Morning boat safari
After breakfast at 6.00 a.m. we were on the Cuiaba River for 6.30 a.m with slightly damp shoes but eager to start. Susannah, the biologist accompanied us on the boat. We had not been travelling very far when we spotted an Osprey high on a tree, at what turned out to be its regular fishing spot. As we sped past there was news on the radio that a Jaguar had been spotted.
Jaguar Swimming and Hunting
Unfortunately when we got to the site there was no sign. Several of the other boats sped off but as we prepared to follow something was spotted in the water. In front of us was a Jaguar – swimming. Only its’ head was visible. We inched closer. Susannah was able to identify the Jaguar, by it’s facial marking, as a female called Patricia. On reaching the other bank she disappeared into the reeds.
There was a lot of noise and much splashing, she was hunting. Her progress was easy to follow because of the movement of the reeds and the startled birds flying away. Two Giant Otters came past and appeared to be shadowing her progress. They would periscope to watch the reed beds, and change direction when she did. Suddenly there was an extremely loud splash and the sight of a Jaguar’s body launched in the air as she pounced. She missed and three Capybara where flushed out of the reeds into the river channel. It was a mother and two young. With hearts pounding we waited to see what would happen next! Jaguars are voracious predators killing with a powerful bite to the back of the skull. Capybaras are a large part of their diet and they will chase it into the water before it dives to safety.
The Giant Otters continued to swim up and down following the jaguar. She went to enter the water, crouching low to pounce on the Capybara. The two Giant Otters turned and faced her as if to prevent her from entering. Much to our surprise the Jaguar got up, turned her back and walked off into the reeds. What an incredible start to the morning!
Leaving the Jaguar to continue hunting we continued on our boat safari. An Anhinga stood with wings outstretched on a tree stump as Yellow Headed and Black Vultures soared overhead in the thermals. A Grey-Cowled Woodrail walked along the muddy, shallow bank area past a feeding Limpkin. Amazon, Green and Rufous Kingfishers sat patiently watching the water. On a dead tree branch a family of Large Billed Tern were feeding their young, whilst Yellow Billed Terns flew across the river. A White Necked (Cocoi) Heron stood tall on the muddy bank.
Another radio message sent us back along the river, on a sand bank sat Tore one of the two brothers. Hidden in the undergrowth was Kim the other Jaguar. After sitting on the bank for a while moving from shade to shaded areas. Tore entered the water and began to swim across to the other bank. What was really interesting was that he tried to keep his tail out of the water as he was swimming, holding it aloft. So his head and tail were visible. Kim followed and both then climbed the bank on the opposite side of the river channel. They then disappeared into the undergrowth.
We left the Jaguars and headed back up stream past the tree where the Osprey was still sitting. On a sandbank Black Skimmers were feeding their young. The Black Skimmer has a strange bill with the lower mandible being twice the length of the upper one. They hunt by flying low over the water with the lower mandible furrowing the surface. When it senses a fish it dips its head and scoops it up. They are fascinating to watch as they often do this in pairs. Nearby a Pied Lapwing trotted along the shoreline past Yellow and Large Billed Terns.
River Channel Birds
Leaving the main river we turned off into a side channel. It was so quiet except for the bird calls, so peaceful and beautiful. The reed beds were interspersed with areas of yellow flowers. A Crane Hawk sat high in a tree watching the trees around. It uses its long legs and short outer toes to reach into cavities in the trees hunting for food. In a marshy area a Great Black Hawk hunted for snakes. Near the river edge a Black Collared Hawk sat on a branch watching the water.
The channel was blocked by reeds and water hyacinth. We had a clear view of a White Headed Marsh Tyrant. Yellow Billed Cardinals flew through the lower branches along the river banks while Orange Backed Troupials flashed through the foliage. We could go no further so we turned around and headed back past Ringed Kingfishers to the main river.
Jaguar and Capybara
As we travelled back along the river we saw a single Capybara sitting on a sandbank eating a reed. We pulled in closer and to our amazement we saw, further along the same sandbank, a Jaguar. She was identified by Susannah as a female named Ginger, who was Patricia’s daughter. Crouching low to the sand she had her eyes fixed on the Capybara. Silently she pulled one paw towards her. Then without looking she lifted her other paw over a twig on the sand and got into an upright position. She seemed to be judging the distance to the Capybara. Without making a sound she turned into the bushes along the sandbank and headed towards the animal. Pouncing out of the vegetation she missed and with much noise the Capybara splashed into the water.
Ginger then walked along the top of the bank following the Capybara. She came down through the reeds to the water’s edge, slowly putting one paw into the water. Almost as if she was testing it. When she started to swim she tried to hold her head clear of the water and appeared not so confident. After only a short distance she climbed out of the water and walked back on shore.
Leaving Ginger we headed back towards the lodge. We hadn’t gone very far when we saw Tore, one of the two brothers resting under a tree. He was on the opposite side of the river from where we had seen him before so must have crossed the river again. Further along the bank, well hidden was his brother Kim. Nuan got excited as he caught site of a Mississippi Kite, a migrant bird flying overhead. What an incredible morning boat safari. In the five hours we had been out we had encountered four different Jaguars, some of them more than once. Lunch was at 12.00 and then there would be some downtime before the afternoon boat safari at 2.30 p.m.
