Travelling with award-winning wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt, this itinerary explores the relatively unknown and unexplored area of the Pantanal, with great opportunities to see the elusive jaguar.
The Pantanal supports a breathtaking array of species. Travelling on foot and by boat, or even by horseback or snorkelling should you wish, through spectacular wetlands and forest, you will enjoy the very real possibility of seeing iconic and rare animals frequently and up close.
The itinerary is designed to take in several diverse elements whilst keeping travel distances to a minimum and maximising time spent at key locations and offering excellent photographic opportunities. Daily sessions with Nick will enable you to pose questions you've always wanted to ask in situ and hone your photography talents.
You may wish to read Nick's blog from a previous trip.
Day1: Depart UK
Fly overnight to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Day2: Arrive Sao Paulo, onward flight to Cuiabá and drive to Piuval, Northern Pantanal
On arrival in Sao Paulo, connect with onward flight to Cuiabá in Mato Grosso state, then transfer by road (approximately 2 hours) to the to the northern extremity of the Pantanal.
In the late afternoon we will explore the surroundings and hopefully see hyacinth macaws for the first time. After nightfall there may be a chance to look for monkeys and other nocturnal creatures.
Accommodation: Pousada Piuval, 1-night
Day3: Explore Northern Pantanal: drive to Alegre
In the morning we will explore the mosaic of habitats in the vicinity. The dry areas at Piuval are particularly good for birds like greater rhea and red-legged seriema, and both giant anteaters and tamanduas (lesser anteaters) are seen frequently. There is a lake where a boat trip offers the chance to get close to and photograph all manner of water birds including, herons, ibises, storks and kingfishers.
After lunch at Piuval, we will transfer 30 kilometres or so further south to our next location. Pousada Alegre is a large ranch, which is excellent for a wide variety of wildlife. Once again there is a mosaic of grassland, wetland and forest, but overall this habitat is considerably wetter than further north, and the species composition is different.
Accommodation: Pousada Alegre, 2-nights
Day4: Full day at Pousada Alegre
There are plenty of good photo opportunities around the lodge, including a resident pair of hyacinth macaws and other birds.
This is a particularly good location for giant anteaters and tapirs. Patches of forest are home to black howler monkeys, black-tailed marmosets and coatis, while areas adjacent to small ponds and lakes offer excellent photo opportunities for a variety of wetland birds.
Day5: Further into the Pantanal and the Cuiabá River
We spend the morning at Pousada Alegre, where there are certain to be many more chances for good photographs. After lunch we drive approximately 90 kilometres in an open safari truck south down the Transpantaneira road to Porto Jofre. Depending on how much wildlife we see along the way this drive should take approximately 3-4 hours and we should arrive in time to enjoy a sunset on the lagoon adjacent to our lodge
Days6-9: Cuiaba River in Encontro das Aguas State Park
Over the next four days we will take morning and afternoon boat trips on the Cuiabá and Piquirí Rivers and their tributaries in Encontro das Aguas (Meeting of the Waters) State Park looking for jaguars and other wildlife. There is a very healthy population of jaguars in the vicinity, and numerous different individuals are regularly seen along the banks of the watercourses and in the adjacent forest. Some animals remain quite shy, while others are extremely tolerant, often allowing prolonged and close sightings.
The area teems with other wildlife too. There is a good chance of seeing Brazilian tapir, yellow anaconda and tolerant family groups of both giant river otters and neotropical otter. The birding is also excellent, with numerous large and colourful species like jabirú stork, toco toucan, chestnut-eared aracari, bare-faced curassow and several varieties of parrots and parakeets seen daily.
Day10: Transfer to Araras
After breakfast we transfer by open-topped truck, 120 kilometres north back along the Transpantaneira to Araras Lodge. Here a mosaic of grassland, marsh, open water and forest provides a variety of habitats for an impressive array of species – all within a short walk of the lodge. Tonight there is a possibility of a night drive after supper.
We have two full days to explore this private reserve and watch wildlife on foot – raised boardwalks lead through the wetlands into nearby deciduous forest, where canopy towers offer bird’s-eye views of the surrounding area. These are good places to look for black howler monkeys and tufted capuchins, and it is also possible to see black-tailed marmosets. Around the lodge are the nests of hyacinth macaws and large numbers of yacaré caiman and capybara.
