Matthew's trip to the Pantanal

There were toucans everywhere at the last place we stayed!

This month is my last month in Brazil. I will move to NZ with my family. We are leaving here on Tuesday. The day has arrived so fast! As some of you know, I am not teaching while I pack and prepare to move. I wrote a little bit about moving home in my diary on Poligo if you want to catch up on what I am doing.

But before I left Brazil, I had one thing to do—and it wasn't going to the Olympics.

When I came to Brazil five years ago, I wanted to visit the Pantanal. Because of lots of reasons, I had never got around to doing it, so when my wife and I decided to leave Brazil, my father-in-law and I made plans to visit this amazing, wild part of Brazil.

It was one of the greatest adventures of my life. I thought I would share some pictures with you, and tell you a little about my experience.

We flew from Brasília to Cuiabá, which is the exact centre of the South American continent. This was a bonus. I have never been to the very centre of a continent before. It makes me want to try to do that in all the other continents in the world, but Antarctica might be a bit tough!

We spent a night in Cuibá, and then our guide picked us up from our hotel the next morning, and we drove about an hour and a half into the Pantanal.

Our guide was really great. He could speak great English, but mostly spoke Portuguese for my benefit (since I am learning) and so my father-in-law could understand. I had a week of intensive Portuguese practice, which was an added advantage of the trip. Plus, he had eyes like a hawk! He could easily spot animals from very far away and he knew the names of every creature. For me, the one of the best aspects was his knowledge and learning about the ecology and the lives of the animals.

We stayed for five days and four nights. We moved from one pousada (a lodge or inn) to another, and the more basic the place, the more interesting the wildlife. The last place was very simple, and had the most interesting animals and creatures.

The first thing that was obvious as we drove into the Pantanal was that there are lots and lots of crocodiles here—right by the roadside. Our guide said that the region has more than 3 million of these beasts. You can walk up to them very close. They usually dash for the water though.

Crocodiles basking in the sun. I took this picture with my cellphone (no zoom!) from the road.

After a day, we became very blasé (indifferent or unimpressed) about them. There were so many around that we would see one and say, "Oh, it's only a crocodile... Where are the jaguars?"

Something that I found out later, is the crocodiles are very delicious! We had barbecued crocodile tail at the end of our trip. It was something like chicken, but richer and more tender. If you ever have the chance, try it!

Crocodile tail: barbecued, of course!

Every day, we would go out in a jeep, on a horse or in a boat to see what we could see. Every day, we hoped to see a jaguar, but in the end, we were not lucky enough.

Boat trip with other random tourists.

Horseriding with my father-in-law, Jichan.

Nevertheless, we were more than happy with all the creatures we saw.

In five days, we saw tuiuiu, cayman, aguri, marmosets, capuchin monkeys, storks, capybara, blue macaws, rhea, ariramba, giant otters, fire ants, leaf cutter ants, a giant ant eater and a lesser ant eater, howler monkeys, social spiders, urutau, crab-eating foxes, another kind of fox, native rabbits and pigs, a racoon, black and white tegus, araçari toucans, toco toucans, tapirs, woodpeckers and lots and lots of different kinds of wonderful, colourful birds.

We also went piranha fishing:

My father-in-law and his catch!

And we fed the crocodiles:

Up close and personal with a ferocious handbag! The guide said that the crocodiles that they feed are the most dangerous. They can bite your hand if you hang it out of the boat, because they think you are giving them a snack!

Something that was surprising and unforgettable was the smell at dusk. Some trees release pollen late in the afternoon, and the smell of the place changes. It has this lingering, sweet aroma well into the evening.

I loved the sounds of the wild. Insects would hum and buzz and chirp. The birds sang wonderful, tropical songs like the bubbling of water or electronic music. 

I also enjoyed watching the eco-tourists and bird watchers with their huge cameras and beige outfits. They all wore broad-brimmed hats and broad smiles—elated to be out in the wild seeing birds in real life that they had only ever seen in pictures or on TV. 

Leaf-cutter ants, and a soldier ant on guard. 

The closest I came to a big cat was the hairdryer in our hotel room!

This guy was a professional wildlife photographer from Italy. He took about 100 photos of the fox behind him.

Now it is dry season. You can clearly see how high the water rises during the rainy season. 

Every day, we woke up at dawn and spent a couple of hours before breakfast looking for animals and birds. It's a busy time of day, because all the birds and crocodiles are having breakfast.  


The middle of the day was too hot to do anything. We'd sleep and read and eat. Then at three in the afternoon, go out again by boat or jeep or horse (horse was my favourite!).

It's hot and dry (15% humidity). The horses have adapted to it, but I didn't!

After five days, we flew back, exhausted, to Brasília to prepare for my move back to NZ.

It was an unforgettable, fantastic trip, and we are already planning to go back during the wet season in a couple of years when my kids are older.

If you are interested, you can see some more of my photos on my Facebook, or my Instagram.

I arrive in New Zealand on Thursday, the 18th. Next week, my schedule is open for a few days, and then my family and I will travel. We're going to visit family and friends. I'll be back to work full time from the 5th of September. My schedule is already open, so you can book lessons if you want.

I'm looking forward to teaching you again soon!