Thinking of Brazil, most people would highly likely mention Rio, Copacabana, Sugar loaf, Football and Caipirinhas. And indeed, those were my first encounters. As flights were fully booked to fly in for the World championship final (Argentina – Germany) I travelled to Rio the day after the final, when the outbound planes were fully booked, but the inbound carriers almost empty. The city was still packed with Germans and Argentinos, but the Brazilians already started to erase the memories of the cup, which is somehow understandable, taking into account their 1-7 disaster against Germany in the semi-final. Interestingly, they were not too unhappy with the outcome, as they all despise Argentina and most Brazilians supported their defeater Germany in the final. I spent two great days with amazing weather and sunsets in Rio, visited the must-sees Sugar loaf and the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado. Both sites grant spectacular panoramic views over the city, especially at dawn and night. The infamous Copacabana makes all up to their reputation, people showing off, training their bodies at the beach muscle stations, playing beach soccer, surfing or just sitting at one of the uncountable bars along the beach and drinking Caipirinhas for 5 Reais (1.70 Euro or 2.50 Dollars). A small bottled water was normally more expensive!
After the hustle and bustle in Rio, I flew through Sao Paulo to Campo Grande, which represents a major gate-town to the vast wetland of Pantanal. Staying at a few days in a Pousada in the heart of the Pantanal I enjoyed horse riding, boat safaris and mainly photographing the numerous birds – among them macaws, parrots, tucans, kingfishers, falcons, vultures, herons, egrets and storks – as well as the ubiquitous caimans.
A three hours bus ride to the South, and I reached the eco-adventure capital of Brazil, the comely 20´000 people city of Bonito. Around the village, several caves, waterfalls and crystal clear rivers with limestone filtered water are ready to be explored by snorkeling, diving, hiking and rappelling.
The most unique (and most expensive, 800 Reais or 270 Euro) trip is the Abismo Anhumas, an underground lake the size of a football field. Only four divers and twelve other visitors are allowed to enter the cave daily. The day before the trip, everyone has to attend the abseiling training, as the surface of the lake lays 72m below ground level. All the gear including scuba tanks is rappelled by staff to a floating platform in the underground lake. The water level fluctuates by +/-4m, depending on the rainfalls. The lake reaches at its deepest point a depth of 80m (but the diving is limited to 18m). Small fishes and albino shrimps live here, but the major draw are the up to 19m high underwater cons in the lake (similar to stalagmites, but the cones grew in the water). A truly unique dive trip.
Unfortunately during the night the sky darkened, heavy rain fell and temperatures dropped to below 10C. Bonito offers no bad weather indoor options such as museums, and the outdoor activities lack somehow of appeal if it´s freezing cold, windy and clouded. Captured in the hostel, I spent my day reading the Wheel of time, book four. Despite only slightly better conditions, I dove the next morning the twin lakes of Lagoa Misteriosa. Two funnels, connected on the surface and merging in 55m to a single tube, and water clear as glass, make this site to one of the best freshwater dives.
Close to the lake, underground springs provide crystal clear water to a side creek of Rio Prata. Drifting down with mask and snorkel, one is accompanied by fearless Dourados (freshwater fishes). I even spotted a 3m long yellow Anaconda, resting underwater on some dead tree branches! Seeing one is great, but spotting one that the guide missed, makes the experience even more memorable.
After an 18 hours overnight bus ride 700km to the South, I reached the amazing Iguazu falls. On average 1750m3/s water supply 200 falls scattered over an edge of around 3km. Heavy rainfalls in mid 2014 triggered a new all-time record of 45,700 m3/s in June, and during my visit in July the flow was still significantly above average. Hiking, boat trips and helicopter flights over the falls easily fill two days to see and do it all.
Previous destination: Florida Keys
Next destination: Northern Argentina and Chile