Today, 1st November, we were leaving Pouso Alegre at 6.00 a.m. and driving in our safari truck to the end of the Transpantaneira Highway at Porto Jofre. From here we will take a boat to the Flotel. This would be our best chance of finding jaguar. The drive to Porto Jofre was about 120 km taking about 6 hours.
The journey was a wildlife safari in itself with lots of opportunities to observe and photograph wildlife. The Pygmy Owl was waking up from its roost as we drove past. Travelling along the track from Pouso Alegre to the highway we saw two South American Coati, a member of the racoon family. A first sighting of this species.
Once on the highway it wasn’t long before we spotted some Marsh Deer. A deer species which is becoming rare due to destruction of habitat, hunting and infection with cattle diseases. They are the Pantanal’s largest deer, standing 1.2 m. tall and 2 m. long. The males had large, thick, branching antlers covered in velvet. They have specially adapted hooves that spread to enable them to move on the soft ground in the wetland habitat.
Further along the route we had to turn off the highway to avoid a badly broken bridge we saw a family of Silvery Pantanal Marmoset. These diurnal small monkeys were difficult to photograph in the thick foliage of the trees. The movement of the branches and the high whistling / bird like twittering provided evidence of their presence.
Guira Cuckoos sat along a rail on one of the many bridges we crossed over along the Transpantaneira. Jabiru and Wood Stork waded in the roadside pools. Southern Screamer and Southern Crested Caracaras walked in the grassy area. There were plenty of hawks, including Savanah, Black Collared and Roadside Hawks. Overhead flew Yellow Headed and Black Vultures. Groups of lime green Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies were getting salts and minerals from the muddy patches along the track.
Transpantaneira Bridge Repairs
There were lots of bridge repairs along the route with ramshackled work areas set up at the edges of the track. We even saw a man bending over welding some metal. Large cranes and diggers were constructing a large new bridge over a broken embankment. Long tapering concrete poles lay on the ground along the track edge. They were being erected to carry electric cables.Evidence of the broken bridges was evident in the waterside pools were planks of wood were floating among the Caiman and Capybara.
As we drove along the cloud formations were spectacular. One of them resembled a spiral. It looked as if there might be rain before the end of the day.
Rest Stop and on to Porto Jofre.
We stopped to stretch our legs at a derelict stone building surrounded by trees. On the trees were what looked like bird boxes but they were bee hives. Evidence of the honey combs was scattered on the ground. Trying to avoid the mosquitoes we clambered over vegetation to look up into a tree. Nuan had spotted a Great Horned Owl sitting in the branches. After taking photographs it flew to another tree. A Black Vulture rested in a tree where on an branch a Green Iguana sunned itself.
Finally after a long drive we arrived at Porto Jofre. The Hotel Porto Jofre with its’ own airstrip is actually on the highway and is aimed at wealthy clients. This was not where we were heading. We turned left at the river and travelled through woodland along the river bank until we got to the landing area. Here Porto Jofre is a small hamlet with a few scattered huts and tourist accommodation on the north bank of the 170 m. wide Cuiaba River. After a short rest stop we clambered down the bank into the boats. All our luggage went ahead in another boat. The bank was constructed of overlapping tyres which held the bank in place and also provided a series of steps to the water. An amazing example of recycling.
The metal, radio equipped Jaguar search boats had ample room for the twelve of us, plus Nuan and the boat driver. In the relative comfort of the bucket seats we travelled the 15 k.m. upstream to our destination the Jaguar Flotel.