The Self-Declared “Ecotourism Capital” Of Brazil
In the middle of the Brazilean Pampa, Bonito is a sleepy, dusty village that at first sight has nothing to offer… However, it is not Bonito you come here for, but its surroundings: crystal-clear rivers for some serious fresh water snorkeling, caves, waterwalls, you name it… And everything here claims to be “Ecotourism”…
Why are the waters so crystal clear around Bonito?
Owing to the enormous quantity of limestone in the ground, and the fact that several rivers here are resurgences, the water of these rivers passes through a real natural filter where impurities are deposited at the bottom of the river bed, leaving the rivers to be some of the clearest and most transparent in the world. A number of fish and plant species have adapted to this high calcium environment, creating a unique ecosystem.
How to get there?
Bonito is not easily reached, so be ready for a very long trip! There are only very few flights, so this is no real option. From Campo Grande, you can take a minibus that will zip you through in about 4 hours and drop you directly at your Hostel or Pousada. If you come from Foz do Iguazu, take a bus to Douraduros and then a local bus to Bonito.
When to go?
Avoid Brazilean School vacations, as the place is packed with locals (and the vast majority of visitors here are Brazileans), and prices go through the roof! The Bonito HI Hostel has a list of the periods that are High Season.
How much does it cost?
Bonito is a very expensive place, since you have to take a tour for each activity (all activities are regulated, have a fix price, a numerous clausus, i.e. a limited number of people per day, and can only be bought through an established agency and accompanied by an authorized guide), and these are expensive. So be ready to blow your budget…
Note that I immediately ruled out the most expensive activity, the Abismo Anhumas, as I did not feel like spending 230 €+ for a one-day activity!
What to do?
- Snorkeling Rio Sucuri & Rio da Prata
This is why you come here for… Yes, this is the clearest fresh water I have ever experienced, with visibility between 20 and 30 meters! Rio Sucuri offered a stunning under water landscape with beautiful colors. Rio da Prata enabled me to approach a large number of fresh water fishes, some of them as big as 100 cm! This was probably the best snorkeling I have ever experienced…
- Visiting Caves (Gruta Sao Migual, Gruta Lago Azul)
Honestly, it was a vaste of time and money. First, the caves are OK but definitely nothing to rave about… But also, the visits are done with a guide who only speaks Portuguese and couldn’t care less about the part of the group that would not understand…
- Diving in the Lagoa Mysteriosa
Yes, there is something mystical in this kind of “Blue Hole”: its depth is still unkown! A French Tech-Diver went as deep as 220 meters (I didn’t know it was possible) and did not reach the bottom. But for the “mystical aspect”, this was the most boring dive in my life: there is simply nothing to see! It was also one of the most expensive dives…
Yes, the snorkeling, both in Rio da Prata & Rio Sucuri, is stunning, and both are very different, so both are worth doing. Scuba Diving (Lagoa Mysteriosa) was extremely disappointing, and the cave had nothing special at all. So if you go to Bonito, it is merely for the Snorkeling. This requires a lot of time and quite a budget…