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Northern Pantanal in search of Jaguars (July 2023)


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I have recently returned from three weeks in Brazil, 12 days of which was spent in the northern Pantanal with the prime objective of of spending a little time in the company of Jaguar's.


@janzin did a such a brilliant job of documenting (in both words and beautiful photographs) her trip in September 2022 here, starting this report is a little daunting.  Indeed, I am starting this thread now to put a little pressure on myself to 'get this done'.


Expect more pictures than words, but hopefully there will be some interest for people here along the way.



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Always love more jaguar pictures, looking forward to hearing about your trip!

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@Whyone?I am looking forward to this also.  My sister and I are planning to go to the Pantanal

in October and would love to have a preview.


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Can't wait to read about your trip too--I am hoping to go to the pantanal next year....

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I am looking forward to this TR @Whyone?

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We're leaving in Saturday for the Pantanal, so get going on this report! :D it seems like the sightings are really good in the Pantanal right now, I'm hoping it stays that way for a couple of more weeks.

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There will certainly be interest, even though I have no idea when we might go. 

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Miss Biscuit

Also looking forward to this report. Considering a Pantanal trip for next year so I'm reading everything.


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The Plan!

My wife and I decided that we would like to add Jaguar's to our 'big cat' sighting list and it seemed to us that the Pantanal would place to go to give us the best chance of seeing these enigmatic and elusive cats.


We usually plan and book our own trips, but on this occasion we decided to use Naturetrek,  a specialist UK based travel agency whose 'Just Jaguars' tour had both good reviews and a 100%(part of me felt that this was tempting fate!) Jaguar sighting success rate.


However, we decided to sort out our own international flights (I still have a mountain of Avios from my days travelling on business) and we also wanted to give ourselves a few days in Brazil to acclimatise / get over jet-lag before heading out with the tour group. We also decided to tack-on a visit to Rio once we had finished the Naturetrek organised part of the trip.


Maybe these add-on's complicated things for Naturetrek, but them organising the internal flight bookings for us (included in the tour price) was a somewhat fraught process with a lot of to'ing and fro'ing and some stress catching our flight to Rio (possibly not Naturetrek's fault though...see below).


We flew BA business class from Heathrow to Sao Paulo in a 'plane newly fitted with BA's new Club Suites - it was an overnight flight and having your own little cabin made for a very comfortable journey.  On arrival in Sao Paulo we had to pass through immigration (total chaos....not sure why, possibly system problems, but there where enormous queues at 6am but we got through, collected our bags and then caught a bus to transfer us to the domestic terminal where we caught an Azul flight to Cuiaba.


Tip - anyone over 60 travelling in Brazil -  look out for the priority lines, they are not obvious, but are there at airports (and attractions in Rio).  They allow the 60+ year old and the rest of their party to 'jump the queues' - great when boarding small aircraft with lots of camera equipment!!


When flying to, and arriving in,  Cuiaba we did wonder if we had taken a very wrong turn somewhere!




Once we had established that we were actually in Cuiaba (!) we over-nighted in Hotel Fazenda Matto Grosso. 



The hotel was fine, if uninspiring, with a good breakfast.  We had arranged to be picked up here by a driver from Aymara Lodge where we would be staying for 2 nights prior to being collected (fingers crossed!!) by the Naturetrek group.


Once with Naturetrek the following days looked like this:

  • Pouso Alegre (2 nights)
  • Southwild Jaguar Flotel (5 Nights)
  • Southwild Pantanal Lodge (4 Nights)

At the end of the tour, we flew on to RIo for a few nights, again using Azul....whilst Naturetrek had booked this flight for us, when we arrived at Cuiaba airport they could not find our reservation. After a good while in the back office, the agent helping us announced that yes, we could go to RIo (yay!)...but we would have to fly to Belo Horizonte first!  Hey-ho, at least we had a flight.



So, onwards to Aymara Lodge!




Edited by Whyone?
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And another one looking at a Pantanal trip for next year - its going to be busy!!

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On 8/1/2023 at 2:14 AM, Zubbie15 said:

We're leaving in Saturday for the Pantanal, so get going on this report! :D it seems like the sightings are really good in the Pantanal right now, I'm hoping it stays that way for a couple of more weeks.

Hi @Zubbie15- I'm sure you will have a wonderful time, look forwards to 'comparing notes' upon your return - safe travels!

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6 minutes ago, AfricIan said:

And another one looking at a Pantanal trip for next year - its going to be busy!!

.....and Africa very quiet!

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Aymara Lodge:

We were met by our guide from Aymara, along with a driver, as arranged and drove to the lodge - just over 2 hours from Cuiaba along the Transpantaneira highway.  For the first 50km or so this is a tar road, but is unmade after that.  For those about to travel this road, be prepared for delays - there are some pretty significant road-works (including bridge replacement) going on at the moment and it is not unusual to be held for 20 minutes or so.


Spot the tourists :rolleyes:



More importantly, spot the Rufus Hornero nests?! 


Note:  whilst I enjoy seeing birds, I am not a dyed-in-the-wool birder by any stretch of the imagination, however the birdlife of the Pantanal is so spectacular, varied and prolific it is hard not to become just a little bit of a twitcher, indeed there are going to be many more bird photo's in this report than any other type of animal.  However, I know there are some excellent birders here, so please do chime in if (when!) I mis-identify anything, thank you!


