Jaguars Of The Pantanal
Untamed Jaguars of Pantanal Expedition takes place in the centre of the South American continent, where a natural depression has resulted in the largest freshwater wetland on the planet. This unique habitat is home to an impressive amount of wildlife, including some of South America’s giants, and our main quarry.
The Pantanal supports the highest known density anywhere in their current range, but they remain elusive and difficult to see even here. Except one area which has garnered the reputation as being the best place to go and see this wild feline. We offer you the opportunity to join us on a journey into the Pantanal wetlands in search of the largest feline on the American continent – the jaguar.
Expedition lengths start at 5 days/ 4 nights, but to enjoy all that this special area of the Pantanal has to offer, we suggest a 7 day/ 6 nights expedition.
All our Expeditions are tailor made to cater to your preferences and we just guide and accompany you on your journey.
- Observation and photography opportunities of wild jaguars like nowhere else!
- Experienced English-speaking guides with knowledge of the fauna
- Private transport throughout your trip, allowing you to focus on your interests
- Other wildlife such as yacaré caiman, giant river otters, lowland tapir, capybara, giant anteater, ocelots, jabiru stork, hyacinth macaw, marsh deer, toco toucan, agami heron
- A birders paradise with over 400 species recorded in the Pantanal, including 5 species of kingfisher, multitudes of wading birds such as storks, egrets and herons, hawks, parrots, macaws, down to the 18 species of tiny hummingbirds.
All our expeditions are created to suite each client. We help you with the local knowledge of where to go and what to see, but you decide what your priorities are.
To enjoy all that the northern Pantanal has to offer we suggest a trip based on the following itinerary:
Fly into the city of Cuiaba, Mato Grosso on the morning your expedition starts. Your guide will meet you at the airport or a hotel if you have arrived prior to that.
Depending on departure times, an early lunch in town or head straight off down south into the giant wetland that is the Pantanal. Soon after passing the last settlement of Poconé, after approximately 100km of paved road, the road turns to dirt. Only 12km further is the start of the famous Transpantaneira Road – a raised road constructed to allow travel into the Pantanal even during the height of the wet season. To do so, 122 bridges were constructed in the 1970’s to navigate water bodies and allow continued water flow and connectivity.
There are many Lodges situated along the length of the Transpantaneira. Most are converted Cattle ranches, as ranching has dominated the region for the past 200 years. If there is a particular place you would like to stay or visit, we can build this into your personalised itinerary. We suggest Pouso Alegre and SouthWild Pantanal Lodge as ideal places to stay. Both are excellent locations for viewing Pantanal wildlife, with experience catering to wildlife lovers and photographers.
Depending on your choice of accommodation and how much wildlife is seen on route, it could take 4 hours to reach the first destination. During this time many birds and several Pantanal animals should be ticked off your list – yacaré caiman, capybara, marsh deer, parrots, macaws, storks, herons, ibis and more.
Upon arrival to your chosen accommodation, settle into your rooms and either lunch, or head straight out for an afternoon activity in search of the key species each location has to offer. Activities include walks along trails, observation towers, boat outings or safari truck rides. Staying two nights allows for a full day to explore the setting and see what the location has to offer.
Pouso Alegre is one of the best places locally for chances to see Lowland Tapir and Giant Anteaters, as well as some of the iconic bird species – hyacinth macaw, jabiru stork, toco toucan and greater rhea.
SouthWild Pantanal Lodge sits on the edge of a navigable channel, the Pixaim river, providing an excellent opportunity to explore the beating heart of the Pantanal – its waterways. Teaming with storks, herons, egrets, hawks and kingfishers as well as flocks of small colourful birds. It has two observation towers – one for eye level views of a jabiru stork nest, another canopy level tower in the riverside forest to search for monkeys and canopy birds. It is also a good place to try and see the small elusive ocelot.
On the third day, after an early breakfast, we head out again along the Transpantaneira road, searching as always for more wildlife and photographic opportunities. Possible mammal sightings include monkeys and marsh deer, and certain spots along the route are good for bird species such as scarlet-headed blackbird, maguari storks, peach-fronted parakeets, white-banded mockingbird and great horned owl.
Late morning arrival to the end of the Transpantaneira at the banks of the Cuiaba River, Porto Jofre. Here we make the switchover from land to water, from which it is a short 15-20 minute boat drive to your novel accommodation for the next few days – a floating hotel. This will be the base for jaguar outings by boat, ideally situated on the edge of the Encontro das Aguas State Park where the majority of habituated jaguars are found. (There is also the option to stay at Porto Jofre Hotel.)
