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Finally, the Pantanal. It was Worth the Wait.


Atdahl

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Here is the report for day 3. This was quite possibly the best wildlife watching day we have every had...   http://focusedonnature.blogspot.com/2016/09/pantanal-day-3-porto-jofre.html

First off, I have to thank all the other Safaritalk members who have posted such great Pantanal trip reports over the years. I learned tons of information from folks like Janzin, Cheetah80, Treepol,

Thanks for the kind words all. I must say that seeing a Jaguar in the wild was extremely thrilling. They just have so much mystique and then when you actually see one in person and see how strong an

Here is the report for day 3. This was quite possibly the best wildlife watching day we have every had...

 

http://focusedonnature.blogspot.com/2016/09/pantanal-day-3-porto-jofre.html

 

OMG, that jaguar is beautiful!!! We are definitely going to Pantanal!

 

Thanks for the lens details, but my 300 mm will have to do. On the long end...what can I say? I'm not strong enough to hand hold anything heavier. My camera + lenses are Canon, and I tried the 100-400, hand-held, and got 0 keepers. With IS...The 300 is much lighter, and works for me. I'm not complaining :-)

Your pics are amazing, thanks for sharing. I'll save this report for further research, with a map in preparation for our trip. 2019 maybe?

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Fantastic jaguars! Isn't that Nikon 200-500 lens sweet? I was really pleased with it on my recent safari (using with the D500.) I am amazed at the sharp shots you got from the boat at 1/20-1/50! When I was in the Pantanal I had a lot of trouble getting sharp shots from those boats (but I wasn't using the 200-500 at that time.)

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pedro maia

I do want to point out that because we booked direct we had only two payment options; Wire transfer in advance or cash. I didn't want to take >10K Real in cash so we paid the entire Northern portion by wire transfer as well as the transfer from BA to Campo Grande to end the trip. BA gives a Paypal option with an additional 4% which we took. Everything else we paid for in cash. There was a bit of anxiety paying by wire transfer and carrying lots of cash but it all worked out just fine in the end.

 

I had that issue with the payment of Hotel Porto Jofre, they only accept bamk transfer for the advance payment and the rest in money, what I did was to make also a bank tranfer of the final payment before leaving to Brazil because I prefered not to carry a lot o money. I did the same with Araras Lodge but the bank transfer was to a swiss account so the price was much cheaper.

 

Pantanal Nature (from our guide, Ailton Lara) and Pousada Rio Claro they both accept credit card.

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pedro maia

@@Atdahl, great pictures, jaguars are just amazing creatures.

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@@Atdahl

Great jaguar photos! One needs some luck, for sure. Our portfolio is still leopard-less :( .

The 200-500 is indeed a sweet piece of glass, specially for the price. Easily handholdable, and with amazing VR. However I have noticed all your shots are done at ISO100?! Even with D7100 you could allow the camera to "float" between ISO100 and ISO800 and thus faster shutter speeds. And with D7200 the ISO can be cranked up to 6400 without too much of visible noise.

Of course, it might be a photographer's choice. Anyway your photos are truly worth those $$$$ invested in this trip.

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@@Atdahl

However I have noticed all your shots are done at ISO100?! Even with D7100 you could allow the camera to "float" between ISO100 and ISO800 and thus faster shutter speeds. And with D7200 the ISO can be cranked up to 6400 without too much of visible noise.

 

 

Yes I wondered about that too! Which is why I mentioned the slow shutter speeds.. maybe the Exif is wrong for some reason?

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Thanks for the kind words all. I must say that seeing a Jaguar in the wild was extremely thrilling. They just have so much mystique and then when you actually see one in person and see how strong and confident they are...just amazing. Of course, it is the first big cat I have ever seen so I may feel the same way about other big cats I hope to see in the future.

 

@@xelas and @@janzin, basically I screwed up with the ISO. I had debated which body to use (D300 vs D7100) and had the settings right on the D300 but then picked the D7100 in the field and I failed to pay attention to ISO which was locked at 100 for the first half of the trip. A huge blunder, I think the excitement got the best of me. But, luckily the pictures came out very respectable for my needs and it's a good endorsement for the 200-500. Later on in the trip after realizing my mistake I played with the ISO more.

