My son Ted and I enjoyed a trip of a lifetime this August through the Pantanal and Chapada region of Brazil. Dead center in South America, it is the world’s largest tropical wetlands and dry woodlands. Due to a 400-foot tectonic plate shift eons ago, the Pantanal is essentially a flood plain during the summer months, from rains on the upper plateau spilling over the cliffs a hundred miles away.

Imagine an area roughly the size of Texas that floods to a depth of about two-feet and produces an abundance of wildlife. There is essentially one road in, ending at the Cuiaba River, about halfway through. Although we missed having my dad Bob and my daughter Allie along on the trip, it was otherwise spectacular in every way.

It is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. While I was concerned about the heat and humidity, the weather was beautiful, in the low 80s during the day, and a brisk 60 degrees at night. (Thanks Mom for telling me to pack a windbreaker).

We went to three locations: Pouso Alegre (joyful rest–stop) , a privately owned ranch in the drier part of the Pantanal, in the same family for three generations. We rode horses and hiked through grasslands, woods, and tropical rainforest. Because it was winter and the dry part of the year, wildlife was concentrated around the remaining ponds and lakes. We saw tapir, giant anteaters, monkeys, foxes, capybara, coatimundis and loads of caiman (relatives of alligators).

Our second stop was at a “port” on the river. Two hotels, a few homes. No store, gas station, police or hospital. The jungle is too thick to pass, so we cruised through the river and tributaries area on skiffs to spot jaguars, our target animal. Our photos here show just a fraction of the unbelievable amount of wildlife- over 800 species of birds, 132 mammals, 200+ reptiles and 2,000 plants. Insects? Who freaking knows! The mosquitos in my backyard are worse than what we experienced there.

Our third location was in the highlands in a town called Chapada dos Guimares. As it’s the off season, we enjoyed a small resort almost to ourselves. One day we took a challenging five mile hike through seven caves,  and another day an equally long hike to five waterfalls, ranging in height from eight feet  to 100 feet.  Not much wildlife in this region, but we were required to have a guide with us and wear half-chaps to prevent … snake bites!

For those who would like to see what an Eco-Warrior does on his vacation time, I hope you enjoy these photos.

All photos by Ted Mumford and Jim Mumford


I’m wearing shorts and tennis shoes. Those are leather “half chaps” in between. I’m not sure how many snake bites have occurred, but going without the half chaps was not an option.

Under the falls.

A slot cave entrance. We were able to walk through this cave and out the other side about 100 yards long.

A vivid blue lake.

Balancing rocks.

Interesting moss and ferns in the unique cave entrance ecosystem.

A lily of an unknown type.

One of many suspended bridges spanning small streams.

Indigenous natives lived in this cave.

Nice stone steps at one cave entrance.

Yellow native flowers.

Cave wall.

Small rock arch.

Back out and tired after a fairly strenuous hike to see and experience everything this area offered.

This view shows the change in elevation from the upper plateau to the lower river delta.

The topography is hilly with large red outcroppings.

Getting closer to our destination, a waterfall.

The trail bridges can go from something flimsy to something a bit more substantial. This one is pretty solid.

The first waterfall we found. We don’t have this in Southern California!

Living walls – the real deal as designed by Nature.

Small stream, short waterfall, big pool – but it’s still 20 feet high.

Handmade fencing to keep us away from the cliff edge.

Another little waterfall, very inviting on a hot day.

A view of the valley downstream.

Chapada means ‘the shelf.’ You can certainly see by the terrain how it got its name.

A root stairway up the trail.

One of our many swimming holes.

Ted Mumford in his wild state!

Ted Mumford and Jim Mumford.

Our floating home, viewed from the water side.

The gangplank to get on board our boat.

Our tiny room. It seemed cozy the first day!

On the way in and out of our camp (only one road), we crossed 110 bridges. Most were about like this one.

The canyon view from the road.

View from our room.

The resort where we ended our trip The landscaping mimics the local rock formations.

A family of river otters playing together. One in the foreground, two in the back.

One of our guides might have had a few drinks the night before.

At home I might have picked him up as I have done so many times… here? No one spoke enough English to let me know the danger level of getting bitten.

With the annual floods, these fish homes are under water. There are a LOT of fish in these waters.

