In the southern region of Mato Grasso do Sul lies the aptly named Bonito, a small town situated in the Bodoquena mountain range on the border of the Pantanal.

Its spectacular scenery, crystal clear freshwater rivers and stalactite-strewn caves are home to a wide variety of adventurous pursuits, from horse riding and rappelling to fresh water snorkelling.

An impressive wildlife list including toucans, alligators, monkeys and anteaters adds to the area's enticements.

The diminutive town - a 3½ hour drive from Campo Grande - is spread out along one main road lined with small restaurants and shops. A scattering of hotels are located a short taxi ride away from the main street, or visitors can choose to stay at one of the more secluded lodges in the nearby countryside.

Waterfalls, caves and rivers as clear as Perrier

The landscape around Bonito is made up of dramatic limestone formations punctuated by tumbling waterfalls and gurgling streams. Beneath the rocks lie yawning caves where stalactites hang suspended over cobalt-blue pools.

At Buraco das Araras the vista from the cliff-top down the sheer-sided face reveals one of the biggest sinkholes in the world. At a massive 126m deep, this circular chasm is a popular roosting site for Red and green macaws; the view into its depths is like looking into the bowels of a volcano.

Ecotourism acting locally

The truly remarkable thing about Bonito is the way in which the town and its inhabitants have responded to the burgeoning interest in the region.

Bonito's many charms have made it a popular place for visitors, but the local community has worked hard to create sustainable projects that protect the environment and the local workers whilst maximising each visitor's enjoyment of the area.

Activities such as guided nature walks, diving, snorkelling and caving all take place in the countryside surrounding the town, typically reached by a 30-45 minute drive. A centralised reservations programme ensures that all service jobs are allocated in rotation, so all local guides, drivers and activity staff who are registered with the local tourism authority are guaranteed an equal opportunity to work. Numbers at the attractions are carefully regulated, enabling visitors to make the most of their time without sacrificing the local environment. This forward-thinking attitude marks Bonito out as a showcase for ecotourism development.

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Holiday designs that visit Bonito

'Bonito & the Southern Pantanal'

Brazil - Selfdrive touring

Combine the fabulous wildlife of the Pantanal's seasonal wetlands with adventurous pursuits amidst spectacular limestone scenery and crystal clear freshwater rivers

Some places to stay in Bonito

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