For our luxury hotel of the month for January we chose Caiman Ecological Refuge in the southern Pantanal region of Brazil. Offering the best accommodation in the region, Caiman’s environmental responsibility and dedication to preserving the local jaguar population makes it a standout stay in the Pantanal.
Refúgio Ecológico Caiman is a cattle farm, an important centre for nature conservation projects and home to the Pantanal’s two most exclusive ecolodges. Located in 53,000 hectares of private land the ranch is 36kms from the small town of Miranda in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
Caiman Lodge was established in 1985 as the first high-level ecotourism operation in the southern Pantanal. Since then this comfortable hotel has offered a means of getting close to the region’s unique nature and culture, while pursuing a level of excellence in hospitality services and gastronomy previously unheard of in rural Brazil. Full board accommodation at the lodge includes gourmet dining with a traditional Pantanal BBQ, where succulent local beef is cooked over open fire pits. Daily excursions in small groups are accompanied by a qualified, experienced naturalist guide and a local farmworker.
How to Get There
To arrive at Caiman, you fly to the business city of Campo Grande (CGR). Direct flights to Campo Grande are available from São Paulo and Brasília and usually take just under two hours. Good connecting options are also available from Rio de Janeiro via São Paulo. Connecting from Iguassu Falls is also possible but often brings longer layover times. Upon arrival in Campo Grande, a three-hour land transfer to the Miranda region takes you to the lodge.
Caiman’s reserve offers two separate lodge buildings: Cordilheira (offering five suites) and Baiazinha (offering six standard rooms). The two lodges are 22km apart and run independent operations throughout the year. That being said, the level of service and hospitality at both is a reflection of the Pantanal’s welcoming local culture. Rooms and suites are relatively simple yet finished with a tasteful décor that pays tribute to the region’s natural beauty.
Food & Drink
A stay in the Pantanal is incomplete without ample opportunity to enjoy the comfort food of this ultra-traditional region. The region’s rich farmlands produce excellent beef – most of the lodges in the region began as simple cattle ranches – and an organic steak is one of the foodie highlights here. Caiman still maintains its status as a working cattle farm alongside its tourism and conservation efforts. The bounteous forests and floodplains of the Pantanal also produce a huge variety of fruit and vegetables meaning that the generous breakfasts offered at the lodge feature a smorgasbord of tropical fruit and tasty homemade chutneys and jams. Food at the lodge epitomises the welcoming, relaxed and homely culture of the region – great ingredients, cooked simply but well, presented in generous portions.
Caiman’s impressive private reserve provides a home for the local NGO, Onçafari. The Onçafari Association was established to promote the conservation of the Pantanal environment and to contribute to the socioeconomic development of the regions in which it operates, through ecotourism and scientific studies designed to protect some of Brazil’s threatened emblematic species. Having begun in the Pantanal with the jaguar project, the organisation now also operates out of Pousada Trijunção in the cerrado savannahs near Brasília conserving maned wolves.
The jaguar habituation project Onçafari is unique in South America and offers visitors an opportunity to track jaguars in an Africa-style jeep safari. A presentation by the Onçafari scientists is included in a stay at the lodge during the high season between June and September. Dedicated jaguar tracking programmes, with a duration of 1 to 3 days, should be booked in advance.
Wildlife lovers seeking the jaguar. No lodge in the region is better equipped or located to give guests the once-in-a-lifetime experience of observing the majestic jaguar in the wild thanks to the aforementioned tracking and conservation project. The region is exceptionally rich in wildlife and guests can expect to see deer, giant anteaters, capybaras, caiman and a myriad of exotic birdlife. For nature-lovers and keen wildlife photographers, Caiman is a slice of heaven on earth.
Must Do Activity
Offering a range of activities that allows guests to explore the region’s nature and culture, guests of Caiman can enjoy jeep safaris by day and nights along with canoe rides, hikes and tours of the working farm with the ‘pantaneiro’ cowboys.
The standout activity available at the lodge is the dedicated jaguar programme which is an optional extra and must be booked in advance. You will head out with the dedicated scientists of the jaguar conservation team and will track the cats through the reserve – giving you a wonderful opportunity to observe these incredible predators at close quarters. For every traveller we send to Brazil, we donate to this vital project.
For keen birders, an optional visit to the Hyacinth Macaw conversation project is a must. The project team takes guests out on a day of research with biologists who monitor the birds, their offspring, eggs and nests for the conservation of this endemic and endangered Pantanal species.
Are you planning a trip to Brazil? Learn more about the Pantanal by clicking here and visit our Caiman Ecological Refuge page for more information on the hotel. Contact us today to begin designing your bespoke holiday with our dedicated travel specialists.