jaguar in the pantanal
Jaguar and Wildlife Holiday in Brazil
Jaguars and Waterfalls

This wildlife and jaguar holiday in Brazil offers you a very high chance of seeing jaguar (100% success rate since 2015, with multiple sightings in recent years) the most elusive big cat in the world, together with some of the world's least-known and most exotic wildlife in a vast wildlife reserve in the heart of the continent. The Pantanal is the Serengeti of South America, over 58,000 square miles in total, and home to many wild animals and birds, yet still with relatively few tourists. It's where the BBC and Discovery Channel go to film their documentaries. Along with jaguars you will see otters as big as a man, giant capybara, hundreds of South American alligators (caiman), Brazilian ostriches (rhea), and giant anteaters.

You'll also be taking in Rio de Janeiro, the Atlantic rainforest, and the world-famous Iguaçu Falls. As this is a Tell Tale trip, you'll spend time with expert guides and meet local people – you are guaranteed the inside track on Brazil. But this not just a Tell Tale trip, it's the ultimate Tell Tale trip! We may be nice people who do special experience holidays for nice people, but... this trip is Tell Tale, predator-style. Please note this trip must be taken between June and November and booked well ahead. As recommended in the Sunday Times Travel Magazine, as well as in Wanderlust magazine (as a top 10 wildlife adventure).

The first stop of this private tour of Brazil is Rio de Janeiro. You'll be staying in a lovely private home with friendly hosts.

You'll be whisked around Rio's natural attractions – the huge rainforest national park, replete with rare birds and dripping with waterfalls, and the Morro de Urca and Sugar Loaf mountains where the world's tiniest monkeys still scurry through the trees. You'll also have time to visit Rio's famous beaches if you wish.

Now it's time for the big cats. You'll fly from Rio to the Pantanal in the heart of Brazil. This vast area of seasonally flooded wetlands and open savannahs is overflowing with wildlife. You will divide your time between ranches/lodges and a 'jaguar camp', ideally placed for the best chances to see jaguar in the wild. Working with locals who've been tracking jaguar since childhood and are expert guides who work with Panthera, we've had 100% success rate in recent years.

"We booked this trip to experience an incredible country and see amazing wildlife; we did just that... we feel that we have been given a glimpse into a part of the world that many people will never experience and for that we are very fortunate.
– Gary and Susan Baxter
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Then it's onto Iguaçu Falls – one of the great natural wonders of our planet. The waterfalls here – 275 in total, stretching 2.7km – are almost twice the width of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and two-and-a-half times the width of Niagara. As the river thunders into the "Devil's Throat" with a defeaning roar and you are enveloped in a billowing cloud of mist, you can't fail to make memories that will last forever. The falls sit on the border of Argentina and Brazil, in a huge rainforest national park filled with wildlife including capuchin monkeys, coatimundis, and electric blue Morpho butterflies as big as your hand. You will visit both sides of the falls to get the full experience (though please bear in mind that the falls are popular, so this part of your trip is somewhat less off-the-beaten-track than the rest).

Jaguars and Waterfalls is a private tour for two (or more) which can be taken between June and November (subject to availability, we recommend booking ahead). If you are a solo traveller, have a look at special small group departure instead.

Usually Friday or Saturday Day 1: Fly overnight (approx. 9pm departure from Heathrow) with LATAM airlines from London Heathrow, changing planes at Sao Paulo in the morning. Alternatively, you can fly direct with British Airways direct from Heathrow to Rio de Janeiro. If flying BA, we are also able to arrange connecting flights from UK regional airports.

Day 2 D (dinner included): You'll be met at the airport in Rio de Janeiro and driven into central Rio and into the hills of this city in Santa Teresa. You'll be staying in a private home, where you will you get the inside track into life in Brazil, meeting 'real local people', part of a Tell Tale trip. You'll have time to settle in. Later your driver will be back to take you to visit one of Rio's famous beaches or perhaps the Botanical Gardens to see hundreds of orchids, Amazonian water lilies and sloths and brown capuchin monkeys in the trees. You'll have dinner with your hosts. Alternatively, you can request to stay in a hotel (in which case dinner will be excluded).

