Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pantanal Day 3 - Porto Jofre

To answer your question, "No", the beds didn't soften at all on night two.  So, I was awake before our 5AM alarm went off (which is still close to 2AM body time since we hadn't fully adjusted yet).

We were leaving Pouso Alegre after breakfast for the long drive to Porto Jofre. I decided to take a pre-breakfast walk.  The birds were out in force but they always seemed to be back lit so I don't really have any decent pictures to share.  That was a bit disappointing but little did I know that today would end up being one of our top wildlife watching days...ever.  So, that makes up for a slightly disappointing morning walk.

After breakfast and saying our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts at Pouso Alegre (Thank you Jose Maria!), we headed down the road towards the Transpantaneira looking for wildlife as we went.



Just as we were reaching the end of Pouso Alegre's property the most amazing thing came into view.  A Tapir in broad daylight enjoying one of the ponds.   Sure, we had seen a few Tapirs already but to see one in the daytime that was so relaxed around us was really special.  So, please forgive the possible overdose of Tapir photos.

Tapir Drinking

Once it finished drinking it decided to cool off and got a little TOO relaxed.  An interested set of bubbles appeared behind the Tapir just as it settled into the water.

Tapir Jacuzzi

So, if you are wondering if I know the answer to the age old question "If a Tapir farts in a pond does it make a sound?" I don't.  We actually weren't close enough to hear it or smell it...thankfully.

Wow, tough crowd, even the Tapir gave me a look after that one...
What are you looking at?

After the...uh..."incident" the Tapir proceeded to lounge around in the water for a while.



After a few more minutes, the Tapir dunked its entire head and only then could we see all the flies that it was trying to get rid of:
No More Flies

After that last dunk, the Tapir strolled out of the pond and out of sight:
Bath Time is Over

Wow...all I can say is wow!  What a cool experience.

The drive to Porto Jofre was long but relatively painless.  There were lots of bumps, bridges, dust, birds, Caiman, and Capybara.  But, the time passed quickly as Julinho talked a lot about the area and we all got to know each other better.  Of course, the scenery was really pretty as well.

Certain stretches of road were lined by huge fields of termite mounds.  I scanned each and every one hoping to get a glimpse of another Giant Anteater...but it was not to be.  I am now kicking myself because I didn't get a decent picture of any of these fields.  I thought we would see the same thing in the Southern Pantanal so I didn't ask for a stop.  But, these mounds really don't exist where we went in the South. This photo will give you some idea but imagine 100's of mounds in these fields:

We did see some cool wildlife along the way.

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture:

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

Golden Tegu:
Golden Tegu

Black-crowned Night Heron:
Black-crowned Night Heron

Savanna Hawk:
Savanna Hawk

We arrived at the Hotel in Porto Jofre (officially known as the Hotel Pantanal Norte) in time for a nice buffet lunch.  We had planned to rest a bit and head out on Julinho's boat at 2PM which is when all the boats leave for the afternoon session but he caught us after lunch and asked to leave right away.  We didn't argue because this is by far the best place in the world to see wild Jaguar and that was the reason we were there. So, the more time we spent on the boat searching, the better.

We grabbed our gear and headed for the boat.  Soon after, we were speeding down the Cuiaba river towards a Jaguar.  Julinho had heard on the radio that there was one resting and he wanted to get us there before all the other boats showed up.  As we rounded a bend in the river, we saw 2 or 3 boats floating in the river with everyone looking left.  We approached and did the same...

There, on the river bank enjoying an afternoon rest was a real live wild Jaguar.  It was freaking amazing!  Wow!

Our First Jaguar Sighting

I haven't heard the words "Magnificent Beast" since my honeymoon.  But, those were the words that popped into my head.

It stretched a bit, rolled over and then suddenly sat up and looked out towards us.


Only, it wasn't looking at us. It really didn't pay attention to us at all which is the same behavior we saw exhibited by all the Jaguars we saw (oops...spoiler alert...we see more).  It was looking at a small group of Giant Otters that were passing by:
Giant Otters (Swimming by as we watched the Jaguar)

Oh geez, no big deal.  Just watching a Jaguar while Giant Otters swim by.  Just another day at the office...

