Photographing jaguars in the Northern Pantanal

Photographing jaguars is truly a unique experience and very different from photographing big cats like in Africa. The jaguars are (mostly) very active during the day compared to other big cats. During many of the jaguar photography tours we have seen many different behavior during the day.

Although the Northern Pantanal has the highest density of jaguars in the world, some patience and dedication is needed. Searching for jaguars is not easy, jaguars easily blend in the environment. An experienced guide is very important to increase the rate of success on finding jaguars and photographing jaguars.

I have seen many operators on the river the last couple of years and what truly makes the difference is an experienced guide and boat driver who understand the animal and its behavior. On many occasions already, I witnessed boats who follow the jaguar without a strategy on what will happen next. Anticipating upon behavior, scanning the environment for possible scenario’s is very important to align the boat in the best possible spot to get the shot (photo).

Besides understanding behavior, patience is the second factor of a successful strategy to get the best images. Many operators stay only a short while at a jaguar sighting or when another sighting is called over the radio they leave. In some occasions we decided to wait for 5, 6 or even 8 hours by a single jaguar laying in the brush. All boats are gone to look for other jaguars or go back to the lodge for lunch, we end up with the action shots by simply waiting.  From my experience patience pays off.

What is the best time of year to photograph jaguars in the Northern Pantanal?

From June till November is the best time to photograph jaguars in the Northern Pantanal. Mid-may early June is the start of the dry season. The water level drops significantly and the temperatures during the day are hot (30C-43C). The low water level and high temperatures attract wildlife, including the jaguar towards the rivers to drink, cooldown and hunt.

What is the best month to photograph jaguars in the Northern Pantanal?

June till mid-November are all very good months to photograph jaguars, still I will share my experiences. The month of June is early in the season meaning very little boats on the river. In June we experience that many jaguars return to the prime hunting grounds when the water level is getting low again. In the month of June there is an abundance of caiman, the chance of seeing jaguars hunt caiman in the open is much higher compared to other months.

October and November stand out too for me personally. It is like in June less crowded with tourists. Late in the season also increases opportunities to experience different weather situations. Last but not least, from my experience October is very good to visit while the temperatures and humidity are very hot/high. During this month, I have seen most sightings compared to July, August and September in recent years.

How a typical day of photographing jaguars looks like

We stay at a lodge located at Porte Jofre, the best spot to start our search for jaguars.

7 AM:  Depart by boat from lodge on the Cuiaba river towards the three brothers. Search all morning for jaguars. (in some occasions we leave earlier to experience sunrise in the Pantanal)

12 AM: Picnic style lunch on the boat, not wasting anytime on returning to the lodge for lunch. We enjoy lunch at a jaguar sighting or in the prime jaguar habitat. In the afternoon search for jaguars.

5.30 – 6.00 PM: return to the lodge to refresh.

7.30 PM: Diner is served

8.30 PM: Relax or Backing-up images, first selection of images, reviewing images (together optional), charging batteries and of to bed.

What to look for when you book a jaguar photography tour

  • The number of participants in a group.
  • Does the group have photographers, or are you the only one?
  • What boats are used (low-profile for low angle shots? Do they have canopy for sun- protection), enough space for your camera gear and to move around?
  • Daily program; Most operators go back at 11 for lunch at the lodge and returning at around 3 in the afternoon. I have had so many great encounters during lunch hours, I always have lunch in the boat in the middle of jaguar territory!
  • An experienced guide with a track record on guiding for (pro) photographers, so you are sure they understand how to position the boat correctly.
  • Local guides/company. Personally, I feel it is very important to support the local community who are dependent on tourism and activities within the region. From my experience you not only have the best information by hiring locals, you support the community and contribute on a sustainable future.

Jaguars of the Pantanal photography trip 2019:

Next year October 2019 I will be hosting two jaguar photography trips. We will spend 7-days on photographing jaguars in the Northern Pantanal. Our Journey starts at the Cuiaba airport where we will travel through Pocone onwards to Porte Jofre via the Transptananeira road. At Porte Jofre we start our daily boat drives to explore the most dense populated area of jaguars in the world. Find out more about the 2021 jaguars of the Pantanal photography trip

Photo impression on my latest Pantanal jaguar photography trip:

Last October (2018), I visited the Pantanal for 3 weeks from which I spend 15-days on photographing jaguars in the Porte Jofre area. From that jaguar photography tour, I published a photographic impression of some of the highlights of the trip, see below.

2019 jaguar photography tour portfolio

Checklist when travelling to the Pantanal

After having visited the Pantanal several times the last years I have created a Pantanal travel checklist for my clients to prepare for the adventure. When you subscribe to the mailing list, you receive my Pantanal travel checklist immediately