Jaguars of Brazil’s Pantanal

National Geographic calls it Brazil’s best kept secret.

Covering over 70,000 square miles, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland. It sits in the center of South America, and is 10 times the size of Florida’s Everglades.Often overshadowed by the nearby Amazon rainforest, the Pantanal actually boasts a higher concentration of fauna, comparable to the densest animal populations in Africa.Some of the Pantanal’s critters include giant anteaters, piranha, howler and capuchin monkeys, green anacondas—the world’s largest snake, and the star of our proverbial show, jaguars!

Brazil’s best kept secret indeed.

Each year rains that fall during the rainy season fill the Pantanal’s giant basin, which creates a vast flooded landscape. Here, unlike the thick jungles of the Amazon, wide-open space extend views for miles and miles. The flooded landscape nurtures a biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helps to support a dense array of animal species. When the rains end, water drains into the Paraguay River, leaving behind a rich environment that attracts enormous flocks of spoonbill, egret, and stork. There are few humans here, making birds the primary occupants.

The Pantanal is home to roughly 1,000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian species and 480 reptile species.As you can determine, there is a LOT going on here.On our photographic tour of the Pantanal we’ll set out from the Brazilian city of Cuiabá on a safari-like journey south on the dusty Transpantaneira Highway, in search of wildlife encounters.

Porto Jofre, our southerly destination where we’ll spend several days, will bring us to our primary focus –  jaguars!

We’ll spend a few days while on the highway photographing whatever we might find, be it marsh deer, coatimundi, giant anteaters, tapirs and giant river otters as we make our way to the settlement of Porto Jofre. It is in Porto Jofre where we’ll spend multiple days in search of the jaguar by boat. The jaguar are often found resting and hunting on the banks of several Pantanal rivers, sometimes even doing a little swimming! Vantage points are best achieved from the river, via boat, so that is what we’ll plan to do! Jaguars are the third largest “big cat” on earth, and the Pantanal jaguar is the world’s largest jaguar subspecies with some males weighing in at over 300 lbs!

While jaguars are ultimately the primary draw on this fantastic South American expedition, birders and other wildlife enthusiasts will be pleased as the bird photography, in particular, is simply astounding here.You’ll certainly want to bring “the big glass” for this tour as we’ll look to photograph jabiru – the world’s largest stork and symbol of the Pantanal, as well as egret, heron, the increasingly endangered hyacinth macaw, alongside capybaras -the world’s largest rodent, caiman, giant otters, and capuchin monkeys.

It’s a mouthful, isn’t it? The list of wildlife that we’ll see could go on and on. Travel with Backcountry Journeys as we venture to South America, and to one of the world’s truly great natural wonders. The Pantanal is still a relatively unknown gem, and provides the wildlife photographer with a plethora of unique opportunities to come away with experiences and images that won’t soon be forgotten.


  • Absolute best location for Jaguar Photography in the world
  • Visit during the Pantanal’s dry season
  • Incredible variety of wildlife & over 1000 species of birds
  • Small groups
  • Travel with a professional photographer & local guides that have been exploring the region for years

Jaguars of Brazil’s Pantanal

13 Days

Trip Price: from $8695 shared occupancy

+$1200 single supplement

Deposit: $2000

Fitness Level: Moderate

Meals: Most meals included (see itinerary)

Lodging: 11 nights lodging

Fly In/Out: Cuiaba, Brazil

Hours: Mon-Fri 8am to 4pm Mountain Time


*trip difficulty ratings

Trip Details

Physical Requirements
All participants must be in good physical condition and have the ability to hike with a day-pack and ride in small boats.

Group Size
This trip is limited to eight participants

We will be staying at several comfortable lodges within the Pantanal

Most meals are included during the trip dates.

Hot & Humid! Remember some of the best photographs are made before, during and immediately after a storm cycle. There is no such thing as bad weather just poor layering and gear choices – please plan accordingly! For more info on what to bring please email or call us.

Price Includes
Most meals, ground transportation, boat-charters, accommodation during the trip dates, professional photography instruction, local guides, medically certified wilderness guide.

Price Does Not Include
Airfare to/from Cuiaba, alcoholic beverages, accommodations before or after the trip dates, guide & staff gratuities

Most meals included – (B,L,D) denotes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 1 (Travel Day)
Depart from home and travel to Brazil.

Day 2 (Travel Day) (D)
Arrive in Cuiabá, Brazil. Tonight we’ll meet at our hotel for a pre-trip orientation meeting and welcome dinner.

Day 3 (B,L,D)
This morning we’ll head out down the long and windy Transpantaneira Highway in search of the local wildlife where we’ll be sure to encounter some of the estimated 1,000 species of birds here. This region is absolutely loaded with wildlife.

Day 4 (B,L,D)
We will set out to explore the birds of the area, like the roosting nocturnal Great Potoos, parakeets, Kingfishers and other birds of prey. It won’t be all birds, though, as we’ll also look for capuchin monkeys, marsh deer, tapir, as well as the elusive anteater – and of course Jaguars! This day will be all wildlife, all the time!

Day 5 (B,L,D)
We’ll hit the road again today, heading south and further into the tropical wetlands of the Pantanal, towards the settlement of Porto Jofre. Upon arriving in Porto Jofre, we’ll spend the afternoon photographing the beautiful and increasingly endangered hyacinth macaw and the wattled jacanas as the latter forages across the top of the large circular leaves of the victoria amazonica water lilies. This is the heart of Jaguar country.

Day 6-10 (B,L,D)
Each morning we’ll travel by speedboat on the Rio Cuiabá and its tributaries in search of the star of our show – jaguar! Our hotel will have us strategically located so as to provide us the best chances of finding and photographing the world’s third largest “big cat.” We’ll spend a good part of all of these days on boats which allows us to cruise the river in search of the best photo opportunities for cats, which believe it or not is along the banks of the river. Jaguars will be the focus of our adventures while in Porto Jofre, but we’ll be able to find other wildlife, like the endangered giant otter, too.

Day 11 (B,L,D)
Our tenth day begins our return north, again traveling along the Transpantaneira Highway. In classic “safari” style, we’ll make sure to stop whenever good photographic opportunities present themselves. Yacare caiman are plentiful here, as are an assortment of other critters like nacunda nighthawk, caracara, and the capybaras -which is the world’s largest rodent. This is a a perfect habitat for the hyacinth macaw, toucans and parrots. Birders, especially, will enjoy this day out on the Transpantaneira.

Day 12 (B)
Our final morning together will see us return to Cuiabá in time to catch your afternoon flights. We’ll leave this once-in-a-lifetime adventure with unforgettable memories, new friends, enhanced wildlife photography skills, and digital cards full of stunning images!

Day 13
Arrive home after an excellent trip – being pouring over your new collection of images!

Please note that the exact sequence of the itineraries on all photography trips will be based on weather and lighting conditions. The goal on these trips is to make sure we are at the right place at the right time for the perfect light on our subjects. Also, itineraries can change for a variety of other circumstances including floods, forest fires, national park closures, road closures and more. Due to the nature of wildlife and nature photography we do not guarantee any specific sightings or specific compositions regarding wildlife or natural phenomena. 

“This was an adventure of a lifetime! Communication pre-trip was great! Russ was very helpful in recommending the right camera equipment to have for the trip. The packing list that was included was extremely helpful in making sure I had everything I needed. Russ, Crystal and Chris were amazing guides and hosts. I got absolutely amazing pictures! I definitely will do another trip with Backcountry Journeys!”

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