Jaguar-watching in the Pantanal

Janet Martin travelled on our 'Brazil - Just Jaguars' holiday and submitted this entry to our writing competition.


Jaguar, Brazil

The high wooden archway straddling the red dirt road announced Transpantaneira. This was the start of our long-awaited adventure in search of the elusive Jaguar.

Our bags were now being transferred to the safari lorry for the journey to our first stop at Pouso Alegre. We came to the first wooden bridge: were we really going to cross 122 of these! Paulo, our excellent guide, pointed out caimen, Capybara and a multitude of birds as we continued on, the light fading to darkness as we reached the lodge. After a delicious dinner we climbed back aboard the lorry for our first night spotlighting. We soon spotted a Crab-eating Fox seeking his dinner and a Red Brocket deer nervously nibbling grass at the edge of a wood. The spotlight scanned the tracksides as we continued then, stopping at a clearing, with the engine stilled we listened in the silence. The sounds of crashing in the trees got louder and suddenly a tapir crossed the road in front of us followed by another.  They continued to our right and then disappeared just as quickly as they had arrived. Moving back towards the lodge we again stopped and this time saw a Giant Anteater merrily grubbing in the undergrowth oblivious to the spotlight or our clicking camera. What an end to the day! Could it get any better? We were off in the lorry again before dawn to watch the ponds stirring into life with the backdrop of a beautiful sunrise, then back for a hearty breakfast. That evening we were joined in the garden by a Giant Anteater busily seeking his dinner. Pouso Alegre was indeed a wildlife-rich venue and we were sad to leave the next morning, but the Jaguar beckoned.

After crossing the remaining wooden bridges of the Transpantaneira, some looking more than a little the worse for wear, we reached Porto Joffre to be greeted by our boat driver.  Lunch was ready at the Flotel including superb fish from the river. The late afternoon boat search provided numerous caimen, Capybara and birds, but no Jaguar. The next morning everyone was in high spirits eager for the first glimpse of a Jaguar. Instead we found Giant River Otter - first a family moving down river and then a large group fishing in the water hyacinth. The waters are so full of fish they were easily catching them and sounds of the bone crunching were all around us. As we tied up back at the Flotel all the boat drivers had long faces; Paulo said that none of them had found Jaguar for the last few days. The afternoon boat trip, and the boat drivers were getting anxious. We sped along many miles scanning the banks then a call came on the radio: a Jaguar had been found but it was a long way off. The engine came to life as we travelled for miles. The driver inched our boat forward and a Jaguar came into view - ‘Silvia’; she was sitting by a bush shaking her head from the flies. Fantastic! Now everyone was smiling, including the drivers!

The following morning another Jaguar, Bianca, was found. We watched her lying in the undergrowth until it was time for lunch. The afternoon boat trip found a lone Giant River Otter preening himself on a branch in the river, then catching and eating a fish; we were enthralled as we watched him munching the very last morsel. Back to the spot we left before lunch and Bianca was still there lying behind a bush. All of the boats were watching and waiting in anticipation of movement on the bank. Occasionally she moved a few yards then lay back down. The boats from the lodges not on the river started to leave as the light began to fade. Others followed, then it was just us as the blood-hungry mosquitoes descended. It was now practically dark as we slowly started to move back upriver. The spotlight in Paulo's hand picked up the ruby red eyes of the caimen glistening in the ink black of the river. A Capybara began to bark and, for a fleeting moment, in the spotlight a few feet behind it was Bianca, about to get her dinner! The adrenaline was pumping at the sight and also from the journey back in the speeding boat in darkness!

We saw five different Jaguar during our time on the Flotel, all with faces so different. We still cannot stop talking about this trip and it will remain in our memories for a long time.

Read more about our 'Brazil - Just Jaguars!' holiday.