 

Here is the report for day 4 which is our 2nd full day on the river.

 

http://focusedonnature.blogspot.com/2016/09/pantanal-day-4-porto-jofre.html

 

Alan

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Not shabby at all :)

And your pictures are fantastic! The jaguar..wow! I remember seeing the first leopard in South Africa, my feelings were the same as yours. Majestic, powerful and beautiful...and he knows it. I could watch one all day long, and I really want to see a jaguar now.

How do you manage bathroom breaks while on the boat?

 

You probably mentioned earlier, and I will re-read your report; but if you didn't, how did you contact/book Julinho?

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SafariChick

@@Atdahl love your report and photos! I also am interested in how you contact and book Julinho and approximately how far in advance does one need to do so, if you're aware?

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@@xyz99, Thank you. I think an African leopard is next on my list when it comes to big cats (since I will never do the Snow Leopard trip). Regarding the bathroom breaks, you just pull the boat to the shore in a decent spot and go in the bush. But, this was always the worst time for bugs. We finally learned to "deet up" right before and that was much better. One more plus of having a private guide is that you aren't sharing the boat with 6 or 7 other people with different bathroom schedules.

 

@@SafariChick, thank you as well.

 

Here is some contact information for Julinho.

 

His company website (There is a Contact Us Form there): http://www.pantanaltrackers.com.br/

 

His email: info@pantanaltrackers.com.br

 

His Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PantanalTrackers/

 

He is out in the field a lot so sometimes it takes a few days to hear back. He told us that he books up a year in advance. I think the hotel at Porto Jofre is one or the reasons for that since it is so popular. If you want to camp out in Porto Jofre instead you might not have to book so far in advance. But, that is just a guess. I think Jaguar tours are pretty much June into November. He said he was done November 8th this year I think. But, that is technically the start of the rainy season...not that weather is predictable these days.

 

Alan

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@@Atdahl,

Thank you so much for all the info, this is great. I am used to booking one year in advance, had to do it for this year's Iceland...not a lot of wildlife there, mostly birds, but the country and the scenery are amazing and totally worth it.

 

Brazil and the Pantanal are now on our list, either 2018 or 2019. Can't wait! But until then, looking forward to the rest of your TR.

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SafariChick

@@Atdahl thank you! And as far as costs, if I'm understanding correctly, it sounds like basically before the business class international airfare of 5k, it was 10k for the two of you so 5k per person?

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@@xyz99, good for you. You won't be sorry. It took us too long to go. We kept putting it off but it was certainly worth the time, trouble and cost.

 

@@SafariChick, speaking of costs...that's correct. But that $10K included all sorts of "discretionary" costs like airport parking, pet sitter, air transfers, etc. So, it can be done for much less as others have pointed out.

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@@Atdahl,

How long was your entire trip? How long did you spend in Pantanal?

I assume all the flights to Brazil go through Rio, did you spend any time there? Any other area in Brazil that you recommend? Thanks.

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@@xyz99, my very first post has my itinerary. We were in the Pantanal for 11 nights. 7 in the North and 4 in the South. We didn't go anywhere else in Brazil. From the western US, we had little flight choices and what there was actually went through Sao Paulo. As it turns out, American screwed us a bit. They called months before our trip because they changed our seats. Just in case it happened again I called about a month before our flight to confirm everything. That's when we were told that our tickets weren't final. It turns out the Sao Paulo to Cuiaba leg (operated by Gol) changed times so that we went from a 2.5 hour layover to 1 hr 55 minutes in Sao Paulo. American won't allow a less than 2 hour layover in Sao Paulo, I was told. After almost an hour of poor customer service where they were only giving me an option to downgrade to Economy for them to find a new flight to Cuiaba for us, they finally talked to a "manager" and came back with a solution that I bet they had all along. That was to cancel the Gol leg and NOT refund any money. I agreed to that since all the other alternatives were worse.

 

Long story short, that meant I had to book domestic legs from Avianca to Cuiaba and from Azul back to Sao Paulo at the end of the trip. Both those processes went smoothly thank goodness as did the eventual flights themselves.

