National Geographic calls it Brazil’s best kept secret.
Covering over 70,000 square miles, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland. It sits in the center of South America, and is 10 times the size of Florida’s Everglades. Often overshadowed by the nearby Amazon rainforest, the Pantanal actually boasts a higher concentration of fauna, comparable to the densest animal populations in Africa. Some of the Pantanal’s critters include giant anteaters, piranha, howler and capuchin monkeys, green anacondas—the world’s largest snake, and the star of our proverbial show, jaguars!
Each year rains that fall during the rainy season fill the Pantanal’s giant basin, which creates a vast flooded landscape. Here, unlike the thick jungles of the Amazon, wide-open space extend views for miles and miles. The flooded landscape nurtures a biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helps to support a dense array of animal species. When the rains end, water drains into the Paraguay River, leaving behind a rich environment that attracts enormous flocks of spoonbill, egret, and stork. There are few humans here, making birds the primary occupants.
The Pantanal is home to roughly 1,000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian species and 480 reptile species. As you can determine, there is a LOT going on here. On our photographic tour of the Pantanal we’ll set out from the Brazilian city of Cuiabá on a safari-like journey south on the dusty Transpantaneira Highway, in search of wildlife encounters.
Porto Jofre, our southerly destination where we’ll spend several days, will bring us to our primary focus – jaguars!
We’ll spend a few days while on the highway photographing whatever we might find, be it marsh deer, coatimundi, giant anteaters, tapirs and giant river otters as we make our way to the settlement of Porto Jofre. It is in Porto Jofre where we’ll spend multiple days in search of the jaguar by boat. The jaguar are often found resting and hunting on the banks of several Pantanal rivers, sometimes even doing a little swimming! Vantage points are best achieved from the river, via boat, so that is what we’ll plan to do! Jaguars are the third largest “big cat” on earth, and the Pantanal jaguar is the world’s largest jaguar subspecies with some males weighing in at over 300 lbs!
While jaguars are ultimately the primary draw on this fantastic South American expedition, birders and other wildlife enthusiasts will be pleased as the bird photography, in particular, is simply astounding here. You’ll certainly want to bring “the big glass” for this tour as we’ll look to photograph jabiru – the world’s largest stork and symbol of the Pantanal, as well as egret, heron, the increasingly endangered hyacinth macaw, alongside capybaras -the world’s largest rodent, caiman, giant otters, and capuchin monkeys.
It’s a mouthful, isn’t it? The list of wildlife that we’ll see could go on and on. Travel with Backcountry Journeys as we venture to South America, and to one of the world’s truly great natural wonders. The Pantanal is still a relatively unknown gem, and provides the wildlife photographer with a plethora of unique opportunities to come away with experiences and images that won’t soon be forgotten.