Here's why the Brazilian Pantanal is the best place in the world to spot jaguars in the wild
“He who kills with one leap.” Such is the translation of the Guarani word for jaguar, the third-largest big cat in the world. This majestic predator’s habitat ranges from South to Central America - and can even sometimes be seen as far north as the U.S. state of Arizona - although the animal itself is very elusive. This may be where we’ve lost your attention, as you’re probably thinking those distinctive rosettes and whiskers make for a cute little cat, but you’ll never get to see one in the wild anyway.
You’ll be pleased to hear that you’re mistaken, as while nothing can ever be guaranteed when it comes to wildlife, there is one region where jaguar sightings occur almost on a daily basis (as long as you are there at the right time). You might see Panthera onca (its scientific name) if you’re lucky in the jungles of Belize or Costa Rica, however their habituation in these parts isn’t too advanced, meaning they are more likely to remain in the denser parts of the jungle where vegetation enhances their camouflage. According to recent research, there is a healthy population in the Amazon, however the size of this area and limited access to most of the rainforest make the jaguar an unlikely encounter (one of those awkward “I see you but you can’t see me” situations).
The place we have in mind lies further south, in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul: the Pantanal. This is the name for a vast network of wetlands that lives in the shadows of its bigger and more publicised Amazonian neighbour. 50% larger than the United Kingdom, this is where you stand the greatest chance of spotting this big cat in the wild, and here is why.