The Pantanal is the largest wetlands in the world, covering 200,000 km² and three countries (Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil), the major part being in the Mato Grosso of Brazil. The protected part is, alas, only 1.3% of the total. The Pantanal ecosystem has the largest
number of plant and animal species on earth: 3500 species of plant, 650 species of birds, 400 species of fish, etc. Here jaguar, ocelot, tapir, giant otter, etc. call home. Only recently has the Pantanal become open to tourism. Roads are virtually nonexistent, and the accomodations (pousada) are rustic (although their welcome is unbeatable. From November to March 70-80% of the Pantanal is flooded, not so much by rainfall as river flow from Paraguay. Then travel in the Pantanal is by canoe. In the dry season, it's best to have a 4 x 4! I was there this past April and saw jaguar tracks in the mud of the receding waters. As the horrendous oil spill devastates the Gulf coast, I can only hope that the Pantanal will never be exploited by the likes of BP!
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