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We have seen and photographed about 150 different species of birds, from Macaws to Parrots to Giant Storks.  We have rode horses through caiman infested waters and seen capybaras and monkeys up close. But now we are searching for something different.  The apex predator of the Pantanal – the Jaguar.

The Pantanal, a sprawling wetland that stretches across Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, is a haven for wildlife. It’s a place where the air is filled with the cacophony of bird calls, the rustling of leaves as capybaras scurry by, and caiman swimming nearby. Searching for jaguars in the Pantanal is an adventure that promises excitement, awe, and a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature.

This is why we have traveled over 4,000 miles to the heart of Brazil.  We are traveling down the Cuiaba River seeking this elusive creature.  Kati and I are in a small flat boat with two Pantaneiros, our guide Max and our boat captain Gonzalino, who both were born and grew up in the Pantanal and know these waters as well as anyone.

Our journey began with a flight into Cuiabá, the capital of Mato Grosso state in Brazil. From there, we traveled to the town of Poconé, the gateway to the northern Pantanal. The Transpantaneira, a 147 km dirt road that starts in Poconé and ends at the Cuiabá River, is our path into the heart of jaguar territory. This road is an adventure in itself, with wooden bridges crossing over marshes and lagoons teeming with wildlife.

There’s something incredibly thrilling about embarking on a journey into the wild, especially when it involves searching for one of the most elusive and majestic creatures on the planet – the jaguar.  This is nature in its purest form, where time seems to have stood still.

At this time of year (end of May), the river is almost empty and there are only about 3 other boats on the river searching for Jaguars and other wildlife.  There are many fishermen starting to fly into the area to try their luck in these rich waters.  There are miles and miles of river and we are one small boat. But we are hopeful.

The Pantanal is someplace special.   As you step into the Pantanal, you’re greeted by a landscape that’s a riot of colors and textures. The lush greenery of the forests, the shimmering of the water bodies, and the golden hues of the savannahs create a mesmerizing tableau. But it’s not just the stunning vistas that make the Pantanal special. It’s the incredible variety of life forms that call this place home.

Giant River Otters are playing along side of us as we travel down the waterway continuing our search.  We look up and there is a Toucan in a tree eating a nut.  And the sunrise and sunsets are magnificent.

Lost in the Pantanal

A pure huntress she keeps her eyes on the caiman below ready to pounce.

The Pantanal

The Pantanal, a natural wonder that stretches across Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, is a place of breathtaking beauty and staggering biodiversity. This vast wetland, the largest in the world, is a treasure trove of unique flora and fauna, a paradise for nature lovers and a testament to the incredible richness of our planet.

The Pantanal is a place of superlatives. It covers an area of over 75,000 square miles, roughly the size of the state of Washington. It’s home to over 1,000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian species, 480 reptile species, and over 9,000 subspecies of invertebrates. This makes it one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, a living, breathing testament to the power and beauty of nature.

The Pantanal’s biodiversity is due in large part to its unique geography and climate. The region is a vast floodplain, covered in water during the rainy season and dry during the rest of the year. This cycle of flooding and drying creates a variety of habitats, from open grasslands to dense forests, each with its own unique ecosystem. This diversity of habitats, in turn, supports a wide range of species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

Just when I was ready to give up, we turned a corner and saw her.  A female jaguar on a hunt and at the rivers edge looking for caiman.  About 30 to 40 feet away from one of these creatures is a heart pounding exciting experience.  She hunted, swam, looked and just being in her presence was humbling. We spent about 90 minutes with her and she blessed us with great photographs and incredible video.

Lost in the Pantanal

The birdlife is amazing seeing the endangered Blue Macaws and other parrots are fairly common.

Searching for Jaguars

Searching for jaguars in the Pantanal is not just about the thrill of the chase. It’s about immersing yourself in a world that is so different from our own, a world where nature reigns supreme. It’s about the quiet moments of waiting, the sudden rush of excitement when a jaguar is spotted, and the sense of awe that comes from witnessing these magnificent creatures in the wild. It’s an adventure that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

Our Final Word

Visiting the Pantanal is a journey into the heart of nature. It’s a chance to witness the incredible diversity of life on our planet and to understand the importance of preserving our natural heritage. Whether you’re a nature lover, a wildlife enthusiast, or just someone looking for a unique travel experience, the Pantanal is a destination that’s sure to leave you spellbound.

We would like to thank Araras Pantanal Eco Lodge and the Hotel Pantanal Norte that made our excursion unforgettable as well as our trusty guide Max. Pantanal Explorer arranged our time out in the Pantanal and did an outstanding job.  

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