Wonderful Blue Lake Cave in Bonito, Brazil

Bonito is the heart of eco-tourism in Brazil because it is famous for its natural beauty, prehistoric caves, waterfalls, and clear blue waters. One of the most beautiful is Blue Lake Cave (Gruta do Lago Azul). Amazingly, it is believed that no human set foot inside the cavern with the cobalt blue waters until 1924 when an Indian from the Terena tribe discovered it. That’s not to say nothing ventured down into the 328 feet (100 meters) deep cave, since massive mammals fossils from about 10,000 years ago were discovered by cave divers, bones such as those belonging to the Saber-tooth tiger and giant ground sloth. Because the water is so clear, it is hard to fathom that Blue Lake Cave is about 295 feet (90 meters) deep. Adventurers start with a hike through the forest, then go caving through a wide entrance that allows sunlight to illuminate the gorgeous blue waters as well as stalactites and stalagmites of all different sizes. Here’s a look at Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil and some of the extraordinary and unusual ecotourism adventures and true natural treasures including beautiful Blue Lake Cave

Sunlight lighting up the blue waters in the ancient cavern. The cave itself is deep, 328 feet (100 meters) deep, and the lake inside has a depth of about 295 feet (90 meters).

Let’s back up at bit, to show you where you are. This is in Brazil, the state of Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul. Rainbow over rural Bonito.

Waterfall in Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul. Bonito is the heart of eco-tourism in Brazil. During the rainy season, from December to March, the vegetation is extremely green and provides plenty of food for the wildlife; the rivers are high and the waterfalls are abundant. Between May and August, there is much less rain so the waterfalls are somewhat less spectacular.

Wikipedia explained, “The Pantanal is an ecological paradise right in the heart of Brazil. It is the largest flooded lowland on the planet and the third largest environmental reserve in the world.” Mato Grosso do Sul is “famous for its natural beauty, and is a major destination for domestic and international tourism. The Pantanal lowlands cover 12 municipalities and presents an enormous variety of flora and fauna, with forests, natural sand banks, savannahs, open pasture, fields and bushes. The city Bonito, in the mountain of Bodoquena, has prehistoric caverns, natural rivers, waterfalls, swimming pools and the Blue Lake cavern.

Bonito is famous for it’s caving and river activities. “Snorkling in the Rio da Prata.” According to Wikipedia, “Bonito is in the middle of a region which is being discovered as ‘Caribe do Centro-Oeste’ (Caribbean of the Central-West) due to the unbelievable blue color of its waters. Owing to the enormous quantity of limestone in the ground, the water of these rivers passes through a real natural filter where impurities are deposited at the bottom of the river bed, leaving the rivers to be some of the clearest and most transparent in the world.”

Fish swimming in the amazingly clear blue waters of Bonito’s River of Silver (Rio da Prata).

Gorgeous Blue Lake Grotto area has an amazing history because its existence went unknown until 1924. It is believed that no human had set foot in this cave until its discovery by one of the local Terena Indians.

Blue Lake State Park is where the adventure begins to reach Gruta do Lago Azul or Blue Lake Cave: “The tour starts with a 10-minute walk to the entrance of the cave, which was discovered by a local Indian in 1924. In its interior, after descending 100 meters, it is possible to see the lake of crystal clear water and depth of approximately 90 meters, which makes it one of world’s biggest flooded caves.”

Descending into Blue Lake Cavern.

The name Mato Grosso do Sul literally means ‘Thick Forest of the South’ in Portuguese, a name inherited from its northern neighbor state of Mato Grosso, of which it was part until the 1970s. It is not uncommon for people to mistakenly refer to Mato Grosso do Sul as simply ‘Mato Grosso’.” Blue Lake Cavern entrance.

In 1992 a Franco-Brazilian expedition of cave divers discovered a numerous mammal fossils inside Blue Lake Cave, including the Saber-tooth Tiger and the giant ground sloth called Megatherium americanum meaning “giant beast” which lived during the Plestocine Era – 6000 to 10,000 years ago.

Adventure underground at Gruta do Lago Azul.

Because the cave entrance is so wide, sunlight pours in to light up the cavern and naturally illuminates the clear vivid cobalt blue water. Here, a shaft of sunlight is focused on a cave formation.

The Blue Lake Cave waters may look shallow but are incredibly deep. You would have no idea that the lake is nearly 300 feet deep.

The cavern is full of different-sized formations, stalactites and stalagmites.

Gruta Do Lago Azul, or the Blue Lake Cave, is also called the Blue Lake Grotto.

Looking up from the Blue Lake cavern.

Blue Lake Cave in Bonito Brazil.

