OK, I know its not until September this year but already I’m getting excited about my next trip to the Pantanal in Brazil.
When I first used to go, some 10+ years ago, not many foreign visitors were to be seen (except for my friend and colleague Theo Allofs who had already produced a gorgeous book on the Pantanal back in 2005!).
Having got to know the area well, I was called in, by the same operator we still use today, to try to photograph wild jaguars that his team was seeing from a floating hotel on the river in a new area they were visiting. The guide and I traveled, we calculated, more than 1,000 km on the river over many days, scouring the river banks. We hardly saw another human soul but the wildlife was spectacular. For fun, in my head, I would count the number of caiman I saw. I always got to 500 before lunch and would stop counting! Giant otter families were common, as they still are, along with a host of birds, from the huge jabiru storks, to fish-catching hawks, toucans, macaws, and herons. Capybaras are common, sitting stoically on the sand banks, scanning the scene, like us, for jaguars.
On that first jaguar trip I saw 7 individual jaguars which, for the time, was unheard of. I took the images to National Geographic Magazine where the editors began by not believing they were wild animals (most previously published jaguar images, posing as wild, were actually done in the Belize zoo!). Indeed the magazine had had a photographer for months trying to photograph them, only succeeding, I believe, with a single individual at night using a camera trap. They snapped up my images even producing a fold out double page spread. I later also learned that I got the cover, in at least one region, when a friend in Spain mentioned it to me by chance.
Jaguars are now commonly spotted (excuse the pun) and visitors are often able to spend quality time with them at a sighting. By now I have personally seen a score or more of different jaguars and come away with some once-in-a-lifetime memories. The big one, the sighting that still eludes me, is to watch a jaguar take down a large caiman in the water (I did watch an adult female chase a skink all the way down a sand bank into the water once but it wasn’t quite the same!). I am just itching to get back there, to South America’s greatest wildlife spectacle and hoping that this year will be it! Care to join me?
Pete Oxford works in some of the world’s most pristine and remote wildlife and cultural destinations as a full-time professional photographer. His images have appeared in major magazines including National Geographic, Time, Outdoor Photographer, and Smithsonian, and have been featured ten times in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards. Pete and his wife Reneé also lead expeditions to some of the world’s richest cultures and most biodiverse areas of our planet.