Tucked away within the largest wetland in the world, lies a hidden paradise few have ever laid eyes upon. The sheer beauty of this landscape is unlike anything you’ve seen before, and the animals inhabiting this wildlife haven are incredibly unique, many of which not found anywhere else. With that said, none of the Pantanal’s inhabitants are as sought after as the elusive Jaguar, and this incredible Jaguars of the Pantanal Tour is designed to take you into the heart of the spotted cat’s homeland.
Finding & photographing Jaguars requires time & patience. We will spend full days (apart from lunch breaks) in search of this striking cat, and therefore stand a good chance of not only seeing them, but also to watch them on the move as they explore their territories and go out on the hunt. You’ve travelled all the way to see them, so have dedicated this entire tour to focus solely on the Jaguars, allowing you to capture an incredible portfolio of the Pantanal’s Jaguars.
Jaguars are mythical animals, shadows within the Amazonian Forest. This adventure will aim to showcase these big cats to you in a magnificent manner.
About the Jaguars of the Pantanal
The question has to be asked of just how this experience came to be. Why are the Jaguars of the Pantanal so approachable & photogenic, yet in other regions they are near impossible to see, let alone photograph?
Over the years the cats along the edges of rivers like the Cuiaba River, have grown used to seeing trade boats and fisherman going up and down the river going about their daily business. This region of the Pantanal is largely impossible to navigate by land and much business is done by boat, especially during the months when the Pantanal is flooded. The area has a dense Jaguar population and during the drier season the big cats congregate along the banks of the rivers & small tributaries. They hunt mainly caiman (crocodile species) and capybara (worlds largest rodent) and the best place to find both are along the rivers themselves.
Naturally, the cats would encounter boats as farmers and others alike would travel up and down the river. Local fisherman also pay little attention to the cats. In so doing, the cats grew accustomed to the presence of boats and people on them, and this made for a strange acceptance. Much like in Africa where lions and leopards tolerate and accept game viewers, the Jaguars of the Pantanal have grown to accept the presence of boats.
Around the year 2007 more people started paying attention to the tourism & photographic opportunity emerging from Porto Jofré and the northern Pantanal. Soon enough visitors started coming as well as serious wildlife photographers and film crews alike. The industry has grown ever since and today the Jaguar experience on offer around Porto Jofré is second to none.
Whilst we can never promise anything when it comes to wildlife photography, the Jaguar viewing experience has proven to be massively successful for Wild Eye, with the 2019 season spanning across 6 weeks produced over 100 sightings of these magnificent big cats.
About the Itinerary
You will arrive into Cuiaba (via Sao Paulo) where you’ll be met off your flight and transferred to the Gran Odara Hotel for the night. Your Wild Eye guide will meet you here and if time allows, will join for dinner.
After breakfast you'll transfer back to Cuiaba's airport with the rest of the group for a short chartered flight right to our camp's private airstrip. The flight's just over an hour in length and will give you an incredible view of the Pantanal from the air.
After arriving we'll check in to our rooms, enjoy lunch and have time to unpack and get ready for the afternoon's activity, our very first outing in search of the magnificent Jaguar.
The days to follow start with a short breakfast well before dawn. We'll depart the lodge at first light in search of Jaguars and everything else on offer within this watery wonder world. Although the focus on this tour will be the big cats, there will be much more on offer every day. Capybara & cayman are an ever present feature. There's a good chance of seeing primates as we go as well as iguana's and even anaconda. There's the odd chance of seeing different deer species and tree-climbing porcupine, and even a very small chance of a puma.
The focus will however stay on finding the best possible opportunities to see & photograph Jaguars within this spectacular habitat. We'll spend around 10 hours a day on the boat with a break in between at camp for lunch. It's a pretty intense experience as it's long days in the field, but the rewards are great and completely worth your while.
