Transportation in North Pantanal
Remember, the North Pantanal region is found in tropical wetlands, making transport in the Pantanal challenging. Sparse populations and rudimentary roads make access to all parts of Mato Grosso a bit difficult. The trunk roads are good and the buses comfortable, but the mere size of the area makes any journey a long affair. Along the route you will see vast cattle ranches, riverine villages, Indian reservations and the ubiquitous swamps and forests.
Be sure to organise your North Pantanal transportation carefully to ensure your visit around this part of the world is concluded with good memories!
Below is our Pantanal Norte Transportation Guide, which will make getting to and around the area a breeze. This, together with our Brazil Transportation Guide, provides you with all the information you need to know about transport in North Pantanal. One of the best and easiest options for getting around is by joining an exciting North Pantanal tour.
Getting to North Pantanal
As you set out, do not forget to set your watch to the local time. Though Mato Grosso is officially one hour behind the standard time of Brasília and the coast, Campo Grande sometimes does not follow the same clock. Check the local times when making a booking or reservations with the authorities.
Linhas Aéreas Pantanal, TAM, Vasp, Varig and Transbrasil operate flights to Cuiaba, the capital of Mato Grosso, located on the northern fringes of the Pantanal. Upon your arrival at Cuiaba, you have a choice of three routes - Caceres to the west, Barão de Melgaço to the southeast and Poconé to the southwest. If you are looking for a place to stay, the majority of hotels in North Pantanal can be found around the Transpantaneira highway which begins at Poconé, about 100 km from Cuiaba, and runs south to Porto Jofre.
For air travel, the Acurizal Farm (RPPN/Ecotropical Foundation) landing strip is used. This is a one-hour flight, plus 30 minutes by boat. The closest town is Pocone, 102 km from Cuiaba.
For transport from the airport to the city (or from the city to the airport), we recommend Green Path Transfers, who offer eco-friendly airport transfers in hundreds of destinations around the world.
Take the MT 060 state highway departing from Cuiaba to Pocone, a distance of 102 km. Continue along the Transpantaneira Highway for another 147 km to Jofre Port, on the Cuiaba River bank.
Departing from Jofre Port to the Park, the only access is by boat. It takes approximately 4 hours.
Getting Around North Pantanal
North Pantanal hotels and lodges are available for the budget conscious and the big spender. You can choose to travel in the Pantanal by boat, truck, by foot or on horseback. Using a self-hired car in North Pantanal is usually not recommended as gas stations are few and far between. Hitchhiking is sometimes preferred (though not recommended), but wake up with the birds so that you can catch the dawn and the wildlife at the watering holes.
There are three primary routes to take you through the Mato Grosso. BR-364 runs through Cuiabá and is the most heavily used. BR-262 runs through Campo Grande to Corumbá. The third, the BR-163, runs from south to north, connecting Campo Grande with Cuiabá, and extending north to Santarém on the Amazon River (impassable since 1992) and south to Paraguay and Asunción. If you have a Brazilian air pass, you might be inclined to hop across by plane.
The vast distances and the lack of infrastructure make lone travel a risky proposition. North Pantanal hotels are the only places for a rest and to eat. A few roads do go into the Pantanal, but they are often impassable during a downpour. That leaves only the Transpantaneira in Mato Grosso, and Estrada Parque in Mato Grosso do Sul, to take you deep into the region.
The Transpantaneira, the region's only lifeline and the main transport in the North Pantanal, is a raised dirt road with some 90 little wooden bridges that runs for 145 km (90 miles) towards Porto Joffre in the south from the town of Poconé, which is located 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Cuiabá. The huge, man-made ditches on either side remain filled with water and become watering holes for the wildlife during dry spells.
Hitchhiking in North Pantanal is another cheap mode of movement through the region, but the desolateness of the area does not guarantee safety. If you are considering it, the ideal time to hitchhike is on the weekends during the dry season, when locals drive down the Transpantaneira for a day of fishing. If you do decide to hitchhike, this is at your own risk. But to catch the wildlife in all its glory, make your way to one of the North Pantanal pousadas (guesthouses). You can then opt for walks or rent a horse or a boat.
Hiring a trained guide is usually a sure-fire way to a safe and an enjoyable trip. Pantanal challenges even the most adventurous, and you would be well advised to tread on the side of caution. For a wholesome experience, take a guided North Pantanal tour. The use of jeeps, boats, horses or even balloons is recommended to cover the terrain. This is not only because of its vast size but also because of the lay of the land. The word ‘Pantanal' has its roots in the Portuguese word for swamp.
Cuiabá, the capital city of Mato Grosso founded in 1719, is today a major industrial and commercial epicentre with a population of 500,000. As a starting point for the Pantanal, it is well connected by air and also has an overnight bus service from Sao Paulo. A number of vehicle rental services are available straight from the airport and from the city centre, though you may be limited by the few choices they have - 4Wheel Drives are unavailable. Actually, a normal vehicle would take care of your needs as the dry period from May to October is the best season to negotiate through the Transpantaneira.
Food and accommodation in North Pantanal is never a problem as a number of ranches (fazendas) provide services ranging from the basic to the luxurious. Pousada das Araras is located 30 km from the park entrance. The Fazenda Hotel Beira Rio, 70 km from the entrance on the south bank of the River Pixaim, has a restaurant and air-conditioning. The very basic Pousada O Pantaneira, 110 km from the entrance, has two rooms and comes highly recommended. A government research centre is just 5 km away.
Local Bus Transport
It is necessary to be a bit careful with the bus timings and the route. There is no route map, no settled travel schedules and no one to really point it out to you in plain English. So take a while and pick the right bus number, or ask for the help of a local. Transport is cheap at R$ 1.60 for a single trip, irrespective of the duration of the journey.
Some services to note:
Ibama/Pocone: +55 (65) 345-1187
Sematur: +55 (65) 223-5918
Localiza: +55 (65) 223-1212
Locar: +55 (65) 223-1921
Coach Station: +55 (65) 223-2136 / 224-1122
Pocone: Banco do Brasil
Caceres: Banco do Brasil, Bradesco, CEF, HSBC e Itau.
General: +55 (65) 345-1963
São Luis: +55 (65) 223-100
Transfer from Cuiabá to your hotel in a 4x4 pick-up for 1 to 3 people.
Transfer from Cuiabá to your hotel for 1 to 12 people.
Transfer from Cuiabá to your hotel for 1 to 22 people.