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monalisa last won the day on February 19

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  1. @Atdahl Hi Alan, I asked my guide and he said that you certainly can get discounts during the low season but that there is virtually zero chance of jaguars during the flood. I don't think we personally got a discount for our trip in May but we did get upgraded to the best rooms free of charge due to no one else being around, so that is a discount of sorts @Alexander33 It certainly did pay off! If you are willing to gamble on less jaguars for the chance at more intimate sightings then definitely do look at going to Porto Jofre at the end of May. The chance to have the guide all to yourself is also is a big plus in my books! Another alternative is to try the Paraguay River instead of Porto Jofre. I understand this is where @jeremie went and had great success avoiding crowds while still getting great jaguar sightings. I've actually already come and gone from Botswana (a distant memory now ). We went straight from the Pantanal to Botswana and then Zambia. Hopefully I will get time to put together some photos for a trip report soon!!
  2. Okay folks thanks for hanging in there with me! We are finally at the last instalment of my trip report. Phew! Where I left off was in the late afternoon of our final day at Porto Jofre. It was about 5pm, we were starting to head back to the flotel, and the sun was beginning to dip. When I spotted a family of giant otters swimming by I happily pointed them out but was unsure whether to bother with taking pictures. Something I should mention is that: Me + low light + any kind of movement = photography disaster!! With any adjustment I make I either end up with extreme noise or darkness or it's blur city. If anyone has some general pointers please let me know. Don't think it's unsolicited advice, I need all the help I can get! So back to the otters.. Light was disappearing and it was time for us to go so I wasn't really expecting us to follow this family. Especially after such an amazing otter-filled day I was surprised when Manuel abruptly spun the boat back around for these guys. We certainly weren't going to complain though! We happily watched the otters swim and play for a while when Paulo suddenly excitedly whispered to us, "Guys! It's coming, it's coming!!". What was coming?? "The jaguar!". We really could not believe our eyes. Later Paulo told us that he and Manuel had seen the jaguar and that's why they stopped the boat. They just let us watch the otters in blissful ignorance until it popped its head out. What a way to finish our time in Porto Jofre. Needless to say the camera came back out for this one! Hiding in heavy bush, perched on a slanted tree was a gorgeous jaguar. Portrait shot Pretty as a picture! We had been told earlier that jaguars and otters are sworn enemies so we were giddy hoping for some interaction here. I pointed the otters out to the jaguar and told him to "go get one" but I don't think he understood me. Makes sense since he probably only understands Brazilian Portuguese We were about 10 metres away from the jaguar and the otters and they were about 5 metres away from each other. Soon enough the otters spotted him and instead of swimming away came closer and began to hiss and snarl at him. Poor defenseless kitty-cat stuck up a tree. He didn't seem to know what to make of these critters. Paulo commented that he wished it had been Geoff here instead as he would not have been as tolerant of the otters as this one. I warned you about the quality of the photos but I'm still posting them as I think they are necessary to tell the story Video to the rescue! Truly we couldn't have asked for more out of our time at Porto Jofre. We had really given ourselves a hard time about coming too early before the peak season but in our 5 boat trips we saw 5 jaguars!! - a great result for us! And bar the fishermen, we pretty much had the river and all the animals to ourselves. So if you are like us and don't like crowds, perhaps you could roll the dice for May as well Apparently in peak season there can be 20 boats to a sighting. Eep. We joked that someone should set up their own boat to come by with snacks and ice cream. I am soooo not a crowds person. The next morning we headed back to the Transpantaneira, but not before stopping by a nice property with giant lilypads. I had seen pictures of them on the internet and showed them to Paulo. Well, he took us there and they did not disappoint! They were the size of tables! Here is a pic taken with our camcorder. I was really kicking myself now that I packed away my camera. Thankfully after a few sunny days the quality of the Transpantaneira had vastly improved and wasn't as muddy or bumpy. And of course, because I had packed my camera away all the animals decided to pop out. There were plenty of crab-eating foxes, all sorts of special birds and even an agouti! We figured when we got back to the Fazenda Santa Tereza Hotel that we would now be able to explore the property and do a drive for our afternoon activity. Unfortunately the roads leading into the property were still in abysmal condition (it was seriously tough even driving in) and we were advised against doing the drive on the property so we just headed back onto the Transpantaneira. We didn't see much unfortunately and the dust clouds brought up with each passing car was really bothersome. We did however see a large group of capybaras that we stayed watching for some time. This is maybe 25 metres away. One particularly amorous male chased a female for at least a good 15 minutes before they disappeared. Three way capybara kiss! The sky was very strange this day. I don't know if any of you have ever seen this but the sky was visibly different shades of blue. It may have had something to do with a cloud behind us casting a shadow. Nevertheless we thought it was very cool. Here is my attempt at a photo (taken on my phone): The next morning seemed to go by very quickly. Because of the condition of the roads again we transferred by boat to another property further along the Transpantaneira. Again I didn't have my camera with me so just tried to mentally soak up the scenery on our last day. The sunrise was absolutely gorgeous.. shades of peach and apricot, with pink and lavender clouds. I have to say, Brazil 100% delivers on beautiful scenery, which I wasn't expecting. The road transfer back to Cuiaba airport seemed to go by in a flash. We tried to download as many of Paulo's stories as we could in the time we had left. He has led such an interesting life and has so many stories to tell. It was sad to say goodbye to him, but alas it was time, and we got on to our flight to Sao Paulo. Something we did not realise was that Sao Paulo has TWO airports. When you plan your Pantanal trip, don't let this be you! Learn from us! We had a 2 hour gap to make our connection to Johannesburg. Can you imagine the stress levels upon arriving at a different airport and realising you are racing the clock to clear customs, collect baggage, find your way to the other airport (the distance to which you do not know), drop your bags off and clear customs again? Well we made it! It was quite the adrenaline rush but I don't recommend it Anyway, unfortunately here ends our incredible adventure in Brazil. It was our first time there but hopefully not our last! Next stop... Botswana!
