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Pantanal on own boat

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Old Wednesday 27th November 2019, 22:42   #1
opisska
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Pantanal on own boat

Now I am pretty sure this is one of the craziest questions you have ever seen on this forum, but basically

Can I visit Pantanal with my own inflatable canoe?

Although I have never actually been to Pantanal, this question has been bugging me for quite a while, especially because from what I read about the place I am not very keen on visiting it otherwise - being mostly accessible only by water means that normally, I would have to be boated around by someone hired for such purpose, which I simply don't like.

Thusly, the idea came to me that I could take my inflatable canoe, with which I can perform both short sorties and multi-day trips (if there is by any chance any dry land to camp?) and which just about fits as a checked luggage on a plane; then probably rent a car to get more freedom in choosing a launch location and just splash it through.

There are three parts of the problem as I see it:

- is it forbidden/will someone stop me from trying?
- is it dangerous (mainly regarding Caimans)?
- is it feasible to get somewhere by own force? (on still water, we can to 30 kms a day absolutely max)

As expected, any attempts to Google anything of this sort yield absolute zilch. We desperately need a search engine with an option to nuke all commercial stuff from results, because once an area gets popular, Google starts returning nothing but tour operators (and by now, most BF regulars surely know how I feel about those).

PS: I apologize for the off-topic, but while writing this post, I just could not help but constantly think about this sketch - you may want to watch it to get into the proper mood before answering (or not, obviously).
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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 08:07   #2
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An interesting area to explore that’s for sure. I presume you would intend this ‘Indiana Jones’ jaunt during the flood season? The only advice i would offer would to not visit Shit Creek without a paddle

Otherwise, good birding if you undertake (no pun intended)

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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 08:44   #3
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I think it would be dangerous, you forgot Jaguars but surely, navigation would be the main, potentially dangerous aspect?

I don't know anything about the area but camping, is there the possibility to upset any local tribes who may then want to eat you?

I wouldn't want you head to end up as a table ornament.
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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 09:27   #4
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C'mon andy, don't be that guy. "White man stupid needs our local guide to not get lost" is about the worst thing anyone can say to me - I thought naively this is a safe space with friends! In this age of GPS, a monkey can find a way. Considering their propensity for stealing shiny things, it probably happens from time to time already.

Are jaguar attacks an actual threat in Pantanal? Whereever I have been, jaguars were considered shy and seclusive so I have discounted them as danger, maybe wrongly?

As for the comment on indigenous people, I am not sure how many there really are in Pantanal, but given the absurdity, I presume it was a joke. I would thus only present you with my opinion that such jokes are inappropriate.

edit: I did some brief research and jaguar attacks actually do happen in Brazil - one alleged reason is that tour operators attract them by various means (including feeding) for viewing of their clients and thus jaguars lose their disdain for humans - makes you love the tourism industry even more! A case of a man killed in sleep in a tent has been recorded as well as a jaguar jumping into a boat in open water ... wow, this is actually a little scary, even though the attacks are still incredibly rare. As for indigenous people, there are apparently no people in Pantanal living in a traditional way, so this is really a non-issue.
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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 09:57   #5
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Pantanal is a big place, and I can only comment from brief visit on the area of Porto Jofre which is the most famous jaguar tourism area.

There are surprisingly many small tours and hotels in the area. And good populations of bigger mammals, for example unafraid giant otters. My fear is that in many/most places most big mammals may be hunted out.

The area in my impression is vast, private cattle ranches where cattle run semi-wild. Probably you need to talk informally to the landowners, but they might be generally positive/don't care.

Expanses are vast, and renting a motorboat may be better than canoeing. Paddling in an inflatable boat - possible, but perhaps as few hour long excursions together with car transport. There were some small side channels or oxbow lakes good for wildlife. Driving around by 4WD with permission of the landowners should be very good, possibly better for the non-jaguar wildlife. There is lots of land-based wildlife, and it is perhaps better to transport the canoe for shorter trips.

Your problems may be heat, puncturing a boat, vast distances, strong current on the main channel and drinking water. And whatever waterborne parasites might occur there. Man-eating jaguars, snakes, hostile native tribes - don't joke. Jaguars, pumas and snakes do come to paces where people are, but if you are experienced you should put yourself out of harm way. Don't sleep without tent on the riverbanks - they are favorite jaguar patrolling routes, day and night.

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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 10:50   #6
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Originally Posted by opisska View Post
C'mon andy, don't be that guy. "White man stupid needs our local guide to not get lost" is about the worst thing anyone can say to me - I thought naively this is a safe space with friends! In this age of GPS, a monkey can find a way. Considering their propensity for stealing shiny things, it probably happens from time to time already.

Are jaguar attacks an actual threat in Pantanal? Whereever I have been, jaguars were considered shy and seclusive so I have discounted them as danger, maybe wrongly?

