Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pantanal Day 7 - Porto Jofre

Once again, today's river departure was 9AM, but that didn't mean that we slept in.  The bird wake up call happened pretty regularly at 5AM each day.  So, that was the signal to get up and enjoy the early morning.

Before we did that, I had to make the great bathroom trash switch-a-roo.  It's a little game we had been playing with housekeeping.  When we first arrived in our room the bathroom trash was to the left of the toilet.  Well, since you can't flush the TP and we are both "righties", we moved it to the right side of the toilet.  Since then, we would return from our daily river trips only to find the trash once again to the left of the toilet.  Hence, the need for a switch-a-roo.  We actually thought it was pretty funny.  I wonder what housekeeping thought....
Once I got outside, I noticed that there was a bit of smoke again today which made the morning light really nice.

Cocoi Heron:
Cocoi Heron

As I was walking out on the boardwalk, a Jabiru came floating in and landed really close, which  provided some of my best looks yet at this incredible bird:
Jabiru Landing



I also spent some time just enjoying the light on the lily pads:
Giant Lilypad Bloom

This Brown-crested Martin was enjoying the morning with me:
Brown-crested Martin

As was the Southern Screamer family:
Southern Screamer Family

Southern Screamer Chicks

After breakfast, and two helpings of the tasty coconut cake (Hey, I'm on vacation so don't judge me), I walked around the rest of the grounds.  The bird life was incredible this morning and the best part was that I had it to myself basically since everyone else was out on the boats.

Guira Cuckoos:
Guira Cuckoos

Hyacinth Macaws:
Hyacinth Macaws

Hyacinth Macaw

 Orange-backed Troupial:
Orange-backed Troupial

 Forbidden Love...  She was an uptown bird, living in her uptown Crested Caracara world.  But, she was getting tired of her high class toys and all the presents from her uptown Crested Caracara boys...
Forbidden Love

Jabiru flight paths:
Jabiru Flying

More Toco Toucans:
Toco Toucan

Toco Toucan

Toco Toucan

Before I knew it, it was time to get to the boat.  Boy these later departures sure worked out great for us.  Once on the boat, Julinho indicated that no Jaguar had been seen yet.  But, an Anaconda was curled up on the shore of one of the rivers sleeping.  Since there was no hurry we took our time getting there. 

On the way, we saw this Black-collared Hawk eating a recent catch:
Black-collared Hawk with Lunch

Since there was no Jaguar action, all the boats seemed to be hovering around this poor sleeping Yellow Anaconda. We waited our turn to get a close look.  Wow...girthy.
Sleeping Anaconda

The plan today was to drive up one of the rivers and loop around through a small channel back to a main tributary.  On the way, we would stop at the house of one of Julinho's friends to stretch our legs.  But, not 100 yards past the sleeping Anaconda was another one making its way up the bank.  The roots got in the way, but you can see that this was a pretty big snake:

Climbing Anaconda

The journey to Carmindo's house was really pretty.  Once we arrived, we got a tour.  Carmindo and his wife Maria have lived here for years. They grow their own food for the most part and filter water from the river for drinking.  It's a humble existence but they seem happy and it sure makes us appreciate what we have and a little guilty at the same time.  Julinho gives guests an option to camp here as part of a tour.  Camping is not for us anymore but we can see how staying here would be a great adventure for some.

There were a lot of birds around the house but I only got one good photo.

Blue-crowned Trogon:
Blue-crowned Trogon

On the way back to the main river system, we passed by a Jabiru nest:
Jabiru Nest

Around lunch time, we found a lone Giant Otter that seemed to be harassing a Caiman.  We thought we might see a big altercation but the Caiman eventually moved away.

Face Off

Most of the afternoon was pretty slow.  The Jaguars just weren't cooperating today so we cruised up one river and down the next.  It was very relaxing.  It was so relaxing that I was close to nodding off.  I was thinking that we needed some excitement to wake us up.  Be careful what you wish for because all of a sudden....


The boat crashed into something and the right side rose up off the water.  A split second later, the boat crashed back into the water but not before Julinho slid into me from the driver's seat and Karen ended up on the floor between the two back seats.

Julinho cut the engine and we took some personal inventory.  Luckily, no one was hurt at all except for some minor bruises that appeared later.  We looked back and could barely see the floating log we hit because most of it was under water.  This whole trip Julinho has been a cautious driver often weaving around visible objects in the water and even floating lilies.  But, this was just too hard for anyone to have seen.  Unfortunately, upon inspecting the boat Julinho found damage to the propeller.  So, he pulled up to a nearby sandbar to replace it and 10 minutes later we were off again.  Julinho keeps spare propellers for just this type of situation.

Well, being sleepy was no longer a problem!

Since we were close by, we headed up a small section of the river that we have enjoyed in the past.  As we rounded a bend, walking on the shore was a Jaguar. I think Julinho and I spotted it at the same time.  So, I don't get full credit but it was the closest I came to spotting a Jaguar myself.

Jaguar Sighting #11

The Jaguar was heading in the direction of a sunning Caiman.

Spectacled Caiman

So, we were in a great position to possibly see a successful hunt.  Julinho cut the engines and dropped anchor.  The Jaguar continued walking towards the beach where the Caiman was.  However, just as it reached the beach, the Jaguar turned away from the water and into the high brush.  We could see the brush moving and knew the Jaguar was moving farther away.  Darn it...the hunt was not to be.

As we exited the area, we came upon a boat that had just seen a Jaguar. It had disappeared into the brush but was on a peninsula.  So, both boats headed around the corner hoping the Jaguar would reappear.  It did.  It moved through heavy brush and trees and then finally stopped.  Although mostly obscured by the trees, we could see it lying down.  Luckily, I did get one picture when it was out in the open:

Final Jaguar Sighting

We decided to wait a bit to see if it got back up.  But, since this Jaguar was the only action in town, it seemed every boat on the river converged into this narrow channel.  At one point, two boats almost ran into each other at full speed coming around the corner.  This was one of the few times we saw some over zealous boatmen and general disappointing behavior by the boats.  So, after waiting a few minutes we decided to head out even though we knew this was the last Jaguar we would likely see.

We had so many quality sightings of Jaguar the last 4 days so we didn't feel like we would miss out on anything even if this one decided to get up.

And with that, our time on the river was up.  To say it exceeded our expectations would be a huge understatement.  Based on my trip research, I was confident that we would see a Jaguar since we allocated enough time here.  But, I never imagined we would see them swimming, hunting, staring right at us, or bathing like a common house cat.  It was great behavior to watch and truly an amazing experience.

After getting back home and analyzing the pictures, I have determined that we had 11 different Jaguar sightings of 8 separate individuals during our 4 1/2 days on the river.  That is truly astounding.

I really feel that Julinho was the key to us having such great sightings.  You notice that I use the word "quality" a lot.  That's because quality sightings are Julinho's goal. He feels that patience and spending the full day on the river are keys to getting these quality sightings and our experience sure backs that up.  We really couldn't be any happier with our decision to book with Julinho.  Looking back, I see lots of advantages of going with him.  Namely:

  • He works really hard.  Because we are out on the boat all day, he gets no break either.  Staring at the banks of the river searching for Jaguar all day is not easy. Couple that with dealing with the anchor, other boats, positioning for photos of all wildlife and you get what I mean.  Heck, at one point, Julinho jumped out of the boat and pulled us through shallow sections as we were following a Jaguar. The other boats drove slowly along the shore in the only deep area and dragged their occupants through plants and tree roots.  No one on those boats got out to pull them and they looked at us jealously.
  • His boat is fast, has a canopy, and he owns it.  So, we got to locations quicker when needed, were more comfortable when the canopy was up, and set our own schedule.  The boats from other lodges and those from the Hotel Porto Jofre that didn't hire private guides all had set schedules, few had canopies, none were very fast.  According to Julinho, the hotel is no longer allowing any additional private boats to use their docks.
Any added cost of going with Julinho was certainly worth it. The proof is in our photos and better yet the tremendous experiences that we had.

After another filling dinner, we did a short night walk but only saw the same frogs and same Red Tarantula as before.

Our time on the river searching for Jaguar had ended and it was incredible.  But, our adventure continued as tomorrow we would head to the Southern Pantanal.

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