Antarctica & Arctic
A Small-Group Expedition into the Rich Biodiversity of South America’s Grandest Wildlife Realm
Destinations > Brazil > Jaguars & Wildlife of Brazils Pantanal
Accommodations, meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on final day, drinking water throughout the trip, services of NHA’s Expedition Leader, local guides and lodge staff, private charter flight on Day 7 from the North to South Pantanal, some gratuities, airport transfers, park entrance fees and permits, all taxes.
Selected Dates, 22 Jun - 19 Oct '18, 14 Jun - 27 Sep '19
National Geographic called Brazil’s Pantanal the “Wild Wet,” an apt moniker for the world’s largest seasonal floodplain that sprawls over 75,000 square miles in the heart of South America. Though the Amazon is better known, the Pantanal is the continent’s primary wildlife sanctuary. Its freshwater wetlands support a profusion of aquatic fauna that attract larger predators, from birds to reptiles and mammals, creating a huge, intricate food chain that constitutes the largest concentration of wildlife in the Americas. At the top is the elegant and elusive jaguar—and our comprehensive Pantanal adventure offers the world’s best chance to see them! On foot, by boat and in 4x4, venture into the Pantanal's verdant recesses on South America’s most epic wildlife safari.
Back to Brazil Tours
Alongside expert guides, discover South America’s largest wildlife sanctuary in depth, where opportunities to view jaguars are the best on the planet
Explore by boat in the northern Pantanal and on foot in the south—no trip matches for such variation in setting, perspective and number of species on view
Journey to less-visited parts of the Pantanal, including renowned Caiman Ecological Refuge, to look for giant anteater, tapir, ocelet, marsh deer and hyacinth macaw
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Arrive in Rio de Janeiro and transfer to our hotel located on famous Copacabana Beach, where our Brazil adventure begins with a welcome dinner this evening. (D)
Fly to Cuiaba and transfer by road to Araras Ecolodge in the northern sector of the Pantanal. Declared a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2000, the Pantanal’s vast expanse of wet marshlands and dry islands is South America's primary wildlife sanctuary. Its name derives from the Portuguese word pantano, meaning "swamp." With rhythmic regularity, this vast depression in the center of South America floods with the annual rains, submerging most of its environs. As the waters recede during the dry season, they leave a mosaic of pools and marshes where a plethora of life flourishes in intense concentration. Some 3,500 different plants thrive here, and the Pantanal is home to 10 million caiman, 650 bird species, 400 kinds of fish, a multitude of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 100 mammal species. Wandering the nature trails around the lodge, we get our first sense of the wondrous natural realm that awaits our exploration. (B)(L)(D)
Covering 75,000 square miles across Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, the PantanalUNESCO World Heritage Site is the world’s largest wetland. It contains 12 different subregional ecosystems including semi-arid woodland and tropical savanna. Our immersion begins with a morning nature walk with our Expedition Leader and local guides who are resident experts on the flora and fauna. We’ll hope to see some of the region’s threatened species including Brazilian tapir, panther, maned wolf, giant otter, giant armadillo, capybara and the endangered jaguar. While their habitat is under duress due to the expansion of ranching, mining and farming, it is reassuring to know our presence contributes to the economic value of conserving this incomparable wildlife mecca. This afternoon we walk to the canopy tower for a bird’s-eye view over the green infinity that surrounds us, looking for monkeys and rare hyacinth macaws. After dinner we’ll head out on a night safari in search of nocturnal wildlife. (B)(L)(D)
On a sunrise nature walk from our ecolodge, listen to the chorus of bird songs and monkey calls announcing a new day. After breakfast, depart for Porto Jofre via the Trans-Pantanal Highway, which traverses some of the best wildlife viewing areas in the ecosystem. Along this remote road, punctuated with 123 bridges, we search for caiman, capybara, giant anteater, anaconda, jabiru stork, macaws and more. Our destination is Porto Jofre, where the highway ends at the Cuiaba River—an important port for transporting cattle and agricultural products from the Pantanal along the road artery back to Pocone and beyond. After lunch on arrival, we set out on our first jaguar watch, scanning the riverbanks for glimpses of the stealthy cats from our small open skiff. This region has the highest density of jaguars in the entire Pantanal, and our odds of seeing them are excellent, especially from mid-June to mid-November. The jaguar—largest wild cat in the Americas—is the top predator in the ecosystem, drawn to the abundance of food sources that thrives here. (B)(L)(D)
The area around Porto Jofre offers exceptional wildlife viewing, and our focus is on sighting jaguars and giant otters. We look for them and a multitude of other Pantanal species, including caiman, capybara, sloth and monkeys, on private morning and afternoon skiff excursions. Outings along the river also reveal a panoply of waterbirds, reptile and plant species that thrive in the endless patchwork of lakes, lagoons, rivers and marshes. Fish flourish in this freshwater sea, too, and as the water level drops seasonally in the lakes and channels, fishermen can sometimes catch dorado, pacu and traira by hand. Birds large and small fly overhead and feed at eye level, animating this tableau of natural beauty. (B)(L)(D)
See Day 5 for today's itinerary. (B)(L)(D)
This morning we fly via chartered small planes directly to Caiman Ecological Refuge, enjoying magnificent aerial views and avoiding what would otherwise involve a rugged 10-hour drive. Deep in the green recesses of the South Pantanal, this renowned ecolodge lies at the heart of a 130,000-acre sustainable cattle ranch that exudes the distinctive local cowboy culture, reflecting 200 years of melded Portuguese, indigenous and Paraguayan traditions. The lodge was the first ecotourism operation in the region and remains a conservation leader. When the refuge was established, 10 percent of the ranch acreage was set aside as a private conservation area, off limits to cattle but open to visitors. The protected area, chosen with the aid of research scientists from the University of Sao Paulo, is remarkably diverse, with habitats encompassing wooded and scrubby savanna, open pasture, stands of caranda palm, hammock forests, streams and seasonal channels—all providing sustenance for numerous Pantanal species. (B)(L)(D)
A variety of daily activities in the refuge offers different perspectives on the Pantanal. Depending on seasonal conditions, we may take nature walks, canoe trips and day and night 4x4 safaris in open-sided trucks. Local guides join our Expedition Leader in unveiling the area’s myriad wonders. Wildlife abounds in the vicinity, including jaguars, and the refuge is the site of the Onçafari Jaguar Project. This new conservation initiative aims to promote wildlife ecotourism in the Pantanal by habituating jaguars to vehicles in order for people to witness their behavior while on safari. With patience and luck, we’ll hope to be among the fortunate few to see wild jaguars in the region, as sightings continue to increase with concerted conservation efforts. On clear nights from mid-June to mid-September, the starry skies overhead are spectacular, and we may have the chance to view planets and constellations through powerful telescopes during evening astronomy programs around the campfire. (B)(L)(D)
See Day 8 for today's itinerary. (B)(L)(D)
Transfer by road this morning to the airport at Campo Grande, where we fly as a group to Sao Paulo to connect with international flights home. (B)
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