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  • Writer's pictureMarion Marquardt

Crystal clear water, deep gorges and tropical forests - the northern Pantanal

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

Pure jungle feeling in Bom Jardim - we are floating in the Aquario Encantado
Hundreds of macaws at Lagoa dos Araras
Pleasant climate and fascinating fauna in Chapada dos Guimarães
The undiscovered Pantanal - traveling along the river banks of Rio Mutum
Everyday stories become small challenges abroad - about hairdressers and laundries

After the Transpantaneira we want to go a bit further to the north of Brazil. Only about 2 hours away is Bom Jardim near Nobres, which offers a colorful underwater world. Geologically, it actually no longer belongs to the Pantanal, the floodplain. We want to dive into crystal-clear rivers and springs in the Aquario Encantado. First we are equipped with snorkels, life jackets and water shoes. Then it's a bit of a walk into the jungle. The fauna itself is impressive. We discover palm leaves that are over 20 m high and there is a pleasantly cool microclimate. In the so-called aquarium, a crystal-clear spring pool, countless colorful fish swim and we can snorkel here. Then it's time to float. We jump with our life jackets into the jungle river and let ourselves go with the current for kilometers. Above us the monkeys climb in the trees, below us the fish swim around us. This is so cool. By the way, the water there is crystal clear, but still undrinkable due to the high mineral content.

Aquario Encantado bei Bom Jardim Nobres Pantanal Nord Brasilin Top Highlight must see Kristallklare Flüsse Schnorcheln
Aquario Encantado, Bom Jardim

Another highlight in the area is Lagoa dos Araras. Hundreds of different bird species, especially parrots such as the Yellow-breasted Macaw, return to their nests on this lake every evening at sunset. A breathtaking spectacle! The air is teeming with colorful birds and the chatter is deafening. A very special place to watch the beautiful Brazilian sunsets.

Lagoa dos Araras bei Bom Jardim Nobres Papageien, Aras Vögel beobachten Highlights must see
Lagoa dos Araras, Bom Jardim

By the way, tourism in Brazil works a little different than we know it so far. On the Transpantaneira it wasn't that present for us, but at least here, in Bom Jardim. Almost everything is in private hands. The owners usually do not bother with the marketing of the natural wonders on their properties. Instead, every restaurant and every hotel has a kind of travel agency where you can book tours – for an entrance fee, of course. And not only that, usually a guide is necessary. This has the sole function of accompanying you. Even if, for example, the trails to the waterfalls are mostly less than 1 km and technically not demanding at all, you mustn't go alone. We did not recognize any added value of the guides in this context. Of course, often there are guides on the estancias and pousadas from whom you can learn a lot about nature. In total, of course, with this setup, the costs add up with entry and guide for each waterfall, each hike, each float, etc. We've heared about one waterfall, the Cachoeria dos Namorados, which is freely accessible. Finally! Off we go, however it is anything but easy to find. We ask a grandma who lives at the supposed trailhead. She advises us against it, as the waterfall probably has no water in the dry season. It doesn'tWe don't care - other waterfalls in the area haven't dried up either. After several attempts, Micha manages to find the beaten path through the deepest jungle, thanks to satellite material. An experience in itself. We are glad that the path is only about 2.5 km long. The tropical climate and the many moskitos are exhausting. When we finally get there, we must find out that the grandma was right. Not a single drop of water. All the pain for vain. The local tourism industry has apparently chosen the most beautiful and "reliable" waterfalls for marketing.

Cachoeria dos Namorados
On the way to the Cachoeria dos Namorados - no water, we are rewarded with countless mosquito bites

Our next destination is Chapada dos Guimarães, a rocky plateau at 836 meters surrounded by savannah and rainforest. It is the northern border of the Pantanal, the lower-lying floodplain. The origin goes far back in the history of earth. By the time the Andes were formed, the Pantanal was sinking. At the Chapada dos Guimarães you are standing directly in front of the edge and have magnificent views of the landscape. There are also countless waterfalls that rush into the depths, unfortunately most of them only accessible with an entrance fee and a guide.

