“Flying into Mato Grosso’s capital of Cuiabá, you can either hire a car or organise a transfer for the bumpy, yet very scenic, 3-hour drive to Rio Mutum. We opted for a transfer and our delightful driver was keen to point out various birds and animals en route – a taster so to speak for the main course to follow!

A Jabiru

Set in one of the most beautiful corners of the Pantanal, Pousada Rio Mutum promises its visitors a full immersion into the natural wonders of this wetland paradise. It certainly started well, our arrival greeted by a glorious symphony of birdsong which was to be a constant soundtrack throughout our stay and perfectly complemented Rio Mutum’s wonderful ‘chill’ factor.

The lodge itself is made up of 22 separate ‘apartments’ scattered through the grounds, rustic but fit enough for purpose with private verandahs and hammocks for sunsets and sundowners. Sunrises involved an early wake up call, more of which below. There was also a lovely pool with sunbeds for cooling off and relaxing after the rigours of the day.

Our guides, Bruno and Natalie, introduced themselves to us over a buffet lunch and to a mouth watering choice of adventures – horseback rides, canoe trips, bush walks, jeep safaris, even piranha fishing were all on the menu here at Rio Mutum. As I hadn’t been near a horse for years, riding was of course first up, but Bruno did a sterling job at dealing with my evident trepidation and I was soon trotting through the forests like a local pantaneira!

Cat on horse back

Incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, both he and Natalie went out of their way to show us as much of the Pantanal and its extraordinary natural diversity as possible. Tapirs, giant otters, monkeys, caiman and many of the 80 bird species to be found in the immediate vicinity of Rio Mutum were all ticked off, but would have probably have gone largely unnoticed without the highly tuned eyes and ears of our guides.

Giant Otter feasting on its catch

Highlights? There were many, but perhaps my fondest memory is of a sunrise boat trip. Memorable not just for the actual sunrise, which was stunning, but for the large pack of capybara (the world’s largest rodent) we came across warming themselves on the river bank and a family of giant otters playing and catching fish further downstream. It was worth every sleep depriving second of that 5am wake up call!”

Sunset at Rui Mutum