Here we suggest staying a minimum of 4d/3n, two full days geared towards jaguar sightings not only to ensure a jaguar sighting but giving you the chance to observe different individuals and different activities. For serious photographers up to 7d/6n (5 full days).
Aside from jaguars, it is an excellent place for the endangered giant river otter with several resident families, as well as the typical riverside inhabitants such as capybara and caiman. Each day 8-9 hours will be spent exploring the rivers and channels, looking for the different inhabitants of the area – tapir, deer, monkeys, iguanas, tegu lizards, the occasional snake, including yellow anaconda, and bird species too numerable to mention.
On the day of your departure from Jaguar Land there is the opportunity for one last short outing in the morning before returning to Porto Jofre and starting the journey back along the Transpantaneira. Searching on route for any species missed on the way in, arriving for lunch at your accommodation of choice along the Transpantaneira before an afternoon activity.
The following day will be spent enjoying your last full day in the Pantanal. On the hunt for the special wildlife each place has to offer, for any birds left on your list to see – great potoo, agami heron, zigzag heron – or simply soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of the Pantanal.
On the last day, breakfast and transfer to Cuiaba airport – off home or on to your next adventure.
About The Area
The Pantanal is a habitat, a giant wetland created by a basin formed before the Andes came into existence. Surrounded by highlands to the east, north and west, large quantities of rain drain into the basin faster than it can drain out, resulting in a period where as much as 80% of what is land during the dry season, is under water.
Located in the middle of South America, and spreading across over 140,000km2, most of it is found within the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, though Bolivia and Paraguay also claim small portions of it.
While seasonal flooding spreads nutrients across the area, allowing an incredible diversity of flora and fauna to flourish. It is also a place of extremes which inhabitants must be able to survive – periods of drought followed by extreme floods.
Cuiaba is the city closest to the geographical centre of South America. Founded in the 1700’s during the gold rush it now makes most of its money through agriculture and cattle-ranching. Cuiaba is also known as the “Southern gate to the Amazon” , as the northern part of the state Mato Grosso is covered in the southern extremes of the Amazon Rainforest. Thus it is a good access point to both the Pantanal and the Amazon.
Parque Estadual Encontro das Aguas is a State Park of 109,000 hectares created in 2004. There are still areas of privately owned land within the park, and while commercial fishing has been prohibited, it still occurs. Sports fishing, which the area has been popular for long before wildlife tourism arrived, is an integral part of the local economy. . The presence of boats and fishermen, as well as feeding of the wildlife by visitors in the past, has resulted in much of the wildlife becoming habituated. The Pantanal is now considered by some to be the best place in the world to see wild jaguars and the endangered Giant River Otter.
Pouso Alegre is a cattle ranch turned EcoTourism Lodge. The result is a basic but quaint building structure, but it is the wildlife that people go for. Located early on along the Transpantaneira highway, but set back away from the road, this place is often the first stopping point for clients starting their journey into the Pantanal.
Rooms are simple but with shuttered and screened windows, each has a private bathroom and air conditioning. The small capacity means the site is not teeming with other guests, and only like-minded wildlife enthusiasts.
Activities include walks along trails, bird feeder stations, horseback outings and safari truck trips
SouthWild Pantanal Lodge is located midway along the Transpantaneira on the banks of the Pixaim river. Grounds filled with capybara, river banks lined with caiman and aquatic birds, bird feeders attracting pigeons, doves, finches, sparrows, thrushes and curassows, fruit eating toucans and aracaris, and nectar loving hummingbirds. The opportunity to explore by foot, horseback, boat or safari truck looking for deer, anteaters, tapirs and monkeys. Two towers give you an eye level view of a Jabiru stork nest and of the forest canopy.
The rooms are spacious with private bathrooms, air conditioning and wifi. Outside are hammocks, a small swimming pool and gift shop adding a little bit of luxury to the wilderness. The restaurant is screened on three sides allowing you see anything of interest passing by.
Floating Hotels allow you to be just that little bit closer to the jaguars. On occasion you don’t even need to leave the flotel as they traverse the rivers nearby or walk behind where the flotel is moored! Originally designed to cater for sports fishermen visiting the area, they are now being used by visitors coming to see the wildlife. While normally boats mean limited space, newer, more spacious accommodations are becoming available.
