The Pantanal Biosphere Reserve, an enormous seasonally flooded wetland on the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, is the best place in the Americas for spotting wild animals, and one of the best places in the world to see birds. Capybara, anaconda, peccary, giant otter, metre-long macaws and ocelots are common sights and it is even possible to see that most elusive of South American mammals, the jaguar.
At the end of the dry season, between June and August, the number of water birds, raptors and parrots has to be seen to be believed. Visiting the wetlands is easy with the option of staying at one of the fazenda ranch houses that are increasingly opening their doors to tourists.
The Pantanal lies within two Brazilian states: Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso. Until the second half of the 20th century these were little-explored wildernesses of table-top mountains, cerrado, savannah and dense rainforest. These days the vast plain is grazed by cattle and the great Amazonian forests of northern Mato Grosso state are steadily giving way to soya beans, though substantial pockets of forest still remain.