Brazil–Pantanal 2014 Jaguars and Maned Wolves

We traveled to the Pantanal and other parts of Brazil during the first two weeks of August 2014. The trip was designed to maximize wildlife photography and we saw 17 species. Our adventure was planned through Charles Munn at SouthWild. Mr. Munn has ridiculously outstanding knowledge of the Pantanal  and South American wildlife in general. His group at SouthWild arranged most of our accommodations, transfers and fantastic guides throughout the trip. Our group consisted of three families. We all traveled from the US and met in Cuiaba, where we stayed one night at the Hotel Deville. It was a great hotel, perfect for our group and very safe. We left the next morning by air conditioned van, with our amazing guide Paulo Barreiros. His command of english was outstanding and his wildlife/bird knowledge was equally impressive. We traveled to Pocone, about 100km south of Cuiaba. The Transpantaneira Highway ( the TP) starts on the south side of the town of Pocone. We entered the TP and traveled 145km to the Cuiaba river. The TP is a wildlife and bird bonanza, with our first siting of an Anteater just wandering across the road.


Giant Anteater


We arrived at the SouthWild Jaguar Flotel on the Cuiaba River in the late afternoon-in time to do our first Jaguar boat cruise in smaller speed boats. Though no jaguars  seen that evening, we had great close views of a group of foraging Giant Otters. Truly incredible and powerful carnivores.


Giant Otter


Over the course of the next three days we motored up and down the river and its tributaries. There were plenty of other boats looking as well and like buffalo jams in Yellowstone, the Pantanal has Jaguar “jams”. However, there were not too many boats. One morning, we found a beautiful male Jaguar and had him all to ourselves for a quite a while.


The boats with SouthWild were some of the best–comfortable, fast and quiet. We saw 4 different spectacular jaguars at very close range, including a mother and her two almost adult sized cubs.

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If you never been to the Pantanal, The Cuiaba River is a wildlife/bird wonderland. It is majestic and teaming with caimans, howlers, birds, capybaras, piranha and otters.


Black Howler







One time, while watching the mother jaguar and her cubs, a family of Capybaras was hilariously floating down the river on a makeshift log debris raft right in front of the bank with the three Jaguars. Just as they went by the bank, their raft imploded because of the brutal current. They fell into the river and only then did they notice the Jaguars. They started barking and desperately swimming against the current to get away from the onlooking jaguars. Sheer panic— but they eventually made their escape to the delight of the several boats full of Jaguar seekers/photographers.

The younger part of our crew really enjoyed fishing the river -catching piranha and catfish. They even went swimming in the river! Apparently, piranha don’t attack people-just a myth– or so we were told.

IMG_2090.JPG pir

The accommodations on the flotel were impressive. Comfortable rooms and surprisingly delicious and varied meals. The well air conditioned flotel remains stationary and no rocking. On the one of flotels there is even wifi.

Next, we left the Cuiaba river and traveled north on the TP to stay at the charming ranch hotel-Pouso Alegre. Before we got on the TP, we transferred at Porto Jofre where we had great looks at the residents of the world famous nesting Hyacinth Macaw tree. These nesting macaws provided an amazing photo op!


Hyacinth Macaws


On our way to Pouso Alegre, we had lunch and spent the afternoon on the grounds at SouthWild Pantanal Lodge. It is a great property with excellent food, beautiful grounds and an amazing platform view of habituated nesting Jabiru storks.

Like the Cuiaba river, Pouso Alegre is a beautiful Eden—a must see and must do. It is a working ranch lodge surrounded by wildlife. We only had two nights at Pouso Alegre but we saw a Tapir, Giant Anteaters ( incredibly close), Capybara, Tamandua, Crab eating foxes, Marsh deer, Brazilian Rabbit, Agoutis, Coati and Capuchins.


South American Coati




Toco Toucan


Giant Anteater


Brazilian Tapir


Tufted Brown Capuchin


Crab Eating Fox




Chestnut Eared Aracari



We saw a rather violent clash between a horse and Anteater-see video


Giant Anteater getting kicked hard


And if it s birds you want to see, this is an amazing place to get close to so many species. Pouso Alegre’s owner, Luis, has so much knowledge and is just a delightful host. It is a simple but undeniably welcoming lodge. We headed back to Cuiaba, where we stayed overnight at the Hotel Taina. The hotel stay was short due to an early flight but the accommodations were really nice and very convenient to the airport. The next day-as expected- was a long travel day to the wolf camps, but the journey was well rewarded. We took an early morning flight to Brasilia and then another flight ( 90 minutes) to Barreiras. At Barreiras airport we met our next guide Rafael who also spoke great English and provided a wealth of information. He was incredibly knowledgeable, kind and patient. We took a van for an approximate 3.5-4 hour drive into Parnaiba River Headwaters National Park, where we arrived at the first of two camp sites-SouthWild Wolf Valley Camp. This camp is run by an amazing wildlife whisperer and  host who kept a constant vigil looking for wildlife. From this camp it is a relative short ride/walk to view the large flock of Hyacinth Macaws from a large purpose built hide as the Macaws feed on rock hard palm nuts.


Flock of Hyacinth Macaws



At the camp, there are quaint bungalows with generator electricity that is run for a few convenient hours each day to allowing guests to re-charge electronics! Nearby there is a feeding station that attracts various and beautiful birds and occasional visits from an adorable family of Black Tufted Marmosets and Brazilian Guinea Pigs.



Cavy-Brazilian Guinea Pig




Black Tufted Marmoset family


The meals  and service at the wolf camps were impressive. It was an amazing set-up and our group was just overwhelmed by the quality of the meals.

