The name “Pantanal” comes from the Portuguese word pântano, meaning wetland, bog, swamp or marsh. It covers an area of over 210 000 km2 making it about ten times the size of Florida’s Everglades. It is tucked neatly into the center of South America and includes portions in Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil.
Google Map showing the location of the Pantanal relative to South America (red). The blue indicates the Amazon and the orange indicates Atlantic Forest.
Satellite image of the Pantanal
We were extremely fortunate in being able to take a 30 minute plane ride to view the Caiman ranch and the neighbouring areas by air. This was a real privilege and enabled us to see, and capture, just some of the magnificence and the vastness of the Pantanal.
Caiman Ecological Refuge is located on a 53 thousand hectare ranch adjoining the small town of Miranda, in the Pantanal wetland.
A view from the air gives one just a glimpse into the idea about how large the Pantanal really is. However, with only 2 % of this wetland under formal government protection it is in dire need of conservation and also restoration. This is where ecotourism lodges like Caiman Ecological Refuge are essential to ensure the survival of the Pantanal’s biome. Not only to put land under protection but to actively restore land!
Miranda Estancia, a traditional cattle ranch founded in 1910 by English investors, was the precursor of the present Caiman Ranch. The ranch currently runs around 35,000 head of cattle on natural pasture, seeking harmonious integration of livestock with the wildlife.
The area has an average yearly rainfall of about 1200mm (45 inches).During the rainy season (summer) over 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged. Even during the dry season (winter) water still sits over much of the landscape
The Caiman Ecological Refuge operates an important Nature Conservation Program, which is recognized domestically and internationally. This consists of maintaining a Private Reserve of Natural Patrimony (RPPN) on a 5,600 hectare area and supporting various research and species management projects carried out on the whole ranch.
The Aquidauana river forms the northern boundary of the ranch. Alongside the river is a thicket very reminiscent of the vegetation found further north in the Amazon basin.
The contrast between the lush green grass and the white hides of the cattle makes for ideal photographic opportunities.
An aerial view is one of the best ways to understand the mosaic of habitats which the Pantanal houses.
Any lover of nature should dive at any opportunity to be a part of this most magnificent environment. It is a true reawakening of ones soul. Visions of the lush green grasses, palm trees and the abundant water, sit so gently on ones eyes.
It truly is a spectacular scene. To see s variety of indigenous animals living at peace in amongst a working cattle ranch gives one a sense of hope that perhaps man and wildlife can live on this world in harmony. It is refreshing to see.
Make sure you look out for the next post in The Pantanal Series. Let us what you think of the Pantanal thus far on our little adventure.
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister