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Brazil 2014: Pantanal Wonderland


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On the river at Porto Jofre


Julinho has his own boat which he keeps at Porto Jofre during the season. It has comfortable seats, and a canopy which can be raised to protect from the sun (or rain!) but can easily be lowered if at wildlife sightings.


Photo by @@Thursday's Child - taken next day

We headed downriver on our first afternoon – it was quiet, peaceful and beautiful. Julinho had said that we need to scan the banks of the river as we move along, looking for Jaguar.


We travelled downstream, looking at the banks, gliding into small side channels, enjoying the experience of being on the river.



Black Skimmer on a beach


As we were coming out of a side channel, Julinho spotted an otter in the water – he followed it – we saw another and then came alongside a family of Giant Otters playing on the bank and in the water. Julinho kept the boat well positioned, despite the current...





We spent about 25 mins with no one-else around, enjoying watching their interaction, rapid movements taking them under water, back onto the bank, behind branches, calling to each other. It was wonderful.



Adult greets youngster

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One headed into a hole (their den) and we saw sand spraying out into the water. There was also a very strong smell of fish! When planning the trip, we had really hoped that we might get to see a family of Giant Otters – so we were delighted.



We travelled on, enjoying the river - lots of bird life was visible, including Cocoi Heron, Anhinga, Parrots


We also saw two sorts of Iguana (the other one was too quick for me!)


Ringed Kingfisher

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A family of Capybara swimming across the river




Boat-billed Heron (I think a juvenile)


We stopped to watch a family of howler monkeys high in a tree

It was getting dark as we were returning,


and we came across a tree where hundreds of egrets roosted for the night.


Julinho was almost apologetic that we did not see a Jaguar – we had to stress how much we had loved the trip. We were thrilled with the afternoon. The river was much more beautiful than I had imagined – and we did not see another boat all afternoon (most go in the other direction). We thought it was a great start to our stay at Porto Jofre – and celebrated with a cold beer!.

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A day on the river ... and with some great wildlife sightings ... in a company of a qualified guide ... is the best way to enjoy the nature!

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Still love your report, Tony ....great photos and writing, I'm Feeling like being right back there just reading this. :)


wonderful otter sightings, and congrats on the marmoset pics, I found them very hard to get good pics of. We never went downriver at Porto Jofre but apparently we really should have.


About the Rio Claro feeding: Experienced that myself, the boatman attracted Jabiru, Black-Collared Hawk, Caiman, Cocoi Heron and Otters with fish. maybe they stopped doing that.

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You were quite right, I did like the next post! Great pictures, love the little otter cub! :D

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Fabulous otter interaction @@TonyQ and your photos capture the stillness, colours and peace of the river very well.

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Thank you - It was wonderful


Thank you - I don't know if RioClaro have stopped or they just didn't do it when we were there (Julinho is very opposed to it). We only briefly saw another boat when we were on the water there.


Thank you - the cubs are cute!


Thank you the river was lovely in way I had not expected.

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A Full Day on the River


The Rio Cuiaba and the “Meeting of the Waters” is probably the most reliable place in the world to have a chance of seeing Jaguars. We were spending 3 night at Porto Jofre to give us two half days and two full days on the river.


The plan for today is to be up early and head upstream where most Jaguars are seen. We would take a packed lunch and spend the full day on the river. Unfortunately when we do get up, there have been some showers overnight, and apparently heavier rain is heading towards us. This is a major worry as Jaguars like heat and sunshine.


Julinho advises us to bring raingear with us and we set off at 6.45am. After a while there is a light drizzle which gradually gets heavier. We put the canopy up and pull over to shelter under an overhanging tree, and wait….



A boat goes past in the rain

We sit it out, trying not to get down about the situation – but if the weather remains as it is, it will be very difficult to see anything, let alone find a Jaguar.

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Practical Tips

Luckily we had read the fine report by @inyathi where he describes being caught in a storm on the river. So we were prepared. We each had a poncho that covered us completely, we also each had an Exped XL Dry Bag to put all of our camera stuff in. We had plastic camera sleeves (made from a Poundshop plastic mac cut in half!) to cover our cameras if we still had cause to use them.


It can also be extremely hot so you need to be prepared for that as well – sun protection is essential as you may not be able to have the boat canopy up at all times.


We also strongly recommend taking safety goggles (like those used for cycling). As it gets dark, you may well be travelling quickly back to base and there are many insects in the air at this time. Having protection for your eyes is well worth it!

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The Rain Eases...


By about 9.00 it looks like the rain is easing so we move from under our tree head out on the river. We begin exploring some of the smaller side channels and find


Black Skimmer


And friend…..


It is still overcast and there is dampness in the air, but we feel relieved to be out on the river, enjoying seeing some wildlife. We realise that it is not really Jaguar weather but we will enjoy the day anyway. Then Julinho gets a message on his radio from one of his friends...


Jaguar has been seen fairly close – so we go on a fairly rapid twenty minute dash. There are two or three boats lined up on one side of the channel, with people looking towards the other side. Julinho skilfully positions our boat and we excitedly catch a brief glimpse of a Jaguar as it briefly moves through undergrowth. A few minutes later


It pops its head up to see what is going on



It then sits down, invisible in the bushes. More boats arrive, but position themselves carefully and behave well. After another 25 minutes



It gets up and walks behind bushes

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And 10 minutes later


Comes out again


Before finally disappearing.


We were really excited to see a Jaguar especially as we had been convinced that today we would not. We had said to each other that although it would be nice to see one, we had to accept that we might not – but the sighting did remove a bit of pressure – even though we had not been aware of it!


As we pulled away we went past a lot of boats lined up trying to catch a glimpse of this beautiful animal.

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We travelled around more narrow channels, scanning the banks. Having seen the Jaguar, noticing how it disappears into the undergrowth, I did not have great confidence that my eyesight would be much use to Julinho in finding another Jaguar!.


We then came across a family of Capybara


Huddling together

We spent about half an hour watching these interact with each other. I think they are really fascinating animals, but lots of people just go straight past them.



Capybara swimming – you can see why their head is that shape – with nostrils, eyes and ears positioned as they are.


Keeping close to mum



A bit of affection….


And we say goodbye..

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We were staying on the river all day, so Julinho had arranged a delicious picnic lunch (pasta with garlic and salt, fried catfish, tomatoes) which we enjoyed resting on a sandy beach. We relaxed for a while, relishing the fact that it was not raining!


We set off exploring narrow channels again, and came across three boats waiting. Again Julinho positioned our boat well, and we caught a glimpse….



13.20 –Glimpse through binoculars – there is definitely one there!


13.58 – MrsQ Watching carefully, hoping it would move!


The ability to wait patiently is important. More boats arrived, and some of the people were quite noisy (conversation), but the boats behaved well in terms of positioning. The Jaguar could easily leave it wanted to – but I suppose was not that bothered.



14.27 – it does pops its head up for a few minutes


We watch some birds – including a Yellow-billed Cardinal bathing, and a pair of very bright Orange-Backed Troupial, high in the tree above the Jaguar.



16.52 – it has a look around again and moves about a bit


17.41 It has another look around


17.42 – light is getting very low (ISO 6400, f5.6, 1/30 second)

It settles down and we decide to leave and head back towards the hotel. It is getting dark, but the sunset is beautiful, making the river look like silver.



Julinho is extremely hard working. He has been on the go all day from very early – getting the boat ready before we set off, tracking all day, and even as we were heading back, he was using his torch to spotlight on some parts of the river banks. It seemed a bit optimistic to me, but then he pulled over to one bank and excitedly drew our attention to an Ocelot. I was a bit slow seeing it, but still had a clear but brief view; MrsQ had spotted it slightly earlier than me. (No photos) He certainly knows what he is doing!


So a day that we thought would very unproductive because of the weather gave us clear views of two Jaguars and finished with an Ocelot. When we got back to the hotel we decided that the traditional celebration was called for….

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I can imagine how you must have felt with this cold streak coming up, must be such an relief finding a jaguar. Great sightings, love him peeking out of all the green. Was this at the Black Channel?


Agree about the Capybaras, they are always fascinating to watch, and I always had fun working out who is who (Dad, Mum, kids).

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OMG you saw them; I am so excited for you......the Jaguars are stunning.. but rightly so, everything else as well! A great guide for sure worried and caring about your sightings....