Veu de Noiva  Wasserfall in der Chapada dos Guimarães Must see Brasilien Pantanal Highlight schön
Veu de Noiva waterfall in Chapada dos Guimarães

The Cachoiera da Geladeira, on the other hand, is also accessible without a guide for a small fee of around 2 €. A real highlight. The water is, as the name suggests, f... cold, but the setting in the jungle is gorgeous.

Cachoiera da Geladeira in der Chapada dos Guimarães  schönster Wasserfall Pantanal Highlight
Cachoiera da Geladeira in Chapada dos Guimarães

The biodiversity in Chapada dos Guimarães is also exceptional. You can find flora and fauna from three different areas of Brazil, the Northeast, the Amazon and the Pampas. We learn that from Nilton, where we camp. He is a professor of organic farming and a man from whom one can learn a lot. Coffee plants also grow in his garden and we get to see the process of harvesting, roasting, grinding and tasting first-hand. We have never had such fresh Brazilian coffee. And it tastes amazing. Such experiences are unpredictable and also priceless. All in all, our experiences in Brazil have been mostly positive. We are often allowed to stay overnight for free and are warmly welcomed. Campsites are scarce here. There is very little infrastructure for this type of travel. We are glad that we are so self-sufficient. Usually, we don't need electricity because we can charge the batteries via the solar modules and while driving by the reinforced alternator of our Toyota. With our water capacity of 110 liters on board we can supply ourselves for more than one week. We only fill drinkable water into our canisters. Of course, if we have access to water sources for washing up, showering, etc., that lengthens the span.

Yoga buddies included - we are always warmly welcomed

It was about time to visit the hairdresser and do the laundry, very interesting experiences in retrospect. We both went to the hairdresser's quite spontaneously in Chapada dos Guimarães, at a time where the weather wasn't so good (light rain and fog - we are very spoiled by Brazil). The first difficulty is to find a hairdresser. Google doesn't help that much. And most stores don't necessarily tell you what's inside from the outside. Again it's about talking to people. So, Micha walks to the barber of his choice. Around 6 people are sitting in front of the barbershop, smoking, drinking coffee and laughing. When he asks for a men's haircut, the service is prompt. And very professional ☺

Friseur Barbier Chapada dos Guimarães Kaique Martins Barbearia
One of Micha's best hair cuts ever....

It's a little different for me, I get an appointment for the next day at 10 a.m. The reason is, I get styled personally by the boss, who travels all the way from Cuiabá. And in total 5 people are working on me. I have to add that I don't just have a haircut, I also have highlights done. Nevertheless, unthinkable in Germany. A hair stylist, his assistant who is holding the colour pot, an assistant who prepares the aluminum foil, the girl who washes the hair and the receptionist who is responsible for arranging appointments, drinks etc. Highlights, balayage etc. - Max, my hair stylist, is well acquainted with it. In hindsight understandable. During my 4-hour stay in the salon, he shows me his customers - well-known Brazilian singers and also the current Miss Brazil. I hadn't expected to end up at the top of the tops. The result is impressive. In terms of price, I am obviously also higher than that of my hairdresser in Germany. But after an initial shock I am very happy about the great styling.

Great result - long-term travelers need some hair care from time to time

So far we've had rather bad luck when looking for a laundromat. Actually, I need a washing machine where I can do my laundry on my own. However, that doesn't seem to be common here. Even the few campsites are not equipped with such extras. Of course there are laundries that will do all that for you. However, the prices are unbelievable. An equivalent of 1.20 euros, per piece (regardless of whether socks or underpants)! Ultimately, I am allowed to use the owners' washing machine at Camping Refugio da Seriema. And that free of charge.

This shows once again how much we depend on the helpfulness of the locals. Without them we would often be stuck. And sometimes it is very exhausting to keep asking again and again. In addition, there is the language barrier. In the end, however, it is always worth the effort, because these experiences, the moments of warmth, the special encounters are what make travel for us.

