There’s something about nature in remote areas that takes me back to a simple life. Old cars kicking up dust on dirt roads and small metal boats propelling around murky brown waterways. We’re watching birds fly overhead as their vibrant colors glisten in the sun or the dull colors camouflage against the trees and brush. I close my eyes and listen to music of nature around me: The water moving, birds chirping, and trees rustling in the wind.

Transpantaneira Highway

Few people know about the largest tropical wetlands in the world: The Pantanal. Driving the Transpantaneira Highway is an adventure in itself that spans from Poconé to the rivers of Porto Jofre, totaling 147 km in length. Rickety bridges that are barely planks on stilts connect portions of potholed-covered road. Farms turned to eco-lodges situated along the road offer guided river tours to the region’s wildlife.

Porto Jofre is a hub where most boat operations launch into waters of the Rio São Lourenço. It’s the dry season and the time of year that the terrestrial animals congregate near the watering holes. Viewing wildlife is the main attraction in a place I’ll never forget.

In search of wildlife in the Pantanal

The river is teaching me to be patient as I’m shifting in my seat every other minute. The thought of seeing a rare species makes me scan the water to the trees to the sky. I’m as alert as an animal low in the food chain.

Pantanal Jaguar

The dented tin boat is the only barrier between us and the caiman sun-bathing on the banks of the river. Neighboring boats coasting along looking for the elusive jaguar. A large cat wakes up from a nap and slinks through the brush. After losing sight, many boats start to disperse. A cocoi heron grazes on the shoreline as we snack on our packed lunches. The heron has its last meal as a jaguar lunges from the shore and attacks. Feathers fly in the air and the water ripples from the commotion. The jaguar disappears to have its lunch in peace.

Pantanal sunset

It isn’t only about the wildlife. As we depart from the rivers at the day’s end, we drive out of Porto Jofre and see a jaguar sprinting down the road in front of us. But it’s the sun setting in the golden hour of the day. I can’t stop watching light trying to penetrate through the layer of dust clouds.

The sun reflects off glossy marshes that spread for miles out to the horizon. As the moon and stars light up the night sky, I’m more alert than ever walking between the lodge’s buildings. It’s time for this human to go to bed anticipating the new life to be seen tomorrow.

First written for World Nomads 2017 Writing Contest.