Tracking Jaguars in Brazil

Margaret Maire

09 Jan 2017

Adventures in the Brazilian Pantanal

In September I participated in a week of touring the Brazilian Pantanal. I flew into Sao Paulo with a connecting flight to Cuiaba. NWS arranged the Brazilian flights, and I arranged the international flights myself, which worked out well. Upon arriving into Cuiaba, I was met by a transfer which took me to my hotel. The next morning, I was picked up by the guide who would be with our group for the entire week. There was a group of six of us, and I didn't know any of the others ahead of time, but it was a very nice group of people. We travelled for about four to five hours and arrived at Southwild Lodge for an overnight stay, which was very rustic yet clean, comfortable and with great staff. That evening we walked to an area where we could view ocelots feeding for about 30 minutes - wonderful! - and later we enjoyed a very good supper.

Next morning, breakfast, and another three to four hours to get to the river. There, we got on our boat which took us to the flotel, where we stayed for four nights. I would recommend this length to ensure that you will have ample opportunities to view the jaguars. Upon arriving at our flotel, we had a bite to eat and got on our "little" boat, off searching for the jaguars! This routine each day included early breakfast, then go from 7am – 11am on "jaguar searches", back to the flotel for lunch, have a break, then back on the tour boat from 2pm – 6pm. You're sitting in a boat for a long time, but it’s very comfortable. Plus, you're cruising along all these river tributaries so it is very interesting - lots of birds, caiman, giant sea otters and capybaras. There was never a dull moment!

The waters are calm, and the only time you would see other boats was when a boat driver, or guide, would spot a jaguar, then that driver would call other drivers to let them know. That happened to us all the time. That's the only time the boats went really fast... still very safe though! Once you get to the spot where the jaguar was walking, standing or just sitting, the boat stops, and you can take as many pictures as you want - or just observe, it's up to you. We went out seven separate times during my stay on the flotel, and we saw jaguars EVERY time! I was thrilled as I'm a huge wildlife photographer. The flotel rooms are small and very basic, yet clean, and WiFi works in the rooms as well as in the lounge area. You have your own shower and bathroom. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included with the tour and food was abundant and very good, but alcoholic drinks were expensive. You have to buy a bottle of wine, not a glass. Every evening after eating we had the option of listening to a presentation by one of the staff about what we had seen or should expect to see in the lounge/library area.

The last day we pretty much did the trip back, in reverse. We drove back to the Southwild Lodge for an overnighter, back to Cuiaba, then on to the airport. September was a great month to go, as the days were bright and sunny and we had absolutely no issues with bugs. My main tip is to bring plenty of sunscreen! The trip is pricey but so worth it! You'll need to book months in advance if you want to stay on the floatel... it's not that big, but the advantage to being there is the closer access to the jaguars. I was very happy with NWS. What's very important to me is ease of communication; I called them direct from my home many times when questions came up and there were no travel issues. Our guide, Michael, was fabulous!! Before you travel, make sure you understand how to get the visa for Brazil. The trip went completely according to schedule and we stayed in time for everything. Now that I'm home, I've enjoyed sharing all my videos and pictures with dozens of people!

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