Brazil – Wildlife of the Pantanal with Dale Morris
We arrived at the Piuval Nature Reserve in Brazil’s Pantanal region just in time to witness the flowering of the yellow and pink Piuva trees. It was an amazing spectacle that made the landscape here look like it had been adorned with candy floss.
We spent several days exploring the woodlands, pastures, and floodplains, searching for special photo subjects such as hyacinth macaws, capuchin monkeys, Jabiru storks, and tapirs. And we saw them all, of course. But our real hope was to encounter one of the two species of anteaters that frequent the area. We found both.
Firstly, on an early morning game drive, we spotted a tamandua waddling across an open pasture. We followed for a while, quietly so as not to disturb it, until it climbed up into a tree and let us take some snaps. That same morning, we located a giant anteater as it snuffled between termite mounds with its outlandishly long nose. We stalked it for a while, but this shaggy beast (the size of a large dog) caught a whiff of us on the wind and soon made haste, vanishing within a copse of spiny plants.
Over the next five days, we explored along the Transpantanal Road, where cattle farmers have learned to live alongside wildlife, including Jaguars. Ecotourism is a big deal in the Pantanal, with thousands of people from all over the world visiting the region in the hopes of glimpsing an elusive big cat. Although cattle farmers and jaguars are traditional enemies, local landowners these days see the big cats as a living asset. Tourists come to stay on their farms, eat in their restaurants, and create jobs in the tourism sector.
After staying at three different properties along the Pantanal Road, we switched from land-based photography to a boat-based safari. Our home was a beautiful houseboat anchored along the Cuiaba River, deep in the heart of the most productive area for jaguar sightings on earth. From this ‘mothership,’ we made regular forays in our exclusive jaguar spotting speedboat out into the twisting waterways and meandering channels of the Pantanal proper. It didn’t take long to find our first Jaguar. In fact, we found three of them. A mother and her two almost fully grown cubs were feasting on a dead animal next to the river, and we were able to get amazing views and photographs of them feeding and playing.
Throughout the five days we had to explore the area, we found no fewer than eight different individual jaguars as they patrolled the riverbanks and water margins in search of their favorite prey—a crocodilian species known as the Jacare Caiman. They posed for us on the beaches, and they lounged around in overhanging trees, affording us ample opportunities to capture fantastic images. We even saw them hunting.
The Pantanal is the largest wetland on earth, and as such, it is a paradise for countless animal species. We never come back from a trip there without memory cards full to the brim with amazing photographs of beautiful animals, Jaguars included.