 

Also, I must add that immigration took 5 minutes in Sao Paulo (we did arrive at 5AM) and there was no customs at that hour so we walked right through. Ironically, we sat our at gate and watched our original Gol flight leave for Sao Paulo 2 hours before our new flight left. :angry:

 

Anyway, I just needed to get that off my chest I think :) . The point is that had we known that we have had to book domestic legs separately we maybe could have flow through Rio or better yet Manaus which would have taken hours off our flight times. Oh well... If I was to do it again I would really pursue flying through Manaus and maybe couple that with a trip to the Amazon (Christalino Jungle Lodge is on my list).

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@@Atdahl

yes, you listed your itinerary...I only remembered "26 hrs in transit" from that post, and that made me think of our almost 24 hrs journey to Iguazu in Argentina and out flight adventures with United. It was both good and bad...

 

I messed up the cab time to the airport and realized (of course, when we were almost at the airport) that we'll have 4 hrs to kill at the airport. Ouch...that was before a flight from Newark to Houston, another to Buenos Aires and a domestic one to Iguazu. After we got our boarding passes, there was an announcement that the 1st leg to Houston was canceled, and passengers rebooked for a later flight. This meant we would miss our Argentina domestic flight, which was 1/day only. Luckily, we were flying with carry-ons only and there was a flight to Houston leaving in 1/2 hr...you can imagine us running through the airport to make it, but we did, and after that everything went smooth :)

 

Lesson learned: when possible, fly with a carry-on only! You never know...

 

Glad you managed to get your flights in order. Lately, the flying part is the one that is the most random thing when planning a trip, the one that can change without notice and you are left with no good options...I hate that.

 

Back to your trip: were you happy with the 7/4 days break-down between North and South? Would you do it differently if you were to do it again? Thanks.

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Here is a link to day 5. More great Jaguar sightings...

 

http://focusedonnature.blogspot.com/2016/09/pantanal-day-5-porto-jofre.html

 

 

Here are some thoughts on Hotel Pantanal Norte (Porto Jofre Hotel):

  • Very good food with lots of choices. Salad bar but we stayed away from raw food to be extra careful. We didn't want to get sick when were out on a boat all day. However, we didn't see anyone else skipping salad or fruit like we did (they did have bananas and whole oranges most days which we ate)
  • The rooms are duplex cottages but we didn't hear our neighbors. You have two comfortable chairs outside your room but no place but the beds to sit inside
  • A/C worked great, sink and shower were great too. Rooms were clean although housekeeping comes early (6AM) since most people are gone on the boats by then.
  • The beds were good. Softer than at Pouso Alegre with TWO pillows each.
  • They have a large bank of plugs so it makes it easy to set up a charging station in your room. The plugs are the standard diamond shaped 3 round plug Brazilian outlets. US people need an adapter.
  • Birds are everywhere on the grounds. It was really impressive to walk around in the mornings. The lake and boardwalk area were great in the morning and evening light
  • I would guess that there were more fisherman staying there than Jaguar watchers.
  • There were few bugs around the lodge but more on the river
  • Laundry service was quick but cost close to $R70 for a small bag
  • Service in the restaurant was very good (you have to order drinks from the staff so they can write down your room number)
  • They only take cash to settle up for drinks, laundry, tips etc at the end of your stay
  • Wifi was reliable in our room every day. They give you one code per device so you need multiple PW from them for multiple devices.
  • They have a very friendly cat who will join you in your room if you are not careful :) .

Here's my only criticisms:

  • They bag their towels in plastic. I see no logical reason for this and it's a complete waste.
  • They only furnish water in small plastic cups that resemble yogurt containers. Once again, this is a huge waste. Who knows what happens to all that plastic. You can buy "normal" plastic water bottles to have at meals. But, the boats all have the small cups.
  • The do have cold filtered water available back by the kitchen for free (same big tank system that Pouso Alegre had) but they don't advertise it so it might only be for the employees. We didn't care so we filled up our reusable bottles there multiple times per day. Employees were back there but no one said anything to us to discourage this practice.
  • I asked the Manager (Roger) about the water situation and he said the lodge was considering moving to filtered water for the guests.
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Bush dog

@@Atdahl

 

Excellent report and pictures. I'm really enjoying it. I'm eagerly waiting for the Barranco Alto days.

