I don’t know about you but when I go to any sort of expo or fair I always put my name in for the raffles, there’s always the chance I might actually win. Just before we left on this little adventure (also known as our trip around the world) we won a trip to Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest freshwater wetlands. So from the very beginning of this trip without a travel plan, we planned to go to Brazil and the Pantanal come hell or high water. After that Bolvian/Brazillian border crossing
and three long bus trips on unpaved roads, phew it felt like both had come. We were definitely looking forward to staying at a nice lodge with good food and have a few days off our budget, but getting there was a stressful rush and we ended up having to skip some places along the way that we would have liked to visit. Just gives us another reason to return to Brazil!
Some guidebooks say dry season is the best time to go to the Pantanal because the animals are all clustered around what water there is, while others say the wet season is the best time because the animals are all clustered on what dry land there is. Go figure. At almost 10 times the size of the Florida Everglades, we were hoping to see more than just a few animals. Fortunately, we saw tons of animals (and for the record its dry season!) from capybara’s and caimans to birds of every species you can imagine. It was undoubtedly great wildlife viewing, but unfortunately we’d seen many of the same species on our pampas tour in Bolivia.Frankly its hard to get excited about the 1000th caiman sighting, even if they are really cool, really scary creatures. Our guide, a retired heavily accented Italian, peppered his bird and animal sightings (which were always very, very exciting to him even if we couldn’t see the creature) with mamma mia!!, leaving us wondering what the actual animal names were- is that a little blue heron or a little mamma mia blue heron? Depends who you ask I guess.
And then of course there was the piranha fishing. Unlike our attempt in Bolivia , we were wildly successful at piranha fishing in the Pantanal. Dropping his line into the water, Danny caught one in what seemed like seconds while my line sat quiet. Disappointed in my fishing prowess (after all I’ve definitely done way more camping and fishing than Danny) I resolved to shaking my pole in the water as violently as possible to imitate an animal in distress. Of course this prompted a “mamma mia” from the guide who scolded me for “over doing it.” Right, like I ever do anything in excess. 🙂 Two seconds later I got my first piranha of the day. Score!
Unfortunately it was my last to make it successfully into the bucket. I caught two more, but neither actually stayed on the line long enough for a picture, so you’ll have to just trust me on this one. 🙂 My second catch, thrashed around in the water a good bit as I fought to pull him in. Back and forth we went until it broke my line. This of course, prompted a “mamma mia!” and when my line was restrung and baited I quickly attempted again. Waiting for what seemed like forever, I tried my now patented shaking technique, which yielded no results. Again and again, with no results. With everyone else pulling in piranha’s by the bucket load (or so it seemed on my quiet end), I prayed for the another one. And it came, and again broke my line. Must have been the biggest piranha in the lake 🙂
What happened to our catch you might ask? Well, the first evening at the lodge we watched sunset from the dock and couldn’t believe the dozens of caimans lurking nearby in the water. Completely unafraid of us, they almost seemed interested in us. After piranha fishing we found out way. To guarantee animal viewings a lot of lodges feed the wild animals, ensuring that their clients get good pictures. As you can imagine this has a significant impact on the animals behavior towards humans and within the local eco-system. I was floored when the pirnha’s we caught were fed to the caiman’s from the sandy beach in front of the lodge with about a dozen people standing around. Talk about an unhealthy practice for the ecosystem and an unsafe practice for the guests! Just what I want, a dozen caimans who associate humans with food, anyone up for a night hike along the river? 🙂