Realm of the Jaguar
Pantanal Wildlife Expedition Led by Wildlife Biologist Bill Given
- Daily Itinerary
- Led by Bill Given
- Henrique Villas Boas Concone
- Biologist Planned
- Pantanal Wildlife
- African Safari Comparison
- Sep 05 – Wild Sourthern Pantanal. Fazenda San Francisco – Arrive by 11:00 a.m. to Campo Grande, Brazil (there are direct flights from Sao Paolo and Rio de Janiero). Once the group has arrived to Campo Grande we will have a 3 1⁄2 drive into the Southern Pantanal to arrive at Fazenda San Francisco. At 18:00 we will have an introduction lecture on the Ocelot Research Project and discuss the field activities for the following days.
- Sep 06 – Wild Sourthern Pantanal. Fazenda San Francisco – Breakfast at 6:30am. At 7:30 Photo Safari – visit different areas of the ranch in search of wildlife, learning about Pantanal biome – joined by Ocelot Project researcher. Have lunch at 12:00pm. Time to have some rest. By 15:00 depart for a Boat safari on “Chalana” style boat to look for wading birds and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Dinner, followed by a Night Safari in search of nocturnal wildlife – joined by Ocelot Project researcher.
- Sep 07 – Wild Sourthern Pantanal. Fazenda San Francisco – Breakfast at 6h00am. At 7:00am, Ocelot radio tracking and data collection (by vehicle) with Ocelot Project researcher. Return to have lunch at 12:00. At 15:00, camera trapping (setting and/or checking cameras) with Ocelot Project researcher. Dinner, followed by a Night Safari and radio tracking ocelots (data collection, behavioral observation) with Ocelot Project researcher.
- Sep 08 -Wild Sourthern Pantanal. Fazenda San Francisco – Breakfast at 6:00am. At 7:00am depart for a walk at Vazante’s Trail with Ocelot Project researcher. Have lunch at 12:00pm. At 13:30 presentation of trip’s results (ocelot telemetry and camera data). At 15:30, Canoeing at Corixo São Domingos or Boat Tour at Miranda River depending on water conditions and group interest). Have dinner, followed by a Night Safari and radio tracking ocelots (data collection, behavioral observation) with Ocelot Project researcher.
- Sep 09 – Porto Jofre. Hotel Pantanal Norte Breakfast at 7:00am, check out and board on small private planes to Porto Jofre (1h15 flight approximately). Arrive in Porto Jofre in time to have lunch. By the afternoon, depart for your first boat tour to spot jaguars. The region has the highest density of jaguar population in the entire Pantanal, during our explorations of the river here we have a 95% of chance to see Jaguars each day. Come back to the Hotel to have dinner (included). Overnight.
- Sep 10 – Porto Jofre. Hotel Pantanal Norte – Breakfast and depart to a boat trip on Cuiaba River and channels to search the jaguars. We may return for lunch and then go back out for an afternoon boat trip or we might take picnics and stay out all day; it will depend on weather conditions. Dinner at lodge and overnight.
- Sep 11 – Porto Jofre. Hotel Pantanal Norte – Breakfast and depart to a boat trip on Cuiaba River and channels to search the jaguars. We may return for lunch and then go back out for an afternoon boat trip or we might take picnics and stay out all day; it will depend on weather conditions. Dinner at lodge and overnight.
- Sep 12 – Northern Pantanal. Araras Eco Lodge – Have breakfast and depart in a private transfer to Araras Lodge (2h30 approximately) through the famous “Transpantaneira Highway”. Enjoy one of the best wildlife viewing areas. Here you can admire the flora and fauna of the Brazilian Pantanal, search for caimans, capybaras, giant anteaters, anaconda, jabiru storks, macaws, and much, much more. Arrive in time to have lunch (included) and accommodation at Pousada Araras Eco Lodge. Afertnoon activity: depart to hike the Rondon trail to the 12m / 40 ft high Tuiuiu Tower.
- Sep 13 – Northern Pantanal. Araras Eco Lodge – After breakfast, full day to explore the marvelous flora and fauna of this area. By truck, horse, canoe or walking you will be able to interact and get to know this complex ecosystem better. We can walk to the 82 foot high Howler Monkey’s Tower for sunset. Dinner and Night drive.
- Sep 14 – Departure -Breakfast and check out. We drive out on the Trans-Pantaneira Highway approximately 2h 30m to Cuiaba Airport for our flights home (not included in price and will need to fly via Sao Paulo or Rio).
