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Trip Report: Pantanal September 2015


cheetah80

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cheetah80

Part 1 - Pouso Alegre

 

Here is the first part of our "visual" Pantanal trip report - for those with short attention spans ;-) I'm sorry I don't have the time for a day by day journal, but this is better than nothing I suppose! I know, I am a bad bad STer.

 

Anyhow, lets get started!

 

Our trip was organised by Brazil Nature Tours - John was very responsive to my emails and organised everything to perfection for us - he was also great help in deciding on our itinerary to ensure we saw a wide variety of fauna. I definitely recommend his services.

 

Our first stop was Pouso Alegre. Very wildlife rich area which we enjoyed a lot. Hyacinth Macaws hang around in the property as well as a variety of other birds, mammals and reptiles. The property is large so game driving also needs to be done to fully appreciate the area. The game driving was very productive for us, especially near the waterhole where we saw Giant Anteater as well as Tapir. One day we even saw a mother and baby tapir - the baby tapirs are incredibly striking and cute.

 

The accommodation at Pouso Alegre is very rustic and basic - but perfectly adequate. The rooms were clean, beds comfortable and there was a/c and hot water. What more could one want? There were also some tiny frogs in the bathroom for entertainment :) Food was ok - served 3 times a day buffet style. There is a fridge with drinks available all day - operates on an "honesty bar" basis, so you keep track of what you take yourself and then pay the tab before you check out. Drinking water was available for free all day (as long as you have your own bottle for it)

 

Let me just comment here that in the Pantanal prices are similar to African safari destinations but you relatively won't get much as regards accommodation and level of service. It's just the way it is ...

 

Horse riding is available and I would recommend this activity as you get to explore the areas where you can't go by car or on foot. It is not the best way to see the animals, and definitely not good for big lens photography - but it was fun. One favourite moment of mine is when we were riding in the water through the swamps and then thousands of white egrets took flight in front of us - a magical moment (see last photo).

 

Ok that was it with the words for Part 1, I think the video can show things much better than I can explain them! Next instalment might take a while as it takes time to process the video.

 

(Video shot and edited by my partner)

 

Here are a few of my photos:

 

Hyacinth Macaw

 

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Tapir with Baby

 

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Giant Anteater with baby. It's facing the other way though :(

 

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Lesser Anteater/Southern Tamandua. This is a bad photo but it was in very thick bushes and I stupidly went in with only my big lens. I was all scratched and my shirt torn but it was still worthwhile to get a bad photo of this fantastic sighting :)

 

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Rhea

 

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Agouti - eating a piece of manioc it found in the "compost" pile at the back of the lodge

 

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Chestnut Eared Aracari

 

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Crab Eating Fox

 

gallery_6535_1388_213781.jpg''

 

Horseriding magic!

 

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Edited by cheetah80
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Part 1 - Pouso Alegre   Here is the first part of our "visual" Pantanal trip report - for those with short attention spans ;-) I'm sorry I don't have the time for a day by day journal, but this is

Part 2 - The Jaguar Zone   This must be one of my favourite videos by Mr Cheetah80     After 3 nights at Pouso Alegre it was time for some rivers and jaguars - we were really looking forward

Part 3: SouthWild Pantanal - It's all about the birds   Video by Mr Cheetah80   Once again I thank you all for your kind words @@KaingU Lodge, @@janzin, @@Big_Dog, @@kitefarrago, @@Atravelynn,

Bush dog

Excellent introduction to the Pantanal with very good pictures!

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elefromoz

What lovely photos of such unique wildlife, that baby Tapir is great with its stripes, very nice fox. Looking forward to the rest to come.

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@@cheetah80

A great start to your trip! A baby tapir and a baby anteater - wonderful. Beautiful pictures - the tamandua, and a crab-eating fox in daylight.

Congratulations to your partner on an excellent video (with a great finish)

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Treepol

@@cheetah80 wonderful to see another Pananal TR. Pousada Alegre really put on a show for you with both baby tapir and baby anteater. Those baby tapirs are so very cute!

 

Looking forward to more when you have time.

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Alexander33

@@cheetah80

 

What a great start to a trip report I am anxious to read. Your photos and the video are excellent. Love that shot of the crab-eating fox, especially.

 

We are headed to the Pantanal next July and are working with Brazil Nature Tours as well. I second your opinion that John is very helpful and responsive. You can always count on SafariTalkers to help guide you to the right agents.

 

Looking forward to more!

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Alexander33

And how could I forget to congratulate you on the Southern Tamandua portrait, especially after you tore your shirt and got all scratched up in order to achieve it? Wonderful.

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madaboutcheetah

Excellent, Alison - Thanks for this report and looking forward to the rest of it.....

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@@cheetah80

 

Both video and photos are excellent ! It was time for another Pantanal report, so keep it long and detailed.