We'll head back to the lodge for lunch at 12pm, and depart again at 2pm, and this will be the daily plan. We generally get back to camp some time after sunset as it's dangerous to be on the boat and on the river when it gets dark. Porto Jofré is not more than 20 minutes from prime jaguar viewing territory so you will be well situated on this tour. We prefer to use this camp as our base as the food it fantastic, staff courteous and to be on land (as opposed to a houseboat) means you get off the water everyday. There's great bird viewing opportunities in camp for species as iconic as macaws, toucans and more. You can even go for a daily run to get the legs stretched (although you have to keep an eye out for jaguars around camp itself).
On the las day we will enjoy a short morning on the river in search of our last encounters with Jaguars and the other wildlife of the Pantanal. Soon after that we will again board a chartered flight that'll take us directly to Cuiaba, signalling the end of this exciting Jaguars of the Pantanal experience.
Additional Useful Information:
- The Pantanal can get rather hot & being on a boat for large portions of the day, you should best come prepared. Remember important items such as long-sleeved clothing, sunscreen, a wide-rimmed hat, small compact umbrella and anything else you'd need to avoid the sun & heat.
- Contrary to popular thought, the Pantanal does not have alot of bugs during the months of July to November. Mosquito's however are ever-present so bring along strong repellant. Clothing that can withstand stings & bites would also go a long way.
- If you fancy a run, or exercise between safari & dinner, then bring some shoes. There's opportunity to stretch the legs in camp.
- As with most travel, be conscious of what you pack for the tour. Laundry services are on offer in camp and it's best to pack mainly what you need and in the process lighten the load on the internal chartered flight.
Key species you could encounter:
- Primates like capuchins and howlers
- Iguana & Yellow Anaconda
- Diverse birdlife including eagles, hawks, toucans, macaws, herons & egrets, kingfishers, parrots and more.
Camera Equipment for the Pantanal
The environment within the Pantanal is stunning, yet you'll find that you spend the bulk of your time on your telephoto lens. We would recommend that you look at something that covers the range of 400mm - 600mm. The prime lenses (fixed focal lenses) always perform best in this environment. Think along the lines of a 400 f2.8, a 500 f4 or a 600 f4. These lenses also perform very well with teleconverters and those should be brought along too.
If you own something like a 100-400 lens and don't have access to a fixed prime lens, bring it along. It's performed very well in the past and along with a camera body that can handle some low light conditions and higher ISO's, you'll be fine. You might find yourself a little short at times though, as a word of caution.
It's always a great idea to have a zoom lens that covers the mid-range focal lengths.
If you're bringing a long telephoto lens like the 400mm - 600mm's, we'd suggest that you consider bringing a 100-400 or a 70-200 lens along. This can be on your second camera body and you'll be able to reach for it should the need arise.
We have found from past experience in the Pantanal, that wide-angle lenses tend to stay in the bag for most of the trip. It's always nice to have it around though and should you wish to bring one along, look at something like a 24-70mm, or the 24-105mm.
We always anticipate plenty of action when on the rivers in the Pantanal. From Jaguars on the move swimming through channels, or even hunting caiman or capybara, to birds fishing & flying over the boat. There's so much to see and you want to be able to capture all of this excitement and action.
It's recommended that you bring along 2 camera bodies. At least one of the 2 bodies should be equipped for action photography, able to shoot at a high frame rate and capable of shooting in low light conditions with the potential of higher ISO's. Most brands produce a flagship sports and action camera and these are ideal for the Pantanal. If you don't have access to this kind of camera, then bring what you have. It's all about the experience and making the most of what you have.
It's always a great idea to have a second camera body on hand. This can be mounted to your mid-range zoom lens at all times. It saves you time and avoids you having to change lenses. In addition, should a camera break you'll have a second camera body to fall back on.
Please remember that your Wild Eye guide will always be on hand before the departure date of the tour to discuss your camera equipment at length. Ultimately they'll be able to assist and suggest the best way forward for this exciting adventure.
Take a moment to see the Jaguars of the Pantanal experience for yourself in the video below.
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