Pretty good actually for a rag-tag group of 6 veteran wildlife travelers. There were brothers Dick and Larry…our video-photographer Ashok…bi-coastal John…a wayward Canadian Byron…and yours truly. All for one and one for all? Not quite, as individual personalities managed to slip thru during our two weeks together…however, we all managed ourselves and got along with each other…made allowances for those who are NOT morning people (me)…no one got sick or injured or sunburned…except for a few chigger bites. Too many jokes were told and ‘trash’ talk seemed like the norm some days…all in good fun with lots of laughs (although the jokes were getting pretty thin at the end).
We all started off with a looong traverse from home to Cuiaba, Brazil. Typically to a gateway city (4-6 hours) in the US (think Atlanta), then a 10-12 hour slog to Sao Paulo and finally a short 2 hour hop over to Cuiaba…all with 2-4 hour layovers in between. Aaaah, but we were excited and filled with anticipation…
We were looking forward to seeing…and photographing a Harpy Eagle…the largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas with a wingspan up to 7 feet. Well that was the plan…and reality was we saw the Harpy nest where it was supposed to be…but the only Harpy Eagle we saw was in the Cuiaba Zoo. Drat…I hate when wildlife doesn’t cooperate.
Through it all we had our ever cheerful driver…Kelvin…along with calming influence of our guide…Paulo Boute…the Legend of the Pantanal. Paulo was superb with his knowledge of all species great and small and his local contacts that provided current news of sightings (not Harpy Eagles).
The accommodations were very good…basic, clean and mostly comfortable, if not always wi-fi friendly. Food was all local and served buffet-style. Lodge at Porto Jofre even had a cappuccino machine. Lodges are typically located on former cattle ranches or pousadas…many still have cattle.
Most roads were gravel and dusty…with MANY wooden bridges in various stages of dis-repair. We were welcomed to the actual Pantanal by a large sign begging for a photo-op…and being photographers we obliged.
Looking for jaguars required getting up at 5AM and being on the SPEED boat by six. I highlight the speed part because at that hour…pre-dawn…in an open boat going close to 50 MPH it was COLD. Followed three hours later by a ‘potty’ break on a local sandbar when the temperature had risen close to 90 plus degrees. Some infrequent idle time on the boat was spent getting ready for talent show that didn’t happen due to there being only one act…a forlorn sock puppet.
Without getting into the 20 plus mammals and over 200 bird species we observed…and tried to capture with millions of pixels…we did see a great assortment…from giant anteaters to jaguars…to birds large and small and all colors. Many were in-focus…some not so much.
Some animals appeared more tired than me in the morning…and one caiman looked meaner.
Some birds tried to look like a photographer…or was it the photographer trying to look like a bird?