On the subject of photo's...I was kindly given a Canon R7 (mirrorless) body as a retirement gift.  Whilst I have been doing my best to learn how to use this with some degree of competence prior to this trip, I was somewhat unfamiliar with the controls (or which there are many!) of this camera so this was something of a voyage of discovery.   I also had (have) some concerns about switching from a full-frame DSLR to this crop sensor body.  For those that care about such things, I used the R7 with my trusty Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II (via an adapter on the R7, and with the crop sensor effectively making its range 160-640mm).  Anyway, most of the animal photo's in this report were taken with this body/lens Combination, whilst the more general pictures where mainly taken using my 'phone.




Aymara Lodge lies 2 or 3km off the Transpantaneira highway and was a very good and comfortable introduction to the Pantanal.  


Room (with a/c):



Tip:  I mention that our room has a/c and this was needed for a comfortable nights sleep for most of our time in the Pantanal but be aware that temperatures can vary dramatically - we saw 40°c, typically mid 30's °c, but when a cold front swept through, just 12°c - be prepared!


Just walking within the grounds of Aymara there were plenty of great things to see:


Scarlet Crested Woodpecker (surely the inspiration for 'Woody Woodpecker'?!)  nest:





Blue and Yellow Macaw a regular visitor...



...as was this Bare-Faced Curassow pair





Southern Crested Caracara



Turquoise-fronted parrot


Crab-eating fox taken from the breakfast room at Aymara!



But the probably the highlight, nesting Hyacinth Macaw's:









One afternoon we watched the Macaw's being mobbed by about a dozen Chestnut-eared Aracari's, who were trying to get them away from the nest entrance to enable them to steal eggs or young....quite a commotion!




Edited by Whyone?
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Only the wildlife photos are showing for me @Whyone?I'm happy with the beautiful bird pics, but this is not some deliberate filtering on my part.

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10 minutes ago, pault said:

Only the wildlife photos are showing for me @Whyone?I'm happy with the beautiful bird pics, but this is not some deliberate filtering on my part.

Teach me to mess with things!


Fixed? @pault


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Yes, you must have moved them on Smugmug. ;) 


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21 minutes ago, pault said:



Yes, you must have moved them on Smugmug. ;) 


Exactly that!

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Aymara (continued)


As well as Jaguar's, we were keen to see a Giant Anteater and spoke to Aymara about this prior to our arrival.  They warned that after extensive fires in 2020/21 it was now quite difficult to find these wonderful creatures, but, in for a penny, in for a pound, we arranged for a guide and vehicle on our one full day at Aymara to go looking.


We gave it a damned good go as well - moving by 4am, not back at the lodge until nearly 7pm!


Long story (day!) short, we were unsuccessful in our main quest, but there was still much to see and photograph and a fun day was had...


Pre- dawn...and it was really quite chilly!



Buff-necked Ibis starting their day..



Green Ibis



Savannah Hawk



Chaco Chachalaca (I think?)





Campo Flicker (a largely ground based woodpecker)



New to me and one of my favourite birds on this trip - Guira Cuckoo's



Hyacinth Macaw



Much more of these impressive birds later in the report....





Great Black Hawk



...and some old friends - Black Skimmers



See, I told you there were a lot of birds!!!


We also came across this impressive snake - 7'-8' long, this Tiger Rat Snake wasn't keen on hanging around for me to take lots of photo's!





...and when I did finally catch up and get down to ground level, it performed its party trick of extending its body laterally....unfortunately just as it got its head into some shade!



Black and White Tegu....Brazil's version of Monitor lizards (though less skitty!)







9-banded armadillo was a popular 'spot'



We happened across this female Caiman looking over her young...



As you can see, she was on a raised bank,  and was quite content for me to scoot around the other side of her and take some nice pictures from below..





More birds I'm afraid folks...Rhea



Red Crested Cardinal



Greater Kiskadee:



...and a whistling Heron....



...which unfortunately resulted in us getting bogged down!





So a long day, but a good day, but no Giant Anteaters sadly.


But wait.....just as we were arriving back at the lodge, Bene, our guide somehow spotted this....



OK, the photo probably won't win any prizes, but the sighting caused much excitement....a Southern Tamandua, the Giant Anteaters ant-eating cousin.

Edited by Whyone?
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Really great start, and nice to see something about Aymara. It's our last stop on our trip, and I couldn't find too much about it on the net. But our TO recommended it, so we decided to give it a go.  I seems like a reasonably good choice. 

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Your TR has brought back some great memories and I realised it was 10 years since we last visited the Pantanal. 


You have some wonderful photos, the retirement gift certainly delivers! Sorry you missed giant anteater, however the full day out at Aymara produced varied sightings, including the tegu and snake.


Is Aymara a relatively newly opened wildlife property?



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Thank you @Zubbie15 and @Treepol


Regarding Aymara Lodge, I am unsure how long they have been open and operating as a wildlife property, though I would say that the buildings don't appear especially 

new, but we were very pleased with our stay there.


As I mentioned earlier, this time was really for us to relax and get over jet-lag prior to the serious business of looking for jaguar's....then we booked a 16 hour trip to look for anteaters, go figure!!! :rolleyes:


I will finish off my report on Aymara shortly, but,  in summary, the location, staff, accommodation and food were all brilliant - difficult to fault and I would not hesitate to recommend it for as somewhere for a 2 or 3 night stay - so @Zubbie15I think you will be just fine here :)

Edited by Whyone?
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Thanks for the info @Whyone?. Unfortunately it looks like it time at Aymara may be less than expected, LATAM has moved us to an early morning flight so I think we're going to miss out on our second night there. But we will see what we can find in the time we have, it seems you saw a lot in the relatively short time you've described.  

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That is a shame @Zubbie15but these things happen.


If possible, I'd recommend that you take the pre-breakfast canoe trip.....

Edited by Whyone?
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Great shots!  As others have said, your trip brings back such good memories of our trip a few years back.  Looking forward to more.



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