Day 3 B: Today you will be driven around Rio's highlights to explore them at your own pace including Corcovado for the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf mountain. This evening, our driver will take you into the city to have dinner at one of Rio's bustling restaurants, choose one from the tips in your Tell Tale pack you will be posted to you before your trip.

Day 4 L: An early start this morning, you'll be driven to visit a special sanctuary in the Atlantic rainforest. Regua is an important place to support, it is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. Many birds are only here. They are among the world's most beautiful. You will hopefully see toucans and brilliantly coloured tanagers, trogons with tails like a bird of paradise and darting emerald green hummingbirds. And with luck you may see tapir, sloths or the largest monkey in the Americas, the critically-endangered southern woolly spider monkey. You will walk one of the trails with one of Regua's guides or owners. Then you'll have a delicious lunch at Regua before heading back to Rio de Janeiro.

Day 5 B D: Time to move on. You'll be driven to the airport for an internal flight to the city of Cuiabá the gateway to the Northern Pantanal (changing planes at a hub airport such as Sao Paulo or Brazil's capital Brasilia). You will be met at Cuiabá airport and driven south into the Pantanal, on the Transpantaneira, a 'dirt highway' with wooden bridges over the wetlands. You will see plenty of wildlife along the way, capybara crossing the road, metre long parrots flying overhead, eagles on fence posts. You will arrive at Pousada Piuval, set in 7,000 hectares. Accommodation in this part of Brazil is on cattle ranches (fazendas). Piuval has a comfortable lodge which even has a pool. Time to settle in. This evening, you will have your first dinner in the Pantanal, with the sounds of the jungle as your backdrop. You will then have a night safari with your guide, watch out for those red eyes in the night..they may well be caiman.

Between Days 5 to 11, you may be joined with a small number of others on transfers/wildlife activities/boats. In practice, our partners aim to keep Tell Tale Travellers private (and Tell Tale only takes one booking on each date), but there is a chance. If you'd like all elements guaranteed exclusively for you, please see the supplements section.

Day 6 B L D: Early this morning you will have a safari. You'll head back to the lodge for breakfast then walk an ecological trail. Back to the lodge for lunch and relaxation then you'll trek around the farm. This area is known for huge flocks of parakeets, toucans, Marsh deer - which are unique in having webbed feet, armadillos, as well as a vast variety of Pantanal fauna and flora. If you're lucky, you may spot a Giant Anteater.

Day 7 B L D: Time to pack up and be driven further into the heart of the Pantanal, Porto Jofre and where you'll arrive at the Pantanal Jaguar Camp. You're more or less right in the middle of the continent! This part of the Pantanal has the highest density of jaguars in the world. Staying right here combined with our expert guides/trackers will make sure you have the best chance of spotting jaguar. Don't expect luxury in such a remote area of Brazil, but you'll be comfortable in your room with en suite facilities and air conditioning (though please bear in mind the electricity is powered by solar and a generator). You'll have your first boat trip this afternoon. Responsible tourism certainly contributes to the conservation of the jaguars, keeping the poachers away has helped the jaguars breed and sightings have increased in recent years. Then it's back to camp. Enjoy a dinner of authentic Brazilian fare, before bedding down for the night.

Day 8 B L D: Morning boat trip and jaguar safari in the Pantanal, and another boat trip in the afternoon. A particular favourite sight is families of giant river otters (we could watch them for hours!), although other highlights have included birds of prey feasting on their catch and a capybara floating down the river on a makeshift raft.

Day 9 B L D: Another day of boating to maximise the chances of seeing jaguar, as well as other animals.

"We saw a total of seven different jaguars including a courting couple on one side of the river and another male on the other bank which swam across the river in front of us." – Richard Doig
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jaguars in the Pantanal

Is it BBC Planet Earth II? Or is it Julia Bond with her nifty little camcorder on a Tell Tale trip.

Posted by Tell Tale Travel on Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Footage of following a jaguar down the river, taken by Tell Tale Traveller, Julia Bond

Day 10 B L D: Pack up and head off to Pousada Rio Claro or Aymara, a comfortable lodge close to a river. Explore the diverse deciduous and non-deciduous forest and savannah to spot wildlife.