  3. On our last full day at Porto Jofre there were mainly clear skies and we were feeling good about what we had seen so far. We had gotten a "good" jaguar sighting which is what we came for, so everything from here on out was going to be a nice bonus. Of course we still hoped for more Well within about a half hour we did get a quick glimpse of a jaguar walking along the river. It lasted maybe a minute and there was so much foliage that I never took a photo. But here is a screenshot from our video just to prove jaguar #3 existed! This was maybe 15 metres away. We searched around for more jaguars on this morning boat trip but did not see any more. Instead we found a family of giant river otters! They came up onto the bank and started marking their territory by scratching and sliding, rolling around, rubbing their bodies on trees and vines, it was fun to watch. And again we were by ourselves so it was like a private otter show just for us! We stayed with them for the rest of our allotted time just observing. We returned in the afternoon to the same area to find that they had just come back from a hunt and were sharing a fish in the water. We couldn't see them as they were obscured behind a large low-hanging tree but we could hear the poor fish being crunched and the otters making a general ruckus. They took about 15-20 minutes to finish eating before they decided to climb onto the bank for a nap. They stretched and rolled around. We couldn't have been happier with the variety of behaviours we saw from the otters. Here is a video that includes footage from both the morning and afternoon. It's a bit long but well worth it I think! I hope you're all not sick of otters at this point! Marking their territory Rolling around Falling asleep on the job. You can see she's mama otter though so all is forgiven. Having a scratch This one is blurry but looks so cute! Otter kiss!! Grumpy pants Indignant What are you doing here?? Time for a nap I love the one on top. It kept rolling over everyone else and wouldn't keep still That can't be comfy... Not sure I like this pillow By this point we were very very spoiled by having all of our sightings to ourselves so when another boat appeared at the tail end of this sighting I found myself a little disappointed. Unreasonable certainly, but I was not used to sharing! As an antidote to otter overload, here are some pictures of some of the scenery and birds we also saw. Toco toucan Cocoi heron Skimmers and terns Black vultures Caiman Lots and lots of egrets dotting the trees Common iguana Cocoi heron swallowing a fish On this afternoon outing we noticed more tourist boats. There were at least 3 others on the river that we passed which indicated to us that the season was beginning to pick up. We were the second boat to arrive at this next jaguar sighting (out of an eventual 3). This one is perhaps aesthetically prettier than big brute Geoff. I actually don't recall if this one was male or female. It posed politely for us, sat, stared and slept for the 45 minutes we stayed with it. Paulo told us he was honestly surprised to have seen this many jaguars in May. Lucky us
  4. @johnweir Image #3 is fantastic and engaging in that it captures aspects of life and death very well. That butterfly being there is so ironic and unexpected. What a great picture.