There are also options to explore narrow forest-lined waterways by canoe, where encounters with giant otters, and birds like sunbitterns and belted kingfishers are possible. Day and night drives in an open safari truck allow us to explore areas further afield and drives in the dark along the Transpantaneira can be hugely productive.
Day13: Transfer to Taiama Ecological Reserve
After breakfast we drive via Poconé, at the start of the Transpantaneira, to Cáceres, then across ranchland and through forest to the banks of the Paraguay River, close to Taiama Ecological Reserve. Our floating lodge is moored in a secluded lagoon off the main river channel in an idea location from which to explore the area. After lunch we take our first boat trip to look for jaguars and other wildlife.
Two days of boat excursions on the Paraguay River allow us to explore the reserve and adjacent areas. This is one of the best (and most secluded) areas to see jaguar and other Pantanal wildlife. Although the experience is similar to that of the Cuiabá River, the density of jaguars is higher, and visitor numbers dramatically lower. Some cats have become tolerant and regular sighting are often possible.
Day16: Transfer to Cuiabá, fly to São Paulo and overnight near airport
Day17: Depart São Paulo
Day18: Arrive UK
You should note: This itinerary is based on current domestic schedules. Local airlines reserve the right to change these without notice, hence there is no guarantee that this will be the exact itinerary we will follow. Changes may be forced upon us, but every effort will be made to keep the final itinerary as faithful as possible to the one proposed.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 18 daysfrom £9.895 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 15 daysfrom £8,945 pp
Single supplement: From £980
Group size: 10
Included in the price/package:
Domestic flights within Brazil (when booked with international flights)
Twin-share en suite accommodation in comfortable lodges and hotels
Twin-share cabin on boat lodge
Excursions at lodges, in parks and reserves
National Park fees
Services of local guides
An award-winning photographer and author, with a background in zoology, Nick has forged a career by combining these skills with leading tours and lecturing.
Nick has written and photographed several critically acclaimed books, including: ‘100 Animals to See Before They Die’, ‘Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide’, ‘Wild Borneo’, and ‘Chameleons’. He is a regular contributor to international magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic and Geographical.
Nick has twice been a winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In 2000, he won the prestigious Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife. His photographs appear widely in books, calendars and other publications worldwide. He is a Special Lecturer on the MSc course in the Wildlife Photography and Imaging at Nottingham University, where he studied.
This ecological paradise is the world’s largest wetland, with 124 mammals (including the world’s largest jaguars), 177 reptiles, 1,100 species of butterfly, and a myriad of birds, brightly coloured flowers, and shoals of fish. There are significant differences between the north and south; we recommend visiting both.
Where: Mato Grosso do Sul
Ideal for viewing: capybara, giant anteater, giant river otter, jaguar, spectacled caiman
Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, Self-drive, River safaris, Jaguar watching, Birdwatching
Accessed via the town of Cuiaba, the northern Pantanal is home to some of Brazil’s rarest wildlife, such as jaguar and giant river otter. Many of the lodges here are still functioning cattle ranches, offering day and night trips by boat, vehicle, on foot and on horseback, accompanied by local naturalist guides.
Ideal for viewing: capybara, giant anteater, giant river otter, jaguar, spectacled caiman
Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Wildlife photography, Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, River safaris, Jaguar watching
This is a good quality liveaboard lodge-boat. Normally used for high-end sport fishing trips, off season it is transformed into the perfect base for exploring Taiama Ecological Reserve. Being mobile it can locate itself in a number of places adjacent to Taiama to maximizing the wildlife watching opportunities.
With direct access to the Ciuaba River, Hotel Pantanal Norte is one of the best places in Brazil to see the elusive jaguar, as you journey down quiet creeks and tributaries. In between excursions, the hotel has a swimming pool and lots of outside space in which to relax and observe birds or wildlife.
Pousada Araras Eco Lodge is a rustic, but sophisticated lodge surrounded by more than 3,000 hectares of private land. You can see various birds, including the highly attractive, endangered, hyacinth macaw, from the lodge’s forest boardwalk, and tapir, marmoset and howler monkey are seen regularly in the area.