Come on, hop in the canoe. Lets take a ride through the Pantanal, in South America. It is one of the largest wetlands in the world. So you may get your feet wet!
We depart from Porto Jofre, Brazil, on a tributary of the Paraguay River. We will float down the Paraguay River for a few days, enjoying the sunshine and taking pictures of the wildlife and plants we see along the way. So stock up on food, water and sunscreen!
The first thing you may notice are all the eyes with vertical pupils looking at you from the edge of the water. They are Yacare Caimans. There are 10 million of these crocs in the Pantanal. Good thing you are not a fish, eh? Well, the abundance of this predator species just points to the incredible biological richness of the wetland you are now moving through.
The Pantanal is a vast, seasonally-flooded plain. The rainy season is from November to March. When the rains come, the Pantanal springs to life. The brilliant Tabebuia trees look like giant pink azaleas scattered across the savannah. Waters gradually seep into dry flats. The fish community has a field day, feasting on the newly-available small animals.
Right behind those fish come the clowns of the Pantanal, the Giant River Otters. These guys are the largest weasels on Earth. With their webbed feet and flattened tails, they are really good at fishing. They like to camp along the banks of the river. Those extensively cleared areas you have been seeing are their “villages”.
The Pantanal is classified as a World Heritage Site. These sites, maintained by UNESCO, are unique places especially deserving of international protection. Some sites are considered “cultural heritage” sites, while others, such as the Pantanal, are considered “natural heritage” sites.
The Pantanal competes with the African savannah for the global animal spectacle prize. Lots of animals call the swamp home. The Pantanal Jaguar, twice the size of the Amazonian Jaguar, hunts along the banks of the river. Cabybara are really big rodents. They love to feed on grasses and other plants of the wetlands. They can hold their breath underwater for ten minutes to hide from predators. Keep your eyes peeled for South American Tapir, Giant Anteater, Jabiru Stork, and Hyacinth Macaw.
Our canoe is coming to San Lazaro, Paraguay. Here the Pantanal grades into the Chaco, a dryer savannah ecosystem that runs west to the Andes foothills. Thanks for coming with us! See you next time.