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I've been reading about the Pantanal (Brazil) and the information I have is that the two main cities in this area are Campo Grande and Cuiaba. The problem is that the blogs I've read state that the Pantanal must be visited with a tour or an independent guide and the budget for this is not less than 150 USD per day. I'm travelling with a lower budget and I'd like to know if it's possible to visit the Pantanal without a guide or tour and how to do it.

NOTE: I'd like to to clarify that when I say I don't want to visit the Pantanal on a tour is I don't want to do one of those tours like "5 days in the Pantanal", but I'm willing to take a 1 or 2 days guided tour to see certain parts of special interest (once in the Pantanal).

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As a Brazillian, though I've never been to Pantanal, I don't recommend visiting it without a guide. The beauty of the Pantanal is its rivers, fauna and flora, and without a guide you can pretty much get lost or injured in the middle of the wilderness. –  Spidey Feb 25 '13 at 0:22

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A friend of mine and I visited Cuiabá in the summer of 2007 with the intention of visiting the Pantanal. We were inundated by tour guides upon our arrival at the airport and the best deal we could find was a 3 day/2 night tour all inclusive for about US$200 per person from Ecoverde Tours (if my memory serves me well).

We decided to wait and explore around town looking for a better deal or perhaps just hitch a ride and try to find a place to stay. The Ecoverde folks gave us a ride to town and let us keep our stuff at their guesthouse. We didn't find anything better after asking around for a whole day and decided to go back Ecoverde.

While it was one of the most expensive things we did on our trip it was totally worth it in my opinion. Our tour guide was great, we fished for piranhas, rode horses at sunrise, hunted tarantulas, and the food was pretty good. We saw a lot of wildlife including giant otters, capybaras, crocodiles, and numerous kinds of birds. It was a bit touristy but still tasteful.

Plus it seems like its next to impossible to go really far into the Pantanal (from Cuiabá at least) without a tour package. You could maybe hitch a ride but you would have no where to stay overnight once you arrived in the heart of the Pantanal.

If you like wildlife and serenity then its worth the money. I would recommend Ecoverde Tours.

The Road into the Pantanal

Beautiful birds!

Relaxing

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So I've not been, but I've heard talk about it too. Having a read on Wikivoyage's article certainly seems like it's possible sans-tour.

Getting in:

There are daily flights from other Brazilian cities such as Campo Grande and Cuiabá to the gateway city of Corumbá, from where tours can be organised. It is possible to get into Pantanal from Bolivian side. You can take the train from the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz to Puerto Suarez, cross the border here and use taxi or bus to reach the city of Corumbá - from cities of Puerto Suarez and Puerto Qujarro there are no organised visits due to nature protection, politics or incapability of infrastructure.

Getting around:

From Campo Grande you can catch a bus to go into the Pantanal. Depending on where you plan to go it may take between 4 to 5 hours to get into the Pantanal. In the bus station in Campo Grande catch the bus to Corumba. A good place to get of is Buraco das Piranhas.

Now I'm unsure how much solo-travel you've done, but often it's way easier to find information once you're there, and it becomes much easier. It's important to realise that if people live in the area, then there is always a way to get around that doesn't require a tour.

On the ground, make sure to speak to every traveller you meet coming the other way, and speak to locals. Ask about road conditions, buses they recommend, and more.

Once there, it depends what you want to see. If it's wildlife, as per the article, you're pretty much guaranteed to see it. If it's certain locations, then you'll have to ask people about how to get there. Ask a local to take you. Get to know tour companies and ask if there's a cheap way - often they'll recommend it - after all, if they love their job, it's because they want people to see it, not just make money - so if you can't take their tour they may suggest alternative options.

Good luck, and any info you do find, you can add as an answer when you get back :)

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I suspect you've already been on your trip and, if so, had a great time. I've done the trip a few times before and its probably my favourite place for wildlife. You can see lots of animals and sights without a guide - travelling along the transpantaneira in a rental car, for example. Pantanal Lodges are still worthwhile since they'll have access to some places you can't readily access yourself - plus some will have boats for exploring life along the rivers and waterways. The key thing is knowing where and when to go.

Most guidebooks only have limited information about the Pantanal. The Pantanal Escapes website www.pantanalescapes.com has a lot of useful info not published elsewhere - and is basically just an online guidebook (not hawking tours). There are a few great festivals to take in such the Carnaval in Corumbá (feb-mar), Cavalhada in Poconé (June), and Festança in Vila Bela (July). Vila Bela, near the Guaporé river, is also the only place in the region to see pink Amazon river dolphins. Travelling around in a hire car or via Brazil's extensive bus network is the best way to take it all in.

I hope that helps.

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