The Pantanal (Pantanal means "swampland") is one of the world's great wildlife reserves. A trip there should be booked through an adventure-tour operator—only a very small part of the area 1,000 mi/1,600 km west of Rio de Janeiro has any tourism infrastructure (or towns, for that matter), although you can stay at many of the region's fazenda (farm) lodges, which usually operate guided tours into the swampland itself.
Because the terrain is largely open, it's easier to spot some animals in the Pantanal than in the jungles of the Amazon farther north. Fishing is excellent, with more than 350 varieties of fish, some weighing as much as 175 lb/80 kg. The reserve has the greatest variety of butterflies, birds and mammals in the Americas, including alligators, deer, armadillos and capybaras (the world's largest rodent).
Unfortunately, poaching has endangered some of the animals, and anteaters, jaguars and otters are no longer commonly seen—although they're said to be making a comeback. The best time to visit is during the breeding season (July-September). http://www.pantanal.org.
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