Face to Face With Jaguars in the World's Largest Wetland

jaguar Brazil
Photo by MikeLane45/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by The Daily Telegraph, October 20, 2017

There’s a crackle on the radio, and with no hesitation our speedboat driver João throttles the 115-horsepower outboard motor into top gear. Dozens of lurking Yacare caiman duck out of the way of our bow as we rocket around the beautiful beached bends of the Três Irmãos river in the Brazilian Pantanal’s Encontro das Águas State Park. My pulse quickens. Could this be our chance?

João finds another gear, and the Portuguese man behind me nearly loses his hat as he readies his camera’s long zoom like a bazooka, anticipating what might be around the next curve. We pass the spot we’d seen a giant river otter on the beach earlier and whizz by massive jabiru storks and tiger herons, but now we have a more regal goal: the ultimate predator of the Americas, the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere, spotted like the leopard and larger than the puma: the jaguar. 

Virtual Event

Pivoting Back to Travel, The Destination Weddings & Honeymoons Edition

2020 put the nuptial plans of thousands upon thousands of couples on hold, but with the promise of widespread vaccine distribution in the near future, it’s time to get back to planning and ensure your clients live out the destination weddings & honeymoons of their dreams. Hear from top suppliers and destinations on wedding venue & ceremony options, romantic destinations & resorts and more when you watch the event on-demand.

Jaguars are the third largest of the world’s big cats. Our excitement at the prospect of seeing one is coupled with fear; these colossal carnivores are expert killers, able to climb trees and leap into rivers on to their prey, which they take by piercing the skull with their large canine teeth and powerful bite. 

We round another bend and finally come face to face with the feline that has drawn us to this remote maze of rivers and swamps at the centre of South America. For all the flights flown, criss-crossing Brazil to connect to the far-flung city of Cuiabá, for all the miles driven, bumping into the back of safari trucks over rickety bridges and down the dusty Transpantaneira “highway” to its end, and for all the hours spent speeding down rivers, it does not disappoint.

The jaguar is magnificent. It basks in the rays of the setting tropical sun on a patch of sandy earth between the tall grass and the steep drop-off of the riverbank as if posing on a pedestal, indifferent to our presence. The sound of a capybara barking gets its attention, and it rises from a slumberous slouch and prowls along the edge of the precipitous bank, sure-footed and graceful, shoulder bones undulating.  

It stops to lick a paw and the capybara becomes aware of the presence. The mammoth rodent lets out a few panicked barks before belly-flopping into the river and paddling for its life towards the other side. The scene is at once incredibly wild and oddly familiar; it is the hemisphere’s largest feline versus the planet’s largest rodent – the world’s largest game of cat and mouse is playing out before our eyes. It’s Tom and Jerry on steroids in a Brazilian swampland, and this time clever “Jerry” escapes again, or more likely our “Tom” is just not hungry enough to pursue, and sulks into the tall grass and out of sight.

The worlds best wildlife holidays: an A-Z guide How to enter the next round of Just Back

Email your entry in 500 words (with the text in the body of the email), to [email protected] For terms and conditions, see telegraph.co.uk/tt-justback . The winner will receive £200 in the currency of their choice from the Post Office.

The Post Office is the UK’s largest travel money provider. It offers more than 70 currencies with 0% commission. Customers can buy selected currencies over the counter at 8,000 branches and all currencies can be ordered for next-day delivery at 11,500 branches. Orders can be placed online at  postoffice.co.uk/travel-money .


This article was from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

Related Articles

Nobu Hotels to Open First South American Property in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Brazil Buzz: Sofitel Copacabana to Become a Fairmont Hotel

Brazil Buzz: Palácio Tangará Opens May 10 in São Paulo

Trancoso: Brazil's Best Hidden Beach Town

Suggested Articles:

Experiences like traversing a cliffside cableway high above a valley floor are a hallmark of travel in the Swiss Alps. Learn more here.

According to a recent survey by Virtuoso, 82 percent of travelers said the COVID pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future.

Kempinski Hotels is offering a new room category, the Kempinski Fit Room, which it is gradually introducing in partnership with Technogym. Read more.