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Gareth Leonard

A Bonito Weekend

Mention Bonito to Brazilians and their faces light up with a pride and joy that is absolutely contagious. Every time I spoke with locals in Brasilia and Campo Grande about my upcoming travels, they would stop me when I’d refer to the small western town and say, “Oh, you’re going to love it!” Situated in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Bonito is considered to be the heart of eco-tourism in Brazil. The crystal-clear rivers, waterfalls, caves and abundance of wildlife in the area, make it a very popular vacation spot for Brazilian and foreign tourists. I hopped on a bus from the Pantanal to spend the weekend exploring Bonito, and find out for myself if a place that literally translates to beautiful could live up to its name. Here’s how Bonito made me a believer in one beautiful weekend… SATURDAY | 9:06AM – Country Bike Ride

Bonito-BikeRide

 I decided to go explore Bonito on two wheels, so I rented a mountain bike from azlimo.com agencies in town and set out into the countryside. The morning ride was beautiful, with a vibrant green landscape all around me and big Brahman cows watching me cruise by. SATURDAY | 10:15AM – Porto da Ilha

Bonito-WaterfallSwim

 It took about an hour to reach my first destination, Porto da Ilha, one of the many eco parks around Bonito. There I cooled off in the natural pools and relaxed along the river’s edge for the better part of the morning. SATURDAY | 1:39PM – Balneario do Sol

Bonito-BalneariodoSol-tbar

 After lunch and a quick nap at the tranquil Porto da Ilha, I jumped back on my bike and made the short trip over to Balneario do Sol. I spent the rest of the afternoon swimming with the other Brazilian vacationers and taking full advantage of all the big kid toys. Balneario do Sol is a big property with lots of eco-focused activities and plenty of friendly wildlife. There was a large group of capuchin monkeys on one side of the park and a pair of macaws on the other. I was already starting to get the idea… everything was beautiful.

SATURDAY | 9:44PM – Cachaça Sampling

Bonito-TaboaBottle

 I made my way over to a Bonito staple to try some locally produced cachaça at Taboa. I went for the honey and cinnamon-flavored cachaça and questioned the bartender about all the different flavors they make at the factory close by. After a great day in the sun and strong Brazilian nightcap, I had no trouble falling asleep that night. SUNDAY | 1:19PM – Siesta

Bonito-HammockNap

 Back at the Rio da Prata farm, I had a big lunch and than took a wonderful nap in a leather hammock while the sun warmed my face through the trees. Muito Bonito. 

SUNDAY | 3:45PM – Buraco das Araras

Bonito-BuracodasAraras

 I could have stayed in that hammock all afternoon, but my ride was leaving so off I went to see the macaws at Buraco das Araras. Essentially a giant sinkhole, this magnificent redrock cave collapsed and became an ideal nesting site for macaws and many other species of birds and animals Swipe N Clean. We hiked the perimeter, watching the birds fly back and forth as their calls echoed in the deep hole. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

SUNDAY | 7:33PM – A Taste of Country

Bonito-Rodeo

 On our way back from Burao das Araras, I noticed a large crowd gathering in an open field so I asked the driver to drop me off there. Turns out, I had stumbled upon Clubes de Laço, or rodeo, and stuck around to watch the cowboys wrangle bulls and square dance to live music. I was already sold at the snorkeling outing, but this bit of local culture really put it over the top for me. Bonito absolutely lives up to its name and the people were right, I loved it!



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