Day 11 B L: Early morning canoe trip at the lodge then you will go horseriding (Pantaneiro horses are relatively small, generally calm and easy to ride! Although you can always go for a walk with your guide if you prefer). Panteneiro cowboys are descendants of Portuguese who mingled with Brazil's native Indians and live their lives in a 200-year tradition farming the special breed of Pantaneiro cattle which are unique to this area. You will then be driven back to Cuiabá for a night in a hotel near the airport in readiness for your onward journey. There is a pool at this hotel and within walking distance is a good restaurant, also a food court in a shopping centre which is open until 10pm.


Day 12 B: Fly from Cuiabá to Foz do Iguaçu, again, you'll need to change planes at a hub airport. You will be met at the airport and driven a short distance to the centre. Time to settle in at a city hotel and dip in the small pool. You'll be staying in the city so you can have a contrast of being in the rural Pantanal where you'd have been eating in lodges every night, Foz do Iguaçu has a variety of restaurants to choose from.

Day 13 B: Your private guide will take you around the majestic Iguaçu falls on the Argentinian side. On arrival you'll board a train which takes you right to the fantastically-named Devil's Throat. Here the smooth river turns into a seething torrent as it thunders over the horseshoe-shaped precipice on to the rocks 74 metres below. The Argentinian side of the falls is set in jungle, so there are lots of plants to see wildlife-spotting opportunities. However, our favourite encounter is at the falls themselves, where countless great dusky swifts dart in and out of the cascades (see Fred Barrington's fantastic photo, right – click to enlarge). If you want to get really close to the falls, you can opt on the day to take a boat trip, but be warned – you will get soaked!

Day 14 B: Your private guide will take you to the Brazilian side of Iguaçu, where it's all about the view. You won't be as close to the falls today – all the better for taking those panoramic shots – but there is a walkway which makes you feel like you are at the very edge. You'll also visit a fantastic aviary where you'll see the world's largest parrots, toucans, and scores of other South American birds, some of which are rare or nearly extinct.

Footage of Iguaçu Falls taken with a drone.

Day 15 B: Morning at leisure (dependent on flight timings) and short transfer to Foz do Iguaçu airport for your flight to Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro airport, connecting to your internatiinal leg. You and your luggage will be checked through all the way.

Day 16: Arrive at London Heathrow This will be a Saturday if you departed on a Friday.

This private tour based on two people sharing costs from £6,295 per person.
The tour price includes international flights from London Heathrow, all flights within Brazil, accommodation, transfers, wildlife guides and trackers in the Pantanal, activities/excursions and meals mentioned. Excludes entrance fees on Days 2 and 3. Entrance fees are included for other activities including tickets and train at Iguaçu waterfalls (only optional boat ride on Day 13 to be paid locally).

You can also book this tour excluding international flights for £5,295 per person. Your tour would start in Rio de Janeiro on Day 2 and end at Foz do Iguaçu airport on Day 15. Note your tour would exclude the flight out of Foz do Iguaçu.

It is definitely possible to travel at the 'from' price. We recommend booking as early as possible, both for pricing and availability. We only take one booking per departure date. You can book with a deposit.
British Airways add ons from other airports, ask us to check availability and price. We've previously made arrangements from Manchester, Edinburgh and Jersey.
British Airways premium economy on the international legs is often around £500pp but it can vary, ask us to check.

All elements in the Pantanal, including transfers, wildlife activities and boat trips to be guaranteed as private just for you, usually £1,600pp.

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Macaw by Sara-Lu Fleming
pantanal jaguar by Roger Day

Black Collared Hawk by Marjorie Socha
Jaguars by Fred Barrington
Jabiru stork by Theresa Amarawansa
Anteater by Theresa Amarawansa
Jaguar by John Tomsett
Jaguar by Theresa Amarawansa Giant River Otter by Gary Baxter
Photos by Tell Tale Travellers:
Main image of jaguar by Roger Day; Hyacinth Macaw by Sara-Lu Fleming; Jaguar drinking by Roger Day; Black Collared Hawk by Marjorie Socha; Jabiru stork by Theresa Amarawansa; Anteater by Theresa Amarawansa; Jaguar mother and cubs by Fred Barrington; Jaguar in the grass by John Tomsett; Jaguar yawning by Theresa Amarawansa; and Giant River Otter by Gary Baxter.

To see these and more photos in a bigger size, visit these links:

John Tomsett's photos
Theresa Amarawansa's photos
Sara-Lu Fleming's photos
Gary Baxter's photos