Our accommodation was the floating Southwild Jaguar hotel near the mouth of the Rio tres Irmaos, (Three brothers river). It is operated as a jaguar research and tourism base. We were to spend three full days here in search of Jaguar.
Susannah, Nuan’s wife, the resident biologist greeted us and took us into the lounge area. Here we had a welcome drink and a brief talk about the organisation of the flotel and what we could expect to see. There would be morning and afternoon boat safaris exploring sections of the Cuiaba, Piquiri and Tres Irmaos rivers. The photographic data base of the Jaguar faces was explained to us and how that would enable them to track the distribution of the Jaguars. We were then shown to our suites.
The room was large with lots of light through french windows on to the river side of the boat. Two large double beds, an animal print fridge full of ice cold water, a small table and two comfortable chairs, a desk with two more chairs and lots of shelving comprised the furniture. A clean bathroom area and an additional sink completed the furnishing. Outside we looked out on to a woodland bank. It was then time for lunch.
Food was once again buffet and was good quality. Lots of snacks, fruit, coffee and water were all available throughout the day. A bar provided a selection of alcoholic drinks and there was also a tray of free liqueurs including the Brazillian caipirinha. At 2.30 p.m. we were meeting to go on our first boat safari into the Jaguar Zone.
Afternoon Boat Safari
Leaving the Flotel we headed to the confluence of the Cuiaba River checking the dense forest along the river bank and the sand banks. A radio call announced that Jaguar had been sighted. At speed we changed direction and headed down river.
A cluster of three boats told us where to look. We couldn’t believe it, there in the vegetation on the river bank where two Jaguars. They were lying on their backs, with the movement of their tails the only sign that they were awake. Suddenly one of them stood up and then the other. They both faced the river giving us excellent views. A Capybara swam past totally ignored by the Jaguars. After watching them for about twenty minutes we moved away to give other boats a better view. What an excellent start! less than an hour and a two Jaguars.
Jaguars are the largest cat in the Americas and the third largest in the world. The Jaguars of the Pantanal are the largest and heaviest of the subspecies in the Americas. Primarily a forest animal they also like the riverbanks as the main prey items in this area are the Capybara and Caiman. They are competent swimmers and easily cross rivers to move between the forest areas. Jaguars tend to be solitary cats living and hunting alone, except during mating season. These two it seems are young Jaguar brothers learning how to survive on their own as the mother has abandoned them at 14 months. They seem to be living on carrion at the moment although we did see one of them hunting a Capybara the next day.
Giant River Otters
We headed back upstream and found two Giant River Otters. They definitely deserve their name being up to 1.8 m. long and weigh in at 35 k.g. They are impressive predators seeming to swim and catch their fishy prey with little effort. With their webbed feet, dense fur and broad flattened tail they are excellently adapted to their life in the water. Their sharp teeth and the dexterity of their front feet/hands enable them to make short work of the Catfish that they catch. Noisily crunching and turning the fish. They were social, curious and playful, bobbing up out of the water to get a better look at the boat. This enabled us to see the cream blotches on the throat, which are individual to each animal.
Black thunder clouds were building up behind us as we left the otters and headed further up the river. The scenery was beautiful as we scanned the banks for wildlife. Black Skimmers sat with their young on a sand bank. Caiman lay in the shallow water near the banks. Tiger Heron and Striated Heron waited patiently for the sighting of fish, whilst a number of Anhingas perched on logs drying themselves out. Kingfishers sat on overhanging branches and provided flashes of colour as they flew from bank to bank.
The thunder was now rumbling loudly and Nuan asked if we wished to turn back. Not wanting to miss a minute we all agreed to continue even though most of us hadn’t got our waterproof. The rain was heavy but warm and quite refreshing (a taste of what to expect at the start of the wet season in the Pantanal). After a relatively short time it stopped leaving the air feeling fresh and cooler. As we travelled along we managed to dry out and the sky had a beautiful rainbow.
We had sundowners on the boat near a sandbank where a juvenile Jabiru stood watching. As we drove back we had the amazing sight of synchronised Skimmers and Night Hawks flying along beside the boat as the sun set.
It was then a dash to get back to the flotel before dark. After dinner Susannah was giving a talk on Jaguars.
As we left to go for dinner we noticed a kingfisher roosting on a branch outside our room.
Using the photographs Susannah told us that the Jaguars we had seen were two brothers named Kim and Tore. They were about 14 months old and their mother was called Ruth. Normally at that age they would still be with their mother but it appeared she had a new male and they had been driven out.They are normally a solitary animal. Sightings of two animals are usually a mother and her offspring or a female in oestrus and an attendant male. So far they had not been seen hunting only digging in holes for animals. There seemed to be concern for their survival if they didn’t begin to hunt.
During the talk the rain and a strong wind started battering the boat making a lot of noise. When we went back to our room it was evident that the wind had pushed the boat into the bank. Tree branches blocked the passage way to our room. In the dark we had to clamber over them. Surprisingly the kingfisher was still roosting on his branch.
More images from day one at the Flotel
Day Three (Afternoon) :- Checklist
|Giant River Otter||South American Coati||Silvery Marmoset||Capybara|
|Marsh Deer||Brown Brocket Deer||Jaguar x 2|
|Reptiles & Amphibians|
|Yacare Caiman||Common Green Iguana||Amazon Runner Lizard||Tree Frog|
|Greater Rhea||Neotropic Cormorant||Anhinga||Snowy Egret|
|Cocoi Heron||Great Egret||Cattle Egret||Striated Heron|
|Rufescent Tiger-Heron||Capped Heron||Wood Stork||Plumbeous Ibis|
|Jabiru||Southern Screamer||White-faced Whistling-Duck||Muscovy Duck|
|Black Vulture||Turkey Vulture||Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture||Snail Kite|
|Great Black Hawk||Savanna Hawk||Black-collared Hawk||Roadside Hawk|
|Southern Caracara||Osprey||Chaco Chachalaca||Chestnut-bellied Guan|
|Gray-cowled Wood-Rail||Limpkin||Sunbittern||Southern Lapwing|
|Wattled Jacana||Black Skimmer||Yellow -billed Tern||Large -billed Tern|
|Picazuro Pigeon||Pale-vented Pigeon||White-tipped Dove||Hyacinth Macaw|
|Monk Parakeet||Turquoise-fronted Parrot||Squirrel Cuckoo||Greater Ani|
|Smooth-billed Ani||Guira Cuckoo||Striped Cuckoo||Great Horned Owl|
|Band-tailed Nighthawk||Ringed Kingfisher||Amazon Kingfisher||Green Kingfisher|
|Pale -legged Hornero||Rufous Hornero||Yellow-chinned Spinetail||Cattle Tyrant|
|Short-crested Flycatcher||Tropical Kingbird||Fork-tailed Flycatcher||Lesser Kiskadee|
|Great Kiskadee||White-winged Swallow||White-rumped Swallow||Brown-chested Martin|
|Gray-breasted Martin||Purplish Jay||Black-capped Donacobius||Masked Gnatcatcher|
|Rufous-bellied Thrush||Chalk-browed Mockingbird||Ashy-headed Greenlet||Grey-headed Tanager|
|Grayish Saltator||Yellow-billed Cardinal||Saffron Finch||Bay-winged Cowbird|
|Crested Oropendola||Yellow-rumped Cacique||Solitary Black Cacique||Orange-backed Troupial|
|Unicoloured Blackbird||Green Ibis|