 

P.S.: For the fifth time I have started to read your 2013 Kgalagadi TR on your web site ... and failed again! The colour scheme and the fonts are just not friendly to my eyes :( . Am I the only one having such problems?

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cheetah80

@@xelas - someone else just complained about the same thing a couple of months ago. I have been planning to redesign my website and I will definitely not choose the same colour scheme again. I just need to actually find the time to get this done :-/

 

Thanks everyone for the lovely comments :)

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cheetah80

@@Alexander33 I can assure you that you are in very good hands with John, I got my tip for this company from Safaritalk too :) Thanks for your kind words!

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Game Warden

@@cheetah80 Just copy and paste that trip report to Safaritalk and be done with it ;)

 

Great to hear that recommendations from ST have been beneficial.

 

Matt

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offshorebirder

Wow @@cheetah80 - what good luck you had! Baby Tapir, Baby Anteater, Lesser Anteater - and photos as well! The Tapir family portrait is superb.

 

And I love the photo of the Agouti savoring its food.

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Fantastic video and photos @@cheetah80! Talk about some great sightings. Can't wait for part 2!

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SafariChick

Well everyone has already said it but I will add my voice - absolutely love the baby tapir and Mama, and the baby anteater too though sometimes I find it hard to see where baby begins and Mama ends with them riding on the back!

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cheetah80

Part 2 - The Jaguar Zone

 

This must be one of my favourite videos by Mr Cheetah80 :)

 

 

After 3 nights at Pouso Alegre it was time for some rivers and jaguars - we were really looking forward to this part of the trip! After a couple of hours of driving we arrived at Porto Jofre where a boat picked us up to take us to our home for the next 5 nights: the SouthWild Jaguar Flotel.

Upon arrival we had a good and bad surprise. The good surprise is that the Flotel has been upgraded and is actually quite nice - a far cry from photos I had seen online. The bad surprise is that we were told we have to share our boat. Now for us that is a huge no-no due to some seriously bad experiences in the past (we are magnets for the worse kind of people). And after all we paid very good money for a private boat and I would just not stand for it. After making my position very clear, and thankfully no blood being shed, it was agreed our first boat excursion would be shared but thereafter we would get a private boat. Like I mentioned in part 1 the service here is not at the level of Africa! Anyway the good thing that came out of this was that for the next few days we had a very large, relatively stable and super fast boat - perhaps to make up for the initial stress.
During our 5 night stay we had many jaguar sightings (on 8 out of 10 boat rides) and saw a lot of other animals too - my favourite being the energetic Giant River Otters. I just love tropical rivers so I was in 7th heaven being in those surroundings AND being able to see the jaguars. It was so exciting to get the message on the radio that a jaguar had been spotted and then the high speed chase starts to get to the site.
The first days were extremely hot, over 40C with the hottest sun I have ever experienced but then overcast weather and rain took over. I was obviously a bit disappointed as it was too dark for good photography from a moving boat but well that's nature, and there is high ISO :)
One thing one has to be aware about is the intense congestion at jaguar sightings - expect 15-30 boats all jostling for position and some of the boatmen, guides and people tend to be very inconsiderate of others. I have a lot of jaguar photos obscured by people's heads as boats just come in front of you. It was frustrating but I was aware of this beforehand so I was mentally prepared. At some point I was very upset when one of the local "indipendent" guides was luring the jaguars with a recording, thankfully someone else shut him up after I remarked that it is unethical. Unless you are at a jaguar sighting though you are rarely bothered by other boats - perhaps at a giant otter sighting but that's about it.
One other thing to be aware of is that there are super annoying biting flies in some areas - I don't know what they are but they are two different kinds. Their bites not only hurt but they itch like crazy. For me they were worse than tsetse flies. Suffices to say that in one half hour session photographing Giant Otters I had 50 bites on each foot and those are the ones I counted BELOW the ankle. They had me itching miserably during the next week. No repellent works against them. They aren't everywhere but there tend to be many in certain patches so one can avoid them if needed. I’ll do anything for a photo though flies or no flies ;-)
Ok so more about the Flotel - the cabins are small, but the shower was the best I had during my whole trip. The AC was great to have due to heat and humidity. The cabin is so small there is nowhere to hang or store clothes so having bags and suitcases lying around makes it even more challenging to move around. The food is buffet style and mostly quite ok. There was a large selection with plenty of vegetarian options if you are so inclined. They also had crackers, biscuits, fruit and sweets available for snacking all day. The food is served in a large dining area which is surrounded by glass so you can see the surroundings quite nicely. Adjacent to the dining room there is another room with chairs, couches and electricity outlets to hang around with a laptop, or to listen to the presentations at night. I think they have some presentations going on almost every night. Wifi is usually available but the wifi box got toasted after a severe thunderstorm on our third day. The main advantage of the flotel compared to accommodation in Porto Jofre is that it is closer to the action. The ride from Porto Jofre is about 20 minutes longer each way so that would add 80 minutes extra a day of "commuting". On the flip side once you are on the flotel you cannot get out to explore the surroundings so it does get a little "claustrophobic".
Here are couple of photos (and don't forget to watch the video!)
I believe this male Jaguar is called Adriano.
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Giant River Otter munching on breakfast.
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Green Kingfisher
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A Female Jaguar
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A Jacare Caiman having lunch consisting of an Armoured Catfish
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Another Giant River Otter
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Capybara
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A hungry Ringed Kingfisher
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And finishing off with Mick Jaguar (Corsario)
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PS: and thanks so much for your kind comments on Part 1 of the trip report @@Treepol, @@madaboutcheetah, @@offshorebirder, @@elefromoz, @@xelas, @@SafariChick, @@Atdahl, @@Alexander33, @@TonyQ, @@Bush dog! Much appreciated.
Edited by cheetah80
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@@cheetah80...WOW, WOW, WOW! That's about all I can say. Amazing photos and the video is great as well. We are planning our trip for next fall and your reports are just about nullifying the angst associated with the prices (just about... <_< ). If there were green jealously icons, I would be adding a lot to the end of this.

