Supported by a strong infrastructure to encourage tourism, the small town of Bonito is the most popular destination for domestic ecotourism in Brazil. This magnificent city, located in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, is gradually becoming famous worldwide, drawing tourists from all across the world to explore its rivers, lakes, waterfalls, caves, and grottos. Among the main sites to be seen is the Lagoa Misteriosa, or simply, “Mysterious Lagoon.”
Located 50km (30 miles) from Bonito’s city center, the lagoon is a treat for both the eyes and senses. The crystal-clear waters allow for a visibility of 20 meters deep. The water temperature is always around 24oC (75oF), even during the winter – perfect conditions for scuba diving. Restrictions on diving activities exist only when the water temperature reaches above 26oC – usually between October and April. This is because algae reproduce more quickly in warmer temperatures, changing the color of the lagoon and thus limiting visibility.
The Mysterious Lagoon is a phreatic cave, and is formed by the flow of underground water that over time dissolved the limestone in its passage. These types of caves are usually flooded and do not have fragile mineral deposits. The lagoon was Brazil’s first to have a “Speleology Management Plan,” a document that entails an environmental diagnosis of the area and establishes guidelines for its conservation. Until the study’s approval, the lagoon remained closed for visitation.
The first recorded dive in the Mysterious Lagoon took place in 1992, and has yet to be fully explored. Recently, the lagoon’s administration improved tourist infrastructure, promoting accessibility to people with physical limitations.