There's no question that there are more plant and animal species in the Amazon. It is said that there are more than 1500 bird species, over 40,000 different plant species, 3,000 freshwater fish species, more than 370 types of reptiles and approximately 2.5 million insect species in the Amazon rain forest, which covers over 2 million square miles.
The Pantanal has approximately 700 species of birds; 100 species of mammals; 80 species of reptiles; 240 of fish in the much smaller area of about 70,000 square miles.
Within that huge Amazon River basin area there are different types of ecosystems at different altitudes that harbor different species of animals - each ecosystem does not have as many species as was mentioned above. For instance, the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, where most of the Peruvian cruises go to, has approximately 700 species of birds, 100 species of mammals; 80 species of reptiles; 240 of fish. The top lodges for wildlife claim counts of 400 to about 600 species of birds.
So those counts are about on par with those for the Pantanal, which does not have as many different ecosystems. But then you have to take into account the type of landscape you have in the Amazon versus that in the Pantanal. Of course in the Amazon it is lush rain forest:
While in the Pantanal, there are forested areas but then there are also open savannah areas where the wildlife is right out in the open and you can often photograph animals from the road or a vehicle.
Of course the Amazon has it's own mystique and allure, so you can't discount that. And if you are an experienced birdwatcher or animal lover, you are probably used to trying to find birds and animals in dense foliage where it is hard to see them. But for the casual birdwatcher and/or photographer who only has 3-4 days and wants to easily be able to see a lot of animals, the Pantanal is a great option. Also, if you have more than 4 days, it is easy to add on an extension from the Pantanal to other areas, such as the Chapada dos Guimaraes, Nobres, Bonito and the southern Amazon to increase the variety of sightings.
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Jim has been an agent for over 20 years and has specialized in South America for much of that time