Livin’ la vida Bonito
“Round everything off with a capirinha [a cocktail made with cachaca, fresh lime and sugar] or two back at the farmhouse,” Braun recommended. “The Estancia Mimosa has their own range of homebrewed cachacas. Adventurous types can try the pinga de cobra, where an entire snake is added to the alcohol. It’s supposed to be a pretty powerful aphrodisiac.”
Getting up at dawn to stand beside a giant hole in the ground is not many people’s idea of the perfect holiday experience, but a visit to the Buraco das Araras – literally the Hole of the Macaws – is well worth the sleep deprivation. Located 50km south of Bonito, the Buraco das Araras is a giant doline (or sinkhole) more than 100m deep and 05.km across. Each day, when the first rays of sun warm its ochre walls, the doline comes alive with the sounds of the red-green macaw, as formations of these exotically-plumaged parrots dive and wheel below the lip, periodically alighting en masse to bicker, preen and survey their domain. It is a unique and beautiful sight that makes a perfect start to the day.
About 10km beyond the Buraco das Araras lies one of Bonito’s premier attractions – the Fazenda Rio da Prata. This well-maintained working farm offers horseback riding, scuba diving and bird watching, although the most popular activity is a 3km snorkel down the Rio Olha d’Agua. If you have ever wondered what swimming through a well-stocked aquarium might be like, this is the place where wonderment becomes reality.
Kitted up and safely aboard the farm’s trailer, intrepid snorkelers are soon stepping their way across rolling grassland, pausing to take in iconic wildlife such as the giant anteater and rare hyacinth macaw. A short walk through dense forest brings explorers to the river’s translucent waters. After a quick lesson from the guide, the drift downstream begins, as the river’s gentle current takes hold of the wetsuited procession.
The submarine world of the Rio Olha d’Agua is a joy to behold. Triangular blue pacu, iridescent, fiery-finned pirupatanga and streamlined yellow dorado gather in shoals or slip effortlessly between fallen tree trunks, eyeing the ungainly human intruders warily. Fields of bright green vegetation sway lazily in the flow, while underwater springs kick up miniature plumes of sand.
All too soon, it is time to leave the water and towel off. Having worked up an appetite, now may be a good time to check out Braun’s favourite Bonito eatery – the Cantinho do Peixe (Rue 31 de Março, 1918; 67-3255-3381) – which serves up the finest pintado (catfish) in town. As long as there is no football on television, of course.
TRIP Airlines has direct flights from the Campo Grande, the state capital, to Bonito, departing on Thursdays and Sundays. There are numerous buses between Campo Grand and Bonito; the journey takes around five hours.
The tour operator Reef and Rainforest offers a two-night, three-day Bonito package that includes activities such as snorkelling, private transport, an English-speaking guide from arrival in Campo Grande to departure, entrance fees and some meals.