Pantanal Brazil

Cuiaba is a gateway city -- a stepping-off place for those on their way to either the Amazon area or the Pantanal wetlands. Some say it's in the middle of nowhere, but it does have a reputation for great fishing. Also, several good museums will keep you occupied while you're waiting for tours to more exotic regions.

The Pantanal, Portuguese for "large swamp", is the world's largest wetland and will be a paradise for those seeking a wide range of wildlife and water plants. Some say it is the prime area for viewing wildlife in all of South America.

The Pantanal lies in the western part of Brazil and extends into regions of Bolivia and Paraguay. It is home to iguanas, jaguars, cougars, crocodiles, deer, and more than 600 species of birds and 200 varieties of fish. The Pantanal has no towns and very few people.

If you have the opportunity to go up the Rio Cuiaba River in a canoe with a guide you'll see quite a few alligators. Just keep in mind that these gentle creatures never attack unless provoked.

Much of the region is also accessible by jeep, permitting close-ups of the wildlife and the lush vegetation.

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