It goes without saying that you need to be in the right place to see jaguars. The Pantanal is the largest continental wetland in the world, stretching across an area of 150,000 square kilometers. Ninety-five percent of the Pantanal is privately owned with the land primarily for farming and a number of the lodges we use are privately owned, traditional fazendas (used for cattle ranching).
Jaguars can only be found in a small area of the wetlands.
Given that jaguars live alone and claim territories of many square miles you need intimate knowledge of the region in order to find the areas where they are most active. It's essential to use guides who are wildlife specialists, with years of experience spotting jaguars. We only use the services of the best who keep track of local movements and sightings giving them a good idea of where they'll be able to find one.
The best time of year to see jaguars is during the dry season, July to September. During the dry season the number of water holes available to them decreases, forcing them to use certain locations for access to water making their movements easier to predict.
The best time to see the cats is when they come to the waters edge to drink.
Many tour companies will sell packages that include night drives, jungle treks and horse riding excursions to try and spot jaguars. While these are great ways to see some of the other animals found in the incredibly diverse Pantanal they aren't they best ways to search for these elusive big cats.
While jaguars are active at night the noise of the vehicles on night drives acts as a warning to stay away. Horse riding trips tend to take place in more open areas not frequented by jaguars, while jungle treks through dense vegetation makes it hard to spot anything other than a rustle of the bushes should you come across a big cat.
The best opportunity to see a jaguar is on a river boat safari. We've had some amazing sightings of cats coming down to the waters edge for a leisurely drink, or even swim (rivers provide an excellent source of prey including fish, turtles and caiman).
The boats don't disturb the jaguars and the visibility to the shoreline is excellent allowing for great photographic opportunities.