NOTE: Group size is limited to just 10 guests
Safari Cost is $7,950 per person sharing; Single supplement is $1,500
- South Pantanal – Fazenda San Francisco
- Private road transfer Campo Grande / Fazenda San Francisco
- Daily tours at Fazenda focused on the Ocelot Project – as detailed in the itinerary
- Full board basis (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- 4 nights accommodation at Fazenda San Francisco
- English-speaking guide for all tours
- North Pantanal – Porto Joffre
- Private plane(s) (Cessna 206) for transfer from San Francisco / Porto Joffre
- 2 private full day boat tours in search of jaguars and other wildlife
- 1 private half day tour in search of jaguars and other wildlife
- Full board basis (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- 3 nights accommodation at Hotel Pantanal Norte
- English-speaking guide for all tours
- North Pantanal – Araras Lodge
- Private road transfer Porto Jofre / Araras Lodge
- All activities at the Lodge
- Full board basis (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- 2 nights accommodation at Araras Lodge
- English-speaking guide for all tours
- Environmental Fee
- International flights arriving to Campo Grande and departing from Cuiaba
- Personal Expenses such as phone calls
- Travel insurance is required
- Entry visa and health preparations
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.
This expedition features the first ever opportunity to engage with an Ocelot researcher, providing a unique chance to observe the America’s next largest spotted cat. The ocelot researcher will lead a number of activities, including radio-tracking individual ocelots in his study and conducting game drives in an area where ocelot are frequently observed hunting frogs and rodents along irrigation ditches. This is a rare opportunity for cat fanatics.
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 BILL GIVEN
WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST/LION RESEARCHER/SAFARI GUIDE
Working for two decades as a Wildlife Biologist, Bill has conducted studies on a diverse array of species ranging from endangered butterflies and jumping mice to owls, Mexican wolves and African lions. Currently, as a Research Associate of the Denver Zoo and member of the Botswana based Kalahari Research & Conservation group his focus is as the Principal Investigator of a lion research project in Botswana. The study is an effort to determine the effectiveness of trans-locating lions from cattle areas back into protected reserves. Bill is also applying a powerful technique, conditioned taste aversion, for the first time on African lions and if successful it could be a revolutionary conservation tool for predators around the globe.
Since 2004 Bill has organized and guided small group safaris where he is able to share his knowledge and passion of wildlife with his guests. Bill is focused on seeking out the great predators and spending time with them to witness their unique behaviors, as well as appreciate how evolution has sharpened the skills of both predator and prey. While the predators and other megafauna are the draw for most visitors and worthy of the attention they receive, Bill also likes to instill an appreciation for all of the diverse life encountered on safari.
HENRIQUE VILLAS BOAS CONCONE
OCELOT RESEARCHER AT FAZENDA SAN FRANCISCO
Henrique is one of Brazil’s leading carnivore biologists, having worked in the Pantanal for over thirteen years. Currently Henrique is an Associate Researcher for Instituto Pro-Carnivoros, heading up research on ocelot spatial use and feeding habits. Previously Henrique spent seven years as a field biologist researching the ecology and promoting conservation of jaguars and pumas within the Brazilian Pantanal. The focus of this big cat work dealt with predator-livestock conflict.
Under special arrangement Henrique will share his ocelot research, conducted at Fazenda San Francisco, with our group. This is the first time that participation in the ocelot research has been offered to a tourism group. We will be able to radio-track collared ocelots, set and/or check camera traps and have Henrique take us to areas where we are likely to be able to observe ocelot behavior – in particular, he has discovered that in this region ocelots take advantage of where the natural habitat meets up with rice cultivation and the ocelots are able to hunt frogs and small rodents that utilize the rice irrigation channels. We will join Henrique on a number of night drives in search of ocelots and jaguars.
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, where we have a first-of-its-kind opportunity to spend significant time with the areas ocelot researcher.. 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, and there is a great diversity of mammals including regular sightings of anteater, giant otter, the rare maned wolf and even jaguars (on night drives). There are also a diverse array of activities; including game drives, night drives, walks, boating, canoeing and horseback riding.
Next we move efficiently with a private flight to Porto Jofre, our next base, positioned right along the Cuiaba River. This river is the most reliable location in the world to see jaguars. 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. After our exciting days on the river we will see more diverse wildlife as we drive out on the
famed Transpantaneira and stay two nights at the Araras Eco Lodge, reputed to have the best wildlife viewing experience in the Northern Pantanal. For those with more time to focus on New World Cats we have an incredible extension to Chile to focus on finding puma (mountain lions) in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park. Puma in this region have become tolerant of people on foot, and can often be viewed well as we make a hiking approach. This puma extension is limited to six travelers and requires a level of fitness for casual hiking in possibly cold mountain conditions.
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 at times.
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 the Pantanal stands up strong for 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, ocelot, otter, anteater,
armadillo and so much more. There are sometimes longer gaps between sightings than what we typically experience in Africa where there seems to always be another antelope ahead.
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 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 so there are some extras that we don’t typically have on safari.
Likewise, even at the best properties 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 you may be able to independently go canoeing river or hiking on your own. 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 that 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.
FAZENDA SAN FRANCISCO
SOUTHERN PANTANAL – 4 Nights
Fazenda San Francisco, like much of the Pantanal accommodation, is a traditional working farm that has split their 15,000 hectares between three operations – ecotourism, cattle ranching, and rice cultivation. The Fazenda hosts wildlife research projects, including a project on ocelots which specialize on taking advantage of easy hunting opportunities where the natural area comes to an edge with rice cultivation. The Fazenda is in a prime wildlife area, on the banks of the Miranda River, and also has the wildlife rich Sao Domingos Creek. The area is unmatched for land based viewing of the spotted cats, with ocelot seen almost daily and jaguar sighted on average every third night (on night drives). Very rare for Pantanal the maned wolf is seen with fair regularity, as are both anteater species. The river trips provide opportunities to find giant otters, neotropical otters and a stunning array of birds, plus capybara and caiman.
A full range of activities are on offer to experience the great wildlife diversity of the area and its scenic beauty. Four wheel drive vehicles are used for game drives and night spotlighting, there are opporutnities for hiking and canoeing, and it is possible to horseback ride on the Pantaneiro horses that work on the ranch. By special arrangement we will have ample opportunities to work with the resident ocelot researcher, including radio-tracking ocelots and checking camera traps.
Accommodation is in simple Brazilian style ranch apartments. The property has 18 apartments, which have air conditioning, ceiling fan, hot water shower and private en-suite bathrooms.
HOTEL PANTANAL NORTE
NORTHERN PANTANAL, PORTO JOFRE – 4 Nights
Literally located at the end of the Transpantaneira at the banks for the Cuiaba river Hotel Porto Jofre is a suberb location to explore the Cuiaba River and the 3 Brothers State Park. This is the most prolific area in the world to observe jaguars.
At this location we will focus on boating the river in search of jaguars. There is a daily success rate of about 95% for sighting jaguars along these rivers. This is also one of the most reliable areas for observing the very charismatic giant otter. Cabybara and caiman populations are dense as well, one of the major reasons the jaguar density is so high. With luck we may see jaguars hunting these riverside prey species.
Birdlife along the river is also stunning. Back on land there is some excellent bird viewing around the hotel grounds too, especially around the lagoon behind the property.
Porto Jofre Hotel caters to fishermen, and more recently wildlife enthusiasts. It’s unique position, and willingness to cater an early breakfast, so we can be boating on the river early make it the most convenient choice in this prime jaguar region.
The property contains 28 air-conditioned apartment cottages, each with t.v. and en-suite bathrooms. The restaurant is known for good food and excellent service. There is a swimming pool and convenience store. There is also an airstrip, which allows us to travel directly from one of the most remote areas of the Pantanal to this location at the far end of the Transpanteira highway, allowing for us to explore the road on the way out rather than drive it twice.
ARARAS ECO LODGE
PANTANAL, BRAZIL – 2 Nights
Araras Eco Lodge is reachable year-round via the Transpantaneira Park Road, approximately 132 km (82 mi) south of Cuiabá. This gateway to the Pantanal offers first-class bird watching, canoeing, horseback riding, photo-safaris, night tours, tree top look outs, and all in the company of English-speaking expert naturalist guides.
The lodge, built in regional rustic style, offers 19 comfortable rooms with air conditioning, screened windows, ceiling fans, private bathrooms with hot and cold running water, a swimming pool, large verandahs with hammocks, a reading room, gift shop, bar, and restaurant. The regional food consists of dishes made from local meat and fish as well as organic salads, vegetables, and seasonal fruits.
Activities include trekking from several paths within the reserve, horseback riding, 4×4 photo safaris, canoeing, and piranha fishing.