|South Pantanal - December 2011|
I had visited the north Pantanal near Cuiaba in February in a previous
year and had been overwhelmed by the amount of birdlife. I hoped that
my visit to the south Pantanal would be just as memorable. I went
with Santa Clara because they were the only lodge with Internet. They
were also the most touristic, and bit more expensive, and not as
remote as some other lodges. I lost two days waiting for their van
which did not come to Bonito as promised because of lack of people
around Christmas. Santa Clara asked me to take a public bus with instructions to
get off at an intersection in the middle of nowhere and wait. I would lose most of my first
day, and they were not willing to compensate me in any way.
Note that I don't speak any Portugese, and to negotiate with a driver about a
remote location and to make sure he doesn't forget, and then to wait with all my
gear on the side of the road with no cell reception is something very scary.
Otherwise I had no problems with my stay. And this experience was positive
compared to another with a different tour company in the border city of
Corumba, Brazil (more to come). Be very careful when you deal with
tour companies and always do a lot of research.
My first two days at Santa Marta were quite unimpressive. Few
interesting birds. I attributed this to many factors, and I am not
sure how to weight them.
1) degradation of land at and around Santa Clara. The Pantanal is privately owned farms,
and many are cleared for cattle or agriculture. The farm across the river had apparently
recently been cleared. But there was still forest near Santa Clara, as well as a river,
and the north Pantanal also had farms, although around Posada Rio Claro the area was less
2) time of year. My visit to the north had been in the rainy season,
and the area around the farm was marshy.
3) general bad luck. And bright sunny days didn't help the bird life.
4) over expectations. In reality I saw many of the birds I had seen at
the north Pantanal, but there they were coming to a feeder making it
easy to photograph them. Mostly the marsh birds were missing at Santa
Clara, but were seen from the car rides. Also the hawks were mostly
seen just from the car.
After two days I figured my best bet was to stay at the river and just
wait. I managed to photograph some smaller birds like the
Rusty-backed Antwren and Little Woodpecker, and saw a number of other
interesting species. It was not possible to enter the forest in the
north because of the mosquitos at that time of the year.
To summarize, both the north and south Pantanal are great places to
see birds. I would not recommend Santa Clara unless you need
Internet, but they are a large and experienced outfit, and I have not
tried the competition. Santa Clara is great for adventure or fun, but
perhaps there are cheaper and more remote locations, and I was not happy
with my interactions with the administrative side.