SouthWild Pantanal Lodge
The Phantom of the Flooded Forest
The Agami Heron, one of the world’s most extravagant wading birds, is normally so timid and reclusive that it remains essentially invisible, lurking and fishing in deep shadows inside flooded forest near lake margins. Our expert boat drivers and naturalist guides have spent 25 years carefully observing the Agamis and mapping their favorite haunts in the dark, watery understory along the Rio Pixaim. As a result, our Agamis have become remarkably habituated to quiet boats of guests admiring them from only 4-8 meters.
A Tale of Two Towers
Our towers offer outstanding birding opportunities. The Jabiru tower has low-rise stairs spiraling up to a 12-meter-high platform, and 2-4 guests at a time can watch and photograph the nearby nest from only 16 meters. Our team specifically habituated these huge storks, the tallest flying birds of Latin America, so that they ignore the oohs and ahhs of our transfixed guests. Our river-edge tower in gallery forest, on the other hand, offers stunning views of canopy birds, as well as of flocks of 300 Blue-fronted Amazon Parrots and 100 Snail Kites in certain seasons. Capuchin and howler monkeys also are visible near this tower of nature power.
SouthWild Pantanal Lodge Accommodations
When to visit SouthWild Pantanal Lodge
SouthWild Pantanal is best visited from May through December, with each month offering different advantages. Our very favorite months are June, July, and November, as they are cooler and the air is very clean, free of haze, which can interfere with photography if you are more than 50 m from a Jaguar, for instance. In August, it starts to heat up more, and September and October are the hottest of the year and also are the months that have highest probability of dry-season fires, which produce smoky haze that impedes photography.
Each year between 20 July and 1 September, a famous concentration of thousands of herons, storks, caimans, and Capybaras occurs at the km 17 bridges of the Transpantaneira. The average peak date for that spectacle is 12 August. The peak lasts about one week and in a given year, it can shift backwards or forwards by two weeks due to differences in the exact timing of the big rains of the previous December through March.
The mass flowering of the yellow ”cambará” trees occurs in late June through early July, while the even more famous flowering of the bright pink ”trumpet trees” (Tabebuia rosea) typically occurs over a period of 10-15 days in early-to-mid August. The former blooms well in eight of 10 years, while the latter only in 4 or 5 of 10 years, so it is always a bit of a roll of the dice if you are reserving space to try to coincide with the flowering of the pink trumpet trees. Ocelot are good all year, but Jaguars are best at SWP in the months of June through November.
Green, low season: 10 January thru 31st March
Shoulder season: 1April thru 14 June and 1 November thru 9 January
High season: 15 June thru 31 Jul and 1 September thru 31 October
Super-Peak season: 1 thru 31 August
Our spacious dining room at SWP features floor-to-ceiling screening on three sides, thereby offering unimpeded views of the surrounging trees and fields as well as the Pixaim River, thus providing daytime viewing of many birds, including Buff-necked Ibises, Toco Toucans, and Bare-faced Currasows, and such mammals as Capybaras, Crab-eating Foxes, Marsh Deer, Giant Otters, Tapirs, and even an occasional Giant Anteater or Jaguar. The three enormous meals are all buffet-style and each meal incorporates a number of vegetarian and vegan options as well as traditional meat dishes. Cooling in the restaurant is provided by an array of overhead fans.
After having winnowed through dozens of cooks in the last 20 years, SWP now features what we believe to be the most talented local chefs, who produce meals that often are more delicious than we have eaten in the best restaurants of the city of Cuiaba and far outstrip the quality of seasoning and preparation of any competing lodges on the Transpantaneira Road.
The lodge is located only 30 meters from the 70-m-wide Pixaim River, which stops flowing between June and December and therefore is more like a lake in that season than a true river. Caimans bask in the sun and hide under the overhanging vegetation along the riverbank and are attacked regularly by Jaguars. There are 5-6 different Jaguars that we see along the river within a 15-minute boat ride of the lodge.
Our small pool is just large enough to swim laps if you are so inclined, but in general it is more suited to a cooling dip in the heat of the day. The nighttime temperatures in June through 20 August are quite cool, and therefore the pool water will be quite cool, even brisk. From 20 August to 1 November, however, the Pantanal is so very warm that the pool reaches 28 degrees C or more, which is relaxing for long dips.
SouthWild Pantanal Lodge Activities
At least 95% of our guests are wildlife fanatics, and more than 60% are serious photographers as well. Accordingly, we have a series of activities that cater to those interests. Our most popular activities by far are the 2-h-long morning and late afternoon boat rides on the 70-m-wide Pixaim River and the Ocelot Experience in the early evening. The photo ops of astonishingly relaxed in the presence of humans kingfishers and hawks are nothing short of epic.
The next most popular activities are 1) watching and photographing the abundant songbirds, hummingbirds, and even Toco Toucans at natural-looking feeding spots within only 10 meters of the lodge and 2) watching and photographing two pairs of absurdly-relaxed, amazingly-cooperative Jabiru storks. One pair of storks not only allows you to photograph them in their nest from only 16 m and also flies and poses wherever you want.
The second pair is good at posing, also, but are based 1,300 m upstream from the lodge.
Serious birders adore SWP, as we have the most birder-friendly, most scientifically-designed trail network found in any tall gallery forest in the entire Pantanal. Gallery forest is the rarest and most species-rich habitat in the Pantanal, representing only 2% of the UK-sized wetland.
There are three parallel trails running for 900 meters through the forest, with the trails separated by 100-150 meters. Five connector trails allow easy walking from one of the long trails to the other. All the trails are marked with numbered tags. The resultant four kilometers of birding (and monkeying) trails allow you find and see all singing male birds on territory as well as all the troops of the three species of diurnal monkeys in our forest.