As published in The Q Review Autumn 2020 Magazine. Follow the link to Subscribe and receive your FREE copy each quarter!
Unfortunately international travel is out of the question right now, but the restrictions will come to an end some day, so in the meantime, here’s an idea for your next big trip…
Where to See Jaguars in the Wild
Jaguars. The world’s third largest cat, after tigers and lions. Magnificent apex predators of the Americas. And one of the most impressive creatures on earth to see in their natural environment.
Whilst always elusive, there is one place on earth where you can realistically expect to see jaguars in the wild – The Pantanal, in Brazil.
Jaguars once roamed widely throughout the Americas. But like much of the world’s wildlife, their natural range has shrunk dramatically.
Whilst there are known to be jaguar populations in 18 countries, the likelihood of seeing jaguars in most places is low, always requiring a significant amount of good luck.
But in Brazil’s Pantanal, the chance of seeing jaguars is high – very high.
In fact, it is almost certainly the only place in the world where, in the right location at the right time of the year, you are all but guaranteed a jaguar sighting.
So why is The Pantanal the best place on earth to see jaguars?
Firstly, the population density of jaguars here is high.
Secondly, the topography of the land makes sightings more likely.
While there may be more jaguars in the Amazon, the sheer density of the Amazonian jungle means jaguars may be nearby but invisible.
In contrast, the waterways of The Pantanal provide near-perfect viewing conditions as jaguars come to the wide-open river edges to hunt, stroll and even swim.
Finally, the recent upturn in jaguar-focused tourism now means there is the appropriate infrastructure for successful jaguar safaris.
Where to Go in The Pantanal?
The Pantanal is a big place – 210,000 square kilometres of floodplain, spanning Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. It is the world’s largest inland wetland, its vast savanna crisscrossed by rivers, tributaries and channels.
In Paraguay and Bolivia, there is limited tourism infrastructure in their Pantanal territory and it is rarely visited. In contrast, on the Brazilian side, there are two well-developed options for visiting The Pantanal – the Northern Pantanal, via Cuiaba in Mato Grosso state, and the Southern Pantanal, via Campo Grande in the state of Mato Grosso do Sol.
If you are serious about jaguar spotting, we highly recommend visiting the Northern Pantanal.
In the South, the tourism infrastructure is generally pitched at the mass market, with group tours and simple accommodation.
In the North it is more expensive, but also more exclusive and, most importantly, the most rewarding in terms of jaguar sightings.
The Northern Pantanal is accessed via Cuiaba, a large dusty city of half a million residents, 1500 kilometres northwest of Rio de Janeiro.
From here, the Transpantaneira Highway is a rutted, dirt road that takes you progressively deeper into the wetlands until the road peters out entirely in the small village of Porte Jofre.
From here on, the only way to get around is by boat.
Watch out for Part 2 for more!
And in the meantime, for even more information about The Pantanal, Brazil and many other wildlife viewing opportunities around the world, visit yolotraveller.com.au.
PLUS keep an eye out for our soon to be released Ultimate Jaguar Adventure Itinerary).