Afternoon Boat Safari
After an excellent buffet lunch we set off on our boat safari retracing some of the route we’d taken in the morning. The Osprey was still perched high in the branches of the tree as we sped around the corner into the main channel. Yacare Caiman lurked in the shallows and suddenly with a swish of their tail would swim towards floating rafts of aquatic plants.
A family of six Capybara entertained us with their antics. They kept the youngest members close to them as they swam for cover. Capybara are the worlds largest rodent reaching up to 50kg. They have large heads, small eyes, tiny tails and partially webbed feet, which enables them to swim well. In fact they can hold their breath under water for several minutes. A useful skill if a Jaguar is on the riverbank. They are a sociable animal living in family groups in or near to water. As they are active by day we often saw them resting on sandbanks or eating water hyacinths.
Further along the river two Giant River Otters were playing near their holt. One caught a Sailfin Catfish and impressively swam with it held between its clawed webbed feet. Propelling himself through the water with its flat ended tail it found a log to rest against. There it noisily ate it, turning it to avoid the spined fins. The Otter was totally oblivious to our close proximity as he continued his meal with lots of loud crunching. It was an excellent opportunity to take close photographs.
Through the Water Hyacinths
Leaving the otters we continued on our boat safari. We came to the side channel where the route was blocked by water hyacinths but this time the boat pushed a way through to the other side. Caiman lurked in the water lifting their heads as the boat went past. A Red Tegu Lizard walked along the riverbank and a pair of Wattled Jacana walked across the hyacinth leaves.
Cormorants and Anhinga perched on dead branches stretching out their wings as Tiger Heron lurked beneath them in the reeds. On a thin curved branch, which looked like a swing, Rufous Tailed Jacamar sat watching. A Blue Crowned Trogon provided a flash of colour with its blue green head and red underparts. Many Kingfishers and Herons sat waiting and watching the water. In fact in our first full day on the river we saw all the species of Kingfisher found in the Pantanal.
Back in the Channel
Making our way back through the water hyacinths we disturbed the Wattled Jacana again as we headed back along the channel. A Toucan flew overhead and a Crane Hawk perched high in a tree. A Southern Crested Caracara bounded along the river bank looking for carrion. A flock of Monk Parakeet flew colourfully into the foliage of a riverside tree.
On a sand bank Black Bellied Whistling Ducks and a juvenile Jabiru stood as we sped past. As the light was starting to go we decided to have our sundowners as we motored slowly along. Skimmers, Yellow-billed Terns and a Pied Lapwing sat on another sandbank. Two Skimmers took to the air and provided a fantastic flying display as they skimmed the water beside the boat. A Long-tailed Harrier, Night Hawks and Bulldog Bats flew to and fro across the river. As we sped back we passed the Otter holt. On the sandy river bank one of the Otters was sliding around in the sand. It was a good opportunity to see the whole of the otter’s body out of the water and watch his behaviour.
More Jaguar Sightings
We were nearly home when on a sandbank opposite the Jaguar Do Pantanal Flotel we spotted another Jaguar. It was a female, later identified as Olympia. She seemed to be being disturbed by lots of flies and was wagging, and flapping her tail backwards and forwards.
Leaving the Jaguar we sped to our Flotel before the light totally disappeared. There was just time for a quick shower before the evening meal and a talk on Giant Otters.
More images from day two at the Flotel
Day Four :- Checklist
|Great Fishing Bat||Giant River Otter x 2||Capybara||Jaguar x 5|
|Reptiles & Amphibians|
|Yacare Caiman||Red Tegu|
|Neotropic Cormorant||Anhinga||Cocoi Heron||Great Egret|
|Striated Heron||Rufescent Tiger-Heron||Jabiru||Southern Screamer|
|Black-bellied Whistling-Duck||Black Vulture||Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture||Great Black Hawk|
|Savanna Hawk||Black-collared Hawk||Crane Hawk||White-tailed Hawk|
|Southern Caracara||Osprey||Long Winged Harrier||Chaco Chachalaca|
|Chestnut-bellied Guan||Blue Throated Piping Guan||Gray-necked Wood-Rail||Limpkin|
|Pied Lapwing||Southern Lapwing||Wattled Jacana||Black Skimmer|
|Yellow -billed Tern||Large -billed Tern||Pale-vented Pigeon||White-tipped Dove|
|Monk Parakeet||Greater Ani||Smooth-billed Ani||Band-tailed Nighthawk|
|Blue-crowned Trogon||Ringed Kingfisher||Amazon Kingfisher||Green Kingfisher|
|Green-and- Rufous Kingfisher||American Pygmy Kingfisher||Rufous-tailed Jacamar||Toco Toucan|
|Rufous Hornero||White-headed Marsh Tyrant||Tropical Kingbird||Rusty -margined Flycatcher|
|Lesser Kiskadee||Great Kiskadee||White-winged Swallow||Southern Rough-winged Swallow|
|Black-capped Donacobius||Yellow-billed Cardinal||Rusty-collared Seedeater||Yellow-rumped Cacique|
|Solitary Black Cacique||Orange-backed Troupial||Unicoloured Blackbird||Green Ibis|
|Mississippi Kite||Spotted Sandpiper||Lined Seedeater|