Mato Grosso, immediately to the north of Mato Grosso do Sul, shares the Pantanal with that state and has equally well-developed tourism facilities. Although there are just as many opportunities for seeing wildlife, trips to the Pantanal near the state capital, Cuiabá, tend to be more upmarket than those leaving from Corumbá in Mato Grosso do Sul. The state also has abundant though rapidly depleting areas of Amazon forest; Alta Floresta, in the north, has an excellent birdwatching and wildlife lodge. The much-vaunted Chapada dos Guimarães hills near Cuiabá afford reasonable walking and birdwatching, although the natural landscape has been greatly damaged by farming and development.
The area that is now Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul was first demarcated as Spanish territory, but it was the Portuguese Aleixo Garcia who was the first to explore it in 1525. Jesuits and then bandeirantes entered the Mato Grosso for their different ends during the 17th and early 18th centuries, and, when gold was discovered near Cuiabá, a new influx of explorers began. Mato Grosso became a captaincy in 1748 and the borders between Portuguese and Spanish territories were decided in the following years. Throughout the 19th century, after the decline in gold extraction, the province's economy stagnated and its population dwindled. This trend was reversed when the rubber boom brought immigrants in the early 20th century to the north of the region. Getúlio Vargas's 'March to the West' in the 1940s brought added development, accompanied first by the splitting off of Rondônia and by the formation of Mato Grosso do Sul in 1977.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF