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Jaguar trip report

The first week of November 2023 we where in the Pantanal again. On this occasion together with family. We spent 4 full days, 1 afternoon and 1 morning on the river, staying in a lodge in Porto Jofre and 2 days at our families lodge. After our Pantanal visit we travelled to other states to visit family and photograph a species I had not yet captured on camera, the Scarlet macaw. This report will solely cover our stay in Porto Jofre and our days on the river.

When we arrived in the Pantanal the temperatures where extremely high, 40+ Celsius and even reaching 44 Celsius at some days. Due to the extreme drought we where faced with huge forest fires as well, of which I will share more details below.

Jaguar trip summary:

  • 16 individual jaguars
  • Tayra (very rare)
  • Numerous Jacaré caiman
  • A few giant river otters
  • Numerous species of birds
  • Marsh deer
  • Buffalo’s
Female jaguar, November Pantanal 2023

Day to day jaguar sightings:

While in Pantanal I keep a diary with details of each trip. Below a day to day overview of all jaguar sightings we enjoyed during our stay. Most of the sightings on this trip lasted a long time, sometimes up to 3 hours to enjoy, providing us with unique opportunities to capture different behaviour and postures of these amazing jaguars. 

Date

Time

Sighting

Notes

Location

04-11-2023

3pm

  • Jaguar (Pixána) with two cubs
  • Hidden in the bush
  • Cuiaba river

Arrived at Porto Jofre around noon. First boat outing after lunch

05-11-2023

7am

  • Male jaguar (Bernard)
  • Walking in the open (short sighting)
  • Corixo Negro

8am

  • Female jaguar and two cubs (Ti)
  • We enjoyed them in the open for 3,5 hours
  • Cuiaba river

12.26pm

  • Female jaguar (Patricia)
  • Crossing the river and hunting
  • Entrance of Corixo negro

3pm

  • Male jaguar hunting (Rio)
  • Failed attempt for Jacaré caiman.
  • Ilha

06-11-2023

7.30am

  • Mother and two cubs (Ti)
  • in the open on the river bank.
  • Cuiaba river

3pm

  • Two male jaguars (coalition of Rio & Manah)
  • Hunting (failed attempt)
  • Three brothers above Ilha.

07-11-2023

9am

  • Female jaguar (Guaraci)

– Short sighting

  • Gaivota

2.35pm

  • Female jaguar (ibaca) and her two cubs
  • Feasting on a freshly caught capybara

– Above Caxiri river

5.45pm

– Female jaguar (Stella) crossing the river

– Oldest known jaguar in the region (approx. 17 years old).

  • Above Caxiri river

08-11-2023

7.30am

– Female (Ibaca) and her two cubs

– Capybara completely eaten

  • Above Caxiri river

Due to extreme heat and forest fires we decided to go back to the lodge around noon.

09-11-2023

6.30 am

  • Female (Ti) and her two cubs

– In the open drinking water, crossing the river and playing

  • Cuiaba riber (Figuera)

9.06am

– Female jaguar (Overa)

– Relaxing in the shade at riverbank. Seems pregnant (late stage)

  • Above Saô Pedrinho

Final morning at Porto Jofre, back to lodge around 11.30am

Jaguar photographs of the trip

Currently I am still going through all images taken on this trip. I did manage to select a few already to share and provide a glimpse on some of the encounters we had with the spectacular wildlife of the Pantanal. Our prime focus was jaguars. However, we do stop and enjoy birds and other mammals as well.

On my personal instagram: @sebastiaanvandergreef and @jaguarsofthepantanal we will continue to post more images and videos of the trip.

Personal trip highlight

A personal highlight of the trip was to spent time with Mom (Ti) and her two cubs and see them drinking all together. Below a short video clip from that special moment.

A special encounter with the Tayra

Tayra in tree, Pantanal

The Tayra.

It is a animal part of the weasel family and an omnivores, feeding on various food sources.
It can only be found in the Americas. In brazil it is also known as the Irara. When studying it’s looks you could say it is a mix between a marten and a wolverine. They can grow up to 72cm in size (without tail), and the tail can reach a length of 46 cm. Their weight difference (male/female) and is between 2.7 and 7 kg. 

During our jaguar tours we enjoy a pick nick style lunch at the boat in in the state park. When we went in the bush for a toilet stop we found droppings that looked very familiar to those of a pine marten. While scanning the surroundings we found a Tayra relaxing in a tree. Although the circumstances (light) were challenging, we managed to get a few nice images. 

The next day we decided to visit that location once more and again we spotted the Tayra. 

All in all a cool find and a first for me to see and photograph.

Extreme drought and forest fires

This year the Pantanal was faced with extreme drought. In October and November approximately 35% of the state park was burned due to forest fires. The forest fires had a natural cause (lightning). During our stay the fires where very intense and spreading fast, even reaching the core areas of the state park, including the Corixo negro channel, seen as a key area where many of the jaguars are normally seen. I have included a few of the images I took from the fires.

Unfortunately at first both national government and local authorities did not take any action. Even after the fire disaster in 2020 it seems that nothing was learned and no preventative plans or measures are in place. 

After a few weeks of public pressure and viral videos on social platforms the government decided to support with planes, helicopter and a dozen of firemen. The damage was already done at that point. Luckily, the second week of November there was some rain. The government made an announcement to put focus on a developing program to enable faster support and preventative measures for the future. Let us hope that they will keep their promises. 

During the month of November animals have been found dead which is devastating to see. However, looking at the past (2020), nature is resilient and the Pantanal will flourish soon again when the flooding starts. During our stay and throughout November jaguars are still being sighted and the jaguars we encountered seem all to do well.

Jaguar trip conclusion

The trip had highs and lows. Starting with the highs, a great time with the family and of course the wonderful wildlife- and jaguar encounters we had. Personally, I like the month of November since most lodges are closed and there are just a few boats on the river. On multiple occasions we had a private jaguar sighting or enjoyed a sighting with just one or two other boats. Besides jaguars, spotting and photographing a Tayra was amazing, what a beautiful animal it is.

Observations: 

This trip I noticed that we saw just very few Giant river otters. Not sure if the increasing number of jaguars has an impact on the population or that something else like disease, water quality impacts the number of otters. The same goes for Capybara’s, there where much less then on my previous trips. Maybe the fires are making them move out of some of the areas in the state park. We have to wait and see on the next trip, how many we will encounter.

This trips low’s are definitely the forest fires that have a big impact on nature. It is sad to see all vegetation turned black and animals dying of the smoke and fires. Hopefully, the Pantanal will have proper rain and flooding and the government will keep up to its promise to take preventative measures and support with fighting future forest fires. Fortunately, during and after the fires still many jaguars are being sighted and all look healthy.

Looking forward to the next jaguar photography trip!

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