Bonito means beautiful in Portuguese and the name is well deserving of the place. It felt like driving through the lush farmlands of the midlands but only with much more vast and flatter plains, dotted with the odd palm tree and herds of white Brahman cattle stretching under blue cloud streaked skies. Farmer Browns paradise!
If you have watched the animated movie 'Rio', then you would understand the painted picture of the bustling bird life that we discovered in Bonito. Aunty Carol - you would have felt like you were in your kitchen all day everyday: Hot, humid with at least one pair of red or blue macaws perched in a tree nearby and loads of green parrots flapping about. One macaw swooped down from the tree and crash landed right into me - now these birds are big...chunky...I'm talking like just under a meter long and weighing a good 2kgs! It was like being hit by a big mama's purse! We both got such a fright I almost threw our camera away with our 3 months of holiday pics and the birdbrain landed up swinging upside down from my arm looking hella confused, its claws scraping into my arm. (ow! But I got good close up pics :))
I was on a mission...To take a good close up of a toucan - macaws and parrots were easy game. Toucans on the other hand were skittish and normally only visible flying across the sunset sky! I signed up for the bird watching tour (Murray S would be so proud, Tim was left swinging in the hammocks), but after an hour of crouching, watching, waiting in the blistering sun, my poised figures on the shutter button was even getting clammy, the guide took us back...no toucan :( THEN by chance we were talking to this Brazilian girl (about toucans) and she suddenly jumped up and said 'that's the noise, come come quickly, quietly' and there it was - really close! *happy dance*.
Anyway enough about birds. The real hi light of Bonito were the crystal clear waters in the rivers! It was so incredible to go floating down the rivers, checking out all the fish and the plant life as if you're inside a well kept aquarium. It was the ultimate in adventure tours coz it required no movement....no kicking (mom, see I never needed to learn how to kick!) or touching the floor allowed, no arm strokes necessary, just let the flow of the river take you down and you oogle at the fish merrily swimming past you. From the surface it must have looked like a bunch of dead bodies floating downstream and we all lay motionless face first in the water! There was a variety of fish and of a decent size, about 30cm on average, swimming so close you could have touched them. (Warren you would have been in your element!!these rivers would make your meticulous fish tank look grubby) It was like the carribean of rivers - those fish don't know how good they've got it! The water remains clear because it springs up through limestone almost entirely free from clay, furthermore the limestone releases calcium carbonate into the water which calcifies impurities which then sink to the bottom, leaving the water blue and crystal clear - 40m viz! It was so fantastic we did the tour again...down a different river.
Our other adventure was rappelling 75m down an abyss into middle earth. (and UP! With your arms! No ladder or some he-man pulling you up like a sack of potatoes!) It was a huge cave with an underground lake the size of a football field. There was no sign of life other than stalagmites, stalactites and skeletons of animals which had fallen in through the gap at the top with no hope of ever climbing out. The sun gleamed in from the gap in only one spot in the cave - the rest of the cave was in complete darkness...and it was freezing! We were wearing 5ml full body wetsuits, booties and hoodie and the water still took our breath away as we climbed in with our flash lights. Under the water you could see the tips of the massive stalagmites...the lake was up to 80m deep and the stalagmites were only 2 to 5 meters from the surface of the lake. The pics I took on extended exposure do not do it justice but you get an idea of the moon-like landscape and eery feeling.
Our trip to Bonito was an awesome experience which was made even better by the people we met. The Brazilians are such a friendly bunch, I joined Mariana (my dorm mate coz they have separate male and female dorms...Tim thinks he has got rid of me) and her girlfriends one evening for drinks and they jabbered away in Portuguese and then every so often she would give me the run down...'we're talking about her boyfriend now' .... 'We're talking about the traffic in Sao Paulo now' etc etc. It was really entertaining, they were very expressive and talk with their hands so sometimes I followed the convo just fine. It was also great to hear from them about their music, their food, what places they have visited within Brazil etc.