Once again we had an incredible time in Brazil’s Pantanal this year. Jaguars of course are the main target species and I always marvel at how it is possible to virtually guarantee exceptional jaguar sightings. I remember when our tour operator first started the jaguar tourism in the northern Pantanal. He called me in, as a photographer, to see if it was even possible to see (and photograph) these cats in the wild. We camped (there were no luxury floating hotels) and a driver and I plied the rivers, about a 1000 kms in a ten-day period. The results were exceptional and I saw 7 jaguars, two of them a mating pair and one in particular that lay on its back and watched us from a few meters for half an hour or so.
It was amazing. I had previously worked and lived in the Amazon rainforest and to see a jaguar – or even fresh tracks – was rare indeed. Once processed I took the images to the National Geographic Magazine in DC and showed them to the chief editor who was running a jaguar corridor story. They did not believe that my shots were of wild jaguars, let alone non-camera trapped, direct one-on-one images of the cats. Most previous jaguar images that the public had seen were taken in captive situations in the Belize zoo, or the military zoo in Manaus, Brazil. Finally convinced, after much back and forth, they published a suite of images in the article. Of course those shots have all been bettered but it remains a testament as to how well jaguars have been protected and valued by the locals in the Pantanal. I feel proud to have been there from the beginning and delight in seeing many of the same individuals from one year to the next.
This year was a personal record, not likely one that I will repeat, with 16 individual jaguars sighted on our trip. We watched, two cats interacting, one steal a fish from a heron, twice chasing caiman, swimming, stalking, relaxing, posing on logs and a host of antics from true quality sightings. Our largest feline in South America, it is, as Alan Rabinowitz said, truly an ‘indomitable beast’.
More personal records were set for one of our trips with an unprecedented 6 tapirs sighted and two giant anteaters! Giant river otters were often seen, hunting fish, scent marking and socializing, we were even present when a family of otters met two jaguars (just out of sight but very close by). The vocalizations were extreme and blood curdling!
Birds were of course as exceptional as ever and there were a host of other animals such as crab eating foxes, ocelot, peccaries, capybara, coatis, agoutis, caimen and anaconda.
Without doubt oil and gas revenues will be a blessing or a curse and need to be carefully applied and distributed for the sake of the wellbeing of the peoples and biodiversity. We remain attentive.
Quite simply the Pantanal is an outstanding wildlife destination! We have two trips in 2020 – one full and the other almost full plus a full trip in 2021 but might consider adding another. Please watch our website for updates. You may also like to read the many reviews on our website to see what others have said so far.
All images ©PeteOxford.