by Bennett Hennessey

First off, the Pantanal is highly overrated. It is basically a massive marsh. If you are in Bolivia, you should try to visit the Barba azul Nature Reserve in the Beni Flooded savannas, which hold 90% of the aquatic bird diversity found in the Pantanal, but also includes high abundances of grassland, dry forest and gallery forest birds- a far larger and more interesting bird community. Also, check sites like Selvablue lodge and areas around Trinidad. But one thing you can only find in the Pantanal is the Hyacinth Macaw- and quite a spectacular thing it is. The best and easiest spot is the Arara Azul Lodge near Corumba in Brazil- just beside Puerto Suerez, Bolivia. The Arara azul lodge is effectively a typical cattle ranch that allows tourists to observe the plentiful nature. The lodge offers a day and night tractor pulled observation platform, and horse rides. The area is fairly open and easy enough to hike in. The habitat is very similar to the Beni Flooded savannas with some dry forest, grassland and marshes. The wildlife does not appear to be any more abundant. The best way to visit the area would be with a rental car as along the entrance road to the lodge their appears to be different area of microhabitats that could hold interesting birds. And one important point, don't go to the Pantanal without your Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl call. The mobbing reaction in the area is uncanny, to the point that you feel obligated to constantly play the call.
Logistics: Presently, there is no easy access site to the Bolivian Pantanal, but we recommend visiting the adjacent Brazilian Pantanal of Pousada Arara Azul. The best option while in Bolivia is to catch a national flight from Santa Cruz to Puerto Suerez. From Puerto Suerez a taxi can take you across the border to the Brazilian town of Corumba (Depending on your nationality you will need a visa). There are very decent hotels in Corumba. From Corumba you will have to contract a vehicle to the lodge, or the lodge can arrange to have this done. The travel has cost around 250 USD round trip from the lodge. During the rainy season access can be difficult requiring a 4x4. There are two points of access to the lodge, the really bad dirt road which is open 24 hours, and the note as bad dirt road, that is closed at night because access depends on a boat river crossing. If you arrive in Corumba late in the afternoon, it is better to spend the night in the town and travel in the morning- though I suggest spending the night in Puerto Suerez may be less expensive.