 

Look's like Mick Jaguar's right eye issues are impacting his hunting. You would think a healthy Jaguar wouldn't stalk a log after all.

 

Hope there is a part 3!

 

Alan

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cheetah80

Glad you are enjoying the reporting @@Atdahl! And yes there will be a 3rd and final part.

 

Yes the prices are steep - hence why I have waited so long to do this trip as I was on the fence about it due to pricing. But when I went not only didn't I regret a single penny but I am planning to visit again in the future. It's really a great destination. Like I mentioned in the text it is important to set the correct expectations though - the accommodation and service is not like in Africa so in that regard the prices are ridiculously overinflated. But it is a very special experience - I have been to the Amazon twice and also to the Galapagos and Costa Rica. This experience beats them all.

 

Mick Jaguar is actually doing very very well - he is actually a bit fat :) I don't know how often it happens that he confuses logs for caimans but to be honest I did too :) He's so accomplished that it doesn't really matter that sometimes he stalks inanimate objects ;-)

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@@cheetah80

Your photos are absolutely superb - wonderful. And another great video.

(We saw the same jaguar with the damaged eye a year ago - so he seems to have adjusted to it - it is good to see him doing well.)

Edited by TonyQ
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madaboutcheetah

WOW!!! That's a phenomenal series .......

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Stunning video and images @@cheetah80!! And thank you very much for putting another destination on my bucketlist... :)

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

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WOW fantastic photos and video. Of course I am not surprised :) Unbelievable sightings of the Giant Anteater and Tamandua! And the tapir baby! We only saw tapir in the water, never on land and no babies.

 

You are fortunate that your partner shoots video, I can never be bothered to do so (and its just too confusing to switch to video when shooting stills, and I often just don't even think to do it!) But its so great to have the video, it really crystalizes the memories in a way that stills don't always accomplish (they accomplish it differently, I am not explaining this well!)

 

I do so remember the biting flies. In fact, I still have the bites over one month later and from time to time they still itch. I went so far to as to try and identify these horrid flies but didn't find much success. They are indeed way worse than the tse-tses we had in Africa. Fortunately they don't seem to carry any human diseases (at least our guide assured us so, and so far, so good :D

 

I have to add that staying in Porto Jofre vs. the Flotel does offer some additional advantages. I had many very good sightings on the property of the hotel, and in fact the very first jaguar we saw was right along the river by the hotel...no need to travel :lol: and it was one of our best sightings! The 20 minute ride to the Three Brothers area was no big deal, and in fact some good sighting were actually had downstream, in the other direction.

 

Well after this fantastic report I'm not sure it makes much sense for me to post my own, my photos pale in comparison to yours! And I'm still working through them. I look forward to seeing more of yours!

Edited by janzin
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ellenhighwater

Wow, just stunning photos! I have only visited the southern part of the Pantanal and now I regret not making the time or spending the money to get up north. Oh well, guess I'll have to go back ;)

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cheetah80

@@janzin thanks for your kind words - but you are being way too modest - your photos are awesome, and I am pretty sure other STers will want to see them. I definitely would be interested in your report :)

 

When I go back (notice the deliberate "when" not "if") I will probably not stay in the Flotel - as you stay the time you save commuting is no big deal at all. I like the idea that you are free to move around in Porto Jofre. However if someone is not able to secure one of the well known guides (like it happened to me), the boatmen of SouthWild are second to none - and their guides and boats are very good so it is a safe bet.

 

I feel better knowing I wasn't the only one bothered by those wretched flies - I also tried to find their name but came up short. A couple of bites continued itching for a month too! In a way it was my fault as I was not covered adequately - the thing is they don't fly well and like ankles. I was not wearing shoes as I didn't want the nightmare of drying them if it rained (rain was forecast on every day we were there). So my recommendation for others is to wear closed shoes and long pants if possible :)

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