The next afternoon we left for SouthWild Wolf Cliffs Camp. We traveled for 23km deep into the heart of Parnaiba Headwaters National Park. During the beautiful ride we stopped and photographed a pair of Burrowing owls. Like the other camp, there are rustic double occupancy bungalows with private bathrooms. No air conditioning and no electricity but none was needed. The scenery is beautiful with red brown cliffs and brilliant blue skies. The star of this camp is the Maned Wolf. A truly spectacular giraffe like fox that came within a few feet of our group both evenings. The second evening, a pair showed up. Just an incredibly beautiful animal.


Maned Wolf in moonlight


After our second evening with the wolves we drove back to he first camp ( about an hour back). We woke up the next morning well before sunrise for our journey to Nutcracker Monkey Valley to see the Bearded Capuchins that use rocks as tools to open Palm nuts. This is an amazing spectacle. Some of the rocks weigh nearly as much as the capuchins themselves. The leader of the troop we watched is called Angry and for good reason-he acts and looked mad the whole time we were there.



Bearded Capuchin


Group leader known as Angry





The next day, we traveled back to Barreiras where we caught an early evening flight to Brasilia. We stayed at the Laguna Plaza Hotel for one evening and left on early flight for Rio de Janeiro.
In Rio (where we only stayed one night but two days) we were greeted by guide Patricia Furtado  at the airport who immediately toured us around the city. She provided incredible insight into a really unique and fascinating city. Patricia was even able to take us into the largest favela-Rocinha. Favelas are often described as urban slums/shantytowns. While one relatively brief visit does not make us favela experts, our experience was very positive. The community and how they operate is unlike anything we had ever seen in all our travels. At no time did we feel unsafe-just a truly unusual world. The city itself is dynamic but crowded. We had unusually cold and foggy weather so some of iconic sights were only partially visible but the scenery was still amazing. We stayed at the Best Western Plus/Sol-Ipanema which was a great hotel and location-felt very safe.

The next morning part of the group traveled north for two hours to search for the Golden Lion Tamarins. Ricardo Barbosa was our guide and like the other guides, he was fantastic. Wow -what a treat. These are gorgeous primates and the researchers that provided the service to help track them allowed incredibly close viewing. This was a great way to end an amazing adventure.



Golden Lion Tamarins





Mammals Seen:

Giant Anteater

Brazilian Tapir

Tufted Brown/Bearded Capuchin

Black Howler

Golden Lion Tamarin

Black Tufted Marmoset



Grey Brocket Deer

Maned Wolf



Giant Otter

Crab Eating Fox


Cavy- Brazilian Guinea Pig

Brazilian Rabbit



         Some of the birds we saw:

Chestnut billed guan
vermillion flycatcher
little blue heron
buff necked ibis
plumbeous ibis
crane hawk
cattle tyrant
large billed tern
pied plover
yellow billed tern
black skimmer
hyacenth macaw
tourquious  fronted parrot
smooth billed ani
doves:  white tipped
long tailed
rudy ground
band winged nightjar
blue crowned trogon
green kingfisher
rufus tailed jacamar
toco toucan
white wedged piculet
fork tailed flycatcher
swallows:  gray breasted
brown chested
white winged
blue and white
southern rough winged
black capped donacobious
buff crested wren
palm tananger
cowbirds: giant
sun bitter
picazuko pigeon
plumbous pigeon
woodpeckers: white
crimson crested
solitary casis
yellow rumped casis
chestnut eared caracara
wide eyed parakeet
great horned owl
tropical screech owl
burrowing owl
coal crested finch
spotted nothura
yellow headed caracara
blue and yellow macaw
blue winged parrotlet
blue crowned parakeet
blue fronted parrot
great potoo
anitshrikes: barred
rufus winged
hummingbirds: planalto hermit
swallow tailed
silver beaked tananger
el palate oriole
cowled cardinal
coal crested finch
rufus collared sparrow
chopi blackbird
epaluet oriole
campo tropial
crested oropendola
Jays: white naped
palm tananger
check browed mockingbird
burdened buff tananger
pygmy owl
red and green macaw
campo flicker

Paul Klockenbrink



  • heavenlyjane

    Fantastic trip that just landed on my bucket list. Was this a private tour, or did you join a group? How much does such a trip set you back?

  • heavenlyjane

    What about herps? Did you see any great snakes? Lizards?

  • pgk62

    We were our own group because we had 11 of us. The youngest being 16, So, we had 5 adults and 6 “young” adults. We were gone about 16 days. Trip like that doing all that we did cost about $6-7K per person or more. We used SouthWild and they are fantastic but I was heavily involved in setting and planning agenda. Unfortunately,, no reptiles to speak of on this trip ( few Iguanas). Looked hard for Anacondas but we were a little early and they had late rains that changed some eco dynamics. But at Pouso Alegre, the owner is a snake man and sets pit traps to catch them -and then releases them. He shows guests before he releases. Some of our crew got some up close looks.


  • Nicholas Mcphee

    Amazing potos !! was the Maned Wolf trip a private trip and more or less how much was it for say 2 people ?

    Have you ever been to the Bolivian Chaco – Kaa Iya National Park , its also outstanding , saw 3 Jaguars in the space of 4 hours recently, plus we see Pumas , Solitary Peccaries too.

    • pgk62


      I apologize for the delay. We had 11 people and booked through Charles Munn at SouthWild. The trip was not really itemized as between the Pantanal and going north where we saw the Maned Wolf and Bearded capuchins cracking the palm nuts. More of a package deal. Just amazing trip.

      Did you work with or through any company to go to Bolivia? I have never been but will put it down!


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