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Brazil Pantanal and Amazon Photo Tour: Featuring Jaguars and Other Wildlife

July 13 – 23, 2020 : $12,995pp based on double occupancy

Join me in western Brazil as we explore the best place on earth to photograph wild jaguars! After leading a highly successful 2018 tour, I’ll be leading a 2020 trip that will offer you great opportunities to see jaguars and loads of other wildlife. This trip combines two of the most diverse and popular wildlife hot spots in Brazil: the Amazon and the Pantanal.

The Pantanal has become popular in recent years for good reason: It’s the best place on earth to find wild jaguars.  Though I can never guarantee jaguar sightings, I can say with near certainty that we’ll have a good chance of seeing not just one, but multiple cats during this trip!  The cats get all the attention, but there’s a lot of other colorful and fascinating wildlife to see here. We’re likely to find unique species such as the giant river otter while looking for jaguars.  On land, we will seek out other large species such as the Brazilian tapir and giant anteater. And let’s not forget the bountiful birdlife, from colorful macaws and other parrots, to raptors and a variety of wetland species.

Unlike most other Pantanal trips, we’re adding an extra element to this journey: a trip to the Brazilian Amazon. We’ll stay at a luxury lodge in the southern Amazon, located in lush rainforest surroundings that host a bounty of wildlife (much of it quite different from what we’ll see in the Pantanal). This region is home to several monkey species—including some endangered species found nowhere else—and hundreds of exotic birds and other wildlife. During the 2018 tour we even saw the ultra rare giant armadillo!

Target species on this trip include:

  • Jaguar
  • Giant and neotropical river otter
  • Giant anteater
  • Southern tamandua (collared anteater)
  • South America (Brazilian) tapir
  • South American coati
  • Three armadillo species
  • Eleven different monkey species
  • Three different deer species
  • Crab-eating fox
  • Capybara
  • Spectacled and Yacare caiman, yellow anaconda and other reptiles
  • Greater rhea
  • Seven different macaw species and other parrots
  • Numerous toucan species
  • Birds of prey, such as kites, hawks and owls
  • A variety of herons
  • Five different kingfisher species
  • Loads of other birds

See photos from past Brazil trips:

2018 Brazil Wildlife & Scenery
2018 Brazil Birds
2017 Brazil Wildlife & Scenery
2017 Brazil Birds

 

What to Expect

As you know, I offer a variety of tour experiences. While I like to immerse my groups in a great wildlife experience no matter where we go, tours vary in terms of the type of exploration involved and the required fitness level for participants.

White-Nosed Saki

An endangered endemic, the white-nosed saki monkey can be found in the southern Amazon.

The good news about the Brazil trip is that it’s one of the more relaxed adventures I offer! We spend a lot of time being transported by expert guides and drivers and do a lot of photography directly from a boat or game drive vehicle. In certain situations, we’ll get out for walks, either to get closer to wildlife in the Pantanal savanna or as we walk forest trails in the Amazon in search of birds and monkeys. We’ll even have a chance to photograph wildlife from three different canopy towers in both the Amazon and Pantanal.

All of our jaguar exploration and some of the wetland and rainforest wildlife photo opportunities will come exclusively from a boat. It’s a nice, easy way to get up close and personal with jaguars, otters and birds without infringing upon them.

We will stay in some of the best lodges in the region, in terms of both comfort and wildlife exploration. In all cases, there’s a chance to photograph wildlife directly on the lodge grounds! For our main jaguar exploration, we’ll be staying at a nicer land-based lodge in Porto Jofre that is situated directly on the river that serves as our launching point for our cat-centric adventures.  This gives us a much more comfortable home base than other tours staying in cramped “flotels” on the river. Our Amazon home base is a true luxury jungle lodge, with excellent food and comfortable rooms and amenities.

To find jaguars, we’ll take advantage of high speed motor boats that offer plenty of room for photographers. With powerful four stroke engines, we can get to the latest reported sighting quickly, and as part of the largest guide network on the river, we’ll increase our chances of getting cat reports from other boats whenever they discover a jaguar.

 

Trip Itinerary

Sunday, July 12: We recommend participants arrive in Sao Paulo on this day (overnight lodging this first night is not included).

Monday, July 13: Fly to Alta Floresta via Cuiaba, on the edge of the southern Amazon Rainforest. We will drive to meet our boats, which will carry us along the river to our luxury jungle lodge. This is our first opportunity to look for and photography wildlife, including otters, tapirs and birds.

