The other access point into the northern Pantanal  is via Cáceres, a drowsy little town 220 kilometers (137 miles) west of Cuiabá  on the banks of the Rio Paraguai. Although further than Poconé , it offers another alternative for exploring the Pantanal via the river (one that is generally cheaper than the Rodovia Transpantaneira). Lots of boat excursions (including infrequent and inexpensive cargo boats to Corumbá) depart from here.
Between March and October, the fishing is fantastic—in September the town plays host to the Festival Internacional de Pesca, the biggest freshwater fishing competition in the world. During mating and hatching season (November to February), fishing is prohibited and many hotéis de pesca (geared specifically to anglers) close for the season.
Cáceres has several simple and inexpensive hotels that offer a great base for exploring the Pantanal . Although it’s somewhat removed from the center of town (close to the BR-070), Hotel Porto Bello (Av. São Luís 1888, Jardim Cidade Nova, tel. 65/3224-1437, R$50–90 d) is one of the most comfortable accommodation options in town. Access—by car or bus—is at Km 7 of the BR-365. Fishing enthusiasts should try one of the region’s hóteis de pesca.
Only 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Cáceres (access from the BR-070 Km 728), the Pousada Fordinha (Rua dos Quidas 950, closed Nov.–Feb., R$125–250) offers fairly basic, but well maintained lodgings right on the banks of the Rio Paraguai. Expert fishing guides will take you out on the river so you can land yourself a whopper, while other boats are available for eco-tours. The restaurant serves typical Mato Grossense fare, taking full advantage of the daily catch.
In terms of food, one of the best eating experiences in town is aboard the Kaskata Flutuante (end of Rua Colonel José Dulce, tel. 65/3223-2916, 11 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, R$20–30), a floating restaurant on the river. Prepared in various manners, pintado is the aquatic star of the menu, but there is beef, chicken, and succulent jacaré as well. Don’t show up for dinner without dousing yourself in insect repellent.
If your pockets are deep enough, the ideal way for anglers and ecotourists to take advantage of the region’s bounty is to book a passage on an exclusive “barco-hotel” (also known as “botels”). These generally feature 5–10 cabins and range in comfort from standard to fairly luxurious. Although everything (excluding gear)—from meals and liquor to bait and small boat excursions into the wilds—is included in the price, the price itself is usually hefty, ranging R$1,500–5,000 per person for a weeklong trip (usually the minimum). Advance reservations are a must.
Leié (tel. 65/3223-4907, http://barcoieie.com.br , R$350–700) is one of the newer botels with eight air-conditioned bunk-bed cabins and private bathrooms on two decks. It offers both fishing and ecotourism excursions up and down the Rio Paraguai.
Cáceres is 220 kilometers (137 miles) from Cuiabá . Andorinha (tel. 65/3621-3422, www.andorinha.com.br ) offers bus service with several departures a day. The journey takes 3–4 hours. By car, follow the BR-174, generally in fairly good condition.