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Brazil Tours

Pantanal

pantanal
Pantanal Eco Tours / Brazil – Travel to the Pantanal, when wildlife viewing is your prior objective. Simplified, this wetland can be described as a seasonally flooded extension of the Cerrado savannah. However, the ecological effect of these inundations is so significant, that it justifies its classification as a biome.

The main characteristic components of this unique eco tour destination can be grouped into: area / location, geology / geomorphology, rivers / alluvial fans, vegetation / flora and animals / fauna.

Area / Location

The largest area of fresh water marshes in the world (250.000 km2) comprises areas in Brazil (60%), Paraguay and Bolivia. The Brazilian Pantanal is located in the Upper Paraguay River Basin, in the western part of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul (Center - East Region).

Geology / Geomorphology

The Pantanal is one of the Phanerozoic sedimentary basins of the South American Platform. During pre-Andean times (Cretaceous), its actual area was located at a higher level, separating the Chaco Basin (actual Paraguay) with the Paraná Basin. As a compensatory movement to the uplift of the Andean mountain chain, the area was subsided during the Cenozoic.

Since the Quaternary (2,5 Ma), the Pantanal basin was filled with sediments coming from the erosion of the surrounding plateaus (Parecis / Guimarães, Taquari - Itiquira / Maracaju - Campo Grande). In its center, these sediments reach a depth of 550m above the Precambrian basement.

Rivers / Alluvial Fans

The rivers of the Pantanal basin, which have their springs in the highlands to the north and to the east, disembogue in the Paraguay river which flows southwards. In the transition zone between highlands and plain, their flow velocity is reduced to such extent that they commence to deposit their sediments in form of large alluvial fans. The Pantanal is composed of nine such alluvial fans which are named after their dominant rivers. The megafan of the Taquari river has a size of 55.000 square kilometers and is one of the largest alluvial fans in the world.

A particularly interesting eco place ist the so - called Nhecolândia area which is located south of the Taquari river. It is repleted with aeolian paleao-dunes, surrounding blue colored freshwater and and green colored saltwater ponds (salinas).

Inundations / Ecosystems

With elevations between 80 and 190 m above sea level, soils with predominantly low permeability and zero inclination, the Pantanal plains, each year after the rainy season (January to June), are transformed into a huge inundation area (wetland) about ten times the size of the Florida Everglades. When the inundations peak, large part of the Pantanal is about 6 meters below the water. Due to the lack of inclination, it takes about three month before all the water has drained off. During the inundations, large part of the terrestrial ecosystems are converted into aquatic ecosystems.

Vegetation / Flora

According to the frequency, intensity and duration of the floodings, the Pantanal distinguishes different "Pantanais" within its perimeter. Its vegetation is mainly composed of grassland savannah because the flooded, bad oxygenated soils don´t permit the formation of wooden plants. Even so its flora as a whole presents a truely mosaic of landscapes, formed by lagoons with aquatic plants (baías), fluctuating vegetation (baceiro), non - inundated areas (cordilheira) with savannah and steppe - savannah vegetation, natural water drainage channels (corixo) and vegetations with the beautiful ipê amarelo trees (paratudal).

Animals / Fauna

Wetlands, in general are among the earth's most productive environments but the Brazilian Pantanal is particularly remarkable. With about 650 bird, 80 mammal, 50 reptile and 250 fish species, it represents almost the entire Brazilian fauna. During the floodings, most of the animals search for shelter in the forests in the higher, non - inundated areas. When the water level shrinks they have to come out of the woods in order to approach the water. This is the best time to watch animals.

Threats

The Pantanal biome is threatened by excessive fishing, deforestation, fires and prinicpally by the Paraná - Paraguay hydro waterway project, which pretends to make the Pantanal rivers permanantly navigable, in order to connect Brazil, Argentine, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Travel & Tours / Ecotourism

The Pantanal Conservation Complex, including the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park (World Heritage Site since 1981), is one of the most indicated ecotourism and adventure tour destinations.