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Jaguars of the Pantanal

When, on your first evening on a different continent, a Giant Anteater joins you during dinner, you know you are set for a very special trip.

The Pantanal in Brazil is a wetland overflowing with life. It covers an area larger than England, yet is bisected by just one road – the Transpantaneira. Within your first hour you will be struggling to keep up with the heron sightings, have lost count of the number of Caiman, and been overwhelmed by the confiding nature of the hawks. It is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with colourful Toco Toucans obliging for photographs and Hyacinth Macaws providing the much-desired flash of electric blue overhead. You will discover a deep fondness for Tapir that you never realised you possessed. However, none of these things are the reason for your visit… you are here to see Jaguar.

There are no guarantees with wildlife-watching. You measure your expectations: even a fleeting glimpse would be brilliant, and you are willing to search long and hard for the chance of a flick of a tail or a twitch of an ear. Our first time out on the river we were all a nervous mix of anticipation and excitement. We didn’t have long to wait. In a smaller channel, on an island removed from the main river network, as we nestled our boat into the Water Hyacinth, we had our first Jaguar sightings, the twin brothers Kim and Tore. They were lounging around, as so many big cats do in the heat of the day, occasionally shifting positions. We watched them for nearly two hours, completely enthralled. Activity levels grew towards dusk, as a Caiman (who clearly didn’t know any better) floated into view – the brothers went into hunting mode, crouching and stalking with each approaching from a different direction. It amounted to nothing but was amazing to see!

In the end we were rewarded with over 15 sightings, meeting 11 different Jaguars. Because our accommodation doubled as a Jaguar research station we were able to successfully identify every individual, learning more about the family tree and dynamics of these big cats every day. Being out in the boats gives you a unique perspective of the habitat, completely different from being on a land safari. There is always so much to look at and enjoy and the rivers in the Pantanal are a patchwork of waterways, with both large and small channels to explore.

It is usually impossible to single out a favourite moment from trips like these, but we were gifted a once in a lifetime experience that was the undisputed highlight. We had been following a mother and youngster as they made their way along a riverbank, when it became apparent they wanted to cross the river and so needed a little space. We backed off until we lost them from our sights, then settled down in the shade to get some respite from the sun. After about 20 minutes we headed back to where we had last seen them, fully expecting them to have moved on – they hadn’t. They were crossing the river, and the youngster in particular looked to be struggling to stay afloat. It soon became apparent why. As they came up onto the white sandy beach we saw that they were carrying an Anaconda between them – and a pretty large one at that. Clearly, they had been hunting, and the Anaconda had come off worse for wear. The image of the mum and youngster, probably seven months old, carrying the giant snake up the beach between them was something to behold. They proceeded to pull on either end, in a way that very much looked as though the youngster was being given a lesson on how to pull its prey apart. It was one of those moments where nobody speaks, and you can sense a collective holding of breath – truly spectacular.

Not everyone who goes to Brazil will see Jaguars playing tug of war with an Anaconda, but I still highly recommend this trip! And I haven’t even mentioned the Giant River Otters…

To find out more about our ‘Just Jaguars’ tour, please contact Tom Mabbett on 01962 733051, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Toco Toucans (Emma Greenwood)

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Brazilian Tapirs (Emma Greenwood)

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Jaguars (Emma Greenwood)

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Jaguars with Yellow Anaconda (Emma Greenwood)