It doesn't matter whether it's official or unofficial camping - since we've been here in Brazil, we have always been the only ones on the site. That is of course a luxury. The high season is over. In the Pantanal it is usually May to August, just before the heavy rain falls. We are now close to the start of the rainy season, for which nature is impatiently waiting. The rivers have shrunk to small rivulets, the few lakes often have a water level of no more than some centimetres. We make our way south and immerse once again in the northern Pantanal, this time at Mimoso, along the river banks of Rio Mutum. This too is a recommendation from Paulo, our Brazilian friend. He worked for many years in this area as a guide.

Until Mimoso the road is great - paved and in good condition. (Editor's note: paved is not always paved – there is also the condition “paved 30 years ago and patched 100 times”). Now we're back to a gravel road. Our plan is to stay at the only campsite listed on Google in this area. However, this one only has one review. That makes it a little suspicious. And for good reason - where the campsite should be, there is a sign that the place is for lease. We make our way to Pousada Rio Mutum, the lodge where Paulo worked. We have already been in contact with the reception via WhatsApp regarding tours and want to find out more about them on site. Maybe there is also the possibility to camp there. We don't necessarily want to be "wild" and everything that isn't on the road is fenced in, which means "privately owned". But unfortunately we are not lucky - they are not motivated to sell us anything, neither a horseback riding tour nor a campsite for the night.

So we continue to the next pousada, which supposedly offers campsites. The path becomes more and more adventurous. We are in the middle of the jungle, on a sandy track, surrounded by thickets. Micha has to get out a few times and remove branches, sometimes entire rotten trees, so that we can get through. We would have had big trouble with a bigger car. We're considering turning around. That can't be the way to the campsite. However, turning around is simply impossible and once again the sun is going down. So, no risk no fun. In a clearing we find the supposed campsite, even if it doesn't look like it. However, we are again refused.

Pousada Sía Mariana Riu Mutum Mimoso Pantanal Nord Highlight Must see Brasilien
With full commitment we fight our way through the jungle

Now, we turn in the other direction at the latest fork, towards the Pousada Sía Mariana. We have no other option. And believe it or not, the manager greets us warmly and offers us to stay two nights, until guests arrive. Work and preparations are currently underway. We are allowed to stay on the huge property right on the shore and use the entire infrastructure. phew! We can't really see how lucky we are, until the next morning in daylight. The pousada is like a museum inside, the owner collects antiques from all over the world and has furnished it with them. We've never seen anything like it. And so everyone discovers a piece of home here - Micha a piano from the Öhler manufactory in Stuttgart and I one from Bavaria.

Pousada Sía Mariana Rio Mutum Mimoso Pantanal Nord Highlights
Overlooking it all - from the Pousada Sía Mariana

Pousada Sía Mariana Rio Mutum Mimoso Pantanal Nord Highlights Angeln
We enjoy our time at the pousada

We even get a private tour including an insight into the rooms and the presidential suite. Wow! The accomodation is from R$ 2,000 (approx. 400 USD) per night onwards. And we have this wonderful place to ourselves. The next day we use the exclusive location on the lake for a trip with our kayak. At that time, the Rio Mutum only has a depth of about 30 cm, just enough for our boat. We paddle along the shore, but we only see horses and cows. Some giant otters keep popping up around us and looking curiously. We are a bit disappointed of the wildlife here. After the overwhelming sightings on the Transpantaneira we had expected more. Even if that might seem a bit arrogant :-)

All in all, the trip to this beautiful, not so crowded area of ​​the northern Pantanal was worth it. We enjoy the peace and quiet on the shore, bake our own bread in the sand oven (like we learned from the nomads on our >>> Sahara crossing) and do yoga at gorgeous sunsets.

Pousada Sía Mariana Rio Mutum Mimoso Pantanal Nord Highlights
Pousada Sía Mariana at sunset

Pousada Sía Mariana Rio Mutum Mimoso Angeln Brasilien Highlights Pantanal
The sheer endless expanses of the Rio Mutum

The last few days in Brazil we go further south.Where exactly we don't know yet. The area here in the northern Pantanal is definitely beautiful. The only thing we won't miss are the sultry temperatures and the mosquitoes :-)

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