Q & A with Joel Souza, Owner, Ecoverde Pousada & Tours, Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, Brazil
“Sustainable Ecotourism in Brazil since 1984.” Guest house and nature tours. Duration of tours:
3 days - 7 days. Languages: Portuguese, English, Spanish, German, and French.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND JOEL?
I started out as a naturalist, and I discovered that I enjoy showing the Pantanal to nature lovers from around the world. So I started this small business giving tours. My wife and I also manage the Hostel Pousada Ecoverde in Cuiabá. [ 5 bdrm guest house + breakfast ]
The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetlands. It is a paradise for plants and animals. You have to travel to the middle of Brazil to arrive there. People have heard about Brazil's Amazon Rainforest and also about Iguaçu Falls, but there has been less news about the Pantanal. Since becoming a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site [in the year 2000], it is finally getting more attention.
WHY DO YOU LIMIT YOUR TOUR GROUPS TO SIX PEOPLE?
The Pantanal is a very fragile ecosystem – it can be disturbed by too much human activity. Also when the group is small, I can give better guiding service to each individual.
DO YOUR VISITORS INCLUDE FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN?
Yes, we run many tours for families with children. We have five different tours to choose from, and we also create custom tours upon request.
We walk, use boats, drive a truck, ride horses - depends on the specific tour and also the time of year.
HOW DOES TIME OF YEAR PLAY A ROLE?
There are two main seasons, the Wet season [November – March] and the Dry season [June – September]. The Wet season is beautiful with green vegetation and water everywhere. During the Dry season, the rivers do not overflow into the flood plains, and so there is more ground for us to walk. Also at this time the birds and animals become more visible because they have to travel further in search of water and food.
WHEN I THINK OF HORSEBACK RIDING, I THINK OF MARKED TRAILS – NOT WETLANDS!
The horses are well-trained and used to the wetlands. This gives us the opportunity to go farther and see more wildlife because some places are not accessible by walking. Even a person who has never been on a horse before can do it - these horses are gentle and patient. We also go at a slow pace. But we let the guest decide what he wants to do.
For the night safaris we use an open top truck, and we go to different areas looking for the animals that are active at night.
There are over 100 species of birds to see in the Pantanal. One I will mention is the Hyacinth Macaw. It is big parrot with blue feathers - the largest of all the macaws. Other endemic birds include the Zig Zag Heron, the Agami Heron, the Great Potoo, and the Toco Toucan. As for animals, one of the most unique is the Brazilian Tapir. The Giant Anteater is also one with a distinctive appearance. There are Jaguars. More common are the Giant River Otters, Caiman, and Capybaras.
ARE THESE ANIMALS EVER AT RISK FROM POACHERS?
In Brazil we have very strong environmental laws against poachers and traffickers. Also there is a big incentive to protect animals when sustainable businesses like eco tours bring money into the country.
WHERE DO YOUR GUESTS SLEEP?
We use 2 or 3 different small lodges that give us the most complete overview of the Pantanal. They all offer rooms with double beds, in-suite bathrooms, and air conditioners. There are electrical outlets so you can recharge your mobile phones and cameras.
BESIDES MOBILE PHONES AND CAMERAS, WHAT SHOULD GUESTS BRING?
We have a list of recommended travel items on our website. In general, good walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses, and insect repellent are all very important items.
WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY ABOUT THEIR TOUR EXPERIENCE?
The animals and birds are always the highlight of any discussion - that is what people are coming here to see. But it is also feels good when they thank us for the good quality services we provide at a reasonable price.
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