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In july my wife and I have been on a trip that took us to some of Brazil’s most famous highlights, among which a visit to the Pantanal. I won’t bore you with every detail of this holiday, but thought a short trip report about the Pantanal and it’s wildlife would be interesting to share with you.


The risk of being a safari addict going on a wildlife trip, is expecting a similar experience. I think we managed to avoid that pretty well, although we couldn’t help ourselves comparing the Pantanal trip to an average safari. More on that later.


Trip itinerary
3 nights Pantanal Jaguar Camp
Road transfers to/from Cuiaba
Morning & afternoon boat trips (7.30-13.00 and 15.00-18.30)
Cost: € 2.500 ( €400pppn, including everything except drinks)


One of the animals, but certainly not the only one, we would like to see was the elusive jaguar. Therefore we opted for a 3 night stay at Pantanal Jaguar Camp. As their camp and the area they cover are famous for it’s frequent sightings of jaguars. And luckily for us, they lived up to their reputation:


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Driving the Transpantaneira

In Cuiaba we were picked up at 6.30am for a road transfer to camp. We were met by our guide, who spoke english pretty good (not common for most Brazilians), and the driver, both very friendly men. Although the driver didn’t say a lot due to not being comfortable speaking english, the vibe in the car was good and we had some nice conversations which made the long road trip a pleasant one.


Pocone is the last town of civilazation, here starts the Transpantaneira, the road that brings you all the way to Porto Jofre, where you find Pantanal Jaguar Camp and few other accommodation as well.

Driving the Transpantaneira was an exciting experience. The landscape was beautiful and there was so much wildlife to be seen! A very promising drive to things to come.


We stopped to take a picture of the sign and discovered some wildlife when we looked around.




There was this cayman just behind the fence, next to the road:




And also this elephant beetle:


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Our guide told us they would be focussed on driving to camp, but they would stop if there was something special or if we wanted to, but assured us we would see most animals on our boat trips as well. Ofcourse, we couldn’t just drive and not taking the opportunity to take some pictures.










Capybara on the side of the road. Our guide labelled them as the most lazy animal of the Pantanal, which I thought was really funny as a development team at my work called themself the Capybara's:













A spoonbill, that didn't give us a proper view on it's spoon:




Cayman, so many cayman along the way. When there was water, there were cayman.








A brief sighting of a marsh deer:





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At one point our guide got really excited:


Guide: "Stop the car! Oh my god, this is your lucky day, get out of the car fast, an anaconda is crossing the road!"


He was so convincing I did what he said, but at the same time I was thinking: "Lucky day? Getting out of the car? An anaconda is crossing the road, keep everything closed."


I don't have it with snakes. But I felt safe as this one wasn't venomous. So we walked towards the anaconda. "A small one, just 2,5 metres," our guid said.


It felt like we were standing just a meter away, but that was probably due to me feeling at unease a bit.









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After a transfer of 6 hours, including a stop in Pocone where they had to run some errands, we arrived at Pantanal Jaguar Camp. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we walked around and spotted a few birds. I've said it before, I'm not good with bird names. I know the Macaus, but forgot the name of the other birds.




The rooms:







Not the best photo opportunity as the macau's were sitting straight above us in the top of the tree, but still a very exciting sighting!







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<a small disclaimer, photographing from a always moving boat is tricky, which resulted in some bluriness sometimes>


Around 15pm we went our first boat trip. The weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot. The perfect conditions to explore the river. We shared the boat with a few other guests, our guide (no room for the guide of the other guests) and ofcourse the boat driver. We didn't really know what to expect, but it was great to be on the river and we were excited what animals we would see this afternoon. The boat driver and guide were clearly on a mission to find us a jaguar and it didn't take long to find one. Some other boats already had a glimpse of the cat, but the jaguar was moving through the reed and hard to spot. The game began of waiting where the jaguar would come out in the open. Often we would see the reed move, a sign where the jaguar was going, and then nothing to be seen for a few minutes. Our patience paid off when she walked out of the bush and reed.








But it didn't took long for the jaguar to disappear again:




Only for her to cross the river, swimming to the other side!






The jaguar walked into the bush and we headed to another channel, guessing the jaguar would walk to the other side of the island. We didn't have to wait long before the jaguar decided to cross the river again:






Once on the other side, she disappeared in the bush and we couldn't follow her anymore. A great start of our Pantanal experience. I thought I would have to be lucky to see a jaguar, never expected to see a jaguar swimming!

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We tried to find another jaguar, but had no luck. We did find some other animals though.






Our guide Eddy/Edilson on the lookout:




A cayman in the water:




And then an otter, swimming along the shore to find a place to go on land. They are pretty fast swimmers!






These cayman were enjoying the afternoon sun on the sandbanks:










This one had become a vegetarian:











On the way back to camp we had a lovely sunset, with the air and water in a blend of red, orange and pink. At camp we had a shower, dinner and went to sleep straight after as it was not only a satisfying but also a tiring day.



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You had good luck so far in your trip @LarsS!   Thanks for sharing your narrative and photos.


