The Pantanal is the largest wetland in the world, encompassing 66,100 square miles. This is ten times larger than the United States Everglades. The area was named after the Portuguese word Pantano. The translation is wetland or marsh.
The wetland is located across Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. For the largest part it is located in the western corner of Mato Grosso in western central Brazil. The headwaters of the two key river systems of the region are found in the Pantanal, the Paraguay and Cuiaba rivers.
During the winter months, approximately 80 percent of the Pantanal is flooded. According to studies, between 13,000 and 20,000 years ago, the area was nothing more than a sandy desert. Today, it offers you flowing rivers and gloriously rich wetlands filled with a wide and fascinating variety of life.
The seasonal flooding is of a great importance and defines its ecosystem. The water levels rise between 3 to 5 meters. It is a natural way to clean the wetland and rivers by sweeping rotten plants, soil and bringing life to dry parts of the Pantanal.
The annual rainfall in the Pantanal is an average of 39 to 55 inches or 1,000 to 1,400 mm. The average temperature is 79 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 degrees Celcius. When you visit, you need to know the fluctuation in temperatures can vary from 56 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 to 45 degrees Celcius. Especially from mid-September the temperatures start to get above 95 fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celcius.
The Pantanal is teeming with life. This includes approximately:
656 species of birds 159 mammal species 3,500 species of plants 53 amphibian species 325 fish species and 98 species of reptiles.
You will find a greater density of jaguars in the Northern Pantanal than anywhere else in the world. It offers you an exceptional opportunity for spotting and photographing jaguars. The best time to visit for wildlife, birds and the jaguar is during the dry season (mid-May till November). When you take a Pantanal safari, you may see some of the iconic species (click the below links for detailed information about the species):
Eco-tourism plays a vital role in the conservation of the Pantanal wetland and empowering local communities.
Due to the rise of eco-tourism within the region more awareness and effort is put in place to protect this unique ecosystem and the abundance of wildlife.
The biggest threats are cattle ranching, deforestation, gold mining, fishing and pollution. Luckily slowly more locals start to understand the opportunities to change from cattle and fishing to tourism, which contributes to the protection of the area and species like the jaguar. However much work is to be done and illegal fishing, hunting and polluting are still present this day.
Organisations like Panthera conduct research in the Pantanal and have multiple conservation projects in place. Besides conservation they have an educational program for local children since education is the key to future change.