Day 20 – 22: The magical Pantanal or “The Hunt for the Mighty Jaguar”

When I asked Douglas of what to consider when going into the Pantanal his simple answer was: “Don’t get too much drunk and sleep on the floor. Anacondas might want to eat you.” Haha… And also: “You are wearing motorbike boots, you should be ok for snake bites.” LOL! Ok, I suddenly realised to be in the middle of no mens land, in the middle of the wilderness…

Caymans, snakes, bugs and other poisonous stuff just everywhere. And not to forget… the top predator and king of the animal kingdom in the Pantanal: The mighty jaguar. Apparently, it is not a good idea to walk alone in the early and late hours of the day. The animals got very much used to humans and might possess a serious risk…

Certainly, I would not be at risk… trying to recover from the exhausting transpantaneira.

When waking up I could feel every single muscle in my body and I realised that the trip cost much more energy that I initially anticipated.

I could not believe my eyes when leaving my simple accommodation (which still was very expensive for what it was) and spotted two large deep blue parrots just in front of the restaurant. They were in search of water like so many other animal species during the dry season of this year in the Pantanal.

Jaguar Pantanal

The Pantanal Facts

“The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland, pooling over 81,000 square miles (210,000 square kilometres)…in the center of South America, mostly in central-western Brazil and straddling the borders of Paraguay and Bolivia. Often overshadowed by the Amazon to the north, the Pantanal quietly harbors the highest concentration of wildlife in South America. It’s part national park and part UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s considered a critical region of the world by the World Wildlife Fund, which estimates that 325 species of fish, 159 species of mammals, 656 species of birds, 53 species of amphibians, and 98 species of reptiles live in this hotbed of biodiversity.”

Jaguar Safari – Day 1

After breakfast we started our safari around 8 o’clock and hopped on our boat. Driving more than 30 minutes upstream we saw from the far distance a couple of boats anchored across a sand bank. I first did not realise but Doug mentioned that we might be very lucky and indeed, there he was. The mighty Jaguar, lying lazily on the sand bank and posing already for the cameras of the safari tourists who came like me to spot this beautiful species.

“Onza” The Jaguar

I could not believe my eyes and adrenaline was rushing through my veins… an enormous feeling of happiness to encounter the “Onza” (Portuguese for Jaguar) already on the first meters of our early day. I just could not get enough of the beautiful camouflage of the animal… After a couple of minutes of laying at the sand bank he moved majestically along the river in search of possible prey. Smoothly and very carefully with his head between his shoulders he made one meter after the next. A special moment that morning was when he took some sip of water at the river… Only by zooming in later when looking at the pictures more in detail, you can see the “frightening” impression of the jaguar. A massive package of muscles! You certainly don’t want to meet him alone in the dark… no chance to escape this mighty hunter with its sharp teeth and dangerous claws.

After 10 minutes the magic was over and “Onza” was disappearing in the thick bushes of the Pantanal. Funny, I thought. The animal funnily was not bothered that 5 boats packed with tourists would be observing every single step of him. He is the real king and stood above everything.

Jaguar Pantanal
Jaguar Pantanal

…and the second one

The rest of the day we were driving up and downstream of the river trying to spot another Jaguar, but without success. Instead we saw again lots of caymans, birds and beautiful landscapes. Just before we intended to drive back I saw something in the bush… and again… there he was: The Jaguar!!!! My own Jaguar… I was so proud to have spotted the animal myself and was looking forward to enjoy the private moment just together with him. I made the equation without my tour guide who was giving a hand sign to a boat which was just passing by the other direction without having seen the animal.

Dougs approach was a rather sustainable: No radio to communicate with other boats, quality of the sightings are more important than the quantity and enjoying nature without too many crowds. I loved his mindset which was a reason why I chose to pick him instead of other operators (besides a “fair” price for a private safari of course). However, Especially in this situation I was more than disappointed since his friend on the boat had a radio and was calling every single boat in the Pantanal only to share “my Jaguar” with others. I was biting my lips of frustration.

However, I did not let affect the other boats my experience and enjoyed another long and quality sighting of my own jaguar.

The end of a fantastic day was near and towards a colourful sunset we made our way back to the pension.

Jaguar Safari – Day 2

Doug was proposing to see more of the Pantanal and to also go Piranha fishing which was very tempting. I could not make a decision immediately but decided the day after to explore more of this beautiful nature. I was a bit sceptical if this plan of my tour guide was only due to the fact he got immensely drunk the night before and wanted to sleep while I was fishing for Piranhas. Anyways, I highly enjoyed to catch my first couple of Piranhas which are basically everywhere in quiet areas of the river.

Piranha Fishing Pantanal
Piranha Fishing Pantanal

After lunch I decided to go back on Jaguar hunt and again… we were super lucky to find another jaguar on our way. It was almost impossible not to see one 😀 However, we did not just see one one jaguar but three, fighting for a piece of dead animal.

I felt like in the middle of a discovery channel documentary… with one difference… it was LIFE!!!!!!!!!

Pantanal Safari
Pantanal Safari

From Porto Jofre to Pixaim – Another Unexpected Highlight

The hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso in Pixaim
The hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso in Pixaim

Since I already booked the same hotel in Pocone I had to make my way back on the Transpantaneira. Half way through, I thought it would be a good idea to stop at a resort before Poconé, called Hotel Pantanal. Once I arrived, I felt immediately in love with the beauty and calmness of the place. Thinking about going back to the town itself and staying there for another night was giving me a shivering! Spontaneously, I asked the hotel manager if he still had a room available and luckily this was the case. I could even negotiate a better price and saved in the end the costs for the other “house of horror”, lol.

The place even included day trips to the Pantanal, either by boat or by a guided walking tour on nearby trails. I decided to do both and found a nice group of Brazilians where one of them,  Emerson spoke fluently English. In Brazil, it is unbelievable easy to meet new friends. It is hard not to make new acquaintances.

Hotel Pantanal Wildlife
Hotel Pantanal Wildlife

Boat Trip

The boat trips were beautiful and we decided to do two, one at sunset and one at sunrise. The later one hit me by a pleasantly unexpected surprise. Again, just before going back to the hotel we suddenly realized birds screaming and flying away, Capibaras swimming from one side of the river to the other. “There must be something”, our captain said. “Onza, onza, onza…!!!!”, the father of Emerson shouted while pointing at a beautiful Jaguar just about to dive into the water. I could not believe it!!!!! Another encountering with this amazing animal and this time we witnessed the swimming skills of it. Truly amazed, speechless and absolutely happy, we arrived at the hotel. Still not really realizing what we just witnessed to see.

Conclusion

The Pantanal did not only meet my expectation as THE paradise for wildlife, BUT exceeded it by far!

The Mighty Jaguar on the Hunt