We are on the minibus again on our way out of the Pantanal, on a four hour trip to Bonito, Brazil.
Bonito is in the Parana region of Brazil, which still somewhat encompasses the Pantanal, and has many natural preserves to protect the indigenous wildlife. It is a smaller city, and more like a vacation town for many Brazilians.
We arrive at the Hotel Muito Bonito in time for lunch; our rooms have AC, yeah!! In the afternoon we are off to Balneario Municipal park, where a natural spring river flows and the swimming is great. It is a national holiday of some kind today, and the park is packed with people enjoying the spring and the weather. We chill out here for the afternoon, then head back to the hotel and have a nice seafood dinner and crash in my comfy bed, although I kinda miss my hammock!
This morning we are picked up at the hotel by our guide for the day, Naurizio- 'just call me Now', and have a short ride to a macaw habitat. It is a natural hole in the earth several hundred metres deep, and has it's own ecosystem. There are several species of macaws here, a few of them endangered.
We visit for about an hour, then leave and head to the Rio Prata, where we are going snorkeling. This river (rio) is fed by a fresh water spring, and is home to many species of fish, as well as caiman, and, in winter, anacondas. `Now` assures us that we are 'unlikely' to see any anacondas today...(gulp).
We get into wetsuits- this is to help not only protect us, but also protect the delicate ecosystem from us. We are not allowed to stand up in the river either, so as not to damage any plant life or disturb the bottom of the river. The water is very clear due to the amount of limestone and calcium in the water- they attract particles and make them fall to the river bed. The river is as shallow as 2 ft in some places, and not much deeper than about 12ft at most.
We put on our snorkels, and float downriver for over an hour, marveling at the number of fish...small piraputanga, bigger pacu, and even larger dourados, the predators of the river. We also pass a small caiman on the shore who eyes us warily as we go by. We have to stop and get out at one point where the river turns to rapids- we walk around this and get back in for another bit, passing many spots where the water is billowing out of the bottom, throwing sand around.
I will hopefully have some underwater pics soon- a few people had underwater cameras.
Eventually we have to leave the river, and we are taken back to where we drop off our wetsuits, and head back to the hotel. Later, I try piraputanga for dinner- not bad, but I'll probably stick to salmon at home!
This morning we take another short trip to see Lago Cerra Azul, a subterranean cavern thought to be over 40,000 years old. At the bottom of the cavern is a small lake of pristine blue water...no life in it other than some tiny shrimp, however. Apparently somewhere in the depths there are remnants of a fossilized sabre-tooth tiger. The entire cavern is covered in stalactites and stalagmites...it is nice and cool in here, compared to the air at the entrance!
We explore for awhile, then head back into Bonito. A bit of lunch, hit the bank to exchange some traveler's cheques, internet cafe, etc.
Then at 1730, we are on the bus again, for another overnight trip, this time to Iguassu Falls.