I've been told to go; your report increases the desire...

enjoying this ride with you.


Brazil is actually so easy for us to go; I can't believe we do not return to SA more!

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Whoaaa @@TonyQ think those Jaguar pictures and your report might be tipping me back towards a trip to the Pantanal....

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@@TonyQ I hope the cold spell didn't last to long, they can put a real dampener on a Pantanal safari.


Fabulous jaguar sighting!

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Awesome report and photos!! So many animals & you even bagged a puma! Wow - so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for sharing with us! My excitement levels are going through the roof now, I'll be going in Sept 2015 :-)

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@@TonyQ - not my fault if your inbox is being inundated with 'likes' :P Can't seem to keep finger from tapping that button for each new post! Wow, wow and triple wow - the photos are all incredible but your planning really paid off - this quality and these quantities of sightings cannot just be serendipity! I think you've made a huge number of converts to the cause with this report. Certainly I am among them too. Reading this all at one sitting, I don't know which ones to point out in particular because they're all so good, but there are so many specials here. Did you take any more vids during the trip? Loved seeing the nursing capybara and would really enjoy seeing more vids from you & Mrs Q.

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You describe yourselves as "two non-birders." With your many outstanding bird photos, that can't be entirely true. The Capped Heron is my favorite South American bird so 2 photos was not too much at all.


I heard there were lots of cold and wet spells this past dry season. I know that feeling of feeling a little betrayed by the weather. But the rain did not seem to hinder you at at all.


The complete checklist of birds and mammals showed up on your trip and you got such fantastic photos.


The plug and adapter problem had to be stressful. I don't recall needing the 3-holer, so thanks for the warning.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Hmmmmm, even though I love Africa so much, might need to put Brazil on the list! So many different animals and birds to see! I LOVE otters so would travel just to see them, but I reckon those anteaters are pretty special too.

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Thank you - we did worry about a possible cold spell (but it turned out OK). I don't know if it was the Black Channel - I don't remember Julinho mentioning it - but that doesn't mean he didn't!


I am glad you have enjoyed it. It is very different to Africa but we loved it


Thank you - luckily the cold spell didn't last - it starts to get very hot from now onwards!


Thank you - September 2015 is a great time to go - it will be exciting - where will you be staying?


Thank you. The Pantanal only came up for us because of trip reports on Safaritalk - so I hope I am adding to that fine earlier work. We do a lot of research and planning before we go on a trip - we actually enjoy it. Once we are there we are happy to go with the flow and enjoy what we see. We (especially MrsQ) would have been very disappointed not to see Giant Anteaters, but so much is interesting if you take an interest in it! We were very clear in our minds that we didn't just want to focus on Jaguars.


Videos - thanks for the comment about the Capybara video. We use our DSLRs to take video - and we didn't take take as many as I expected (took a lot more in Zambia last year for example) - but I think Mrs Q took more so we will have a look.


Thank you - it is certainly worth thinking about....



- thank you. We do enjoy watching birds, but are not knowledegable - and I am poor at spotting them. Luckily many in the Pantanal are large and/or colourful and willing to stay put. And we have spent a lot of time studying our Bird Book alongside photos since we got back.

@@JulieM - thank you. Pantanal is a wonderful place - and we loved the anteaters

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Searching for Jaguar


The plan for today is to set off at 6.30 and head downstream for the morning to the less busy area to search for Jaguar.


We are up early and after yesterday’s weather, anxiously look out of the window. It looks good!



We wander around the pond before breakfast – the weather looks very encouraging!


The pond is covered in waterlilies


Cattle Tyrant (? Not sure)

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We set off and explore beautiful quiet side channels




- we watch this for a while – Julinho imitates its call and it responds – raising and lowering its head as it does so. (I am not sure if this was inviting marriage or a fight!).


As we turn into the next channel, a dozen fish leap out of the water in the wake of our boat – an amazing sight I have not seen before. We explored some more, and then pulled up onto a beach for a “pit-stop”.


As we wandered along the beach..


Black Vultures were quite relaxed.


We also saw a caiman skull, and….


Jaguar footprint – looks quite fresh – we look around a bit more carefully as we head back to the boat!

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