Ecotourism in Bonny Bonito
After three wildlife filled days in the Pantanal, the tapir was the last must-see animal on my Brazil list. Knowing that they are one of the hardest animals to spot, I had hoped that, if luck was on my side, I could maybe catch a glimpse of one through the trees. What I hadn’t expected was to see one of these hefty beasts lying on a couch on a farm in Bonito.
Our Pantanal group had stuck together and come to Bonito to do some snorkelling and animal spotting. The weighty price tag had so far been worth it, as in just three days we had swum in the natural, fish-filled pool of Balneario Municipal, descended into Gruta do Lago Azul, a stalactite-covered cave housing a pool of deep blue water, drank cachaca and snorkelled in Rio de Prata, among gigantic colourful fish, and smaller ones that nibbled our freckles. And now we were at Cachoeiras Rio do Peixe, petting a tapir named Gigi.
Eventually, we tore ourselves away from our new pet and joined the rest of the group to swim under a series of waterfalls. We walked a short way into the jungle before eagerly jumping into the first pool and dunking our heads under the cascading water. Wrapping ourselves up, we walked further along the two kilometre circuit to the next waterfall, and then the next. As enjoyable as it was to splash around in this beautiful, natural setting, and jump off the platforms into the cool water, each fall was much like the last. By the time we got to the seventh waterfall, we were all wondering when it would be time for lunch.
Lunch turned out to be worth the wait, and we hungrily attacked the buffet and piled our plates high with a variety of local food. Some was delicious (fried manioc), some was less so (shredded meat), and some was plain weird (bananas wrapped in ham and topped with cheese). After we’d had our fill, we headed back outside to where Gigi the tapir had woken from her nap on the couch and was wandering the grounds, eating leaves from people’s hands. We relaxed in the hammocks, before a crowd began to form. Curious, we followed the others, and saw that they were taking turns holding a gorgeous blue Hyacinth Macaw, who perched on their shoulders and pecked food from their mouths. Eager for a turn, I stepped forward and the owner of the farm lifted the bird onto my shoulder. He was unexpectedly heavy and gripped unexpectedly tight. As with the many other animals we had seen on our Amazonian trip, it was remarkable to experience him so close. I gave his soft feathers a tentative stroke before handing him back, and crouching down to have a look at the red macaw who had joined us to eat seeds from a bench, but was refusing to be touched.
We had just one last animal encounter left in store, but thankfully it was one of my favourites. We were each given a sliced banana, before the owner let out a holler, and then another, and another. Just when we were wondering if his call wasn’t going to work, we saw a rustling in the trees, and out scampered a troop of monkeys. At first they examined us to see what we were offering, before tentatively edging closer and then snatching the bananas from our hands. We stayed as long as we could, watching the monkeys swing from branches and playfully fight each other, before it was time to leave, our Amazonian adventure sadly at an end.