After they were out of sight, it put its head back down and assumed a typical feline position:

The stare:

During this time (about an hour), we were anchored in the river with the top down in the blazing heat.  I don't think either of us had sweat so much before since there wasn't a breath of wind.  Luckily, dunking my awesome Chiller hat in the water brought some relief.  It was as if I was living an actual J. Peterman catalog moment:

Lying in the shade of the Cecropia tree, the magnificent Jaguar sweltered in the heat.  However, I was as cool as the other side of the pillow thanks to my synthetic suede Aussie Chiller hat available in both tan and gray...

With the heat continuing to pummel us, we were delighted when the Jaguar got up and proceeded to walk along the shore.  Up came the anchor and we slowly followed it which created a nice breeze to cool us a bit.


The stroll was short lived as the Jaguar decided to head up the bank and out of sight.

We cruised the river a bit to see if the Jaguar would reappear, but it didn't.

We did get a good look at an Anhinga:

At this point, we needed to take the first of what would be many "pee breaks" over the next few days.  These aren't easily negotiated along the river.  Julinho needed to find a spot sandy enough for the boat to moor, open enough for us to exit and do our thing, and hopefully not the current hangout of a Jaguar.  We eventually found a spot.  As Karen came back there was more than sweat gracing her pants.  Oops, she had succumb to the dreaded "pee break malfunction".  Instead of this moment being embarrassing she blurted out.  "I peed on myself and I don't care because I just saw a Jaguar!".  I think that was the quote of the trip.

A short time later, I heard a sound that I quickly grew to love.  The radio crackled with a sentence or two in Portugese which quickly decided our next course of action.  There was a Jaguar on a beach about 30 minutes away, Julinho said. Did we want to go?


With that, Julinho hit the warp engines and our hands shot to our heads to prevent our hats from flying away.  Did I mention that Julinho's boat was fast...?

Less than 30 minutes later we arrived to see quite a few boats and there in the distance was the back end of a Jaguar walking on a sand bar.  It appeared it might vanish into the brush and we thought the encounter might be was lost. But as we got closer it reappeared and continued walking along the beach:

Our 2nd Jaguar Sighting

At one point, it got low and seemed to stalk something before stopping for a drink.

Jaguar Stalking

Yup, it's a boy!
Jaguar Drinking

Keen observers will notice that this Jaguar had an issue with its mouth. It appeared to be missing some skin on the left side so its teeth were exposed.  This could have been from a fight with another Jaguar or it possibly happened during a hunt.  It's proof that life is tough for these great cats.

The sun was starting to go down now and even the Jaguar decided to stop and watch it.  Gotta love those spots on the back of their ears:
Jaguar Enjoying the Sunset

After enjoying the sunset and conscious that he was backlit, which wouldn't do for my photos at all, the Jaguar walked in to the river and looked across.

Time to Cross
On queue, the boats (probably close to 10 by now) split and opened a path.  This was the only invitation that the Jaguar needed as it proceeded to swim across:

Jaguar Swimming

This behavior is strikingly similar to what we see bears in Yellowstone do when they want to cross the road.  They seem oblivious to our presence but when we are in their way they approach the road, look around, wait for the parting of people/cars and then proceed across.  This Jaguar did the exact same thing.

Once on the other side, and in better light, he sat down to dry off.  Then he took a quick bath just like our feisty house cat does on a daily basis (but I wouldn't want to clean this guy's litter box):

Jaguar Drying Off

Jaguar Bathing

Jaguar Bathing

Soon after, the Jaguar got up and disappeared silently into the tall grass.


I think I have used that word a lot but it's the best way to describe what it's like to be so close to this big cat.  And with that, this great day came to an end.

It started with an amazing Tapir encounter and ended with two doubly amazing Jaguar encounters.

Welcome to the Pantanal!

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