The Pantanal is a vast wetland that covers much of inland central and southern Brazil - it is formed of a huge gently-sloping depression surrounded by rolling highlands, so the water from thousands of small rivers runs off from the highlands to collect in the basin before draining out into the Paraguay River. The Pantanal was a predominantly agricultural area, dotted with cattle ranches known locally as "Fazenda" - having realised the importance of their home as a unique habitat for wildlife, many of the Fazendas have opened up for eco-tourism in recent years and offer safaris and tours of the area.
The wildlife here is staggering, and there is probably nowhere else in South America where you'll be able to see as many indigenous species. There are over 250 different species of birds that have been recorded here, including parakeets, macaws, owls, kingfishers, ibis, storks, kites and hawks, hummingbirds and more, and there are prolific numbers of caiman, anacondas, iguanas, two species of anteaters, ocelots, jaguars, tapirs, giant river otters and thousands of marsh deer. One of the easier animals to spot is the capybara, a giant guinea-pig-type rodent that grows up to 60 kgs and lives in large herds in the swamps.