Campo Grande became the capital of Mato Grosso do Sul in 1978 when this southern area separated from the state of Mato Grosso. Campo Grande is not a destination itself but, since the area’s airport is here, it is the best kick-off point for visits to wildlifeviewing areas and the watersports action of Bonito to the south.
The Southern Pantanal
Miranda, a town 128 miles west of Campo Grande, is where most tour operators settle their guests. There are lots of pousadas and fazendas in the area and the lush wetlands around Rio Miranda house lots of wildlife, notably the elusive jaguar. The highlights of a stay here are many, but a photo safari – called a focagem – is tops. This nighttime excursion is on pick-up trucks outfitted with powerful lights that stun animals for a few minutes so you can take a good look and, hopefully, a great photo.
Although it will add about 200 miles onto your trip from Campo Grande to Miranda, if you have some time and enjoy watersports, consider a detour to Bonito, a town whose name means “beautiful.” It certainly is that. Arguably in the middle of nowhere (as are Campo Grande and Miranda), Bonito has become a popular eco-resort. Visitors to date have been Brazilians and foreigners whose belongings fit into a hefty backpack. But recently a spate of upscale resorts and pousadas have opened and they are drawing a more upscale crowd. People come here not to see Bonito but to splash about in the rivers and streams that rise from the bedrock with incredibly clear waters. Some move quickly enough to make for great rafting and canoeing, while others are slow enough to allow snorkelers to join schools of colorful fish. Rafters on Rio Formoso will see lots of birds and hear the chatter of the rather large Nail monkeys that live in the adjacent forest. The trip ends at Priest’s Island, which has lovely waterfalls. There are caves to explore as well.
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