Pantanal Jaguar Itinerary
Realm of the Jaguar
Pantanal Wildlife Expedition Led by Jaguar Researcher Ron Thompson
- Daily Itinerary
- Led by Ron Thompson
- Biologist Planned
- Pantanal Wildlife
- African Safari Comparison
- Sep 12 – Arrive by 9:00 a.m. to Sao Paulo, Brazil. After a layover we will connect onto a 13:05 flight to Campo Grande arriving at 13:55 (flight is not included in price, it is currently $141 per person). On arrival in Campo Grande we will board a charter flight (50 minutes) to Fazenda Barranco Alto deep in the heart of the Pantanal.
- Sep 13 – Wild Sourthern Pantanal. Barranco Alto
- Sep 14 – Wild Sourthern Pantanal. Barranco Alto
- Sep 15 – Wild Sourthern Pantanal. Barranco Alto
- Sep 16 – Early breakfast and morning flight (around 6 a.m.) of 90 minutes to Pocone. From here you have a 4 ½ hour drive to the Paraguay River. On arrival to the river we will board the Jaguar House Boat. Following lunch we will have our first boat search for jaguars and other wildlife.
- Sep 17 – Explore Taiama Ecological Reserve/Paraguay River by boat. Jaguar House Boat.
- Sep 18 – Explore Taiama Ecological Reserve/Paraguay River by boat. Jaguar House Boat.
- Sep 19 – Explore Taiama Ecological Reserve/Paraguay River by boat. Jaguar House Boat.
- Sep 20 – Explore Taiama Ecological Reserve/Paraguay River by boat. Jaguar House Boat.
- Sep 21 – Explore Taiama Ecological Reserve/Paraguay River by boat. Jaguar House Boat.
- Sep 22 – Explore Taiama Ecological Reserve/Paraguay River by boat. Jaguar House Boat.
- Sep 23 – After breakfast we depart on a 5.5 hour drive to the Cuiaba Airport arriving by 14:00 in time to catch a flight to Sao Paulo and connect with your homeward bound flight.
NOTE: Group size is limited to just 8 guests
Safari Cost is $7,850 per person sharing; Single supplement is $1,500
- Overnights in double rooms/cabins mentioned in the program
- Private air transfers Campo Grande – Barranco Alto – Hotel Porto Jofre
- Ground transfers mentioned in itinerary in air-conditioned vehicle
- All Meals
- At Barranco Alto bottled water, soft drinks, juices and beer are included as well.
- English speaking guides for activities
- Specialty American wildlife biologist guide
- International flights.
- Domestic Flights
- Airport Taxes
- Drinks, except those at Barranco Alto which are included
- Personal Expenses
Brazil’s Pantanal has an unrivaled claim as South America’s top wildlife viewing region. In fact, many say it’s the top wildlife area outside of Africa. Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland, a staggering ten times the size of the Everglades and fifteen times the size of the famed Okavango Delta. Like Botswana’s Okavango there is a fantastic variety of habitats including wetlands, savanna, riverine gallery forests, and cerrado (forested savanna). A number of rivers form the lifeblood of the Pantanal, and these have become reliable areas for sighting jaguars. During our time of travel there is an astounding 95% daily success rate for observing the world’s third largest cat.
Jaguars have become a magnet for tourism. They are certainly the focal point of this expedition but the thriving jaguar population is also an indicator of the health of this natural system. An incredible 135 different mammal species and 475 bird species have been documented in the Pantanal. Many of these species are charismatic, colorful, and/or simply fascinating. There is no doubt this is one of the world’s premier wildlife-watching destinations.
Led By Ron Thompson
WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST/JAGUAR & PUMA RESEARCHER
Ron is one of North America’s most experienced big cat biologists, conducting extensive research on both jaguars and pumas (mountain lions). Following a career with Arizona Game & Fish, including serving as the Large Carnivore Biologist in charge of mountain lions and bears, Ron founded Primero Conservation. Ron’s research with Primero focuses on jaguar and puma conflict with livestock in Mexico as well as working to decrease puma predation on desert bighorn sheep as that conflict ends in persecution of pumas.
Ron is internationally recognized for his big cat knowledge. He was the first non-Mexican citizen to be issued a permit to capture and satellite collar jaguars. Renowned big cat NGO, Panthera, has contracted Ron to train Latin American biologists on capture and handling techniques for jaguar and puma to support studies in Mexico and Belize. He has also been employed by Turner Endangered Species and Borderland Research Institute to research pumas in New Mexico and Texas respectively.
Ron has worked in concert with Bill Given, founder of The Wild Source, on ground breaking big cat/livestock conflict research. It is an extension of that connection that Ron joined The Wild Source team as a big cat expert advisor for our trip designs, and as a specialty guide for select small group departures to big cat destinations like our jaguar focused Pantanal safaris.
WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST PLANNED
Just like our African safaris this itinerary has been wildlife biologist planned. Bill has used his network of contacts, including a jaguar researcher, and personally studied the seasonal patterns to determine strategies for the best quality wildlife safari to the Pantanal. Critically we have selected the optimal time to maximize the combination of great success with jaguars paired with a time of overall excellence in wildlife viewing. We will be traveling late in the dry season, a time when Brazil is transitioning out of winter and into summer. The time selected is past the chance of a cold spell, which can make jaguars scarce along the rivers, yet before the the major rains fall which disperse many of the mammals.
Most Pantanal trips focus only in the Northern Pantanal along the Transpantaneira Highway. Our trip is unique beginning with a private flight to the wild heart of the Southern Pantanal, to stay at the private Fazenda Barranco Alto Eco-lodge. Barranco Alto is owned by a wildlife biologist and hosts its own research station with up to ten visiting scientists. This is widely considered the most wildlife rich area accessible to tourists in the Pantanal. It is also one of the finest accommodation offerings and provides a diverse array of high quality activities including game drives, night drives, walks, boating and canoeing.
Next we move efficiently with a private flight and drive to the remote Paraguay River. This is one of the two extraordinary areas for viewing jaguars – by far the less visited of the two! Here we stay on the Jaguar House Boat, stationed in the river on the edge of the pristine Taiama Ecological Reserve. The Reserve area cannot be visited on land but we are allowed to navigate its boundaries by boat. We will cruise the river daily in search of the New World’s largest cats, and with a 95% daily success rate we expect to have some great observation times. With it late in the dry season we also have the best chace of possibly observing hunting behavior. Jaguars in this area are masters of hunting yacare caiman (crocodilians), killing them instantly with a powerfully placed bite piercing the skull.
The quality here is optimal as compared to the better known Porto Jofre area there are far fewer boats in the area, increasing the possibilities of private jaguar viewing and the best photography opportunities. The densities of jaguars are excellent. The jaguars here used be more elusive and found at a lower rate than those accessed from Porto Jofre but that has changed. In 2013 & 2014 the daily average has risen to 2.5 jaguar sightings per day, putting it on par with Porto Jofre but with more exclusive viewing. Dedicating a week in one area maximizes the chances to see a large number of different individual jaguars and interesting behaviors.
We are sure to see a tremendous diversity of wildlife. Highlight mammals that we are very likely to see include jaguar, giant and Neotropical otters, six-banded armadillos (four other possible armadillo species), giant anteater, capybara, coati, crab-eating fox, brocket deer, howler monkeys, brown capuchin monkeys, collared peccary and South America’s largest mammal the tapir. With night drives we increase the chances of finding some of the more rarely sighted mammals including ocelot, crab-eating raccoon, tamandua, and four-eyed opossum. Maned wolf and puma (mountain lion) take some good luck but are seen from time to time at Barranco Alto.
A can’t miss is the yacare caiman, one of the smaller crocodilians, with a population estimated at thirty-five million! Another highlight reptile is the anaconda, one of the largest snakes in the world though typically seen is the smaller yellow anaconda.
Pantanal birdlife is simply astounding. Even those who think they have no interest in birds will be blown away. The quantities are unimaginable. The variety of collars outlandish. A great many are quite large and display intriguing behaviors.
The star of the area is the hyacinth macaw, the world’s largest parrot and one of the rarest – except in the Pantanal. Blue-and-yellow and red-and-green macaw may also be seen. Toco toucan are another eye catcher. Five species of kingfishers add lots of activity.
Raptors are ever present, including black-collared hawks fishing the rivers and comical burrowing owls.
Of course the world’s largest wetland hosts extraordinary numbers of wading birds. Herons, ibises, spoonbills are everywhere. The jabiru stork thrives here and this enormous bird is another star of the Pantanal show.
AFRICAN SAFARI COMPARISON
As this expedition is being offered to our experienced African safari clientele I think it is useful to discuss this trip in context of our African safari experiences.
From a wildlife viewing point of view I think the Pantanal will actually stand up strong. We will have close up viewing of an incredible diversity of animals. Like Africa we also have a very high percentage chance of having great viewing of the key species in the area such as jaguar, otter, anteater, armadillo and so much more.
When it comes to standard of accommodation the experiences are quite different. The classic Pantanal experience is to stay on working ranches that have turned much of their land over to conservation. In keeping with this traditional operation housing is in ranch style chalets or rooms, rather than the custom safari tents we are used to. To reach the best jaguar viewing areas we need to be based by, or even on the rivers. In these areas the accommodation was built originally to serve fishing parties, but have now adjusted to serve wildlife tourism during the peak jaguar viewing months. We thus are using a larger and more basic lodge than we would ever consider in Africa simply because the location saves hours of driving, allowing us to be out for the best, and maximum, time to look for jaguars. Food is known to be good and hearty, but drinks are rarely included – four nights of our stay is at one of the rare properties that does include beer and wine.
Likewise, even at the best property the game drive vehicles are more like converted farm vehicles than the meticulously crafted safari vehicles we use in Africa. While things like the vehicles won’t measure quite up to what we are accustomed to there is an amazing flexibility for some independence that isn’t possible to safely offer in Africa. For example at Barranco Alto you may independently go canoeing on the river or hiking in the forest. This adds the independent adventure opportunity that some of us miss in Africa.
This trip is built for wildlife enthusiasts who crave to dive deep into the natural world and are happy to experience it on a well supported traditional level. For sure we will see somethings we know from Africa can be done better, but we will also be blown away on this new adventure to savor the best wildlife viewing in our hemisphere.
HEART OF THE SOUTHERN PANTANAL – 4 Nights
Fazenda Barranco Alto is remotely located in the wild Southern Pantanal. This ranch was one of the first to turn to conservation and is widely considered to have the best all-around game viewing in the Pantanal. On property is a “Researcher House” hosting up to eight scientists at a time. To date there has been research resulting in publications on giant otters, jaguars, and giant anteaters – all species we hope to spend quality time with on this trip.
In addition to being the best location for the diversity of Pantanal species Barranco Alto also provides the best variety of activities. On offer are game drives in open vehicles, night drives, boating with quiet electric engines, hiking, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, and you can even join the Panteneiro cowboys who perform cattle operations on the property if you want to immerse in local culture. Activities are very flexible and you can even canoe and/or hike on your own during siesta if you want extra activity – very exciting freedom.
Barranco Alto is a family operated property, including patriarch Lucas Leuzinger who is a wildlife biologist. To provide the best experience with flexible activities the ranch house accommodation is limited to just six guest rooms, making it one of the smallest tourist operations despite having some of the biggest and most wildlife rich land. Accommodation is provided in comfortable rooms with air-conditioning and private en-suite bathroom.
This area of the Pantanal is extraordinary because of the variety of habitats. The area has the magical Rio Negro to explore by canoe and boat, floodplains, lagoons, salty ponds (Salinas that the area is known for), forest glades and savanna grasslands, all combining to provide the rich Pantanal tapestry.
JAGUAR HOUSE BOAT
TAIAMA ECO RESERVE – 7 Nights
The Taiama Reserve is a federally protected area; it is not open to the public and no tour operator is permitted to take tourists onto the reserve itself. But since the reserve sits on an island in the middle of the river, visitors are free to circumnavigate the reserve in search of the elusive jaguar. Jaguars are visible day and night, and they are frequently spotted along the river banks when they come to the edge to drink, rest and hunt their favorite prey: caimans & capybaras. Jaguar density is high here but sightings are less frequent than on the Cuiaba River visited earlier in the trip. However, once found the jaguars are often viewed from only 20-30 meters away and there are far less boats in this area, making it the highest quality experience.
In addition to jaguars there are often sightings of giant otters, anacondas, tapirs, and other outstanding wildlife.
The Jaguar House Boat is perfect for exploring the remote Taiama Reserve, one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in Brazil.
The Jaguar House Boat, anchored just north of the Taiama Reserve, offers 9 simple comfortable cabins. The cabins have bunk beds, private bathroom, and air-conditioning. Each cabin has two bunk beds, so the top bunk is usually used for luggage since the rooms are cozy. The air conditioned dining room is equipped with TV, sound system and bathroom. There is a nice panoramic deck from which you can enjoy the view of the surrounding wilderness, while enjoying a cold drink.
This is not luxury or stylish accommodation, but it provides all the basic comforts at the ultimate location for unrivaled access to the prime jaguar area.