Gruta do Lago Azul is a part of one of the largest flooded cavities on the planet

Besides Blue Lake Cave, another gorgeous ecotourism cave in Bonito is Abismo Anhumas, known as the ‘hole.’ It is relatively new, since it only opened for exploration in 1999.

Explore Caverns Now explained that Abismo Anhumas visitors rappel 236 feet (72 meters) down through the hole to a floating deck on a crystal clear lake which is 262 feet (80 meters) deep. People can swim or dive among the huge underwater cave formations, some as tall as 65 feet (20 meters).

More well-known, yet still as unusual as it is beautiful is to take an adventure caving to see the amazingly blue water at Blue Lake Cave.

Gorgeous reflection at Blue Lake Grotto in Bonito.


Overloaded Vehicles

A collection of snaps, mostly taken on the highways of China and published by China Foto Press, reveal drivers who load up their vehicles far beyond their limits as they go about their daily business. These pictures show ridiculously heavy trucks, bikes and tractors with goods piled up to 20 feet above their heads, leaning at unusual angles under the load.

"Highway and bridge tolls in China are too high for transportation companies," said Cui Zhongfu, secretary-general of the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing. "Sometimes, they can account for as much as 20 percent of the total expense." Therefore, many companies carry too much freight to try to make trips more profitable and compete with rivals.

Overloading is a serious problem in China and a hazard for other vehicles and pedestrians. According to authorities, 80 percent of trucks are overloaded. These vehicles have been damaging the country's crumbling highways and collapsed many bridges in the past.

For months, a bridge over the Qiantang River in Hangzhou, that was designed for vehicles weighing only 30 tons and trailers weighing 55 tons, was abused by truckers carrying loads in excess of 100 tons. The bridge finally gave away in July 2011, when a 129-ton truck tried to cross it. In the same month, a bridge in Yancheng, Jiangsu province and another 301-meter steel-arch bridge in Wuyishan, Fujian province, collapsed. Both bridges had been built about 10 years ago.

China has about 660,000 bridges, the most of any country in the world. But each year, more than a dozen of them collapse. Overloading is one of the many reasons of bridge failure.


Inside a Snake Slaughterhouse in Indonesia

In the small Javanese village of Kapetakan in Indonesia’s West Java province, Wakira owns a slaughterhouse that produces snake meat and skin. Known locally as “Boss Cobra”, Wakira’s snakeskin factory produces hundreds of meters of snakeskin that are sold to factories in the West and Central Java provinces which they use to make products such as bags, shoes, wallets and belts. The meat is not wasted. Snake meat is believed by some to be a remedy for skin diseases and asthma, as well as an aid to increase virility.

Wakira employs ten workers in his factory and earns up to 15 million rupiah ($ 1,562, £1,000) a month from the factory's production. The price of a bag made from snake skin costs between 150,000 rupiah ($15, £10) and 300,000 rupiah ($ 31, £19), depending on its size. When they reach Western fashion houses their price can increase dramatically, selling for up to $4,000 (£2,500).

The snakes are caught in the wild at 3-4 years, often by villagers, who are paid per snake they capture. Sometimes organized armies of catchers work in groups in the jungles and grassland, settings nets, traps and baited hooks for the blood pythons, larger reticulated pythons and other smaller snakes. Captured snakes are stored in canvas bags and sold to primitive skinning plants, such as Wakira’s.

At the skinning factory, the snake is stunned with a blow to the head from the back of a machete. A hose pipe is forced between its jaws and water is turned on and the reptile fills up - swelling like a balloon. A leather cord is tied around its neck to prevent the liquid escaping. Then its head is impaled on a meat hook, a couple of quick incisions follow, and the now-loosened skin peeled off with a series of brutal tugs - much like a rubber glove from a hand.

The skin is then placed on a board and put in a hot oven to dry out. They are also dyed according to the style and shape of the bag and left on a board to dry out in the sun and then the skin will be sent to a tannery. Once skinned, snakes are left to die, which can take 2–3 days.

Wakira’s factory is just one of the many illegal ones operating in South East Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia, China and Vietnam. In Indonesia alone the industry employs about 175,000 people of which 150,000 are snake catchers.

The EU, is the world's biggest importer of snake skins. Between 2000 and 2005 it is estimated that 3.4 million snake skins were brought into the EU. Italy is the largest consumer in the world making shoes, bags, belts, and wallets made from reptile skin. Germany is the second largest producer, followed by France. The United States accounts for about 50% of the Italian export market for finished goods; Japan, 35%; the remaining 15% goes to other European markets. A scrub python can be sold for as much as $10,000. The United States alone imports finished products made from reptile skins worth about $257 million a year.