Trip Report: Jaguars of the Pantanal, 26 Sept – 8 Oct 2018

Marlon duToit Marlon 4 Comments

In Brazil lies an area almost 200 000 square kilometres in size. It covers more landmass than many countries. It’s the worlds largest wetland and deeply connected to the mighty Amazon and the Andes Mountains. This is a place few people have heard of and far fewer have ever visited. It’s a wildlife wonderland and home to one of the most elusive & sought after animals on our planet today.

I’ve travelled to many different wildlife destination in my life.

I’ve introduced our Wild Eye guests to magnificent wildlife encounters, unique safari camps ranging from uber luxury experiences to basic tents in wilderness regions.

It’s not all that often that I visit a place that completely blows me away, a place that smashes into tiny pieces any expectations I could have had.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Brazil’s Pantanal.

I knew that my visit to Brazil’s Pantanal would be something special but little did I know just what a profound impact it would have not only on my life, but also on those of my guests.

All my life I’ve dreamt of meeting eye to eye with a Jaguar. There’s this intangible thing about them, something I can’t quite describe in written text. I’ve just always felt connected to that spotted cat & the hopes and dreams of one day seeing one in the wild always stayed alive within me all of these years!

Yes, I’ve spent countless hours with leopards in the wild but still, there’s just something about Onca pintada that draws me in. Having met them in the wild I now know why 😉

I never thought (but always hoped) that I’d get the privilege of seeing a Jaguar in the wild. Boy did we do exactly that and so much more.

I am going to share these encounters with you further below. Even though the images speak so much for the experience that my guests and I had, they don’t come close to doing justice to what we encountered in the Pantanal. How could they? These special places are far better experienced, far better seen with your own eyes as are the case with most quality things in life.

Below I’ll share an account of what we experienced, a glimpse into the safari that changed the way that even I saw the world.

This “Jaguars of the Pantanal” safari is a two week experience that showcases both the southern and northern Pantanal to you. Very few other itineraries offer you this opportunity. Trust me, it’s well worth the time to visit the south of this large wetland. It gives you the very best chance of seeing anteaters and the birdlife is phenomenal.

There’s also a large sinkhole that we visit along our southern route & the macaw photography there will leave you jaw-dropped. Yes, macaws are birds that all of us have sadly encountered in captivity, but take my word for it – their beauty truly shines when you see them flying wild and free!

The northern Pantanal is home to the star of this safari – the Jaguar. It’s where we spend 7 full days in search of unique photographic opportunities. There’s several other interesting species sharing the river with the big cats, some of which will feature further below.

Let me start from the beginning and briefly explain the structure of this brand new exciting Wild Eye Safari.

The safari officially starts in Campo Grandé, roughly an hours flight from Sao Paulo. Here we meet our local expert & co-host, Ricardo Casarin.

Ricardo is instrumental in this experience. He has been working in the Pantanal since the early 2000’s. He was involved in the habituation process of Jaguars and spent over a year camping with the first researchers in the area where we now view Jaguars. He knows the region through and through and is well respected by all of the other local guides in both northern and southern Pantanal. The two of us have great camaraderie and it sets the tone for an exciting adventure-filled safari.

We left Campo Grandé in a comfortable small bus (Mercedes Sprinter) and started our 3 hour drive to Pousada Aguapé. This is where we would spend our first two nights in search of two anteater species – the Giant Anteater and the Southern Tamandua.

The safari industry throughout the Pantanal is still very new. It only initiated in 2007 and since then many ranches have realized an opportunity to host tourists on their farms. Many of the places you’ll stay at and experience are active cattle ranches that have accommodated for tourists intent of viewing the natural beauty found where they work.

You see, the wild birds and the local wildlife are largely found within the boundaries of these cattle ranches. It’s refreshing to see that animals have been given the level of respect they require in order to live in harmony with people. Yes, there’s possible conflict with Jaguars and cattle, but even then many ranchers are coming to understand that Jaguars and local wildlife are “profitable” and the more this industry grows the more value these large cats will have, alive.

In fact, a study by big cat group Panthera suggests that there’s more potential profit for locals in tourism than in their cattle ranching.

This is a very exciting stage in the development of an already bustling safari industry within Brazil & the Pantanal specifically.

We spent two nights at Aguapé Lodge and enjoyed more than 10 sightings of both Anteater species. These creatures are completely at home within the short grasses of the cattle ranches and are most active during early mornings and late afternoons. What’s great to see is that many of the animals species we searched for could be found on the cattle ranches themselves. There are many natural open areas within the Pantanal and they are used by the cattle as a food source. Along with the open areas come tracts of forest & this is what provides cover, shelter & habitat for many of the animals we photographed.

It’s great to see & experience a place where there’s relative harmony between the animals of the land and us people who are making use of it.

The Giant Anteater is an impressive animal. I knew it was large but never expected an animal of such size and stature!

They lack good eyesight & are therefore fairly easy to approach & to spend time with, up close & personal. You do however need to be aware of the wind direction as they have an excellent sense of smell & once you’re detected, they’ll simply move away. We spotted several of them and were able to get close to most of them on foot.

The Southern Tamandua is another species found here & what a beautiful little animal it is. They are seen less frequently than their larger cousin and therefore spending time with several of them on foot was such a treat.

The weather was a little cooler & the overcast conditions meant the anteaters were out of hiding & feeding throughout most of the day. Over the 2 nights here e saw 11 anteaters in total & guests were delighted with the experience and the images they were able to get!

To see these special creatures is an absolute delight & highlight of the southern Pantanal.

There’s also a plethora of birds to see here. Brazil has over 2000 species of birds & the Pantanal alone is home to over 700 of them. Southern Africa as a whole has around 800 species of birds, just for point of reference.

You may not be much of a bird photographer but let me assure you, this will appeal to everyone with a camera in hand. The birds are beautifully coloured and are very used to people. It’s a great location to get images of some iconic species. Hyacinth Macaws, Toco Toucans hummingbirds, parakeets and much more are common within the grounds of the lodge & regularly seen. The lodge also puts out a bird feeding station in the mornings and this is an excellent place to sit and wait for the beauties to come flying in.

As I said, you may not be all that accustomed to photographing birds but heck these birds of Brazil are just too striking too ignore!!

There were two distinct “stars of the show” here in terms of the birds. The Hyacinth Macaws pictured above were always around the lodge and made for fantastic viewing! It’s a large bird equipped with a powerful bill able to open up the hardest of palm nuts! Although they are common throughout the Pantanal region it’s not always the case elsewhere.

Studies believe that during the 80’s over 10 000 of these macaws birds were captured for the illegal pet trade. Their numbers are still low & threatened during much of their natural range but thankfully in the Pantanal region they are common and this is exactly because of the increased tourism within the Pantanal. Ranches like the one we are staying at value these birds and realize that they are far better when protected as people from all over the world will come to see them!

This is the Toco Toucan, something most of you would have known already. They certainly need no introduction at all! To actually see & photograph them in the wild was the craziest experience though! Most of us only ever get to see them in captivity so visiting the Pantanal to find them wild and free here was an epic experience!

It’s certainly one of the most photogenic birds I have ever laid eyes on and a massive highlight throughout this safari experience.

We bizarrely had some heavy rains during the first two days of the safari, something none of the locals were expecting during the month of September, the driest month in the Pantanal. We did however make the most of it & the pretty colours of the birds were brought out by the cool cloudy weather, adding to the experience as a whole.

After two nights at Aguapé Lodge it was time to move on. We left camp and headed for the region of Bonito. As the name suggests, what was on offer here was beyond beautiful! The words literally translates to “beautiful” or “pretty”.

The main focus of visiting the area was to visit the Buraco Das Araras, a deep sinkhole within the region. Here Red & Green Macaws make use of the cliffs within the deep sinkhole as nesting sites. A visit here was an absolute must as the photographic experience turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire itinerary.

We visited during the late afternoon and again the following morning. During these late afternoon & early morning hours only the upper parts of the sinkhole is illuminated by the sunlight leaving a dark hole towards the lower half. As macaws fly across the sinkhole they would find themselves within the sunlight yet the backdrop below was in total darkness due to the lack of sunlight. This naturally presents you with a very unique photographic experience.

The sinkhole is equipped with two viewing platforms on opposite ends. It’s the ideal vantage point from where to shoot these birds as the fly across right in front of you.

The results speak for themselves, beauty beyond words!

So many operators skip past the southern Pantanal and only focus on what’s on offer in the north – Jaguars. Yes, the Jaguars are pretty epic & will be enough to blow you away but sheesh, it would be such a shame to miss out on what’s offer in the south.

Buraco Das Araras completely blew my guests away and was no doubt one of the stand out highlights of the safari. Not only did we see these birds in flight but they would often perch very close to the platform itself.

These birds are monogamous and its a delight to watch them interact with one another. They almost seem “in love” as they playfully interact. One can certainly see the attraction of owning one as a pet but let me tell you – to see these magnificent birds in the wild is a sight that’ll stay with me for a lifetime! It truly is where they belong and the way it should ultimately be.

We visited the southern Pantanal largely for the two anteater species & the macaws and we were well rewarded for the time & effort, far more than what we could have ever anticipated!

After a morning photographing the macaw sinkhole we journeyed back Campo Grandé for an evening flight to Cuiaba, the starting point for the northern Pantanal safari experience. We spent the night in a very nice hotel & found ourselves refreshed and ready to hit the road the following morning.

Our journey from Cuiaba took us by road to Poconé, the last town before entering Jaguar territory.

There’s only 1 single road that takes you down to the Cuiaba River & Porto Jofré. This road is called the Transpanteneira Road & is almost 150 km’s in length and you’ll cross over 120 wooden bridges along the way. Remember, the Pantanal is also the world’s largest wetland and there’s a lot of water to traverse.

Instead of travelling right down to Hotel Pantanal Norté where we would spend 7 days in search of Jaguars, we stopped at the first lodge along the Transpanteneira Road – Piuval Lodge. It’s a great location & entry point into the Pantanal.

It also offers visitors their first glimpse of one of the Pantanal’s most iconic inhabitants – the Cayman.

Here at Piuval lodge you’re able to get within a meter of resident Cayman. It’s pretty close yes but pretty safe, given that you keep a steady eye on the Cayman. Getting this close to them allows you some fantastic photographic opportunities. They’re completely unbothered by your presence and allow you to move around them as you create different angles & get the shots you want.To be honest it’s also just a really cool experience being this close to them & being able to observe up close every little detail.

There’s also some good birding opportunities within the lodge itself.

A resident Blue & Gold Macaw pair makes for great photography frequently visits the camp. We’ve thus far not see too many of them and it certainly was a bird most of my guests really wanted to see & spend time with.

Pictured above is a Crab-eating Fox. The camp has a resident family and they present you with some lovely photo opportunities. It’s largely nocturnal so photographic opportunities during the day are always a special treat!

We left camp early the following morning and trekked along 3 hours of Transpanteneira Highway. There was plenty to see along the way – birds, capybara, cayman, marsh deer and more. That said, at this point of the trip the only thing my guests could think of was the spotted cat experience waiting at the end of this long road!

We reached our home for the next seven nights, Hotel Pantanal Norté and got ourselves checked in and settled in. We enjoyed some lunch and soon afterwards boarded our 12-seater game viewing boat, ready for what lay ahead!

This was it! The main attraction & reason my guests were in Brazil was about to commence! The boats engine fired up & we set off into Jaguar country!

Our eyes were wide open that first afternoon, scouring the river banks & looking for any signs of life and movement.

We were rewarded with our first ever Jaguar sighting not long afterwards! It was a pair of them and they were mating! Can you believe our luck – mating Jaguars on our very first afternoon on the river. The were a little higher up on the bank & slightly obscured by some branches. We decided to wait a little and soon enough the female wandered down to the edge of the river & lay down right in the open for us! It was an incredible moment, all of us were totally jaw-dropped not only at the beauty of this animal in front of us, but also by her colossal size!

I’ve seen countless leopards in my lifetime and large ones at that, but never have I seen a spotted cat quite like this! She was as big if not bigger than the largest male leopard I’ve ever encountered! I could hardly believe my eyes!

After some time we decided to let her be and just as we were about to leave we spotted yet another Jaguar walking along the bank on the opposite side. He was MASSIVE! He was possibly drawn by the smell of a female Jaguar in estrous & came looking for her. He was however not keen to cross towards her, presumably because another large male Jaguar was already in attendance and he wanted to avoid a confrontation. He looked like an older male, perhaps not all that interested in fighting with other younger & stronger males.

The next week was EPIC! Instead of a day by day breakdown of the week here with Jaguars, I’ll take a little less of your time and share some highlights with you instead. You’ll enjoy it equally.

Let me start off by saying that seeing Jaguars in the wild has been a dream of mine for a very long time, as mentioned in the beginning. I did however always imagine them as super shy & near impossible to see. In fact, before the safari industry in the Pantanal kicked off the bulk of good Jaguar images came from captive animals.

The Pantanal changed it all! I can see why.

I could hardly believe how dense the Jaguar population was on the Cuiaba River and its ally rivers. Over the next week here were enjoyed no less than 29 sightings of Jaguars! That’s a massive amount and far more than what I ever could have imagined. Ricardo did say that the sightings we enjoyed were very special & not common but still, it surpassed anything I could have hoped for.

What I will also say is that no matter how many we got to see, each sighing was different & special. I don’t think you’ll ever get used to seeing them or grow tired of it, it’s simply not possible.

What also struck me was their sheer size! The Jaguars found within the region are also the largest sub-species of Jaguar, Panthera onca pintada. Believe it or not, but male Jaguars can weigh up to as much as a fully grown lioness! The heaviest Jaguar ever recorded weighed in at just under 160 kilograms! Consider then that the heaviest leopards don’t reach 100 kilograms! I know you should not compare these two iconic species but one can’t help. At the surface they are so similar yet as you get to know both a little better you soon realize they are very different & unique after all.

Our daily routine in the northern Pantanal would look something like this.

05:00am – Meet for a quick bite to eat & a cup of coffee.

05:30am – Hop aboard the boat as we start the safari.

11:30am – Arrive back at the lodge ready for lunch & a short break.

14:00pm – Back to the boats as we head back out for the afternoon.

18:30pm – Arrive back at camp after spending the afternoon on the river.

19:30pm – Dinner & drinks.

That gives you an idea of what the schedule on the river looks like. It’s a jam packed experience and leaves little time for anything other than spending time with one of the most incredible predators to walk this planet of ours. What more could you ask for? 😉

On this particular safari the highest concentration of Jaguars were found along the Three Brothers River and the Black Channel. These regional densities vary from year to year based on territory changes, Pantanal flood levels etc. Hotel Pantanal Norté – our homa base – is set on the Cuiaba River which is the larger of the rivers, and it only takes about twenty minutes to reach the Three Brothers River once you leave camp, very close indeed. It makes the camp ideal in terms of location.

There are other accommodation options. The floating houseboats seem like a great place to stay as they place themselves a little closer to the ideal locations, but at the end of the day you all get to the densest Jaguar areas at the same time. It’s also nice to be on land in the evenings, get off of the river a little. There’s also some great birdlife to see at the hotel and the Capybaras that visit the lodge’s lawns every evening are pretty cool to see.

So I know you want to hear more about the Jaguars but let me make a mention of some of the other awesome creatures that inhabit the Jaguars domain.

Giant River Otters are not only awesome to spend time with but are also very impressive and much larger than the typical otter species. They can grow as long as a man & can be a handful for the Jaguars on the river, especially when in their family units.

They are very active early mornings and late afternoons as they interact with each other, and they also favour actively fishing in the mornings. Once they make a catch they’ll bring the prey to the surface & consume it, typically on one of branches of a fallen tree on the edge of the river. They feed with vigour and soon after might pop back into the water to hunt again. On some morning they can catch and consume 3 or 4 different meals. They also don’t share well with others.

On one occasion an otter caught a massive eel. The eel put up a brave fight but stood little chance against the powerful otter. It was soon killed & consumed by the otter. Again, no sharing involved.

These otters are also extremely social & the interactions between family members make for great viewing. They are loud & vocal & their calls can be heard from far away.

We were very fortunate to witness an interaction between an Otter family and a large male Jaguar. The Jaguar had been hunting along the river when he happened upon the family of otters as we followed along with the Jaguar. The otters likely caught wind of the big cat and their reactions were astonishing. They immediately started looking for the Jaguar and upon sighting him started vocalizing loudly & harassed the Jaguar. He had no chance of catching one and especially not in the water itself. This is a big cat but he was completely outnumbered by a family of otters the size of a man. He would have been badly attacked had he entered the water head on so he simply moved off and the otters calmed down.

There are occasions where Jaguar catch otters but it has to be by surprise and a little more thought out!

What a sight to see that was!

The otters are a common sight here along the river and we spent some good time with them. They make for such great viewing and offer you some unique photographic opportunities.

Capybara are also very common throughout the Pantanal. They are always on high alert as they form part of the Jaguar’s favourite prey. What counts in their favour is that they are never too far away from the safety of the water. Once alarmed they’ll dart into the water and if pursued by a Jaguar they’ll simply dive deep down and out of sight.

They are also a common sight at most of the lodges you’ll stay at and nearly tripping over them as they graze the lawns in the evening is not uncommon either.

Seeing an Anaconda was also very high on my personal wish list. They are actually much harder to find than what you would believe and we were very fortunate to see one at the water’s edge one day. It was not too big, perhaps just over 2 meters at best. Still great to see!

The other very common inhabitant on the river is the Jacaré Caiman. It’s believed that the Pantanal’s population of Caiman sits at around 10 million! Crazy to believe but once you visit you’ll soon see why. They are very, very common and seen pretty much everywhere.

It’s also the favourite prey for the Jaguars.

Caiman here grow to be over 2 meters in length and it’s hard to believe that Jaguars would tackle such a formidable prey species. In fact it’s hard to even consider the reptilians as prey to anyone and it goes to show the brute strength of the Jaguars on the river.

Now I’ve kept you waiting long enough and it’s time to share more about the Jaguars we got to experience on the river!

Yes, everything else I’ve mentioned offers a well-rounded safari experience but at the end of the day my guests came to see one of the world’s largest predators – the Jaguar!

I’ve spent time in the wild with some pretty impressive big cats. Lion, leopard, cheetah and tigers have impressed me in so many ways, magnificent beasts all deserving of the fame they’ve achieved. I have a special place in my heart for each of them.

The Jaguar though is a different kind of beast.

I never expected to be this taken by them.

Since I can remember the Jaguar is an animal I’ve dreamt of one day seeing in the wild. To actually meet with one face to face and to be in a position to photograph Jaguars in the wild up close & personal is beyond anything I could have hoped for. I was completely taken by these beasts living out along the dark waters of the Cuiaba River & its tributaries.

I really tried to figure out exactly what made seeing these big cats so special.

Perhaps its the feelings that come with seeing an animal for the first time, being blown away by it and all?

Perhaps it was their size. Yes, they are big but I’ve seen bigger like lions and tigers. I’ve spent countless of hours with massive lions so I’ve grown used to seeing large cats. It’s not so much the size of a Jaguar. For the record, they are massive!

Maybe it’s their beauty? Yes they are incredibly beautiful but so are leopards. I’ve spent countless hours in the company of leopards, spotted beauties on the African plains. Jaguars too are incredibly striking & will take your breath away but heck, it was not this either.

(pause for 5 minutes thinking of what to type next)

It’s impossible to put down in black and white exactly what it is that just makes them so incredibly unique. I battled to find the words.

I believe it’s all that I’ve mentioned above and so much more!

I also really loved the Jaguars habitat and the way they interacted with it. I do believe that this is what enhanced the photographic experience for my guests and I, seeing these animals so entwined with their natural surroundings, both water and land!

Cats are typically not fond of water or swimming. It’s understandable.

Jaguars however are different. They completely embrace their water-rich habitat & are right at home inside the river itself. In fact Ricardo, our local guide & co-host, once followed a male Jaguar for 9 hours as it hunted within the river, swimming whilst in search of a Cayman or Cabybara. You read that right! 9 hours of swimming!

We were fortunate to spend almost 3 hours with a female Jaguar on the hunt and the bulk of her time was spent swimming and walking along the edge of the river.

Their paws are massive and splay very easily as they wade through water and also mud.

What it also does is present you as the photographer with a very unique photographic opportunity as they move through their watery world.

You see, typically when photographing big cats you’re (hopefully) sitting in the back of a game viewer. You follow the cats as they go & it’s really tough to get down to “eye-level” with them. That level is where the magic happens for me. If you can get down that low you’re winning! It is however not always possible as the lions or leopard you’re busy photographing may not be completely comfortable with you out of the vehicle.

In Jaguar territory you’re exploring the river by boat, a boat that’s very low to the actual level of the water. This angle you create photographing from a boat presents you with a very unique “eye – level” view and it’s far more powerful & impactful than sitting higher up on a vehicle.

What also adds beautifully to your photographs are the dark banks of the river as a backdrop. There’s also a lot of overhanging vegetation & Jaguars often find themselves amongst this as they hunt for Cayman, a lovely photographic opportunity will quickly present itself.

Something else that adds to the photographic experience is that water is obviously very reflective. As the big cats wade through the water or move along the bank, light will be reflected right on to the cat & fill up the face & eyes with beautiful light. This avoids too harsh shadows and gives you easy beautiful exposures.

Lastly, they often drink water & once again being at eye level and on the boat you’re able to capture beautiful shots of them drinking from the river, often facing right into the camera’s viewfinder.

Overall we enjoyed 29 sightings of Jaguars in a 7 day period. The most sightings we had on one particular day was 11. To be honest we could have “racked up” even more sightings but towards the latter part of the safari we decided that quality time was of more importance. We ended up spending more time with cats that were active, investing time in to the sightings that we had. We were rewarded with a number of epic sightings & encounters because of patience.

We spent the bulk of one day with a mating pair. The cats were actively mating and were doing so right in the open on the edge of a sandy bank. They would mate on the beach itself probably every 20 minutes or so. It was such a rare sight!

Ricardo had been working with the Jaguars on this river since the early 2000’s and he had personally never seen mating cats for such an extended period & with such a good visual quality.

The day before we found the same cats courting but not yet mating. In the late afternoon the two lovers were walking along the waters edge & eventually lay down in the cool water. It had been a long hot day for all. Both male & female would emit a low growl from time to time. It was not very loud but it did manage to carry to the ears of another nearby male.

Within minutes he was on the scene. He approached tentatively from the upper bank whilst the two cats we had been watching were still cooling down the water below. All of a sudden the approaching male stepped on a twig & the “crack” alerted the two cats below him. Within seconds the mating male stood up and went to investigate.

We knew that all sorts of chaos was about to go down & all we could do was to have our cameras ready to fire, and also remember to breathe. It was such a tense moment!

The two males were behind some thick vegetation and neither were visible. Then all of a sudden the female stood up and took off in the opposite direction! Then to the left of where she ran from snarling & growling filled the air. The two males had found each other and the fight was on! They were right at it & rolled down the embankment & into our view! The intruding male had the upper hand. After a few seconds of fighting on the ground the challenger sent Mr. Romeo on his way. He crashed into the water and started swimming for all his worth. The mating pair were now completely disrupted as the female went running into another direction completely, and the intruding make was left standing on the edge of the river keeping an eye on the other male now swimming away at an olympian pace.

The dependence on water for these cats was once again shown by the losing male’s first instinct – to consider the water as a point of safety! He swam for more than a kilometer, constantly looking back over his shoulder to make sure he was not being followed by his attacker! When he finally felt comfortable he exited the river & disappeared into the thickets.

Coincidently this male who lost the fight was back with the female the following day mating on the beach, as earlier described.

The mating continued for another day and we left with some more quality imagery. He was rather playful and on several occasions his “courting behaviour” had him leaping on to her when she was not watching. He was however met by a barrage of claws and teeth, every single time.

We played witness to another incredible moment when we found a male Jaguar climbing on to a tree overhanging the river.

We had been following him for some time and soon found an unidentifiable carcass on the opposite side to us. It could have been a cow but we were not sure. There were many vultures around the area and we were not sure if another Jaguar was in attendance.

The male whom we had been following was on the opposite side of the river. He had no intentions of disturbing another Jaguar on its kill and tried to use the vantage point offered by the tree to “scout” the area for any signs of another cat. We ran out of sunlight before seeing whether he would actually cross or not, but the photographs my guests were able to take of this Jaguar up the tree was simply sensational!

Jaguars are not as adept as leopard up in trees and it’s not all that common to see them perched up high. This certainly was a treat for my guests!

We found two sub adult brother that had stumbled upon an already dead Caiman. It was a gift from above for these two boys. They were already independant from their mother & a meal such as this would take them a long way!

What it also meant for my guests and I was that we’d have them sticking around in this area for a few days, which is exactly what they did.

Pictured above is the young Jaguar with the Caiman carcass just along the waters edge to the left. It was too large for them to drag up the bank initially & they uncharacteristically fed from the water itself.