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Great sighting on the jaguar, and I’m really glad you got to see one swimming in the water. One doesn’t often think of cats liking water, but the jaguars are completely comfortable with it. 


You were lucky with the yellow anaconda, too, especially with its crossing the road. The “emu” that you mention is actually a Greater Rhea.  


Looking forward to more!

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Great photos Lars! You and your wife undertake some amazing holidays!


PS: there are no emus in the Americas, they are rhea.

These I believe are greater rhea.


Americas has rheas, 2 species: Greater and lesser rhea


Africa has ostriches, 2 species: Ostrich and Somali ostrich


Australia and Papua New Guinea have emus (Australia) and cassowaries (Aus and PNG), 3 species: Southern cassowary (Aus and southern PNG), dwarf cassowary (PNG) and northern cassowary (PNG)


There use to be more large flightless birds. Madagascar had several species of elephants birds (up to 700kg and 3m tall) and New Zealand had several species of moas (up to 3.6m tall and over 200kg). Both these families of large flightless birds seemed to have gone extinct not long before European explorers reached those places. Both thought to have gone extinct because of overhunting by local people. Where is that topic about higher biodiversity on lands managed by traditional people?

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Thanks @Alexander33 and @ForWildlife for pointing out that it's a greater rhea instead of an emu.  It rings a bell, no doubt the guide said it right, but I'd never heard of a rhea before, so he probably explained it to me as a sort of emu and that's how I remembered it.

By the way, I googled the elephant bird and moa, those birds were insane! Which also led to an article about the Haast's eagle, the largest known eagle that ever existed and hunted the moas and may be even humans. Interesting!


On 8/3/2019 at 6:46 PM, offshorebirder said:

You had good luck so far in your trip


On 8/4/2019 at 7:43 AM, Alexander33 said:

You were lucky

Yes, we really were lucky with the sightings we had. But there will be a footnote about running out of luck in this TR though...

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The next morning we had breakfast and gathered at 7.30am for an almost 6hr boat trip. Yet the first sighting on the day was spotted on foot. A toco tucan was sitting in a tree at the boats. The day before we did see them flying in the far distance, so far I couldn't recognize this very recognizable bird. Verry happy to find this iconic bird!






Time to get in the boat. A cloudy day, no sunshine and temperatures below 10C, rising to maximum of 14C made that it was a lot more quiet with wildlife compared to the day before. We spotted more birds, as we found a few black vultures, on ground on one of the beaches along the river and a little further there was one up in the tree.






There was more to be seen in the trees. As you would expect other birds, like the tiger herron:



And a green billed tucan:




Kingfishers on the branches just above the water:




A little bit less clear to see, were a few capuchin monkeys.




Not done with birds yet, as we spotted these two birds as well.






You might think we spotted all these birds and monkeys in different locations, but apart from the tucan and the black vultures on the beach, the others were all in the same area. A jaguar was seen or thought to be around. We waited on the same spot for a long time. Even with binoculars I couldn't tell if there really was a jaguar or not. We hoped it would move in more open area. In the meanwhile, I looked around and enjoyed the other animals that actually were to be seen. The jaguar disappeared deeper in the bush, without anyone got to see it.


When we continued our journey, capybaras were our next stop.









After covering great distances, checking the rivers and smaller channels, there was a jaguar on the way back to camp. It was out in the open on the banks of the river. Despite many boats watching the animal, the jaguar kept on sleeping.




Sometimes he did lift his head up a little bit. Making all the tourists think he would get up, but he fooled us a lot of the time.






At one point he finally did stood up. All cameras were clicking as fast as they could.












But only to find a better spot to sleep again... :) 






A great ending of a long boat trip on the rivers of the pantanal.

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I'm really enjoying this, thanks @LarsS

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At camp we had lunch and tried to get warm again. We put on more clothes for the afternoon boat trip, since it was really cold sitting still for hours in the wind of the boat.


Short after departure a capybara watched us pass by, a new search for wildlife had began.




A few birds were looking for food on one of the beaches.






Pantanal is a famous destination among birders and I really understand why. There are so many of them to be seen.








And birds of prey.








We came pretty close to a cayman in the water, who disappeared below the surface when we came too close for his liking.




More capybara on the banks of the river





And we even saw one swimming



No jaguars were to be seen anywhere, except on the way back when the jaguar of this morning was still lying down, resting and sleeping.




When we stopped he lifted his head a little bit for a moment. But since he had seen us all in the morning, he decided to fall back asleep again.





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Not sure how you interpret this post, but I can understand the last update about the afternoon boat trip can feel like I'm rushing to the end of this TR. I'm not, so let me explain.


The whole Pantanal experience has been one with mixed feelings for me. I didn't want to have the downsides cast a shadow over this TR, so I've shown you the beauty of the Pantanal first. I feel really lucky to have visited this wilderness area with all the sightings we had. We saw everything we could have hoped for (one more great sighting is still coming). There were a few things that made the experience less good than it could have been.



