Caiman Ecological Refuge (CER), approximately 130,965 acres, was once part of a large beef cattle farm and has since been transformed into a refuge dedicated to 3 activities: cattle raising, Caiman Lodge and natural conservation programmes.
The naming of Caiman Ecological Refuge, or CER, aims to bring together, under the brand, three different activities that share the same physical space: 1, Estancia Caiman, which is an extensive beef cattle operating ranch; 2, Caiman Lodge, a pioneer ecotourism operation in the Pantanal region of Mato Grosso do Sul state; and 3, the nature conservation programme which sponsors three main scientific projects: the Hyacinth Macaw Project, the Jaguar Conservation Project – the Oncafari Project and the Blue-fronted Parrot Project. It also develops wide contact and exchanges with universities. On the property there is a Private Reserve of Natural Patrimony encompassing 5,600 hectares (13,837 acres).
All these activities come from Caiman Ecological Refuge, allowing an exchange of ideas and inspiration between them. The main result of that is a wider control of the economic and environmental actions, which should always try to reach the sustainability of the human being's presence in the Pantanal in harmony with nature. CER is devoted to the exchange of information and experiences that create an ambience for a gradual interdependence amongst all activities. The main result of that is a wider control of the economic and environmental actions, which should always try to reach the sustainability of the human being's presence in the Pantanal in harmony with nature.
The two main lodges are Baiazinha and Cordilheira located 10 miles from each other and 6 miles from main ranch house. All the lodges offer the same contact with local fauna, flora and culture, as well as the same standard of service, with swimming pool, air conditioned rooms, private bathrooms with hot shower, alternated 110 volts energy outlets, living room with TV and DVD, bar and restaurant. Each lodge offers different highlight and programme activities including horseback riding, nocturnal safaris, trail walking, canoe tours and photographic safaris. Each activity is accompanied by ecological guides and by expert native train guides who know the land like the back of their hand.
The Pantanal, a vast wetland covering 210,000 km2 at the very heart of South America, is the world’s largest floodplain, and is of enormous importance for biodiversity conservation. It is home to a wide range of mammals such as the jaguar, the Giant anteater, and the Howler monkey as well as reptiles such as the Paraguayan Caiman - Caiman crocodile – after which the Lodge is named. It is however coming under growing threat from human activities.
In the face of these human pressures and the gradual decline of the Pantanal natural ecosystem, Caiman has adopted a unique sustainable land management model fusing a strong ecotourism product and the traditional “Pantaneiro” cattle ranching system. This multi-faceted approach highlights Caiman’s strong desire to play a leadership role in promoting the conservation and economy of the Pantanal through land management that builds on modern conservation approaches and initiatives, such as ecotourism, and the best of traditional land use practices, such as traditional cattle ranching. This model has been widely successful, and has provided a strong example of conservation and development efforts throughout the Pantanal.
Another important conservation initiative is Caiman’s establishment in 2004 of a private nature - reserve - “RPPN Dona Aracy”, which at 5,600 hectares represents more than 10% of the total Caiman Ecological Refuge. The “RPPN Dona Aracy” is now a major focus of Caiman’s conservation efforts, and is an additional conservation initiative over and above the conservation effort in the wider Caiman Ecological Refuge. The RPPN preserves an exceptional variety of habitats and biodiversity, and further demonstrates Caiman’s strong commitment to its conservation goals.
Caiman is aware of the importance of the Pantanal culture both in the running of its ranch as well as in its conservation initiatives. It strongly encourages its employees to keep Pantanal culture and traditions alive by adopting them as a way of life rather than something from the past that requires preservation. Caiman has made great effort to support and promote Pantanal culture within its community including major events such as the “Annual Caiman Lasso Festival”, which is the largest most important cultural event for the Caiman community and one of the most famous in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, attracting more than 800 people including government officials from within the state to showcase and celebrate their culture for a duration of three days.
In addition, Caiman has a first-rate website on which a vast amount of information and details about its various cultural activities and products can be found. Its guests are not left behind and are given inimitable opportunities to experience this rich culture first hand. Caiman offers key activities geared toward intercultural exchange including the "Caiman Tour" and "Traditional Pantanal Barbecue" through which guests can learn about handling cattle and horses, come in contact with “Pantaneiros”, practice lasso and become part of Tereré, a traditional mate tea-drinking ritual of cowboys.
Caiman’s ecotourism operation has been underway since 1985, and at present it is delivering a high-end luxury ecotourism products based on two separate lodges - Cordilheira Lodge and the Baiazinha Lodge. Always seeking ways to provide a variety of products and appeal to different tastes, Caiman is developing a wide range of activities. Key amongst these is the development of a jaguar viewing tourism attraction based on jaguar habituation to vehicles.
Caiman is also keen to investigate opportunities for developing other economic and land-use enterprises that are compatible with the destination’s overall sustainable Pantanal land management model. Possible opportunities include the development of a sustainable plantation and harvesting scheme for native hardwoods as well as the development of honey production, and the expansion of Caiman’s organic vegetable garden to provide fresh produce for the ecotourism operation and Caiman’s community.