Cristalino Lodge, 4 Nights

Tuesday – Thursday, July 14 – 16: During our stay at Cristalino, we will split our time between boat exploration on the river, walking the forest trails, and photographing from the lodge’s two canopy towers. These are two of the tallest viewing towers you’ll find in the rainforest, measuring 50-60m high! From the top, we will soak in the magnificent views of the surrounding jungle while waiting for all manner of exotic bird life to fly or perch nearby. Possibilities include several species of toucans, macaws and raptors, as well as smaller more colorful birds.

Hyacinth macaw

Hyacinth macaw photographed from the birding tower at Araras Lodge.

On the trails, we will look for monkeys, including the rare white-cheeked spider monkey and white-nosed saki, the nocturnal feline night monkey and other species. At night we may track down owls or the mysterious potoo.

During our river exploration, we’ll look for neotropical and giant river otters, the shy Brazilian tapir and all manner of bird species. Jaguars—including the rare black panther—are sometimes seen in this area.

Friday, July 17: We depart the lodge and fly to Cuiabá for our transfer to Araras Lodge. We’ll enjoy our first afternoon game drive, looking for anteaters, armadillos, capybaras, caiman and more.

Araras Lodge, 2 Nights

Saturday, July 18: Full day at Araras Lodge, including a morning shoot in the 25m birding tower that may provide flyby opportunities with the Hyacinth macaw.

Sunday, July 19: Morning excursion at Araras (if we have a larger group, the second tower session will take place this morning, with the rest of the group enjoying a game drive). By midday, we will depart for Porto Jofre. By the afternoon, we will be on the Cuiabá River searching for jaguars!

Hotel Pantanal Norte, 4 Nights

Monday – Wednesday, July 20 – 22: Mornings and afternoons will be filled with boat excursions searching for jaguars, giant river otters and other wildlife.

Thursday, July 23: We will depart Porto Jofre for Cuiabá, where we will catch flights back to Sao Paulo.

Some of my clients on the 2020 tour have requested an extension to the Southern Pantanal. We have put together a scouting extension (no additional markup on top of base costs) prior to the main tour. Please let me know if you’re interested in adding this. The price is determined by the total number of participants, and we already have three commitments.

 

Why Choose This Tour?

There are many Pantanal photo tours available.  Why go on this one?

The Best of Both Worlds: Pantanal + Amazon!

Rather than offer the Amazon as an optional extension, I am including it in the main itinerary to present one grand wildlife tour. We’ll get to explore two different environments (dense tropical rainforest and sprawling wetlands), offering opportunities to photography a wider variety of species. During the last tour we counted 175+ birds and 35 mammals!

Our Guide

Our local naturalist guide on this trip is Frederico Tavares, one of Brazil’s leading naturalist wildlife and birding guides.

Brazilian guide Fred Tavares

Our expert guide in the Pantanal, Fred Tavares.

Fred has completed extensive study in biology, the primates of  southeastern Brazil and the ecology of the Pantanal region, and holds a degree from Izabela Hendrix University in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He has been a hiking and naturalist guide since 1999, with particular emphasis on Southeastern Brazil, along with Pantanal and Northeast areas. Fred is known as a leading instructor on natural history guiding and interpretation techniques, and has taught many courses on those subjects. He possesses an enormous enthusiasm for his work to go with his vast knowledge. 

Better Lodging

I’ve chosen some of the best spots for both comfort and accessibility to wildlife. The Araras Lodge gives us a great chance to see a variety of species, from birds (including a session at the 25m birding tower) to armadillos and anteaters.  Hotel Matto Grosso puts us right on the river, for quick access to the wetland species we’ll photograph on two boat tours.  The Porto Jofre Hotel is right on the Cuiaba River, giving us a great launching point for jaguar exploration, but it also offers more comfort than those boat “flotels,” and has wildlife right on the grounds. In the Amazon, we stay at one of the most comfortable jungle lodges in all of South America, which boasts excellent facilities and canopy towers.

Smaller Groups

As always, I try to limit my tours to smaller-than-standard groups, for more one-on-one attention and more comfortable shooting for my clients.  This tour is limited to six guests, making for a more intimate experience.  If the group fills, we’ll add vehicles (based on availability) in order to give photographers more room and comfort for shooting.

