Friday, September 23, 2016

Pantanal Day 5 - Porto Jofre

Last night at dinner, we had talked to Julinho about today's schedule.  As it turns out, the Jaguar we saw yesterday at 11:30AM was the first one spotted that day.  So, all those poor people that left at 6AM in the rain didn't see any Jaguar until then and some even missed that one because they were headed back for lunch.  So, between that and the fact that we liked our later start yesterday we agreed to leave at 9AM today.

That gave me more time to enjoy walks around the grounds both before and after a leisurely breakfast and I took full advantage of those walks.  The bird life around the hotel was amazing.

Plumbeous Ibis. For those keeping score at home this was our 4th Ibis species of the trip:

Plumbeous Ibis

Monk Parakeet.  A couple small flocks of these guys were around the grounds every day.
Monk Parakeet

Cocoi Heron:
Cocoi Heron

Yellow-rumped Cacique building a nest:
Yellow-rumped Cacique

We met one of our neighbors today as he stopped to pick up his key.  He seemed a bit flighty and didn't say much to us...
Our Next Door Neighbor

Picui Ground Dove:

Saffron Finch:
Saffron Finch

Palm Tanager:
Palm Tanager

We have already seen many of the iconic Pantanal species like Jabiru, Capybara, Jaguar, Tapir, and Giant Anteater.  It's time to add Hyacinth Macaw to that list.  We actually saw a couple at Pouso Alegre at a distance but here at the hotel there were close to 20 hanging out daily.  So, I was finally able to get good pictures.  What a stunning bird.

Here's a pair that flew down to the ground to drink out of a puddle created from yesterday's rain:
Hyacinth Macaws

Hyacinth Macaws Drinking

Hyacinth Macaw

At 9AM we hit the river.  Julinho mentioned that no Jaguar had been spotted yet that morning so once again our late start strategy paid off.  Before even reaching the main Jaguar territory we came upon 3 Giant Otters sun bathing.

Giant Otters

Giant Otters

Giant Otter

We cruised the rivers for the next hour or so and while we did find a lone Giant Otter things were otherwise pretty quiet.

At around 11AM the call came out that a Jaguar had been seen and we headed in that direction.  As you can see, they aren't the easiest animal to spot along the rivers...

Hard to Spot

But, once this one popped up onto higher ground we got some great looks.

Jaguar Sighting #4



We watched as this Jaguar walked along the river bank looking for Caiman.  It did startle one but didn't come close to catching it.  Eventually, the Jaguar got tired and laid down.  That is when we got out best views yet.


Ok, now shift position and turn around and look right at me...good.

Jaguar Stare

Nap time:
Nap Time

As the Jaguar napped, I decided to grab some lunch.  Julinho's cooler full of water also contained the sandwiches that he had asked the cook to prepare for us each day.  So, there I was in Brazil in a boat with my feet up watching a Jaguar sleep while I ate a ham and cheese sandwich.  It was pretty surreal and I certainly will never have another ham and cheese sandwich without remembering that moment.

As other boats left, we stayed behind to wait out the Jaguar.  Julinho joked that as other boats leave they ask on the radio if anyone had seen a Jaguar.  "There, there's a Jaguar right there behind you.  Why are you leaving it?" he would say.  We agreed with his strategy of waiting.  When the Jaguar eventually got up, it disappeared inland.  This time that strategy didn't pay off.  So, we went cruising to another location where a Jaguar had just been seen.  But, the sighting was fleeting and the Jaguar was no where around when we arrived.  So, we went back to the area we had just been and waited to see if the original Jaguar would come back out.  Not long afterwards, Julinho spotted it on the bank.

Jaguar Sighting #5

Once again, it decided to lie down and give us great looks:

It was obviously still a bit sleepy:

Here's a good look at its teeth:
Look at those Teeth!

With one final yawn, the big cat got up and started hunting.

Jaguar Hunting

Jaguar Scouting


It slid into the water and began swimming along the shore holding its tail high:
 Jaguar Swimming

Once again, the Jaguar had an unsuccessful hunt but it sure was a privilege to watch.  I also need to point out that the entire experience with this Jaguar happened between 11AM and 1:30PM. This once again validated our decision to spend the day on the boat.  Since we started later, the full day on the boat really wasn't too tiring especially when there was this level of Jaguar excitement.

We spent the rest of the afternoon cruising the waterways.


Neotropic Cormorants

These Capybaras look pretty big as rodents go:

Until you see them with Mama and realize how big she is:
Big Mama

Spectacled Caiman:
Spectacled Caiman

Common Piping Guan:
Common Piping Guan

 Here's a little taste of what the river banks look like.  So, it was banks like this one that we scanned all day in search of Jaguar.  Not an easy task:
Jaguar Environment

At around 3:30 the radio crackled in Portuguese.  Julinho listened and then turned to me.  A boat spotted an Anaconda on the shore not far from here.  Did we want to go?

Does he even need to ask!?

With that, Julinho gunned the engines and we took off.  We were actually on a pretty narrow section of river at this point that was pretty crooked.   As we sped into each turn and banked left and then banked right I couldn't get the theme song to Indiana Jones out of my head. It was a great moment to remember. Too bad I wasn't wearing a Fedora...

A short time later, we arrived to see a few boats near a sand bar.  We scanned the sand but saw no snake.  Then, in the water, a head peaked up and it was an Anaconda.  Apparently, a boat had gotten too close and the snake had disappeared into the water.  It reappeared for us floating about 10 feet from shore.

Yellow Anaconda

It was hard to see how big the snake was but we guess 6 maybe 7 feet.  All the other boats left but we decided to stay.  Julinho mentioned that this was his first Anaconda stakeout.  We were all hoping it would go back ashore eventually.  It came close a few times:

Yellow Anaconda

But, it never did leave the water.  After 45 minutes we decided to call it quits.  As Julinho pulled up the anchor, the snake disappeared again.  I saw its head right in front of the boat so I looked over the edge hoping it would float by.  It actually swam right to the side of the boat and looked up at me. At least I think it looked up at me.  Regardless, I got a great look at its head before it disappeared under the water again. We have seen a Green Anaconda in Ecuador before and we were hoping to see a Yellow Anaconda this trip and now we have.  Nice!

With that, we headed back to the docks.  The high clouds today seemed to separate a bit and it looked like we had a good chance at a pretty sunset.

Pre Sunset on Rio Cuiaba

Were were back at the dock by 5:30PM.  With the sun about to set, I quickly leapt off the boat, dropped my gear in the room, and made a beeline for the boardwalk.  I arrived just in time for the show:
Giant Lilypads

Pantanal Sunset

Dinners at the hotel are a big affair.  They have lots of rooms so they serve lots of food.  Not everyone is there looking for Jaguars though.  We figured at least half of the boats were fishing instead.  At the dinner buffet there were always multiple meat choices, multiple starch choices and a salad bar.  There wasn't always cooked vegetables which would have been nice for those of us skipping the raw stuff.  But, the rood was consistently good so I am not complaining.

Tonight there was a large leg of meat getting carved.  One of the other guests, a Brazilian gentlemen I believe, told Karen with a straight face that it was Capybara.  So, naturally Karen tried the beef instead.  As it turns out, it was just pork so she had nothing to worry about but she didn't go near it anyway.  I am sure Capybara is eaten in Brazil and it's probably pretty good.

After dinner we managed to return to the right room this time and then headed out for a night walk.  I grabbed my tripod because I wanted to see if I could get any shots of the bats that were hunting bugs in the lights. I did manage to get one keeper that shows this Greater Fishing Bat:

Greater Fishing Bat Chasing Insects

We also saw the same frogs at the boardwalk.  We had been warned about walking on the boardwalk at night since the manager, Roger, had encountered a Jaguar there at 9PM a few weeks before we arrived.  But, we have done night walks in more threatening areas so that really didn't deter us at all.

Interested note.  On the day we left, Roger showed us a picture of the Jaguar.  He took it with his cell phone and it filled half the frame. Roger figured he got to within 10 meters of it before the Jaguar turned around.  He said both he and the Jaguar were very calm and he never felt threatened.

See, it's perfectly safe to walk around at night in Jaguar territory.

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