive agriculture, mining projects, water pollution…).
  • Declared a wetland of international importance since 1993 (Ramsar site), the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park is home to several millions of caimans (the largest concentration area on the planet).
  • The Pantanal is one of the world’s last sanctuaries for the jaguar. Most easily seen on an early morning boat trip, this predator reigns supreme in the park (especially during the dry season when water is scarce).
  • Since 2019, the Pantanal has faced several episodes of drought as a result of global warming. Hundreds of fires in this Brazilian region broke out in the first quarter of 2020 due to a lack of rainfall during the rainy season.
  • Due to its remote and submerged nature during the wet season, access to this area can be particularly difficult between December and March, when it rains the most.
  • The best way to join the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park is to fly into the Brazilian city of Cuiabá and then take the Transpantaneira road from the pink city of Poconé to Porto Jofre (the park’s gateway city), through a journey of almost 150 kilometres. With more than a hundred wooden bridges in a wild environment, this dirt track (which was to become a highway in the 1970s) offers an extraordinary setting for wildlife observation.
  • Some sections of the Transpantaneira may become impassable or declared off-limits during the rainy season. Make sure you have a suitable vehicle (preferably a four-wheel drive). There are no gas stations along the route, so remember to fill up with fuel and water before travelling.

Where to eat

  • Tradiçao
    (for all tastes)
  • Restaurante Pantanal
    (South American dishes)
  • Bento´s Bar & Restaurante
    (typical and varied)

Where to go

  • Museu de História do Pantanal
    (the history of the Pantanal)
  • Forte de Coimbra
    (old military fort)
  • Cristo Rei do Pantanal
    (Christ monument)

Where to stay

  • Pantanal Hotel
    (ideal location)
  • Fazenda 23 De Marco
    (the full change of scenery)
  • Barranco Alto Eco-Lodge
    (in harmony with nature)