Better Time of Year

In the Amazon it’s the dry season, so our activities are less likely to be impeded by torrential downpours. In the Pantanal, this trip takes place relatively early in the “jaguar season,” and that offers us a couple of advantages over September/October trips. This stems from lower average temperatures, which make things more comfortable for our group… but also for the jaguars! We’re more likely to witness interesting activity from these cats beyond just seeing them laying in the shade to escape the heat of the day. In 2017 and 2018, we watched jaguars stalking, hunting, swimming, climbing trees (a rarity), mothers with cubs, adult jaguars coming together and even an otter/jaguar faceoff. Who knows what sort of activity we’ll photograph in 2020!

  • "Well once again Max comes through with an epic adventure to the Amazon and the Pantanal in Brazil. After seeing his write-up on his scouting trip to that area the year before I knew I wanted to go. The trip was everything I was hoping for and more. Highlighted by seeing a Giant Armadillo. Also a hunt by a female jaguar that grabbed everyone’s attention as she charged the capybara. Several types of macaws including Hyancith, Scarlet, Chestnut-fronted and the Blue-and-yellow from birding towers in both the Amazon and the Pantanal. The thrill of “flying” down the river in the boats to a jaguar sighting always got everyone excited. Max’s experience and willingness to help others with camera issues is a blessing for all so not to mess up your shots. Can't wait for the next trip. Thanks Max!" — Pat N.

  • "I’ve been very fortunate to join Max on a number of tours and felt fairly confident that nothing new would top places like South Africa or Patagonia. And then I went to Brazil. Wow! It’s difficult to find the words to describe this vibrant, wildlife enriched part of the world and do it justice. I saw a greater variety of plant, animal and insect species than anywhere else I’ve ever been. Like all of Max’s tours this one is first class all the way with front row access to all of the action. We saw exotic species in their natural environment doing what they do to survive. We saw jaguars climbing, swimming, feeding and hunting. There were giant otters fighting, birds, mammals and caiman fishing, mammals nursing and rarely spotted creatures like giant armadillos lumbering through the jungle. The list goes on. This is a tour that absolutely cannot be missed if you like all things wild. Thanks to Max, Fred (local guide extraordinaire) and a phenomenal group of fellow adventurers with whom I was blessed to share the experience." — Steve. S

  • "Max provided a great opportunity to see and enjoy Brazil’s wildlife and I truly appreciate it. His laid-back style of leadership is fantastic. I really liked the fact that he showed great concern for his clients and put his photography 'on hold' until he was sure the clients 'got the shot.' I needed a lot of help spotting and finding the sights and you went out of your way to help me (as did everyone in the group). I enjoyed this trip so much that I would consider doing it again in a couple of years!" — Fred F.

What’s Included in the Price of Your Tour

  • All guiding and transportation from pick-up in Flights out of Sao Paulo on Day 2 to the flight back on Day 12.
  • Optional photo instruction by Max.
  • All lodging during the tour (except for Days 1 and 12).
  • Domestic flights from Sao Paulo to Cuiabá, Cuiabá to Alta Floresta and back.
  • All food on Days 2 – 12, except for breakfast on Day 2 and lunch and dinner on Day 12.
  • Park entrance fees.

What is NOT Included in the Price of Your Tour

  • Flights to/from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • Extra baggage fees (most airlines limit passengers to 1 free checked bag)
  • Lodging in Sao Paulo at the beginning or end of the trip.
  • Brazil visa fees (Note: US citizens are required to get a visa prior to the trip).
  • Alcohol/bar tabs at our hotels/lodges during the week.
  • Tips for guides/drivers/hotel staff.
  • Single supplement lodging fee listed below.

Cost

$12,995 per person, based on double occupancy
$1030 single lodging supplement

This tour is limited to six guests. There is 1 Spot Left!

(If you are a lone female traveler, we have a female willing to share a room in order to avoid the single supplement. If you are a lone male traveler wishing to save on the single supplement, we may have a roommate available for the second half of the trip.)

Join the 2020 Pantanal + Amazon Photo Tour!

Save $250 by booking before December 31st. If you are interested in joining the 2020 tour, or would like to join a future Brazil wildlife tour, please contact me.

If you are interested in booking a private tour for your group, feel free to get in touch and I’ll be happy to discuss options.