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The Pantanal is a vast alluvial plain, not a swamp, though pantano means swamp in Portuguese. Winter is the dry season, the best time to visit. During the rainy season, October to March, Rio Paraguay and its many tributaries flood their banks, replenishing the soil but making systematic farming impossible; this has discouraged human settlement. It also provides a rich feeding ground for wildlife when shallow lakes, ponds and marshes teem with fish. The animals take refuge on island-like areas of higher ground, cordilheiras. During the dry season the water recedes - savanna, forest and meadows overlap.
Brazilians' interest in the Pantanal was boosted by a recent telenovela titled Pantanal whose opening segment showed a long-haired nude swimming in the waters of a clear and tranquil lake. Surrounded by swaying grasses, the woman fell into an underwater embrace with a man whose state of undress below the waist was implied but not revealed by the camera ... The other two networks promptly responded by refilming the opening segments of their new evening soaps to add some naked women ... But the nude dip was not all that made Pantanal popular. There was also the lovingly shot aerial footage of curling rivers, pristine forests, multitudes of herons taking flight with glinting wings. There was the tradition-bound ambiance of the fazendas, which structure the social life of the Pantanal, a contrast to the collapse of the order in urban Brazil.
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