One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.Henry Miller
After an enthralling first day of wildlife safari on the Transpantaneira (Read more), we were up early to the chirping of birds all around us. This is definitely not a place where you would need an alarm to wake you up, the birds do this job for you as soon as the first rays of sunshine hit the Pantanal and trust me these are quite loud and with no option to hit a snooze. In addition, we had company during the night as well with constant pecking and crawling on our room’s roof and false ceiling, some of which really gave us the jitters.
The first thing I usually do when I wake up is open the curtains of the Patio – and what do I see – Two Crab eating Foxes strolling right outside our door. Just kept watching them as they strolled around the bushes and disappeared at a distance. We quickly got prepared for the day with all the essentials (Read more) needed for our first Boat Safari.
Had a quick stroll on the highway in front of the eco lodge which was now teaming up with birdlife including the Great Kiskadee and the Chaco chachalaca creating the bulk of the synchronous singing.
After a nice breakfast, Eduardo drove us to his brothers nearby cattle ranch where the Toucans had nested. This amazing bird is something which I have always wanted to see in the wild having seen them numerous times on Nat Geo. We also spotted the White Woodpecker, Southern Crested-Caracara amongst many other bird species.
After seeing the Toucans, we head straight to River Cuiaba at Porto Jofre – the last point on this Highway. It was nice to capture a Ringed Kingfisher sitting on a wooden bridge having its morning breakfast.
The early morning drive was very pleasant crossing more bridges over lagoons filled with Caiman, Egrets, Cabybaras and other birds. The vegetation also changed a bit with more wetlands and more low lying plants.
After an hour’s drive, we finally arrived at the Jaguar conservation Centre which was where we parked and loaded up the boat with all essentials including drinks, lunch and diesel. Also, this is the last point for a toilet break – as that’s not an option during the Boat Safari.
Once loaded up, we were off on our way for our very first Boat Safari. This was no way close to the land Safaris we had done and it was honestly much harder with the hot tropical sun beating down on you, the Cuiaba River filled with Caiman and the horrible insects which really sting hard.
Please read our general tips for Pantanal to be well prepared – Click here.
The River Cuiaba was not like any we had been on before though we both stay very close to backwaters in our native India. The river was huge, muddy, fast flowing, staggering depths and filled with Caimans and Piranhas – the fish with one of the most powerful bites and to Amoli’s utter shock there were no life jackets! All this for spotting one of the most elusive cat – The Jaguar.
There were a couple of Pantaneiros fishing on this river for Catfish and Piranhas; Eduardo booked our night dinner with one of these guys to take all his catch when we return in the evening. Its really hard to spot wildlife on these river banks as compared to the grasslands of Serengeti – however we still continued to keep our eyes peeled.
Soon we saw the Giant Otters family, an aggressive territorial carnivores, with little ones nursing on the banks of the river.
Soon we saw a boat swirl past us indicating there has been a Jaguar spotting a little ahead of us. Eduardo pushes full throttle and our boat sped towards the banks. We switched off the engine and then it was absolute pin drop silence and suddenly I see the grass in front of me moving – was it the water underneath or an animal? This was absolute goose bumps moment as I had come all the way to Brazil to see this beautiful feline. And then all of a sudden, I see a head emerge from the grass as if to look back at me and yes it was the Jaguar.
It then came out of the grass and walked across us on the banks of the river- looking for maybe a Caiman on the banks. Though it looked full, it still was hunting probably for some Caiman. What an amazing predator – those beautiful spots, the walk, steely eyes – absolute wow!
It then disappeared in the bushes to reappear again under the shade of a tree and then disappeared again. A short encounter but a great experience. What a great start for our Boat Safari!!
We continued exploring the bank of the river but couldn’t find much and the hot sun was really draining us out. Another passing by boat told us that there was another Jaguar close by and Eduardo turned our boat. However, on reaching the spot there were no boats whatsoever and on scanning the banks with our binoculars we didn’t spot anything so we went upstream in the river as it got narrower. After a while, we decided to turn around and head back, however, on our way back we decided to recheck the same spot.
This was actually an amazing spot – lot of bushes and thick vegetation growth on water, quite green and did have some shade. After starting at the bushes and a lone tree on the opposite bank I had given up hopes, just then Eduardo shouted – “I see something moving – it’s a Tail – under that tree”. Blood rush all over again and on focusing on the foliage below the tree you could see a tail wag – Yipeeee there it was – another Jaguar hidden in the shadow and undergrowth of the lone tree.
So we decided to park our boat here whilst we have our lunch. Lunch is usually carried in picnic boxes as there is no way we can make all the way back to the lodge. What an amazing backdrop for a lunch – we had a lazying Jaguar couple of meters ahead (though we couldn’t see it clearly, I’m sure it was observing all our movements), a high river bank next to us with no sight of what laid beyond it, green eyes of Caimans all around us, thick foliage of plants floating all around us – ideal for the like of Anacondas – in short one of the best lunch dates we ever had.
Well, the Jaguar wasn’t as crazy as us – it decided to lay back under the shadow and beat the sun. After spending almost 2 hours waiting for it to move, my hopes were fast receding and Amoli was pleasantly surprised that I can be patient as well for a change!!
We decided to leave this place and move ahead. Though we didn’t find any more Jaguars, we did see more Otters, Caiman and more birds as we drove around. The afternoon sun was hard and it was important to keep yourself hydrated.
Definitely read our general tips on Visiting Pantanal here – Read more.
My mind was still transfixed to the previous spot and the lazy Jaguar – somehow was getting a feeling that this guy is going to wake up for sure – it can’t be such a bozo. We turned our boat for one last time and headed towards the same spot again. I moved towards the front of the boat and was trying to spot it under the same tree. Complete disappointment as I couldn’t see it nor its tail wag. What a shame – it had left the spot while we were away.
Just then Eduardo spotted it – Right in the water below the lone tree. Cats usually don’t like water – but that’s not the case with Jaguars. This was a bigger one – a male. Seemed like it had a kill in the vegetation on the water and it disappeared in what seemed like a hole and it looked like eternity waiting for it to appear. Finally it appeared and it was really a pleasure seeing this magnificent feline sit on the banks, resting and licking it paws.
Well the show was soon over and it retreated to the shade of the tree again. We spend the next hour staring at it from a distance – it’s definitely a test of patience but at the same time the shade of the trees overhead was a much needed reprieve. Finally, we decided to make our way back as it was late evening by now.
The drive back with the sun setting in the distant horizon was a moment to sit and reflect on the day. What an amazing day it had been – 2 Jaguars on the very first day of our Boat Safari. All the heat, tiredness was well behind us at the sight of this beast.
I have had up close encounters with Lions and a mock charging Tiger in previous Safaris — Would I have a close encounter with the Jaguar on the next day? This is what I was secretly hoping for. Will this wish come true? To find out – Read more.
More flavours of this day –
View our Pantanal Journey Video here –
Read more about our Pantanal wildness exploration– Click here.
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