As for the comment on indigenous people, I am not sure how many there really are in Pantanal, but given the absurdity, I presume it was a joke. I would thus only present you with my opinion that such jokes are inappropriate.

edit: I did some brief research and jaguar attacks actually do happen in Brazil - one alleged reason is that tour operators attract them by various means (including feeding) for viewing of their clients and thus jaguars lose their disdain for humans - makes you love the tourism industry even more! A case of a man killed in sleep in a tent has been recorded as well as a jaguar jumping into a boat in open water ... wow, this is actually a little scary, even though the attacks are still incredibly rare. As for indigenous people, there are apparently no people in Pantanal living in a traditional way, so this is really a non-issue.


If you're so confident, why do you ask opinions, just crack on.

It's often over confidence that creates the most danger.
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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 11:02   #7
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If you're so confident, why do you ask opinions, just crack on.
Because there are things I do now know about the area - I have specifically mentioned some and you even have provided an interesting other one with the jaguars (despite Jurek's easygoing attitude to them, I am not sure that the risk can be so easily disregarded) so it has been already quite useful!

Maybe my response comes out too harsh upon reading it myself, but this direction of argument just irritates me so much that I lose control of my expression (mainly because it's so often abused as an argument why not to let people go somewhere on their own). I am sorry about that.
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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 11:27   #8
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In Paraguay, access to the river is free to anybody. The land is all owned by someone. If you went to bahia negra you could travel at least some way up on your own. You would probably see quite a bit at the right time of year. Possibly, in that area, it would be easy /OK to find places to camp for the night
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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 21:00   #9
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interesting other one with the jaguars (despite Jurek's easygoing attitude to them, I am not sure that the risk can be so easily disregarded)
Rephrasing an old proverb - who fears jaguars, does not go to Pantanal.

Not that I disregard the risk, simply that risk of being devoured by a jaguar is tiny compared to other risks. For example being mugged. Or any mishap with a boat turns dangerous when you are 10 km from the nearest habitations.

By the way, some friends during their student years made great independent birding holidays by inflatable canoes. They transported them by train, and kayaked down Danube, some river in Siberia, one in Kazakhstan and one in Korea. Basically they found a riverside city with a train station, and then they just went. The river took them past waterbirds, wader concentrations and riverine forests where they camped wild.
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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 21:45   #10
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Originally Posted by jurek View Post
Rephrasing an old proverb - who fears jaguars, does not go to Pantanal.

Not that I disregard the risk, simply that risk of being devoured by a jaguar is tiny compared to other risks. For example being mugged. Or any mishap with a boat turns dangerous when you are 10 km from the nearest habitations.

By the way, some friends during their student years made great independent birding holidays by inflatable canoes. They transported them by train, and kayaked down Danube, some river in Siberia, one in Kazakhstan and one in Korea. Basically they found a riverside city with a train station, and then they just went. The river took them past waterbirds, wader concentrations and riverine forests where they camped wild.
Yes, we do this in Europe - Poland is obvious, but we also went to Danube delta with inflatable boats (but we are posh, so we went by car). That's how I got this idea in the first place :)

Regarding the jaguars, I really like to try to prevent these "random sources of death" - I carry bear spray in the relevant areas, I learned a lot about avalanche prevention, lighting safety etc... so I just want to be as aware as possible of such risks if I go to an unfamiliar environment.
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Old Thursday 28th November 2019, 23:59   #11
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Then I read a book of people who kayaked down rivers in Belarus. I cannot remember the name, but it may be available as a tour guidebook in Poland. They kayaked through Orlovskoye Polesie. Probably the only place in Europe where an area of 40 x 40 km in size has not a single house. The landscape more exotic than Pantanal, in a way. I guess in few years Belarus will modernize and thatched houses, horse charts and all the marshland birds will be gone. And 100% free of jaguars, caimans and piranhas.
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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 07:39   #12
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I think I would be as concerned about run ins with Giant Otters as Jags; although I don't think they are naturally aggressive I wouldn't underestimate them! Then there's Caiman and Anacondas, maybe piranhas, not sure, but I'm sure you'll be fine.

Good luck if you manage to go, hope you have a great time (and live to tell the tale)!
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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 07:58   #13
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Have a look at the BBC Natural World documentary on the Jaguar - well worth an hour of your time It is based around a couple of males that were translocated from an urban area to the Pantanel. It covers the hacking back of these 2 brothers into the semi-wild habitat and the gauchos positive attitude towards them with regard to eco-tourism and the work provided locally. These beautiful cats are radio-tagged and their progress followed by indigenous conservation workers on a ground-breaking project.

Beautifully filmed - something the BBC excells at

The only downside, mercifully early in the doc, is when the Mother and cubs are located by curious locals. Mum is darted, with the best of intentions, but falls into the water and drowns which i am sure will not be allowed to happen again!

Best of luck if you do attempt it i am very envious

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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 08:12   #14
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Since several people seem to think this ia not utterly absurd, I am putting it high on my planning list. Thanks for the responses!

It's a bit hard to decide on the season because the wet season seems to carry really unpleasant temperatures, but the dry one seems to be less fun boating-wise. It also means another flight to South America (I believe I am at 20+ now) but it just looks so cool!
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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 08:17   #15
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https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p047n0l5/p047mzyf

Link to the episode which is available on BBC iPlayer but probably available elsewhere.