 

By the way, concerning the amphibians, and I 'm far from an expert, here is my guess for two of them :

 

Day 2 : the first one : if it's about 7 to 8 cms, it might be a Cei's white-lipped frog.

Day 4 : the one after the cane toad : if it's about 4 to 5 cms, it might be a Mato Grosso snouted tree frog.

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Livetowander

Wonderful photos. You make it look easy, although I know how challenging those shots must have been. Loved the J. Peterman moment, LOL.

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@@Bush dog, Thank You. Barranco Alto is coming up (spoiler alert...it was awesome!).

 

Regarding the frogs, I searched online to ID these after my original post and think I found them in a guide to the Amphibian of the Pantanal that I stumbled upon.

Day 2: Leptodactylus chaquensis. My reference called it a Chaco Frog but Cei's white-lipped frog is also the common name.

Day 4: Scinax acuminatus. My reference called it a Warty-snouted Tree Frog but it is also called the Mato Grosso snouted tree frog.

 

So, we agree. Only the common names are different. Thanks for confirming these for me!

 

@@Livetowander, thanks. Yes, there were some challenges but overall the Pantanal is more open and has better light than the rainforest where all subjects always seem to be backlit.

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Well, in honor of International Sloth Day, I have two reports ready.

 

Day 7 which was our last full day at Porto Jofre:

http://focusedonnature.blogspot.com/2016/09/pantanal-day-7-hotel-porto-jofre.html

 

And Day 8 which was pretty much spent at Barranco Alto:

http://focusedonnature.blogspot.com/2016/09/pantanal-day-8-barranco-alto.html

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Just wow! What an amazing trip, the variety of birds and animals is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing.

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Atravelynn

What helpful logistics about what you learned getting to the Pantanal. I recall I had some of your some difficulties. A sympathetic and competent party on the other end of the phone really helps, but getting one is a crapshoot. Your PJ Hotel observations and comments to management should help green them up a little.

 

All the airline hassle was worth those first 4 jaguar pics! The dining cocoi is a different perspective of that commonly seen bird. What a mouthful/throatful.

 

How nice you have given us practice with our spotting skills. I saw those black spots on tawny fur before the jaguar appeared.

 

The array of birds, snakes, otters, otter vs caiman--just fantastic. Even the lily pads can be considered art.

 

Do you know who the caracara's keys really belonged to? What a humorous shot.

 

Your assortment of BA shots are wonderful, including the aerial shots.

 

"Of course, rice and beans were a staple at lunch and dinner and I wasn't shy about helping myself." That statement brought back memories of a fellow Barranco Alto visitor who loved beans so much that he would get all excited on the drive thinking about what form the legumes would take. I would have forgotten all about that without your comment.

 

I hope Lydia passed on her vast Giant Anteater knowledge to those remaining behind at BA.

 

Reverse order--now I am looking at the front end of the report.

 

You got to see the Giant Anteater! And tapir. I can see why Day 3 was your best day.

 

"As @pedro maia says, there are certainly ways to reduce costs. Our air transfers were one of the biggest expenses but there are ground transfer options."

 

I did the ground transfer. It was great fun, especially because I got to do the gate openings/closings for most of the 42 gates enroute. The downside is with all the stops and door openings, no A/C is used.

 

"I must say that seeing a Jaguar in the wild was extremely thrilling. They just have so much mystique and then when you actually see one in person and see how strong and confident they are...just amazing. Of course, it is the first big cat I have ever seen so I may feel the same way about other big cats I hope to see in the future."

 

Really? Somehow I thought you had done a couple of Africa trips and seen the cats. Jaguar is hard to beat though!

 

You honored sloth day admirably--such adorable Southern Screamer chicks.

 

I saw your itinerary and the dates in your blog. Did you depart late Sept or was that the date of the blog post? I remember when you were asking about different places in the Pantanal. I think you chose a fine combo of locations.

 

The sheer abundance and beauty comes though in your report and gorgeous photos!

Edited by Atravelynn
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