Searching for Jaguars in the great Pantanal!

Delighted we were to leave Bolivia after our encounter with the crooked constables in Santa Cruz. As we entered Brazil, we were immediately struck by the genuine friendliness of the officials in both the immigration and aduana offices. While we initially spoke no Português, they were patient as we communicated our intentions. In no time we were headed down the Pantanal north route in search of jaguars!

A quick stop in Cuiabá to rotate our tires and change the oil meant meeting some of the first people in this country. As I searched Google for how to say ‘we need to do a 5-tire rotation’ in Português, a kind young man offered his help. Before we knew it, we had fresh oil and rotated tires…ready to explore.

Soon after we entered the official reserve, we stopped to see what the van in front of us was filming on the side of the road. Douglas, from Massachusetts, pointed out the caiman in the small creek below. Looking at our license plate, he asked where we were headed and explained that he lived here and would be happy to show us the river. His mom was visiting, and they were going to take his small boat out for the next couple of days so she could experience the wonders of Pantanal. Douglas is a guide in the area and invited us to join them. Thrilled, we got his information and made a plan to meet alongside Cinco Estrellas, a very old riverboat converted into a shoreline ‘hotel’ of sorts.

The early morning was gray as we set out on the river. We found hundreds of species of birds, a family of river otters frolicking in the water – they were actually playing hide and seek, scores of sunbathing caiman and learned about the social structure of the capybara. At every turn we scoured the shoreline in search of the jaguars. Without finding them we went back to camp the first night, fully satisfied with all that we had seen. On the second morning, our luck changed. Rounding a bend on the river, we saw several other boats gathered near the shore. On the edge of the water were two jaguar brothers comfortably resting under the trees, seemingly satiated and simply soaking up the slight sunlight slipping through the scattered clouds. Douglas explained that this was unusual behavior – two males hanging out together, but that these two were young and seemed relaxed.

The best part about this day was that Douglas’s mom had brought him a brand-new camera…a camera with a zoom lens. We had only our waterproof, point-and-shoot with us. Since he was navigating the river, he asked me to take photos. As soon as we neared the shore, I began shooting with a real camera for the first time. I still shake my head when I look at my jaguar photos! They are incredible creatures and the time we spent looking for them was well worth the effort!! Thanks so much to Douglas and his mom for sharing these beautiful days with us.

Today’s theme – It is time to buy my own DSLR camera!

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