We typically use the newly redesigned El Panoramico which hosts 12 cabins of 18m2 all including ensuite bathrooms, air conditioning units, minibars, work tables and wardrobe/storage compartments. On board is the restaurant and bar, upstairs indoor and outdoor seating areas, lounge chairs, large flat screen TV for presentations or movies, and an outdoor grill. Onboard generators provide electricity 24/7.
Please advise us in advance of dietary requirements you have.
What To Expect & Packing List
This is a relatively laid-back Expedition as most of the activities are done via modes of transport such as road vehicle or motorised boat. There are options to explore trails by foot which will be flat and relatively even under foot or climb towers of 20-30m elevation which is completely optional. However, all these activities are likely to be done in temperatures that can reach 30-35°C (85-95°F) which make it more challenging for anyone, no matter your physical fitness. Roofless boats and open sided trucks are great for seeing wildlife and taking photos, but it exposes us to the weather.
Come prepared with cool, long sleeved shirts and trousers, wide brimmed hats, and remember to keep hydrated. This will also help protect you from the direct effects of the sun – use strong sunscreen and UV protecting sunglasses. Some people also use gloves to protect their hands, or umbrellas like parasols.
During the dry season there can be long periods without rain and the roads and trails get dusty. If travelling in open sided safari trucks, bring protection for your camera equipment and for yourself – sunglasses, buffs or even masks.
Even in the middle of the dry season it can rain. Bring waterproof jackets, ponchos and trousers, and bags for your cameras and electrical equipment.
Cold fronts!? In the Pantanal? Yes – especially in the middle of the year, cold fronts come up from Patagonia dropping temperatures below 20°C (68°F), sometimes even 10°C (50°F) and often they come with periods of rain. These temperatures quickly become unpleasant and chilling when travelling about at speed in open boats or vehicles. Bring at LEAST one set of warm, perhaps windproof, clothing.
During the driest seasons there will be mosquitos in the woods, and that come out at dusk and dawn, but generally in the open areas during the day, they aren’t much of an issue. After the rains have started their numbers can increase and occasionally become bothersome so it is worthwhile having repellent on hand in case such a situation arises.
Horseflies / Deerflies are normally the biggest nuisance while out on the rivers but only when stopped somewhere for a period of time.
Chiggers are small but highly annoying skin mites. Very difficult to see, in good light they can be identified as tiny red dots the size of a pinpoint, usually in the middle of a red rash the size of a fingertip. Their saliva as they feed causes a reaction that is very itchy but does no real harm unless you scratch too much. Alcohol supposedly helps kill them, and anti-itch cream will help with the effects.
Ticks are present in the region, but it is rare that guests get them, especially if they take precautions such as tucking in trouser legs, not sitting on your bed with clothes you have been out in and checking yourself for ticks. No diseases are reported, although little is known about tick-borne diseases in the region.
Sun and insect protection
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Long trousers
- Wide-brimmed hat / cap with neck protection
- Sun cream
- Insect repellent
Rain & Cold
- Warm (windproof) jacket
- Waterproof jacket
- Thicker pair of trousers
- Waterproof trousers
- Walking boots
- Sandals / Flip Flops
- Comfortable clothes for relaxing in
- Lip balm with sunblock
- Small day pack or camera bag
- Camera equipment
- Water bottle
- Head torch
Many of the species found in the Amazon jungle can also be found in the Pantanal. The prevalent open habitat makes them more easily spotted, thus increasing your chances of seeing them. There are 159 different species of mammals recorded in the Pantanal, from tiny rodents to the largest terrestrial mammal of South America – the lowland tapir. While many of these remain difficult to see due to their behaviour and low density, species such as the jaguar, tapir, giant anteater, giant river otter, marsh deer, capybara, crab-eating fox, black-and-gold howler monkeys, Azaras’s capuchin and black-tailed marmoset are typically sighted on our Expeditions.
While not quite on par with the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest, the Pantanal is still a birders paradise with over 400 species found within the Pantanal itself. For serious birders a species list of 200-250 is achievable including iconic and target species of the Pantanal such as the jabiru stork, hyacinth macaw, toco toucan, scarlet-headed blackbird and the Mato Grosso antbird.
Amphibians & Reptiles
While reptiles (98 species) and amphibians (58 species) also abound, by far the most common is the yacaré caiman which is found at the highest known density of any crocodilian on the planet. Several species of tegu (Tupinambis sp.), green iguana (Iguana iguana), green jungle runner (Ameiva ameiva), eastern spiny collared lizard (Tropidurus torquatus) and snakes including the yellow anaconda (Eunectes murinus) are common sightings.