London, United Kingdom
December 4, 2004
Situated on the edge of the Pantanal, 30 miles from the nearest major road and over 160 miles from the airport at Campo Grande, this is where you get the true taste of wilderness in the Pantanal. But this is no rough-and-tumble camp in the jungle; it is an ecolodge which gives five-star service, a working cattle ranch which allows visitors to spot the diverse life of the Pantanal through eco-tourism and enjoy the life of the fazendeiros (cowboys) and their cattle ranching ways.
I booked it as a tour in Rio, which included a return flight to Campo Grande and transport from the airport. In fact, if you don't have your own transport, reaching the pousada can be difficult. It is reached via a rutted track which crosses the Pantanal swamps/water meadows, and in good weather, it takes two hours. Only four-wheel-drive vehicles can really manage it, because during the wet season (Nov-Apr), the track turns into a tropical quagmire. But once there, the staff will make you feel very welcome, and you get to see the scale of the place.
Firstly, it is a working zebu (cattle) farm. It is scattered over the water meadows, and over 1,400 of the creatures and stables are incorporated so the fazendeiros can round up their vast herds. Owned by the same family over the last 150 years, activities were diversified 11 years ago, and it became an eco-lodge. Money has been spent on it, with 14 rooms, an open-air restaurant, swimming pool, relaxation cabana (complete with capybara statues and hammocks), and even a small airstrip. The rooms are in good order -- Toucan tapestry, double beds, blue colouring, complimentary soap, hot shower, and obligatory tree frog on the ceiling. All this on the edge of the biggest inland swamp in the world.
The big attraction, though, is to get out and see the Pantanal. Just past the stables is a tributary river, so fishing and canoeing are popular. The pousada has permanent guides who can take you out trekking in the daytime, piranha-fishing, and jacare(crocodile)-spotting at night. And the attraction is the wildlife, which seems to invade the Pousada Aguapé. Toucans sit in the trees, anteaters roam the horse paddocks, and one evening, as we were having one last coffee, a marsh deer came into the restaurant, and we were able to feed it from our hands.
From journal Watching for piranha - The Pantanal - Brazil's wildlife heaven