  5. @xyz99 Of course! I'm a fan of all the spotty cats and find it hard to choose @janzin Thank you! That means so much coming from someone of your calibre! @michael-ibk Yes, it was the perfect antidote to all the rain and gloom! @inyathi Oh yes, I think you would have to be very unlucky not to see pampas deer at BA! Also the terrain there seems to be much more forgiving of rain than any of the properties I saw in the north. More jaguars and otters are coming! I just have to keep prodding my husband to load his videos at the same time I'm hoping to get through this trip report as quick as I can so I can get started on the Botswana/Zambia leg!! On our first full day at the flotel the morning looked very overcast and cloudy but we tried to stay positive. Soon after heading out we saw more giant river otters. This time there was a group of about 5 or 6 calling and whistling loudly together. It's times like these I'm glad for video!! It's difficult to explain their calls and general commotion in words. The otters swam fairly close to the boat too at times which was awesome. Just listen to that noise! After this it felt like a long time of not seeing anything. We passed a fishing boat that pointed us in the direction of a jaguar they had seen in the same area as the one we had seen the day before. We didn't find any there though after searching thoroughly which was disheartening. Perhaps that jaguar we saw was meant to be our only jaguar? As the morning wore on the sun began to burn away the clouds, giving way to bright blue sky. It turned out to be a lovely day. And in more ways than one! As we turned around a bend of Black Creek I spotted him (no pun intended!). It took a half second to register what I was looking at but clear as day there was a jaguar face staring straight back at me! His name was Geoff and he is apparently the current dominant male in the area having beaten the popular Mick Jaguar in the last season or so. Again we were the only ones at the sighting and we ended up hanging out alongside Geoff for a good 2 hours! We watched him walk around, sleep, mark his territory, take a drink and even swim! Apparently the boats normally observe a gentlemen's agreement to stay 20-25 metres away from jaguars to avoid boats getting in each other's way and overwhelming the animals but as we were the only ones there we anchored 10 metres away, maybe even a little less! There was a drastic difference in composure between Geoff and the jaguar from the previous day. Geoff was so confident in our presence often going to sleep with his back to us. I can't tell you what an absolute privilege it was to get to spend time with this magnificent animal and to get to see different behaviours - all on our own!! Perhaps late May wasn't such a horrible time to come after all Geoff When he made his way down the bank there was a real "Will he or won't he?" moment. We all really wanted to see him go for a swim. When he hopped in I remember being so thrilled. I could hardly contain myself. He then proceeded to swim across the creek right in front of us! What a great morning it ended up being! We mainly saw birds and caiman on our afternoon excursion but we weren't disappointed. Our day had been pretty great. Something I wish we had gotten a video of was an anhinga dive bombing for fish. You would be floating down the river and have these random splashes around you. Anhingas were constantly dive bombing off branches, it was hilarious Jabiru stork and caimans Anhinga Anhinga Southern caracara Limpkin Great black hawk Juvenile great black hawk Bats (the name escapes me now) The fireflies were spectacular this night. The trees along the river looked like they had Christmas lights. It was beautiful. We couldn't wait to see what our last day at the flotel had in store
  6. I went to South Africa as part of my very first safari. It's a good choice as I think while the scenery can be lacking in Kruger (at least the parts I saw) you will get the variety of animals I think you're after. It is the only country where I've seen rhinos out of SA, Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia. In terms of crime you don't really need to worry when in the park. Just take the normal precautions when in Joburg and you'll be fine. The lens you have seems sufficient to me. I have an 18-250 and I'm pretty happy with that range. Having the extra reach would be really nice of course but not at the expense of a managing a bulkier lens. Also bear in mind that animals can get really close sometimes! Wherever you go I hope you both have an incredible anniversary trip
  7. Amazing trip report!! There is so much to look at and your photos are beautiful. Those lenticular clouds and that Do you have to be very fit to do Patagonia? I would love to go but I suspect I can't
  8. Who doesn't delight at seeing puffins?! They are such amusing looking birds. You have some wonderful shots!! I especially love all the ones with the mouthfuls of sand eels Perhaps next time for the pufflings!
  9. Sold!! I definitely need to go to Borneo now. Those langurs are incredible and I so desperately want to see proboscis monkeys. Your trip looked amazing. The bird life that you saw was so varied and striking. I had no idea that Borneo had so much to offer in terms of wildlife!!
  10. The first thing I actually noticed around the flotel was the number of butterflies around. We don't really get them where I live so I was really excited to have them flutter around me and land on my clothing. And butterflies are a good omen. I could sense our luck turning around! Three in one!! Butterfly vs ant showdown Now to the good bits!! Our first boat outing was at 1:40pm that afternoon. Our expectations were very low at this point because a) there were no other tourists around b ) we had been reminded by everyone we met that we were very early in the season and the birds, otters, jaguars etc were not here yet. Paulo tried to reassure us that all the species were present already, just not in the large numbers you would typically get later in the season. He also said it was a good thing that there would not be other boats around. Within about 10 minutes of heading out we saw 3 giant river otters who swam over to us to check us out before quickly disappearing behind some reeds. I am not at giant-river-otter-photography-skill-level yet so sadly I didn't get any good photos of them then, but I figured at least I saw them and heard them whistle and carry on. What a thrill! Not long after that, Manuel with his insane eagle eyes stopped us in front of a bunch of dense trees. Apparently a jaguar was sitting there. Where?!?? It took a good 20 seconds of Paulo pointing to and describing the location of the jaguar, even after the boat had stopped, for me to see it. Sure enough there under the brush I could see the unmistakable spotty fur of our very first jaguar!! It was 85% obscured by branches, I have no idea how anyone could have seen it. Lucky we had Manuel on our team! Here is a screenshot from our video. Would you have seen this?? After a few minutes the jaguar emerged. Paulo hypothesised that this was a young jaguar because it was apparently nervous upon seeing us and retreated back into the forest. But not before we had a good look! We couldn't believe how our luck was turning around. We were both quite down in the dumps at first about arriving out of season, and my husband was upset with Charles the owner for not advising that there would be such a drastic difference in late May as opposed to the peak in June-August. Well we were buzzing after this!! Anyway without further ado..... our first jaguar, all to ourselves, about 10 metres away! I think they are my new favourite cat For the rest of the excursion we saw mainly birds but we were still on our otter and jaguar high. The river was notably pretty too. Perhaps more so than the Rio Negro and Pixaim.
