Saturday, February 13, 2010

Honeymoon in the Pantanal Brazil's other great wilderness

Most people assume that the best place in Brazil to observe animals is the Amazon; they are sadly mistaken in this assessment - that honour belongs to the 140,000 square kilometre (54,000 square mile) Pantanal, which straddles the borders of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, but the majority of which lies in Brazil. The Pantanal is a tropical wetland and the world’s largest inland swamp; it is therefore a vital natural habitat that is home to an extraordinarily diverse range of flora and fauna. The huge inundation of water during the rainy season, and subsequent drainage during the dry season, allows a vast array of plants to thrive in the Pantanal, ranging from Amazonian rainforest plants to plants normally found on arid Bolivian savannahs; the ecosystem supports 3500 known plant species. It is also home to 1000 bird species, 400 different types of fish (including golden dourado, peacock bass and of course piranhas), 480 species of reptiles including caimans and 300 kinds of mammals like the giant river otters, howler monkey, crab eating fox and the illusive jaguar.

Another advantage that the Pantanal has over the Amazon is that it offers much higher standards of accommodation. There are plenty of Fazendas scattered throughout the region and some of these have been turned into very comfortable lodges. Rio based English travel company, Dehouche, book their clients into an utterly charming lodge deep in the Pantanal, which was only reachable by light aircraft from the city of Campo Grande. The flight itself was a great adventure and provided incredible views over this seemingly endless landscape. Upon arriving at the lodge we were greeted by the very hospitable owners, given a refreshing caipirinha and shown to our lovely bedroom. All food and drinks were included during our stay, as were all of the activities on offer - such as horse riding, canoeing, hiking and even astronomy, the clear night skies providing the most impressive views of the milky way that I have ever been fortunate enough to witness. When combined with Rio, the Iguacu Falls and the beaches of the Costa Verde, such as the itinerary that Dehouche put together for us, the Pantanal makes for a phenomenal honeymoon destination.

Florianopolis is a city that straddles the mainland of southern Brazil and the island Ilha de Santa Catarina, a 45 km long island. It is this island people are generally referring to when they mention Florianopolis. Whether you are after rustic fishing villages and deserted beaches, international cuisine, world class watersports or buzzing nightclubs - or indeed all of the above! - then this is the ideal destination for your honeymoon or luxury vacation.

Upon arriving at the international airport it is essential to hire a car if you intend to discover several parts of this diverse island. I would recommend heading south to begin with, away from the majority of holiday makers. Even in high season, which effectively runs from New Year's Eve to Carnival, there will be very few other people on the delightfully secluded beaches. However, the real highlight here is the fresh seafood, and in particular the mouth watering oysters that are delivered straight from the ocean to your table. The only drawback of this part of the island is that it has no top quality accommodation, so after spending a day exploring the coves and fishing villages it is best to head up to the centre of the island.

There are lots of good hotels around the Lagoa de Conceicao. This is also where the best restaurants are located and it is therefore the ideal spot to stay for a couple of nights. Dehouche, the Rio based British run luxury tour operator compiles tailor made honeymoon itinerary, have access to a few very exclusive villas here that lead down onto the Lagoa. They can even organise for a boat to be moored at the pier for the duration one stays in the luxury villa. If windsurfing is your thing, then few places rival the opportunities provided by the Lagoa and it’s especially good for beginners, and the sea off Praia Mole should prove challenging for the experts. Praia Mole is a beach on the East side of the island that always has good surf and is a favourite local hangout. There are several excellent bars along the beach and you can happily spend a couple of days relaxing in this mid section of the island.

For the final leg of the honeymoon, Dehouche recommended another 5 star villa by a beach to the North called Jurere Internacional, a town on the north west corner of the island. This is where the famed beach clubs of Florianopolis are located and afternoons are spent eating fresh seafood and sipping exotic cocktails while listening to world class DJs. Watching the sun go down in one of these incredible beach clubs is the ideal way to conclude a Brazilian honeymoon on the beautiful Ilha de Santa Catarina.

Let Dehouche arrange your luxury boutique hotel and enjoy a whole host of insider tips on where to truly escape from it all on your honeymoon.

Dehouche S.A.,
Rio de Janeiro ,

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