Brazil – travelling with Plantahunter & Crustahunter

Plantahunter Tour, the second! Crustahunter Chris Lukhaup and Plantahunter Stefan Hummel went on another expedition in southwest Brazil, in the area bordering Paraguay and Bolivia.
In one of the largest wetland areas on Earth, they observed the unique fauna and flora above and below water. This time Max Dennerle, son of company founder Ludwig Dennerle, was also part of the team.

 

Diary:

DAY 3 Plantahunter tour

After a three-day odyssey, the two Dennerle guys, Max Dennerle and Stefan "Plantahunter" Hummel finally arrived at their destination airport, Campo Grande in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The icing on the cake was when we found out that the Portuguese airline, TAP Portugal, had sent Max's luggage somewhere else. However, this was not such a major problem, as the rest of us have enough clothes with us to share between us. Of course Max could actually walk around here in just a vest, because it is not very cold at 36° C in the shade. After a brief conservation with the airline, we headed in the direction of Rio da Prata, our first location. These waters are also known as silver river, fascinating headwaters with lots of small and large fish species. Among the aquatic plants Stefan discovered Heteranthera zosterifolia, which was present in abundance. Tomorrow we will go downstream, where we hope to get a few more species. The water at this location is crystal clear and you really could not design a more beautiful aquarium. Nature sets such a perfect example. The only annoyance were the numerous small fish incessantly nibbling on us, which was really painful. One small species of tetra in particular kept biting us on the lips and face. After 3 to 4 hours in water it was already dusky and we had to drag Max out of the water for him to see land again. After a sumptuous dinner it's off to bed.

 

keep on hunting

Stefan, Max and Chris

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DAY 4 Plantahunter tour

The second day on the Rio da Prata begins with a bright blue sky. After yesterday's taster we can all hardly wait to get back under water. In addition to large shoals of pacu, we see some "dangerous" predators and several species of catfish and tetra well-known in aquatics. Fish of the genus Crenichila also hide between the numerous aquatic plants. The dominant plant in this river is H. zosterifolia, which is incredibly abundant.

After a few hours in the headwaters we then go downstream. Most of the time the current propels us over magnificent groups of plants. But there are also rapids, which simply sweep us away and make us forget about the world above water. In the deep parts snorkelling is relatively easy-peasy, but in the shallow water you can sometimes hurt yourself on the sharp limestone formations. The 2-3 hours we spend in the water drifting downstream pass in a flash. Several species of monkey, large parrots and toucans scamper about above our heads. Overall these few hours are an unbelievable experience and certainly among the best of our lives. Here in the area around Bonito the underwater world is still intact. Despite the relatively cool waters (24° C), thanks to the wetsuits we were never cold and after a few hours under water we headed back, exhausted but still very happy. Max was even able to photograph a few insects and, in the opinion of his master Chris, he had passed the first test with flying colours. (see photos)

After finishing work you have to eat something nourishing ... for today you can imagine the rest ... zzzzzzzzzzzzz .... snore .. zzzzzzz

Stefan, Max & Chris

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DAY 5 Plantahunter tour, the first images

Last night there was a heavy thunderstorm! Yesterday was 36° C, today the temperature has dropped to 17° C and that is set to last all day. As we aren't here to have fun (hahaha), of course we have to get on with our work even in extremely adverse weather conditions. In the area around Bonito there are a few nature reserves and recreational areas as well as some leisure parks. The visit to these waters is very well organised (www.explore-pantanal.com handled the organisation). We have a special permit for all locations and can devote ourselves to a whole day of uninterrupted photography, filming and research.

Just the sight of Bahia Bonito from outside is incredible and any aquarist's heart must jump for joy here. We see beautiful, dense areas of Echinodorus macrophyllus, closely packed together with Helianthium bolivianum (formerly Echinodorus bolivianus), around 1 to 2 metres under water.

Chris makes a first dive to test the lighting conditions. It is an underwater paradise. This sight will probably always be etched in our minds. In addition to fantastic groups of plants, there is also a wide variety of different fish in this natural aquarium. We also get a crab on film. After a few hours in the water it gets cold, even in the relatively warm waters, mainly because we aren't moving.

Plantahunter Stefan had to get out of the water shivering after just an hour, whereas Max did not want to get out of the water even after four hours. His new hobby is no underwater photography. With so much to photograph the day passed by in a flash and before we knew it, it was 5 o'clock and we had to leave the location.

We will definitely return to this site while we're here to enjoy everything in the sunshine too.

keep on hunting

Chris, Stefan & Max

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DAY 6 Plantahunter tour, Goooood morning Germany ...

Today’s destination is the Rio Succuri, just a few kilometres from Bonito. The route takes us past many cow pastures with imported Indian zebu. Unfortunately the forest is increasingly logged in this area and has to make way for the interests of the cattle barons. Marcelo, our Indian guide, is very sad about this trend, as are we. The cattle barons do not think much of environmental protection and intact forests.

The source of the Rio Succuri lies in the middle of one of these grazing areas and yet the world seems to be intact here. Here too we had another special permit, which our guide had organised for us so we could spend all day frolicking in these waters. The water here was very deep and crystal clear.

Stefan was able to spot at least ten different species at this site. The large areas of Potamogeton illinoensis are particularly impressive. We then drifted downstream in the current over huge areas of this plant. Of course the stunning Pontederia parviflora here were not to be missed either.

After several hours under water we then also take the opportunity to get some habitat shots. We also saw a very rare giant otter at this point, which is extremely uncommon in this area. The animal was at least 1.2 m long and no sooner had he appeared, he was gone again.

Once again, Max was in the water for hours and got nasty sunburn from snorkelling at the surface.

After this busy day, again we finally had to have something to eat. This evening, crocodile, capybara and wild boar were on the menu.

keep on hunting

Max, Stefan and Chris

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DAY 7 Plantahunter tour, Travelling in Rio Formoso

Also just a few minutes’ drive from Bonito, the Rio Formoso meanders through the landscape. This river is somewhat murkier than the other waters, due to the numerous waterfalls, making underwater photography difficult. The petrified (limestone covered) roots and stones are striking.

After a brief swim in the river, we gave up on snorkelling and followed Marcello, who wanted to show us his favourite places in this river basin. In a still side-stream, the water was crystal clear so it was possible to film and take photographs again. The dominant plant was Chara rusbiana, which strongly reminded us of a miniature hornwort in appearance.

Unfortunately, this side-stream was just a few metres long, so we had soon filmed or photographed every stem and every root.

Marcello had organised something to eat while we worked so we were able to have a nice picnic here.

keep on hunting

Max, Stefan and Chris

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