  11. @AmyT Is that the cutest thing ever?!?!!? What an adorable little fluffball!
  12. @inyathi I have just flicked back to your trip report and my gosh! We had the same guide! Did you like him?? I thought he was just the greatest. Every conversation with him was like an information download session. How he knew so much about every topic blew my mind. He schooled me on STDs in koalas!! I'm from Australia and never even heard anything about this. My husband was also extremely pleased to finally have someone to discuss martial arts with Do you think you will go back to the Pantanal? Hopefully you can fit BA in there next time as it is well worth the visit. It's paradise!!
  13. @xyz99 I assume that your summer is June-August? If so, then yes this is when dry season is in the Pantanal. We went in the last week of May and were apparently very lucky with sightings. The fact there was no one around and we basically had the river to ourselves was a positive but we obviously did not get the memo on the right time to go! I'm so excited for you that you have a Pantanal trip on the horizon. I will need to live vicariously through your trip report when the time comes @Alexander33 @janzin My apologies. I shouldn't have said bird feeders were illegal without verifying. Such a no-no in this world of false fact spreading, sorry!!! I was just relaying information that I had heard from people while I was over there. So I have just done some Googling, and I suspect where it comes from might be down to how one might interpret the terms "perseguição" and "utilização". I unfortunately don't know Brazilian Portuguese so I am relying on Google Translate here!! From Law 5197/67 Art 7. The use, persecution, destruction, hunting or gathering of specimens of wild fauna, when consented to in the form of this Law, shall be considered hunting acts. From Decree 6514/08 Art 24. Killing, pursue, hunt, catch, collect, use specimens of wild fauna, native or migratory route, without permission, license or authorization from the competent authority, or in violation of the obtained I can see how "use" and "pursue" could be interpreted to encompass these types of ecotourism activities although I am certainly no lawyer and have no idea what the jurisdiction of these laws is. There is also a specific resolution for jaguars I found but I do not know if there are similar rules for other wildlife: From CONSEMA Resolution 85/11 Art 5. The feeding or feeding of jaguars or pumas in free life is prohibited to attract, increase the chance of observation or ensure their permanence in a certain locality. I also vaguely recall reading something about ecotourism activities needing to be managed by the relevant state bodies, but I'm sure you all agree that I'd better stop before I go further down the rabbit hole!
  14. @Atdahl Haha Alan I wish we had known of South Wild's reputation before! We actually booked them based solely on the amount of Tripadvisor stars and number of reviews. It was only afterwards that we'd started to read a lot of negative comments. To be 100% honest we wouldn't have gone with them if we had seen these first, but oh well. We made the best of a "bad" situation and ended up learning a lot along the way and gaining a much better understanding of the conservation issues in the Pantanal. Whether the method is right or wrong I can't say but it is an attempt at solving a very difficult problem which I personally have no answers for. I'd like to learn more about alternative solutions but I suspect this is the wrong forum thread All should be pleased to know that I didn't see any more baiting after the ocelots!! @xyz99 There certainly are a lot of other companies to choose from. I'll be honest again and say that I would not use SW a second time. Not because of the baiting which perhaps other companies do behind the scenes without guests knowing, but because they can be the target of hatred which we unfortunately did get a sense of while we were there. Another interesting thing to note is that many guides in the Pantanal have worked for Charles at some point in the past but deny this fact simply because association can be toxic. Our guide Paulo has also since gone on to set up his own company. I am hoping for his sake that it puts an end to some of his problems. I can pass you his contact details if you like. He does custom tours so you can definitely request to avoid any baiting areas He is a genuine guy so I think he would be straight up with you.
  15. Wow you got to see such a large variety of wildlife on this trip! I had no idea that there was so much to see in Borneo. It was definitely on my list before because I would like to see proboscis monkeys but this trip report cements its place and fuels the fire. My "bird of the trip" favourite from your line up would be a toss up between the black and yellow broadbill and the asian paradise flycatcher. They are fascinating. Oh and the indigo flycatcher too. It's pretty I also loved reading your story about getting caught in the rain. He he he. The lesson is: double bag EVERYTHING

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