Bonito – An Ecotourism Hotspot with the Clearest Waters in Brazil
Bonito is the Portuguese word for beautiful. Visitors to the town and its stunning waterfalls, pools, rivers and caves, all surrounded by verdant jungle, will understand how it acquired that name. River tours that visit many of the sites in the area are a fantastic opportunity to see the variety of colourful tropical fish held in the rivers. The best way to do it is to swim alongside the 50 or more species of fish because the waters of Bonito are as pure as water can be.
The town of Bonito is in the Serra da Bodoquena National Park, created in 2000 and one of the newest national park in Brazil. There is a geological reason for this because the source of the rivers is a subterranean limestone base. Calcium carbonate is released into the water from the limestone which calcifies all the impurities which then sink to the riverbed, leaving the water clear for you to see the abundant species of fish from very close quarters.
Snorkelling is the best way to do this, and the beauty of Bonito is that everybody can do it, even those who aren’t the strongest of swimmers. In order to maintain the purity, the use of suncream is forbidden for those venturing into rivers such as the Rio da Prata, Sucuri and Formoso. Wetsuits are provided which also aid buoyancy, enabling swimmers to keep themselves well clear of the bottom, to ensure that those impurities on the riverbed remain undisturbed. The journey in the gentle flow of the rivers means that swimming is hardly necessary. That leaves you free to relax as you drift downstream with your head in the water, experiencing nature at its most fantastic while snorkelling in Bonito.
The abundance of fish in the waters is not the only sight in the waters. You may also find yourself snorkelling with a caiman alligator or even snakes. With so many fish for them and the huge pacu and dourado fish to choose from, thankfully they take little notice of snorkelling humans.
The ecotourism highlights are not only beneath the water surface, but also in the waterfalls, the jungle and even beneath the earth. Bonito has a network of caves with underground rivers running through them, which can be explored on foot, by rapel and by snorkelling and scuba diving.
Trails through the forest lead to various postcards sites such as the Boca da Onça Waterfall Trail (Jaguar’s Mouth), and the Gruta do Lago Azul (Cave of the Blue Lagoon), whose crystal clear underground lake with stalagmites and stalactites would be impressive on its own. The water refracts the rays of the sun, releasing a startlingly blue light throughout the lake, although the most striking effect is only when the sun strikes the water directly in late December and early January.
The most adventurous activity in Bonito involves the otherworldly Anhumas Abyss, with a drop of 72m to an underground lake with a stunning stalactite forest. After rapelling into the darkness, you can snorkel in the lake, or even scuba dive if qualified, with visibility of around 30m even halfway to the centre of the earth!
Bonito really does have something for active people of all ages in terms of ecotourism and acquatic activities, making it a very popular family destination too.
Suitable Destination For: Ecotourism and Ecotourists; Lovers of Wildlife and Marine Life; Snorkellers and Scuba Divers; Spelunkers.
Best Time to Visit: Bonito has a wet and dry season, similar to the Pantanal, when the rivers are at their most crystalline. Holiday periods are busy, as is the last week of July with MPB music (Bossa Nova) at the Winter Festival.
Essential Sights & Activities: Shoals Galore of Fish in Rio da Prata, Rio Formoso and Rio Sucuri amongst others; Caves including Gruta da Lagoa Azul; Ecotourism Trails and Waterfalls including Boca da Onça; The Anhumas Abyss; Floating, Snorkelling and Scuba; Wildlife on land as well.