We ran out of luck weather-wise for the first time we went to a wilderness area ever. Overall it's very lucky, but this time it was a unfortunate. I think we couldn't have timed our visit worse: a cold front of weather arrived on the second day. I already mentioned it was cloudy all day and temperatures dropped, they would even go down a bit more the next day. We packed for three weeks in Brazil for temperatures of 20-30 C. We weren't prepared for sitting in a boat in the full wind at temperatures dropping below 10C. Nothing the guides or camp could do about that ofcourse. But it was really cold to sit in the boat for almost 6 hours. Also, the low temperatures meant there wasn't as much wildlife to be seen and it took more driving and therefore more sitting in the wind to find animals.

We struggled with the temperatures as our joints were really stiff. As the temperatures would drop even more, we decided to skip the last night. We wouldn't enjoy another day in this temperatures. (And to think I feared it to be very hot and humid with lots of mosquitos... a few days before that was the case with 36C, afterwards I could only hope for that)


General experience

With that I don't mean the great sightings we had, but more the experience in camp and how it's run. Long story short, I think they could learn a lot from the African Safari experience.

The rooms at the camp and the meals were fine, but it wasn't that special. May be a bit soulless and lack of comfort. Hardly a place to sit down and relax to read a book for example.

My wife and I already feel lucky just to be in the wilderness and we embark every adventure with a 'let's see what we can find'-attitude. I believe that makes every sighting special and a moment to enjoy, whether it's big or small. Experience the beauty of nature. We want to be driving and enjoy everything we encounter. Not rushing to find a specific animal and ignoring the rest. But for us it felt the latter was the case. The whole boat trip had one purpose: finding as many jaguars as they could. We wouldn't have stopped for anything else if we wouldn't have asked it. The first day we waited our turn at an active nest of otters, but left because a possible jaguar sighting. We didn't return to the nest, only a brief moment when there were no otters to be seen (luckily we would found one later, but the only reason for that was luck actually). Cayman and capybara were ignored almost all the time. Birds? No one except us thought they were interesting, and we're not even birders... Most bird pictures above are from a) a moving boat or b) when we were waiting for a possible jaguar sighting. The knowledge of our guide was very good though, he knew every bird when we asked him. I think that the Pantanal Jaguar Camp just has one mission: find jaguars. And forget about the rest. For me, the price we paid wasn't justified by this experience either.



I don't want to nag for too long, but I did wanna share how we experienced it. The cold weather was decisive for leaving a day earlier, but this experience made that decision not too difficult. Looking back at it, we feel it was an amazing trip, the positive side of all the wildlife sightings has the upperhand by far. :) 

*end of rant *

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To end this TR with a positive note: we had an awesome sighting on our way back. A giant anteater crossed the road. Our driver spotted it and stopped the car immediately. Moments later the anteater crossed the road behind our vehicle. I was already wanted to get out of the car. If it's fine to walk to an anaconda, it should be fine to walk to an anteater as well right? Our guide didn't agree as it could scare him away or end up the anteater hugging me with his claws... Ok, I'll wait. : )  Later we did get out and watched it move through the bushes away from us.


What a goodbye!









Even the sun found a small opening in the clouds to shine at this moment. :) 



Would I recommend Pantanal? Yes, no doubt it's an amazing nature reserve. But I would advise to ask really good what you can expect so you won't be disappointed.

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Thank you for your report, and honesty about the positives and negatives. It is unfortunate that the focus is so much on Jaguars when the other animals are also very interesting.

Some great sightings and lovely photos - and a great sighting of an Anteater at the end.

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Excellent sightings you managed even with the weather.  I know about those cold fronts in the Pantanal and how they can disrupt wildlife viewing.  Had you not mentioned difficult weather, I would never have guessed by all that you saw, even the Giant Anteater in the sun.  I doubt that anaconda would be out on the road, perhaps getting some sun as it crossed if it had been the height of the cold front. Thanks for your warnings on the downsides of a cold front coming in, which is always a fear in the normally productive month of July.  And thanks for sharing your other thoughts on the Pantanal Jaguar Camp, helpful as well.



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Thank you for the trip report and the informations. I have enjoyed your pictures.

You got an Anaconda, a Giant Anteater in good light, several Jaguars and a good spectrum of animals and birds of the Pantanal in a short time. You can be really happy.

Weather is less predictable. Last year, we had a cold front in August during the Jaguar Safari, too.

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6 hours ago, Photo-Kiboko said:

You can be really happy.

I feel very happy by everything we saw. Didn't count on seeing all of these species, so that was very special indeed!

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Looks like you had a great trip! :)

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14 hours ago, Antee said:

Talking about cold front... I also had two of them during my 24 days in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay during July/August this year.
From 29 degrees to 8 in around 36 hours. 

Cold front from hell :) 


Thank you for report! 

That's a serious drop in temperature indeed! Wish I had known of these cold fronts, would have packed some warmer clothes.


On 8/15/2019 at 11:09 PM, kittykat23uk said:

Looks like you had a great trip! :)


Yes, the Pantanal is an amazing wilderness!

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for sharing your trip @LarsS - some exceptional sightings.

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