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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 13:03   #16
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Jan,

I've been to the Pantanal many times, as a tour leader in that particular region. Personally I don't think it's the greatest idea, especially on the Rio Cuiaba out of Porto Jofre. We use boats and cover vast distances in search of the main target species, and those boats often have twin outboards. To cover those distances by paddle would take too long and you would run out of daylight, not so pleasant in an inflatable on a big river with quite a lot of traffic. There is also a fair amount of debris in the river, hidden logs etc, so rigid over inflatable a huge advantage.
Yes Jaguars can be dangerous and there have been a couple of incidents with fisherman getting to close, particularly at night. The Caiman are actually rather placid, and I've never personally encountered a problem with them in that region.
Smaller rivers slightly further north in the Pantanal should be okay, providing the land owners are complicit, and I have canoed on the Rio Claro and Piquiri for example but I would think you slightly mad, in an inflatable canoe entering from Jofre.
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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 13:51   #17
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Then I read a book of people who kayaked down rivers in Belarus. I cannot remember the name, but it may be available as a tour guidebook in Poland. They kayaked through Orlovskoye Polesie. Probably the only place in Europe where an area of 40 x 40 km in size has not a single house. The landscape more exotic than Pantanal, in a way. I guess in few years Belarus will modernize and thatched houses, horse charts and all the marshland birds will be gone. And 100% free of jaguars, caimans and piranhas.
Have you forgotten that Russia is in Europe?

Driving up to the Arctic as we did a couple of years ago from St Petersburg, you see nothing but swamp for hundreds of km.

Sorry for the off topic.
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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 14:11   #18
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I think Rockfowl is pretty much on the mark. The river at Jofre is big, exposed to the sun, and wouldn't be much fun canoeing against. Rio Claro would seem a much better place. There are certainly giant otters there. I would still be a bit worried about jaguars but, subject to local advice, I think I would be prepared to canoe there.
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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 15:35   #19
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Since several people seem to think this ia not utterly absurd, I am putting it high on my planning list. Thanks for the responses!

It's a bit hard to decide on the season because the wet season seems to carry really unpleasant temperatures, but the dry one seems to be less fun boating-wise. It also means another flight to South America (I believe I am at 20+ now) but it just looks so cool!
Read this...

Possibly do-able by canoe given they weren't in a motor boat for that long. But with all the dangers of remoteness mentioned. Also, possibly squirrels (if trees):

https://www.worldlandtrust.org/news/...tanal-reserve/

Seasons have been weird in that part of the world in recent years: unseasonal droughts, floods. A good idea to get local info before you go
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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 16:31   #20
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Don’t get me wrong, and this will probably motivatie you more, but there are reasons why people like camping in Africa, trekking in the mountains, diving in Indonesia, canoeing in Canada or Scandinavia,.. etcetera.
The same reasons as most people don’t do trekking in lowland amazonia, diving in Scandinavia, camping in India in the monsoon, cycling in England in winter, canoeing in the Pantanal.

It is possible and some people do it, but it’s just not ideal.

Ps: regarding Canoes: a friend of mine makes a foldable canoe. Brand name is Onak. That should be a bit more resilient towards floating debris and logs, but I don’t know it was tested for Piranhas, caimans and Jaguar teeth :-)

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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 21:29   #21
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I would just like to note that the inflatable canoe that we have is probably more resilient to mechanical damage that many hard-sided boats, especially plastic ones. It's by a Czech company Gumotex, but it's well known among european water-sports enthusiasts and it's designed for white water (there are other similar models that can handle basically any difficulty that is doable in any kind of open boat, ours is less capable only because it does not have a system to get rid of water splash, which is irrelevant here). If anyone is looking for a travel boat that can take some abuse, it's really worth checking out Gumotex products - it's quite heavy (I think it has almost 20 kg) but it is worth it. We used to go on a "camping boat" which was much lighter but also much more fragile and I was always afraid it breaks; in Danube delta, we actually had a small "lifeboat" on a leash in case the main one breaks, but after what we did with this canoe, I think breaking is very low on the list of things I am afraid of, it is still behind being eaten by a jaguar :)
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Old Friday 29th November 2019, 22:24   #22
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Regarding getting lost or not: I think it is worth pointing out that maps almost always are less reliable regarding water than roads. If you plan on going in and out exactly the same way then no problem using the GPS - but otherwise I would be cautious.

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Old Saturday 30th November 2019, 09:05   #23
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Regarding getting lost or not: I think it is worth pointing out that maps almost always are less reliable regarding water than roads. If you plan on going in and out exactly the same way then no problem using the GPS - but otherwise I would be cautious.

Niels
I mean this is the general strategy anywhere in an unknown terrain, no? Plan a route possibly from A to B, if something goes wrong, make sure you can always backtrack to A using the way you came in (this also means having enough supplies).
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Old Saturday 30th November 2019, 13:06   #24
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Hardly the most adventurous but some of us have no choice but to cycle in England during the Winter

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