When we arrived in Bonito we knew exactly what we wanted to do – snorkel in the Rio da Prata (river of silver). This river is famous for being incredibly clear and full of many different types of fish that swim alongside you.
We intended to stay for a few nights, so we booked our snorkelling trip as soon as we arrived but we were interested to see what else we could do with our time. We quickly found that Bonito is the little Brazilian town with a whole lot going on. You could visit one of its many balnearios (parks), see the largest sinkhole in South America (which has been colonised by hordes of red macaws), rappel into a giant cave and visit a subterranean lake, which is known for its vivid blue hue.
The only problem for us was that we were limited with funds and none of the tours included transport to or from the attractions – which meant we’d need to get a taxi everywhere. Having seen nesting macaws in the Amazon and hearing mixed reviews about the caves, we chose to rent some bikes and cycle the 10kms to Bonito’s Balneario Municipal.
So, on a sunny Bonito morning, we arrived in the park and were amazed to see the clearest and cleanest looking river we have ever seen running right through its centre. We didn’t have any snorkelling gear with us, but it was amazing just to cool off in the crystal clear water after relaxing in the sun.
Knowing that the park was nothing compared to Rio da Prata, the day left us looking forward to our snorkelling experience even more.
When the day finally came for our Rio da Prata snorkelling tour, we met our guide and were given all the gear we needed – including a wet suit, boots and snorkel.
We set off for a short walk through the forest to reach the river and, along the way, the guide excitedly pointed out some capybara and a weird chicken-type bird that lives on the forest floor.
After about 30 minutes, we reached the water. It looked like a huge lake with water even clearer than the river at the park.
Our guide explained that this was the start of Rio Olha d’Agua and that it would lead into Rio da Prata. We were impatient to get going and explore, but we needed a quick safety briefing before lowering ourselves into the lake and doing a training loop.
As soon as you put your face into the water, it was like being inside a fish tank. Everywhere you looked there was fish – and the water was so crystal clear you could see at least 15 metres ahead.
There was also barely any need to swim. The wet suits and the strong current meant that we were simply floating along the surface and the more still you could be, the closer the fish would get – some of them came right up to our faces!
Floating down the river was extremely relaxing, until we saw a huge anaconda swim across our path to the riverbank!
Being in the water was a bit surreal because things seemed to appear much closer than they actually were. A few times I would breathe in and stretch myself out flat to get over a group of sharp looking rocks, only for me to sail over them without a problem. This plan didn’t work though when we had to get out of the water briefly to avoid some rocky rapids. I hadn’t realised how close I really was to the rocks and my leg managed to float right into one of them – cutting open my knee in the process. It looked much worse than it was and, after a quick bit of first-aid from the guide, we were back in the water and on our way.
At one of our rest stops you could even see underwater springs, where the fresh clear water was bubbling up from the ground into the river. The way it shifted the sand made it look like a little volcano under the water, but they were surprisingly cold.
We had so much fun in the river, we were surprised when we reached the end of our 3km ‘swim’. It was an amazing experience and definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far.