Bonito, our next stop after the Pantanal and home to the incredible Rio de Plata. We set up camp 6km outside of town at a well kept and equiped campsite. There was a river withbrapids 200 meters away but more on that later. We all decided to have a quiet evening in preparation for a day of fresh water river snorkling and big party the following day. Had a chap by the name of Mario come by the campsite to tell us about the possible excursions to be had here. He’s lived here for over 10 years and has a wealth of knowledge regarding the Rio de Plata and Abysmo which I will expand on further as it is an amazing sight but alas, slightly out of most peoples budgets. But lets not waste any more time. On to the Rio de Plata!
Rio de Plata
The excursion cost R$190 which included transport, the excursion itself and a fantastic, completely organic buffet (which didn’t agree with me so well I found out later). We were picked up from the campsite at 9am to start the 45 minute trip to the lodge. Mario mentioned that all sights and tourist attractions are all on private property so everything is extremely well maintained and that factors into the increased prices. The lodge was really cool. Beautiful garden with winding brick pathways between the various buildings which were all made from dark wood. We had quite a while to wait so we were told to grab an early lunch if we wanted. The food was good. Beef, chicken, various beans, pasta, rice, salads and deserts. After lunch, some hung around and chatted while others took a nap in a hammock until we were called to get ready. Each group consists of 9 people at 30 min intervals.
We donned wetsuits and boots and jumped into a truck which led us down a farm road. 5 minutes later we jumped out and took a 45 minute “trek” through jungle to reach the starting point. Wow. Haven’t seen clearer water in any water body before. We grabbed a snorkel and mask and took a little swim in a circle around the source of the river. One of the sources was filled with sand and as the water punched through it, it created a bubbling cauldron like effect with the sand. Very cool! Once we were satisfied that our equipment worked, off we set down the river. You have literally 50 meters of visibility due to the high concentration of sodium chloride. There were lots of fish from about 6 different species including Dorado which were by far the largest. All very relaxed, they just float there and watch you float by. Oh, forgot to mention. You do not swim in the river. You literally just float motionless as the river guides you downstream at its own pace. The first section is 800 meters, followed by another 600 meters. We couldn’t make it all the way to the end unfortunately as the constant rains have churned up the lower section of the river. Regardless, and amazing must-do experience!
A high octane adventure (with an equally high price of R$690) saw a person repal down a 72 meter (which needs to be climbed up after!) crack in the earth into a massive flooded cave chamber. Once at the bottom, you are provided with scuba diving equipment and can spend the next 40 minutes diving between underwater stalagmites and tites. Maximum depth around 22 meters even though area of the chamber are much deeper (Mario told us that no one actually knows how deep it is but a scuba diver holds a record for the deepest dive in this cave chamber at a whooping 160 meters! I need to verify this however so don’t take that as truth just yet). Four members of our tour did take on this adventure. Shane, Paul, Murray and Katherine. They all said it was an amazing experience that happens once in a life time and they can easily justify the heavy price tag attached to it.
What a pleasant little town. With one long straight main street, Bonito is easy to navigate. Most restaurants have Portuguese and English menus to make it a little easier for us tourists. You got pretty much everything here. From legal advice and pharmacies (farmacia) to paint ball and large scale tourist attractions. Come to think of it, the only thing I didn’t see (not that I was looking) was a casino. Things here are quite expensive just like the rest of Brazil. Unless you have the bucks, I suggest you do most of your shopping at the supermarket. You can buy Havaianas in clothing stores for around R$22 but the exact same flops are only R$10 at the supermarket. Something to consider.
I mentioned in the opening paragraph a river with rapids just behind our campsite. I wish I had known about them sooner. Fantastically refreshing at just the right temperature (around 20 deg Celsius) and up to 3 meters deep in some places, it was awesome to jump in after a long day walking the streets of Bonito. Smaller rivers feed into the main one on the side and there are natural occurring jacuzzi (best was I can think of describing them) which provided a much needed water massage. Tubing was also available. Anyway, I’m sure most know what it’s like to swim in a river so wont say much more. Was just pretty cool.
On a final note, just wanted to mention something interesting. Our camping grounds snuggled up to another camping ground. Around 8am on Saturday morning (which for most of our group was way way to early) locals started arriving. By 11am the place was packed with local families. Braais (BBQs) in every possible braai spot, kids swimming in the pool and people napping in hammocks (which seem to be very popular in this part of Brazil). Apparently, it is traditional for people to come hang out at a campsite on Saturday and do the aforementioned activities. Guess its a good way to get out of the house and unwind. Anyway, that concludes Bonito. On to Foz!