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Jaguar - Haroldo Palo Jr
Macaw - Haroldo Palo Jr
Blue Lagoon Cave - Bonito MS Brasil - Haroldo Palo Jr
Dorado Fish at Bonito, Brazil - Luciano Candisani
Scuba Diving at Prata River - Marcelo Krause
Dive Master - Acervo


29/05/2009 - 14h26

Bonito: Burning Calories and Getting them Back Again




Altera o tamanho da letra

Bonito is experiencing a tourism boom, a boom that you will hear coming from all sides as you try to decipher which river is the clearest and which waterfall is the most inspiring. When it comes to this region, where beautiful sights abound (the name of the city means "beautiful" in Portuguese), infrastructure is what sets a tour apart from the others. Tours preach very similar packages, but vary enormously in the way they receive tourists. Choose your activities before you go so as not to find yourself coerced/overwhelmed upon arrival (see my list of recommendations at the end). That being said, you`ll have a hard time going wrong in Bonito. Never before have so many caves, fish, waterfalls and ice-cream flavors been condensed in such a small geographic nub.


On my first day in Bonito I visited the Estância Mimosa, excited to see Bonito`s waterfalls that I had heard so much about. But it ended up being much more than just waterfalls, for the 5 hours that I was a tourist at the Estância Mimosa, I was walking on sunshine.  Little cobbled trails lead you through lush gardens up to the reception, a transformed ranch house whose walls are now covered in ecological information, is now used as a craft shop, reception, and kitchen. Leather hammocks are strewn beneath passion fruit vines and fruit trees and sun chairs surround a little lake full of cranes and alligators.


Shortly after arriving the tour begins with a slow stroll through the forest. As an American, I have never seen anything quite like this. Not only is the biodiversity amazing (I saw monkeys, armadillos, and several birds I couldn`t name before the first waterfall) but the sense of isolation truly impressive. During my whole tour I only ever saw two other tourists and their guide, and even then they barely uttered a peep. If you want to be at one with nature, this is your chance. As I round the corner and see the first waterfall I pretend that I am the one discovering it, and my game works perfectly. The owners haven`t cut down a single tree while developing the property and the whole thing has a very secret garden feel.


The hike continues through 8 different waterfalls, one has a 6-meter-high diving board that makes me feel like Pocahontas, one has a small, hidden cave that makes me feel like a waterfall, all are beautiful. But I have to say that the best part was yet to come. Upon returning to the farm, I am received with an impressive spread. There must have been 15 salads on offer, kept fresh by a spring channeled through the kitchen, and another 15 dishes being kept warm on the wood-burning stove. I loaded up my plate and sat down to gobble up every calorie I had just burned, happy to know that the vegetables I was eating had been grown but a few feet away (the Estância Mimosa uses their own produce grown in an on-site, organic veggie garden). When I returned back for more a huge variety of desserts has appeared, as if by magic. Not even I, renowned for my sweet-tooth, was able to find room in my stomach for everything, but I did try crystallized star-fruit and watermelon rind, rice-pudding with doce-de leite, several kinds of cake, some sort of sweet-potato dessert and ginger cookies. And then I waddled over to the hammocks to rest.


That night we went out to explore the city. We went first to "O Projeto Jibóia" where during the interesting speech on snake conservation in the area (with a chance to pose with a giant boa-constrictor afterward) I somehow managed to work up my appetite again. We stopped by the casual "Vício da Gula" (The vice of gluttony) which was participating in a regional gastronomical festival with a featured plate: Grilled Alligator sandwich. I decided to go for it, heartily encouraged from my companions, and was well rewarded. The meat had a texture between a fish fillet and a chicken breast and the sauce had a special bite to it (or maybe that tanginess was a slight pang of guilt-who knows). To wash it down I enjoyed a glass of Guavira Juice. When it arrived at the table it looked like a cup of yellow clouds, but the owner soon explained to me that it was basically liquid gold. This is the only place in the world where the fruit is found, and it can only be found during one season of the year. To buy twenty liters of the stuff apparently costs an arm and a leg and the fruit still has to be processed, turning 20 liters into three. The taste is hard to describe, but it definitely tasted rare.


The next day I went to Rio da Prata, run by the same people who own Estância Mimosa and the winner of the title "Brazil`s best tourist attraction" two years in a row, I felt like this was a safe choice. A drive through golden fields leads up to the reception, where things start to get foresty. The reception area is full of trees and flowers and boasts a productive veggie-garden, a native seed bank, fruit trees and a worm farm. Where one begins and the other ends is hard to say but together they form a land of milk and honey. 


20 minutes later I am in a wetsuit about to float down the river. It`s hard to believe it`s a river, the water is so clear that you can perfectly see the fish swimming below. But once emerged I`m convinced it really is water-even through the wetsuit, the chilliness bites. But you won`t be thinking about the temperature for long. The guide gave us a few minutes to get used to our snorkels in the river`s headspring, and then we headed down, letting the current carry us. It`s hard to describe the sensation; it`s like being inside the aquarium at your dentist`s office, only there are no dentists around, just fish. Big fish. Rare fish. Gold fish. They seemed about as surprised to see me as the average domesticated dog and responded to being touched with an ironic and toothy look that seemed to say, "If you don`t stop that, I`ll probably slowly move to a spot a few feet away." As I bump into them I want to yell, "RUN, lest you suffer the same fate as the Dodo!" But I can`t because there is a snorkel in my mouth. And then I calm down and remember that this is a protected reserve, and that their golden hides are safe here.


The snorkeling lasted about 2 hours and I was only able to leave the river by convincing myself that I would come back again, and of course, by thinking about the all-you-can-eat lunch that was awaiting me.


Things I did/ate/saw:

Bonito Youth Hostel (clean rooms, helpful staff, interesting people and hammocks)
Vício da Gula (reasonably priced sandwiches, fancy coffees and exotic juices)
Palácio dos Sorvetes (offers ice-cream in more flavors than you can imagine mixed with fruit salad and baked with meringue on top)
Recanto Ecológico Rio da Prata (snorkeling)
Estância Mimosa (waterfalls and traditional fare)

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