The Brazilian Amazon and the Pantanal are two very different places offering two very different wildlife experiences. Whether to visit the world’s largest rainforest or the world’s largest wetland can be quite a conundrum for travelers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. The Amazon basin with its forest river tributaries, the mighty Amazon River and the sounds of the world’s rarest wildlife hidden amongst the dense foliage has inspired travelers for years. The contrasting Pantanal is an enormous wetland environment and a paradise for wildlife and adventure enthusiasts who want to explore this off the beaten path destination in Brazil. No matter which one you decide is suited better to your travel dreams and needs, you are guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience as you discover Brazil’s and the world’s best displays of fauna and flora.
After reading this article, make sure to check out our Destination Travel Guides section on the Pantanal, Brazilian Amazon, & Brazil.
♦ Ease and Accessibility
One common thing that the Brazilian Amazon and Pantanal share is their sheer enormousness and somewhat limited accessibility. Brazil is home to 60% of the Amazon Rainforest which covers a mind-blowing 2.5 million square miles in total and spreads into 9 different countries within South America. One of the main differences between visiting the Brazilian Amazon and the Pantanal are the distances from other highlight destinations. The Brazilian Amazon city of Manaus is over 1,000 miles inland and a 4 hour flight from the golden beaches of Rio de Janeiro meaning your travel itinerary will need to compensate for this by making time to travel across Brazil. But all is not lost if you are pushed for time as one way around this is to fly via Miami from the US and Canada to Manaus and to begin your vacation in the Brazilian Amazon.
With the majority of the Pantanal located in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul there are a number of flight options available from São Paulo to the nearby Campo Grande Airport (1hr 35min flight). The Pantanal is also situated relatively close to Bonito which is one of Brazil’s best eco-tourism destinations and is just under a 2hr 45min flight from São Paulo. This makes fitting the Pantanal into your Brazil travel itinerary relatively simple as you can visit Bonito’s natural highlights such as the Blue Lake Cave and the springs of Rio da Prata before exploring the Pantanal.
♦ The Brazilian Amazon
The images conjured up when thinking of an archetypal trip into the Brazilian Amazon, will most likely produce visions of pink dolphins, exotic animals hiding, flooded forests and the Meeting of the Waters. Although it takes time and effort to reach the Brazilian Amazon there is no doubt that making this journey and experiencing this incredible environment has a number of advantages and sense of exclusivity.
Most of the wildlife in Brazil lives in the Amazon which is home to 1 in 10 of all plant and animal species in the world.
While spotting wildlife in the Brazilian Amazon might involve slightly more work, the sense of achievement when you take the perfect photo of a pink dolphin or tropical bird is unrivalled. With its magical rivers, mystical flooded forests, delicious fruits, local tribes and its sheer mind-blowing enormity; the Amazon is so much more than just an area to spot wildlife.
♦ The Pantanal Wetlands
The Pantanal although significantly smaller than the Amazon at just 81,080 square miles, is the world’s largest wetland area and stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Less glamorously known as the ‘World’s Swamp’, this impressive environment is 10 times larger than the Florida Everglades and is similar in size to Portugal. This gigantic seasonal floodplain is home to a staggering display of both plant and wildlife and stands as one of the world’s great natural wonders.
With the biggest concentration of large animals in the New World, you will have to keep your eyes peeled for jaguars, giant otters, anacondas, caimans, marsh deer, monkeys and much more.
The Pantanal has somewhat lived in the shadow of its mammoth Amazon neighbor to the north and although the jaguars may be evasive, there is no better place to spot wildlife in South America. Heavy, seasonal rainfalls and flooding characterize the Pantanal and allow for the continuing growth of wildlife.
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