Ted getting a good image of an otter family.

My best photo of capybara, the world’s largest rodent. They are everywhere.

One of many side channels we explored.

1 of 4 – A jaguar prowl the beach, looking for something to eat.

3 of 4 – The jaguar rolls the caiman into the water to try and drown it.

2 of 4 – The wrestling match begins, and it’s a match to the death.

4 of 4: – Up the bank he went, caiman breakfast in his jaws

We saw a lot of river otters although not many photos. We watched a family of five eating fish.

Ted is well geared up for sun protection.

Some of the side channels we traveled down to see the greatest number of animals.

Sunrise in the Pantanal.

Native tree with beautiful branch and root structures. On the tree, you can see the waterline about a foot up, where the area floods.

Our home for four days was across the walkway.

The owner and his wife love native orchids.

Our hilarious adventure of the day was doing laundry. This is not like what I have at home! And the solar powered drier was only slightly more user friendly.

A hanging colony of bird nests.

Helicopter plant, named for its seed pods’ way of twirling away in the wind to disperse itself far and wide.

Hammock time for Ted, and he earned it.

Interesting and creative Brazilian tack.

Ted looks like he’s wearing a vest and cowboy hat, but images can fool you.

My new blue “outdoors” shirt is light, airy, cool and protects me from getting sunburned. Love it! Sun protection here is NOT negotiable.

There is so much life around, and death as well.

Looking over a pond, trying to find spoonbills

Isn’t this a colorful saddle blanket – and very resourceful.

Tapir markings on a tree.

Tapir tracks.

A tapir skull.

This tapir is a little out of focus, they were elusive and he’s a bit camera shy.

We waited next to a watering hole at dusk to try and spot animals coming in for a drink.

I’ve transformed into a gaucho in Brazil.

Probably a puma footprint, might be a jaguar. Both are here.

A family of Rheas, South American ostriches. They can run fast!

When you hear the hiss of a caiman in the Pantanal, you’re a little too close.

Luiz, our host and sometimes our guide too.

Uli, visiting from Frankfort, Germany. He has been here for nearly a month. Phenomenal knowledge of birds and the local nature.

A greater anteater, one of our ‘target’ animals.

Hiking on an incredibly well maintained three mile trail, kept raked of leaves to minimize making too much noise.

A variety of bromeliad.

A palm tree killer. We’ve met a few people who can do the same over the years!

We saw a Crab Eating Fox and a Crab Eating Raccoon. This is one of the crabs they’re named for, and consume.

Son Ted and I have become full fledged gauchos, riding on horseback for four days to observe wildfire in the Pantanal wetlands. Photo: Ted Mumford

Ted and Jim Mumford visiting the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil. Bene is our boat pilot and he was a great spotter, even though he spoke only Portugeuse. Photo: Jim Mumford

In this area this size of Texas, there’s only one dirt road in.

Someone’s idea of living wall art.

This is not a snake – look closer. It’s a wiggly vine!

Capuchin Monkey. We observed a troupe of them in the trees

In this photo dry woodland plants and tropical plants co-exist.

Jaribu stork nest. If you look closely at the nest, you can see the baby’s head poking up.

This jaguar was ambling down the road. He stopped at a drainage ditch for a drink. See how well camoflagued he is.

Yes, that’s an anaconda, but only a baby. He’s about seven to eight long. They grow to be 25 plus and a lot bigger around.

A family of feral pigs.

A resourceful resident carrying his ladder on his motorcycle.

The road to the caves is cut straight through an existing cotton field for 12 miles.

This is a gigantic spider nest with a very poisonous spider in it.

One of the most unusual plants I’ve ever seen. Species unknown. Yes, this is all naturally occurring.

Ted and Jim entering the cave.

Fossilized worms on the ceiling of the cave.

The tallest of the five waterfalls we visited, at least 100 feet high.

Swimming hole selfie!

The road was shut down while a herd of cattle crossed in front of us.

I don’t know what specific this is, but does it matter? I like it!

This is a harmless vine snake.

In honor of my father, Bob, who missed out on this planned trip. So we took his photo everywhere!

We saw these colorful trash receptacles everywhere, but only this set had the labels on them because the local people know what they are for!