PANTANAL HORSEBACK RIDING: Passo da Ema Ranch Lodge, Ronco do Bugio Farm and Sentinela Camp (HR 4.1)
The horse and its rider form a superb working team: a horse that has undergone a series of adaptations and its rider, the hardy cowboy (called peão in Brazil) that rides this challenging ecosystem year round, regardless of the water level. A small frame, steady pace and gentle to handle, but with strong and well developed chest muscles that come to full power when caught in the mud. Its small hind is surprisingly agile allowing a firm push to clear any obstacle.
Day 1 CUIABÁ / PASSO DA EMA HOTEL FAZENDA
Reception at Cuiabá airport and a photo-safari transfer to Passo da Ema taking the Transpantaneira Park Road. Arrival and welcome with a delicious fresh fruit juice and accommodation. A short hike of the surroundings to see where the peões/cowboys work: stalls, the cattle and horses, the cowboys and their tack. Dinner prepared in a firewood stove and served at the kitchen. Overnight.
Day 2 ON HORSEBACK (Fazenda Ronco do Bugio)
Breakfast and preparing the horses to go on our first outing to Ronco do Bugio Farm (the name means the howl of the monkey). This is a 9.5 km / 5.9 mi. stretch, taking 3 hours passing, on the way by fields, woods and lovely sights. Lunch served under an impossing tree a Fícus Constrictor or Strangler Fig, Fícus Destruens or Ficus Aurea. After lunch, a deserving break – a nap in a hammock at the barn.
Visit to the Monkeys Tower, with a fantastic panorama of the flood plain all around. The name of the tower is that, on occasions, from this vantage point we can see a big group of Howler Monkeys (Alouatta guariba) one of the largest neotropical primates measuring 30 to 75 cm / 0.9 to 2.46 ft, that live in the nearby woods. Return to Passo da Ema for dinner and overnight. (B ,L , D)Just before our return to Passo da Ema, how about a drink of grated guaraná (the Brazilian ginseng)? This will rebuild our forces for the ride back! On the way when we reach the “campo verde” / green field – I you dare: let the horse run with the wind – an exhilarating experience!
DAY 3 ON HORSEBACK (Acampamentos Sentinela e Bafo da Onça)
Today is a busy day, full of activities starting right after breakfast when we start by exploring the lands of this property with more than 2 thousand hectares / 4.9 thousand acres, reaching Sentinela Camp at the Clarinho riverbank. Take a Canadian canoe (it seats 2) and row up and down river, seeing the riparian forest, the mangroves and enjoying the scenery. In the meanwhile, lunch is being prepared. A delicious pantaneiro beef and fish barbecue. After lunch, a siesta in one of the hammocks waiting the temperature drop a little before riding to Bafo da Onça Camp where we will be arriving close to sunset. This is a working camp, where the cowboys take care of the cattle: cut, checking for diseases, marking, etc. This is a remote place where cowboys do the hard work. Dinner by the camp fire under the stars and surrounded by the noises of the flood plain. On occasions, one of the cowboys on duty also plays the viola (a type of guitar) and there is a lot of singing, telling tall tales up to the wee hours. Overnight on a hammock covered with a mosquito net.
Day 4 RETURN TO PASSO DA EMA
To wake-up in a place as remote as a cattle camp, is for a city dweller, a totally brand new experience. The symphony of the calls of the animals; the cattle “hanging around” knowing that the stock drive is on the way; the cowboys setting everything in motion; horses raring for action. Everything new and not to be forgotten! First, the most important, a “rancheiro” breakfast then each one will see for his steed and off we go, taking part in cutting the cattle. Try to chase a calf that is running away! Round the cattle up for a last check, if there need of treatment or special care? Then the point rider gives the sign and the “berranteiro” the guy that sounds the “berrante” (a blow-horn made of cow-horn) calls all hands, horses and cattle to the road. There are many “berrante” sounds, this one if the aboio – that the cattle knows as the “hit the road” call, and there are many others. The cowboys, riding up and down, herd the cattle, setting them on “track” and the stock drive is underway! A stock drive is called a “comitiva” at the Pantanal. At a steady pace the “comitiva” fords the lakes, the fields on the way to the farm. Arrival at the farm will be around noon, just in time for a hearty lunch, served by the wood fire stove, everybody together! After lunch, the welcome of a hammock for a nap while the temperature outside is still high. Later on, back on horseback to visit the Torre dos Tuiuiús / Jabiru Stork Tower. Right by this observation tower, at a higher tree, a Jabiru Stork nest. These birds are the symbol of the Pantanal Flood Plains. Depending on the time of the year, the nest may be occupied and observation from the tower is great! Return to Passo da Ema for dinner and overnight.
Day 5 PASSO DA EMA – CUIABÁ
Transfer to Cuiabá and another opportunity at Photo-Safari