Poconé and Porto Jofre
The easiest way to enter the Pantanal from Cuiabá is via the town of Poconé, 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the south. The Pantanal itself begins as you continue south from Poconé along the Rodovia Transpantaneira. Back in the 1970s when mega projects were in vogue throughout Brazil, the plan was to build a highway that plowed all the way through the Pantanal from Poconé to Corumbá.
Fortunately, neither human beings nor human technology were any match for this aquatic ecosystem—the project was aborted after 145 kilometers (90 miles), at Porto Jofre, a fishing village on the shores of Rio Cuiabá. Over the years, the former highway has metamorphosed into a decidedly bumpy road connected by 126 wooden bridges in varying states of disrepair. However, despite the fact that it is quite overgrown in spots, it is still the only road that actually leads into the Pantanal.
Moreover, the earth that was cleared away for the highway’s construction left holes that have become ponds, canals, and lagoons. These watering holes attract a wealth of wildlife, making the journey along the Transpantaneira into a fantastic safari (although one that can only be undertaken in the dry season).
The first stretch of the Transpantaneira, between Poconé and the Rio Pixaim, is lined with numerous fazenda lodges (cattle are often driven along the actual rodovia). Even if you don’t check in as an overnight guest, you can visit these ranch-hotels during the day and partake of the facilities and activities they offer. The second stretch leading to Porto Jofre is much wilder and, in some spots, the road is overgrown with tangled vegetation. Make sure you leave Poconé with a full tank of gas and drive slowly—not only due to the precariousness of the road, but to avoid running over any jacarés, deer, or capybaras that may be crossing.
From Porto Jofre, you can venture further into the Pantanal by boat, either by sailing up the Cuiabá and Piquiri Rivers or, if you’re feeling very adventurous and have lots of time on your hands, by catching one of the infrequent cargo boats that cut all the way through the Pantanal to the town of Corumbá, in Mato Grosso do Sul (which could take anywhere between two and five days).
Getting to Poconé and Porto Jofre
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition