FOREWORD: The Pantanal has no towns. The distances are long. Transportation is so lacking that motorboats and private Cessnas are commonplace, just normal motor hum in the mosquito atmosphere of buzz. For an undetermined amount of time (I’ve learned not to promise dates) I’ll be immersed in solitude along the fauna-filled shores of the Brazilian Pantanal, an area “20 times the size of the famed Everglades” with the “greatest concentration of fauna in the New World” according to my Lonely Planet guidebook (thank you Marjurye). Camping opportunities abound, I hope to wallow in nature without it swallowing me whole—anaconda and caiman close-up encounters are the norm, especially for those who patiently wait waterside. As I learn more I want to share some Wikipedia snippets that have begun what I feel will be a long-standing fascination with this fragile ecosystem.
After a 19-hour train ride on Saturday Bob, Surly, and I will finally tread Brazilian soil, visit the Pantanal where land and water become one, then begin our long-haul across the interior toward the Atlantic coast.
WIKIPEDIA: The Pantanal is a tropical wetland and the world’s largest wetland of any kind. It lies mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul but extends into Mato Grosso as well as into portions of Bolivia and Paraguay, sprawling over an area estimated at between 140,000 square kilometers (54,000 sq mi) and 195,000 square kilometers (75,000 sq mi).
Various sub-regional ecosystems exist, each with distinct hydrological, geological and ecological characteristics; up to twelve of them have been defined.
Eighty percent of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing an astonishing biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping support a dense array of animal species. Though the Pantanal inevitably cuts a lower profile than the Amazon Rainforest to its north, its ecosystems are similarly precious.
The name “Pantanal” comes from the Portuguese word pântano, meaning wetland, bog, swamp or marsh. The Pantanal ecosystem is thought to be home to 1000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian species, 480 reptile species, and over 9000 different subspecies of invertebrates. In addition to the caiman, the following reptiles inhabit the Pantanal: the yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus), the Gold tegu (Tupinambis teguixin), the red-footed tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria) and the Green Iguana (Iguana Iguana).