When I visited the Brazilian Pantanal, I felt like I was traveling to another world. Water is everywhere, and it defines life for the animals, birds, and reptiles. The ranchers who live here are in sync with the region, and have a deep understanding of the annual rhythms that are centered around the rainy season.

My most memorable mammal sighting was a mother giant anteater, locally called tamandua, carrying her baby on her back. I had understood these are very rare (or perhaps extinct) and only active at night. In fact, they are quite common in the Pantanal and frequently observed around dusk. Somewhat clumsy looking and sometimes captured as pets, they have a limited range in South America and are considered threatened and vulnerable. They eat large numbers of ants and termites and so are considered beneficial to villagers. Night safaris provide an opportunity to see tamandua as well as a variety of other nocturnal animals and birds.

The abundance of water also makes this a sanctuary for thousands of birds that arrive from drier and colder climates. Birds that are rare elsewhere, like the large, stunning, periwinkle-colored hyacinth macaw, can be observed here in great numbers, often at close range. The vast area is open and there are fantastic vistas, so it is possible to spot wildlife from a distance.

If you travel to see wildlife, then move this trip to the top of your list. There is nowhere else in South America where you can easily observe as many large birds and mammals in one place.