In this blog post I will share a few tips on what to do if you want to see and photograph wild jaguars
First of all it’s all about location, location, location. The Pantanal in Brazil is the best place to photograph these elusive big cats. But the Pantanal is a huge wetland so it’s not enough just to show up somewhere there at random. The area with the best possibilities of seeing the jaguars is the aptly named Jaguar Zone, close to Porto Jofre in the Northern section of the Pantanal.
Timing is also of essence – during the dry season you have a much higher probability of spotting jaguars when compared to other times of the year. The dry season runs from July-September/October. Visiting later in the dry season is usually recommended to increase your chances of jaguar sightings. The shoulder season (i.e. the few weeks just before and after the dry season) might also be a rewarding time to visit if you can’t make it during the peak season.
One mistake many people do is to allow themselves too little time in the Pantanal – all the animals here are wild, and every now and then there will be some “slow” days where no jaguars are sighted. Or there can be the infamous “cold snaps” that can happen at any time during the dry season – these tend to affect the general wildlife watching. If you want to see a jaguar plan for at least 2-3 nights close to the Jaguar Zone. For photography 4-5 nights near the jaguar zone is the absolute minimum you should consider. My recommendation is to stay for as long as you can – if you love wildlife you won’t get bored as there is so much to keep you entertained: giant river otters, hundreds of species of birds, capybaras, caiman etc
And as a final note: The Pantanal is about so much more than the search for the Jaguar, and its regions are very diverse. So do try to visit other areas to enjoy the other habitats and wildlife – there are many lodges along the Transpantaneira, and others also in the Southern Pantanal. A good travel agent, ideally a local one that specialises in Brazilian Wildlife and the Pantanal – such as Brazil Nature Tours, should be able to advise you which places suit your needs the best. Or you could also join one of the many photography tours that are run in the area by local and foreign photographers.
Here is a video of our experience in the Pantanal’s Jaguar Zone. More videos from the Pantanal can be seen in the video section of the website.