Brazil ~ Bonito

06 July 2024

A giant anteater near Bonito or a creature from another planet?

After my jaguar week in northern Pantanal, I flew from Cuiabá (capital of Brazil's state of Mato Grosso) down to Campo Grande (capital of Mato Grosso do Sul).

After three days (more relaxing than touring) in Campo Grande, I went to Bonito for four fantastic days.

Key sites around Bonito are not so easy to find and are scattered far from the town, so it made everything smoother to have an expert guide/driver.

Late June was an ideal time to go with mild weather, clear skies, and little rain. Weather is also good in July and August — but school vacations start and holiday crowds come to Bonito.

But before turning to sites around Bonito, I have to make a quick mention of the two capital cities on the trip to Bonito...
From the outside, Cuiabá's Catedral Metropolitana Basílica Senhor Bom Jesus looks boring, but the inside features this majestic, mammoth mosaic of Cristo o Rei. It is over 65 feet (20 meters) high. Look at the podium in front to get a perspective on the handsome mosaic's imposing size. 

On to Campo Grande (pop. nearly one million)...
I liked this city a lot: wide boulevards, beautiful civic landscaping, large parks, good infrastructure, friendly people. I enjoyed relaxing here a few days, "processing the Pantanal," and catching up on emails while also exploring the city.
New and old:
The Bioparque Pantanal is described as "the largest freshwater aquarium complex in the world"! Unexpected and impressive.
I always like to visit local markets so Mercado Municipal was obligatory.

Also flying around Campo Grande parks and avenues are beautiful blue and yellow macaws (ara ararauna). I would soon see their red and green cousins in Bonito. So, on to Bonito...

What I wanted to see more than anything in the Bonito environs was giant anteaters and macaws in the wild. I hit the jackpot.

The trick is to stay downwind. Anteaters have terrible vision but a strong sense of smell (estimated as 40 times more powerful than humans). This fellow actually got several feet closer to me before he paused, sniffed, and scampered away.

These wonderfully weird creatures were fascinating to observe up close.
  • Giant anteaters (the largest of the four species) can be as long as 7 feet (over 2 meters) and weigh 110 lbs (50 kg). 
  • They use their long snout and elongated, sticky tongue to eat termites and ants (as many as 30,000 insects per day).
  • Except when mating, they are mostly solitary. I got to see a total six in pastures and grasslands but each one was alone.
  • Sadly, giant anteaters are vulnerable to extinction in Brazil due to habitat loss and being run over on highways. At least some protection efforts are underway.

My second animal priority in Bonito was its famous macaws, mostly red-and-green macaws (ara chloropterus). The best place to see them is 8:00-8:40am at Buraco das Araras, a big crater that is home to many.

Like the giant anteaters, they blew me away. Seeing these glamorous, dazzling birds in flight was jaw-dropping....

But seeing them perched on a tree was dazzling too.

Liked this close-up with their colorful wings somewhat spread while they were cuddling.
Macaws like to nest in the safe walls of the high cliffs here.

I tried to suppress my astonishment but a dumb gasp finally escaped when, as they apparently do once every morning, they launched a community victory lap before flying off to eat fruit, berries, nuts, and seeds, along with some insects for protein.

Bonito is also famous for its crystal clear rivers fed by fresh springs with limestone filtered water. That has made river snorkeling one of the most popular things to do with several locations available. Here I am snorkeling in the amazingly clear Rio da Prata.

Along with Bonito's crystalline waters, it has dramatic caves. Here I am early in the morning at the beautiful Blue Lake Cave (Gruta da Lago Azul) which launched Bonito's eco-tourism boom several decades ago.

But wait, there's more: Bonito also has lots of waterfalls. I visited Estância Mimosa where you walk for about a mile along a series of varied waterfalls, all with the usual sparkling clear water. Without the hat is a hooded capuchin monkey also enjoying the crisp cool day.

In Portuguese, the word "bonito" means beautiful and Bonito's array of attractions — its rivers, caves, waterfalls, macaws, and giant anteaters — live up to that name. 

It was a second amazing week in western Brazil!