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Bonito

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Brazil shares a border with every South American country, with the exception of Chile and Ecuador. It covers half the continent, making it the world's fifth largest country behind Russia, Canada, China and the US. Almost half of it is covered by the basin of the Amazon River and its tributaries, a region that is one of the world's largest rainforest ecologies.

South of the Amazon region, the country's interior is dominated by the Brazilian Shield, an expansive, bedrock flat that is slowly falling victim to the elements. The Mato Grosso, a smooth, grassy plain in Brazil's centre, slowly gives way to the Planalto, a low-rise plateau extending across the central and western regions. In the far west, along the border with Paraguay and Bolivia, is the Pantanal, one of the most extensive swamplands in the world.

The small town of Bonito is one of the major tourist destinations in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Its natural resources are impressive — hundreds of waterfalls, lakes and rivers of crystal clear blue water, more than 80 dry and flooded subterranean caves and endless species of fish and wild animals. Nature provides waters from an enormous limestone base that releases calcium carbonate impurities, which sink. Swimmers are asked to float and not touch the bottom, so leaving the impurities undisturbed and keeping the water so wondrously transparent.

All this has made Bonito an ecotourism boom town. Yet while tourism is booming and important, great care is taken to develop an infrastructure which cares for the preservation of every site, maintaining its natural riches. Guides act as inspectors of nature.

A trip not to be missed is the Rio Olho D'agua. Rio da Prata offers a wonderful dive in crystalline water simply brimming with fish. It is a place of insects, spiders, alligators, monkeys, tapir, armadillo, anaconda, stingrays and piranha, amongst other critters, but Ygarape Tours have very experienced guides who ensure their customers are in no danger.

A walk through the forest of Mimoso River takes you past century-old trees and eight waterfalls of varying sizes and shapes. A swim in one of the natural pools is a must; here you can explore small caves, lookouts and leap off the six-metre diving board. There's a good chance you could see macaws, toucans, monkeys, anteaters or any of the other 150 animal species. If there's time, try the ranch-style lunch of regional dishes and sweets.

The Zagaia Eco-Resort Hotel offers 30 suites, 70 apartments, two restaurants, pools, sauna, recreation area and a high level of comfort and sophistication. Its architecture is the prefect integration of landscape, concrete, wood and surrounding vegetation.

Location

In Brazil's Pantanal, in South America.

Cost

Brasil Travel Specialist has four-night packages, including twin-share accommodation at Zagaia Eco Resort, breakfast and dinner each day, tours, transfers from Campo Grande and guide, starting at $1395 per person.

Flight Centre has return economy airfares to Rio with Lan Chile. TAM-Brazilian Airlines connections from Rio to Campo Grande start at $674 per person return.

Lan Chile flights are valid for sale until November 16, 2005, and valid for travel between August 29 and November 30, 2005, and March 1 and November 30, 2006. Taxes are included and conditions apply.
  • Sydney $2434
  • Brisbane $2585
  • Melbourne $2595
  • Adelaide $2800
  • Perth $3207
    To book, call Flight Centre on 131 600.

    Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

    More information

    Brasil Travel Specialist
    47a The Corso
    Manly NSW 2095
    Ph/Fax: (02) 9977 4491
    www.brasiltravel.com.au
    clabras@bigpond.net.au

    TAM-Brazilian Airlines
    4/32 York Street
    Sydney NSW 2000
    Ph: (02) 9299 4410
    Fax: (02) 9299 5774
    jlbati@ozemail.com.au

    It is recommended travellers to Brazil see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended for Brazil. Other health precautions and preventions may be recommended.
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