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Pantanal, August 2013

pedro maia

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The hotel Porto Jofre is right at the end of the Transpantaneira, it´s a rather uncharacteristic hotel with two room chalets, each with 4 beds and 2 bathrooms, quite practical but the showers were quite bad.


The food, as in other hotels along the Transpantaneira, is buffet and is ok.


It´s expensive for what it offers as a hotel but one pays for location and it´s location it´s unbeatable, in the area alternatives are scarce, one camping and a couple of floating hotels.


The end of the Transpantaneira, a few meters from the river Cuiabá




Inside the hotel grounds, there are lots of birds, including the amazing hyacinth macaw



Our room was the right door of this chalet




And it was right in front of the river




The hotel clients are fisherman, birders and people on tour to look for jaguars, they rent their on boats and have accommodation for guides.


The problem is when you hire a guide with a boat, as I did, they not only forbid the guide to enter the hotel perimeter and don´t allow you to use the hotel embarcadero but they also tell you that if you stay there you can´t hire a boat from outside the hotel, which is clearly abusive and didn´t stop me to do that, the guy in charge seemed upset when he found that I had a guide with a boat outside the hotel but I didn´t care and he relax a bit during our stay.


Time to speak of our guide, after reading a lot I hired the guys from Pantanal Nature http://www.pantanalnature.com.br/, and it was a great choice, they aren´t cheap but it was really worth it, we were lucjy to have their owner as a guide, Ailton Lara, he was a great guide and definitely contributed to make ours an unforgettable trip. To give you an idea, they were hired to support the crew of National Geographic who made the documentary Secret Brazil, and also cooperates with Panthera organization.


We arranged to meet Ailton around 2pm and a little later we were on his boat, cruising the Cuiabá river and heading to Parque Estadual Encontro das Águas.


On board Ailton´s boat




River Cuiabá




When I was preparing this trip I always said to myself (and to my family) that seeing jaguars was just one of the goals of the trip but we should be prepared for the possibility of not seeing one, and in fact I thought we would be cruising the river and might have the chance to see one, but as soon as we were on board Ailton looked very focused and started checking the river banks and listening to possible signs of jaguar presence (different bird sounds) and that´s when I figured out it was the real deal, we had a good chance of spotting the “onça pintada”.


But the chase for jaguars didn´t prevent us to enjoy the amazing landscape and all other local animals




I shoot his jump on video, nice moment




Of course we saw lots of capybara, how cute can this little one be?




Mom and dad in the river bend




Family moments captured on video




Some 30 minutes from Porto Jofre is the Parque Estadual Encontro das Águas, where the rivers Cuiabá, Três Irmãos and Corixo Negro meet, is thought to be the place in the world with the highest concentration of jaguars and certainly the place where it´s easier to see them, in the dry season, when it gets hot and their prey concentrate in the river banks. A fews moments after we entered the Três Irmãos Ailton gets an information on the radio that one jaguar was spotted in an island in that same river, we head immediately to thate island, it´s not easy to navigate, in places the vegetation covers the water, but we get through and arrive to where other boats are “parked”, we do the same and start looking to the island, the vegetation moves once, twice and…


Bingo, there he is, a big male with a huge head comes out of the vegetation, we are amazed, what a beautiful creature, we can´t believe our luck, it took us less than 2 hours on the river to spot one of the most elusive cats in the world.






He stopped for a while just in front of us and got back into the bush, didn´t came back but I also caught him in this video, with lousy quality




It´s hard to describe the emotion of actually seeing such a majestic animal for the first time, it´s one of those moments you can never forget and you feel the luckiest person on earth.


After the sighting, we cruised the rivers for a little longer, appreciating the amazing landscape




And we were rewarded by an incredible sunset, hard to translate to words















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Very nice sunset shots: that one from the boat is a cracker. Matt

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@@Game Warden thanks, the sunset was perfect and I also like that picture a lot, I´m going to send it to Ailton

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@@Game Warden thanks, the sunset was perfect and I also like that picture a lot, I´m going to send it to Ailton

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On our only full dayin Porto Jofre it didn´t take us long to spot one of the prettiest animals of the place, the giant otter (ariranha) there was a group of them still in the river Cuiabá (they are best spotted at the river Piquiri, another subsidiary of the Cuiabá), and they were hunting for fish (it´s not easy to take pictures of the otters or filming them on video, they are submerge very quickly and you don´t know where they will show up again).




This one caught one fish






It was incredible the sound they made cracking the spine of the fish while eating




With such big teeth one can see this is clearly a predator








Another one eating








It was also great to listen to them communicating among them, quite noisy




We stayed with the otters for quite a while and then followed our way, in the meantime we saw this iguana




A pause and a picture of Ailton and my family




The inevitable capybara family, I think they are quite beautiful, maybe a little strange but still beautiful






This big gay caught a real big fish






But in the wild just beacuse you´re big that doesn´t mean you can eat undisturbed, especially when the fish you caught is bigger than your mouth, in that case a strategic retreat may be the wisest decision




Yacare caymans are quite photogenic






Before getting back to the hotel for lunch we saw this beautiful great black hawk



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Love otters! They are noisy indeed, thank you for the video, interesting hearing them.


Completely unrelated question: Which power plug adaptor did you use? The info online on Brazilian sockets is a bit confusing...

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@@michael-ibk, I had the same doubt but there was no need of using any kind of adaptor, our regular european plugs worked in every hotel we stayed in Brazil, and we stayed in 6 hotels.

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Right after lunch we are back on the boat, we head straight to Encontro das Águas and now Ailton is really foccused on finding a jaguar, but we go up and down the rivers for 3 hours, looking for a silhoutte, a sound, but nothing, and the same with other boats, today jaguars seemed to have vanished, we are on a full moon and Ailton tells us that according to his experience when there is a full moon it gets harder to spot jaguars, although he doesn´t have a scientific explanation for that.


Suddenly, before a u-turn bend on river Três Irmãos, one capybara runs into the river and swims as quickly as it cans to a tiny vegetation island on the middle of the river, "screaming" in obvius distress, Ailton has no doubts, there´s a jaguar in this place, he stops the boat and we wait in silence, for 10, 15 minutes, nothing happens but the capybara stays in ther middle of the river.


Since we are on a u-turn of the river, there´s a chance that the jaguar has gone to the other side, so we go there but still no sign of the jaguar.

After a while we go back to where the capybara is and from another boat we get to know that the jaguar came out of the vegetation for a brief instant and went back inside.


As we prepare to wait once again Ailton gets a call on the boat radio, another jaguar was spotted further down the river, he turns on the boat engine and rides as quickly as he cans, now we are on a boat chase, like in an action movie.


As we get to the place there are a few more boats waiting, we do the same, after a short momment one tiger heron (socó-boi) takes off in the river bank and it takes only a few seconds for the jaguar to show up.








And it goes back inside, now the question is to find wich direction he is taking, we ride along the bank until there is a spot where the vegetation is not so thick and we have another glimpse of it but for no more than a second.




We keep on the move, Ailton´s bet is that the jaguar is going down the river, than, we reach a beach, we park the boat close to the other bank, less than 1 meter for a yacare cayman who keeps an eye on us but doesn´t move, after a short while I see a small bird taking off in the beggining of the beach and I say "it´s coming out".


I must say that I gave 2 jaguars false alarms during this day, in one of those occasions it was a cow but this time I was right, the jaguar enters the beach and slowly crosses it in front of us, like a model on a runway show, and we have first row seats.
























What a sighting, a perfect end for a long day, it tooks us more than 8 hours on the boat to see the jaguar, but it was tottaly worth it.


A video of the occasion:



And once again, as we head back to the hotel, the moon shows up and the sun sets over the river Cuiabá...





Edited by pedro maia
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Wow, what a terrific sighting indeed. And in such beautiful light. He really did put on a show for you. How close was your boat?

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Wonderful - must have been a great feeling to get such a good sighting after spending all that time! Beautiful animal!

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How close was your boat?


I don´t know, the river wasn´t very wide in that place, I could say something like 20/30m but I´m not sure.

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Our last morning in Porto Jofre, my son has a little fever, nothing serious, but he doesn´t feel like going to the boat, my wife stays with him so it´s just me, my daughter and Ailton, we go straight to the river Três Irmãos, the plan is to check the island where we saw the jaguar on our first day, when we are already close to that zone Ailton receives a radio call, there´s a jaguar in the river Corixo Negro, change of plans, we head to that river and some 300m inside there it is, catching the morning sun, tottaly indiferent to the presence of the boats:








One giant otters emerges between us and the jaguar, it´s lazyness is gone for a while and it seems as if we can have some action, now it has a predatory look in its eyes












But it wasn´t meant to be, the jaguar soon realizes it doesn´t stand a chance, the otter is gone and it goes back to what it was doing before






A close up with a little cheating




Things happened quite quickly, it took us less than one hour in the river to see this jaguar, it was just perfect, 3 jaguars so far, I think it would be a little selfish to continue in the river while my son and wife are at the hotel so I decide to call it a day and ask Ailton to take us back to Porto Jofre, we say good bye and thank him for the wonderful time and soon we are back in the Transpantaneira, going to Pousada Rio Claro in time for lunch.


Nedless to say that our time in Porto Jofre could´t have been better, in excess of our expectations.

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One of those pics would make an excellent avatar image @@pedro maia ;)




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Really enjoying this, thank you for sharing.

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Back on the road, we had a little over 100km in front of us since the Pousada Rio Claro is at km 42 of the Transpantaneira.


It was time to cross most of the bridges again, in the whole road we counted 120 of which 119 are wooden, 2 were closed and other 2 we preferred not to cross them and went by the sideway, only passable during the dry season.
















Some of the wildlife along the road


Roseate Spoonbill










Yacare cayman




We also met this peão pantaneiro, the local cowboy




Arriving to Pousada Rio claro




It´s quite a nice and authentic place, with lots of birds like this beautiful Campo flicker




It was a hot and lazy afternoon, finally we had some caipirinhas, played pool and watched the sunset, Pantanal sunsets are gorgeous








We thought about doing a night game drive but it was a full moon and we were told that it wasn´t good to spot animals



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Beautiful sunset photos, and I'm still entranced by the photos of the pink trumpet trees.


Look forward to reading more about Rio Clara as its one of my favourite lodges.

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Your family had to be grinning after those jaguar sightings. Nice capped heron too, my fav South American bird. Nice pantanerio cowboy shot amongst all the animals and birds. Interesting conflict with the external guide and boat. It was worth it for you. Getting a guide who worked with Nat Geo

can´t be beat.


Those giant river otters were very active and visible for you. How fortunate.


@@Treepol and I agree on Rio Clara.


I`ve been the latest installment of your report in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where I arrived today. How appropriate.

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Last morning in Pantanal was spent in Pousada Rio Claro, I get up early because I still hadn´t taken any pictures of a sunrise, and sunrises in Pantanal are as glorious as sunsets












Fishing birds are already in position




It´s also a good time to stroll around the pousada, which is a farm, I saw this rodent, could be an agouti but I´m not sure (and I wasn´t able to get a better picture)




They have these huge pigs, funny to see one with a vulture walking over it.




Of course there are lots of birds








I couldn´t resist to the flower trumpet trees




And then we went for a 2 hour boat tour on the river Claro, very tranquil, the river is quite beautiful and is full of birds, such as this anhinga




It was great to see this Chestnut-eared Aracari, without Valdir we would never spot it as it blends totally with the tree colours




Our guide, Valdir, had a bag full of piranhas to feed some of the wildlife, not the wildest and most natural show but it was funny to watch and I guess it´s harmless as it only occurs in a limited area


First it was time for the resident tuiuiú






Then he started calling "Doroteeeeeeeeeeeeia, café da manhã" (breakfast), after a short while Doroteia showed up, a female yacare cayman with a new hairdress for the occasion










Finally it was time for this black-collared hawk (?), this sequence of pictures was shot by my daughter with her camera (the same with Doroteia´s pictures)














Quite beautiful the river Claro



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It´s time to finish this trip report, on the last 40km of the Transpantaneira, on our way back to Cuiabá, we saw one armadillo crossing the road (but couldn´t take a picture) and the usual suspects, such as yacaré cayman, capybara, and many, many birds, this last picture shows how rich is Pantanal in what concerns wildlife, there are close to 100 birds only in this shot:




It was the end of a wonderful family trip, one of the best we ever made, Pantanal is really a wonderful and magical place, the sightings were spectacular, the jaguar, the giant otters, the hyacinth macaws and many other animals make this place a must go place to wildlife enthusiasts.


And, of course, self driving the Transpantaneira was one of the highlights of the trip, I strongly recomend to anyone going to Northern Pantanal during the dry season to rent a car and go all the way down to Porto Jofre, I don´t have any doubt that this is one of the great car trips one can make.


That it, now it´s time to think about other trips, maybe time to think about going back to Africa...

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Thank you for a fantastic trip report, I really enjoyed all of it. The sunset scenes and the pink-blooming trumpet trees are the standout pics for me, and the jaguars of course.

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Me too, enjoyed it immensely! Thank you.

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  • 3 weeks later...

@@pedro maia

I have really enjoyed this trip report - for us Pantanal has really risen high up the list from virtually nowhere. Great photos of the environment as well as superb wildlife images

Great sighting of the Jaguar and you give a really good flavour of the experience

Thank you for taking the time to put this together

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@@TonyQ. thanks for your comment, I´g glad that you enjoyed the TR and if you ever have any question concerning thata area feel free to ask.

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  • 11 months later...
Great relation, very helpful.

We are going with my wife for two weeks to the Pantanal I have a few questions:

- Can I rent a car in Cuiaba with full insurance, with no exclusions. I looked intrernet and I contacted Avis and Hetz, but I found just renting, taking into account the own contribution, which will be downloaded from my credit card in case of a random event, without insurance mirrors, windows, scratching a car

and so on., I did not find the option of full insurance with no hidden exclusions, own contribution, etc.

- Whether it is better to rent a car in advance - advance booking, or not be a problem with renting at the airport in Cuiaba - we fly around 8am and we we will just go on tour

- I can not contact the camping site at Porto Jofre, whether someone could e-mail address

- Is it possible to rent a boat with a guide on full day tour after arriving to Porto Jofre, or I must to book in advance - if so it is again asked to e-mail address,

- What are the prices of camping in Porto Jofre and what are the prices one-day boat trips for two people?

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