They hung around the carcass for 3 days before moving on to look for something else to feed on. It left my guests with incredible imagery though, something we had them to thank for 😉

On once occasion a turkey vulture perched on the tip of a large fallen tree next to the site of the carcass. One of the youngsters walked out on to the log in order to chase the vulture away! We were blessed with a magnificent sight as the Jaguar walked straight towards us on that log. The photo above is from that particular moment, pure bliss!

Something that really stands out about the Pantanal and it’s spotted cats, is that there’s seldom one photo that’s similar to the other. Every time you see a Jaguar it presents itself within a very beautiful environment, something not often on offer when photographing cats. I remember us always in awe of the natural beauty of the river & then to have a Jaguar added to the scene was such an additional bonus, if I could put it that way!

The deep dark colours of the Pantanal made for such striking photographic opportunities. The dark waters too contrasted beautifully with the stunning coats of the cats. Without fail, every Jaguar we photographed made for a unique scene & would be found at one point or another against a stunning environment.

Why does this matter so much?

Because all too often people go on safari and come home with portraits of the big cats. Yes, portraits are great but some areas in Africa for example don’t always lend themselves to be included within the frame, so you end up shooting tighter.

The Pantanal however is different.

It’s scenically one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever visit. Therefore photographing Jaguars you more often than not include a little environment into your frame, something I find refreshing & more interesting. I am not saying one place is better than the other, don’t get me wrong.

The Pantanal’s beauty however is undeniable and the facts that you get to take photos of Jaguars in such incredible scenery is something that makes this safari very unqiue.

As you can see from everything I share and mention above, this was a very special safari. I was completely blown away by what we saw and I can wholeheartedly say that my guests were too.

All in all we were privy to 29 Jaguar sightings in 7 full days. Only a small few were not “photographic” but the bulk of them had my guests firing away.
That’s plenty of sightings, something hard even for Africa & it’s dense predator populations to produce.

You also can’t help but enjoy the birding on offer in the Pantanal, both north and south. We saw many species in total but I listed almost 100 key species, birds that stood out because of the beauty or interesting habits. That’s almost 100 new & exciting birds of the list!

We saw a total of 18 mammal species including capaybara, marsh deer, pampus deer, azara’s aguti, collared peccarie, black & gold howler monkey, two anteaters species, 2 armadillo species, 2 otter species, tapier, Jaguar and more! It’s an abundance of wildlife & so exciting to see so many new species.

This is a special place. It’s the kind of place you won’t forget. It’s the kind of place you’ll long to return to time and time again, of that I have no doubt!

If you’d love to join Wild Eye in the Pantanal in 2019, follow the link provided below.


The 2020 safari dates & details will be released soon. Keep an eye out for two different Pantanal offerings in 2020. One extended Southern & Northern Pantanal itinerary, and one specifically focused on the Jaguars in the North only.

Thanks so much for your time and for reading along, I trust you too gained a glimpse into this incredible safari destination and I hope that you’ll one day join us on safari here.

Till next time,

About the Author

Marlon duToit

Passion, enthusiasm and an unquenchable thirst to explore and introduce you to our natural world’s wildlife perfectly sums up my ambitions. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Through my African adventures I kept my photographic passion alive. Behind a camera aimed at a lion or a leopard is where I am most at home, my heart skipping a beat at the mere thought of it. My intention has never been solely for recognition but for the plight of what’s left of our natural recourses. Using my love and understanding of wildlife I am able to convey to the viewer more than an image or a fleeting moment. I aim to tell a story, to bring that moment alive to you and to capture your heart through it.

Comments 4

  1. Subi

    Hi Marlon
    Excellent writeup and it looks like one special experience. The birds are do colourful! I’m already thinking of joining for the extended safari in 2020!

    1. Post
      Marlon duToit

      Subi it’s a special place and I hope it showed through the write up! I know you’d love it and I am so glad that you are considering it. The birds alone will blow you away!

  2. Sherry

    Looks and sounds absolutely amazing, Marlon. Love the jaguar photos! And your enthusiasm about the birds! Would love to go there one day – it’s on the bucket list!

    1. Post
      Marlon duToit

      It’s an incredible adventure, filled with so many beautiful and memorable moments. It’s great to hear that it’s on your bucket list, do let me know and we’ll make it happen!

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