Tucked away in the south of the Pantanal, not far from Brazil’s border with Paraguay, is a small town called Bonito. The main draw to this little-known area is the opportunity to drift along the slow-moving, crystal-clear Rio de Prata, along with hundreds of fearless fish: magical.
Plenty of tour operators offer the experience so simply mooch around Bonito until you find one that suits you. Look for lunch, snorkel, mask, wet suits and life jackets to be included as a minimum.
The experience starts with a 10-minute ride in an open-sided truck to a walking trail that winds for 40 minutes through jungle populated by coati, monkeys and iguanas. The swim begins in a clear, shallow pool with a gentle introduction to snorkelling. (Swimmers are encouraged not to put their feet down as this can stir up mud.)
What follows is a blissful 1-hour-20-minute drift through clear-as-glass waters. This alone would be pleasant enough, but the waters teem with 30 varieties of colourful fish, from tiny flickering shoals that flit away as you near them to yellow-bottomed, razor-toothed dorado measuring up to two feet. The bottom of the river is white sand, scattered with vegetation from the jungle above. Near the end of the swim, spring water gushes up through the riverbed, forcing the sand to rise in hypnotic, turbulent geysers.
“It’s easy to forget about the world beyond the river, but lift your head for a few seconds and the sounds of the jungle fill your ears and sunlight dapples the river’s surface”
It’s easy to forget about the world beyond the river, but lift your head for a few seconds and the sounds of the jungle fill your ears and sunlight dapples the river’s surface. On top of being one of the most relaxing experiences the natural world has to offer, river swimming is a quirky way to see a side of the jungle that most people can’t even imagine.
One more thing – skip sunscreen and insect repellent for the day as they can interfere with the river’s delicate ecosystem.
Like the sound of that? Join other Thelma & Louise Club members on these trips to South America: