Full Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post. We received a small discount for professional courtesy from Southwild. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.
In Parts 1 and 2 of my Pantanal Trip blog series, I talked about staying at the Southwild Pantanal Lodge and the watching river otters, caiman, and birds at the Southwild Jaguar Flotel. Today I will finally post photos and details about the jaguars! Charles Mann guarantees that you will see jaguars if you book at least 3 days through Southwild. That is a bold statement that came to fruition for us. We had 11 jaguar sightings in 5 days at his Flotel.
The way you find jaguars in the Pantanal is the old-fashioned way: you get in a boat and go look for them. During high-season, there may be as many as 20 boats or more looking for jaguars. This means that your guide will get a radio that a jaguar has been spotted and you can head to go see him or her. The downside to that is that you have to share the experience with a lot of other people. October is the end of the season, so during our last full day at the Flotel, we only had one other boat looking for jaguars. This meant it took longer to track one down, but there were fewer boats/people at each sighting.
Southwild researchers do not use radio tracking or collaring to find the jaguars’ home range. Instead, they visually track the jaguars in the Pantanal in order to understand how to protect these magnificent creatures. Charles is able to guarantee jaguars on his tours because research their observational research has shown that they spent the majority of their time near the water. Unlike their African cousin, the leopard, jaguars do not have to take their kill up a tree, as they are the top predator in the Pantanal. The leopard needs to take its kill up a tree because lions or even hyena could easily steal it.
A jaguar sighting in the wild is truly a spiritual experience. They are simply beautiful animals. There is also something sobering about watching these creatures that very few people in the world can say they have seen outside of a zoo.
Kara and Tristan loved going on jaguar safari. Despite the heat, humidity, and horseflies, they did not complain about sitting on a boat for hours with nothing to do but look at jaguars. In fact, at the conclusion of the trip, Tristan said he wants to be a wildlife photographer and movie maker like his Daddy. They also had some fun experiences out on the river besides jaguar sightings, including the time a fish jumped in the air, hit Kara on the face, and plopped inside the boat. That unfortunate fish became caiman dinner later that evening. One of my favorite moments was when we were taking the boat back to the Flotel one evening, the bats emerged and were flying even with the boat. That was amazing!
I missed being out in the wild. I had not been on a wildlife trip since Chris, Kara, and I went to Tanzania in 2009. There is something so soothing about going somewhere with no paved roads, power lines, or Internet.
- Exclusive Video: Jaguar Kills Caiman (news.nationalgeographic.com)