Fazenda Barranco Alto to Jardim, to Fazenda Mangabal, Pantanal, Brazil

24 - 25 March 2006

Snorkelling in Rio da Prata and Riding at Fazenda Mangabal


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Eddie (the pilot who flies in supplies to the Fazenda Barranco Alto) told us about snorkelling in the clear blue waters of Rio da Prata in southern Mato Grosso do Sul which sounded fabulous and would be a first-time experience. It was the first time we’d ever heard of snorkelling down a river! Lucas kindly arranged it for us with a local agent, so instead of continuing on north from the Fazenda to Pousada Mangabal, we took off for the south to the aerodrome of Jardim.
Why is the Rio da Prata is so clear? The river waters spring from subterranean sources in a limestone base, which releases calcium carbonate into the water. The calcium carbonate calcifies all impurities in the water, which then sink to the riverbed. For this reason, our guide told us to stay afloat and not touch the bottom. We drifted along quite effortlessly with the current. The only difficulties were avoiding obstacles such as low-lying branches and not touching the bottom when the river was sometimes almost as shallow as a stream. We rented an underwater camera so can illustrate what I am talking about. Conditions weren’t ideal as it poured with rain soon after midday, which should be the best time of the day to get clear blue waters. It was quite exciting, though, to be drifting down a river to the sound of thunder!
Back at Jardim, we took off again for the north and Pousada Mangabal. Again we had to dodge the usual afternoon storms and rain showers over the spectacular Pantanal plains. The water level was high, so access to Pousada Mangabal was only by plane or horse!
The owner of the Pousada was away in Campo Grande, so we were welcomed by his staff, Jura and his wife, plus young Nivaldo. It was extremely hot and sticky that evening and we were plagued with more insects than we’d ever seen in a lifetime (and Angela lived in Brazil for 8 years). Jura advised us to go out early the following morning before the worst of the heat…
25 March 2006. We were up at 05:30 to go riding with Jura and Nivaldo. The water was high, sometimes up to the belly of the horse. We saw capybaras, macaws, savannah hawk, great egret and maguari stork. Later, near the house, we saw a burrowing owl, parakeets and a southern screamer.
There was a bit of breeze today so not so many insects. Jura and Nivaldo accompanied us on a walk in the afternoon and we saw: wattled jacana, pied lapwing, caracara, buff-necked ibis, plumbeous ibis, field flicker (a kind of woodpecker), white-necked heron, coatis, scarlet and blue macaws, blue/yellow macaws and black-bellied tree ducks.

Ready for snorkelling in the Rio da Prata

A nosey river fish

We had to avoid touching the river floor to keep the water clear - not easy in such shallow water

This one's almost touching the river floor but, unlike us, the fish were allowed to.

The fish glistened in the sunlight

We were allowed to stand on the river floor in a few designated places.

Rio da Prata in the rain

We zig-zagged around the rain showers on our way to Fazenda Mangabal

A rainbow frames the rain shower

This little parakeet took a liking to a Viking

We went on an early morning ride with Nivaldo (left) and Jura (right) to beat the heat and see more wild life.

We waded through the water looking for fish, or possibly a caiman?

This is the kind of landing strip we like: close to the lodge and no formalities or landing fees to calculate

Angela catches sight of a bird from the hammock.

JAlbum 6.2 Copyright: Angela & Flemming PEDERSEN