Game Drives in the Pantanal

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We spent three days in the Pantanal at Pousada Piuval.  Our guides liked this 7,000 hectare ranch as it is home to the most jaguars at this time of year (which isn’t many) compared to the jaguar preserve that is not accessible at the end of the rainy season.  Anyway, that didn’t stop us from looking for them.  We took sunrise and sunset drives every day.  Most of the time we drove the few roads on the ranch, occasionally we tried a few fields that were still to wet, and we also went to the park.

While we didn’t spot the elusive jaguar, we did see very fresh tracks of a family of four.  With jaguars around, it made it a little difficult to see other wildlife, but Alex, our guide was quite good at spotting a variety animals including rabbits, crab eating fox, monkeys, deer, field crabs, snakes, caimans, tegus, capybaras, peccary, agouti, anteaters and countless birds.

I wasn’t familiar with many of the animals of the Pantanal, so I didn’t even know how to look for them in their habitat.  I also learned a few interesting tidbits I would have never known.  Who knew crabs lived in fields?  Of course, that mostly happens when the high water recedes after the end of the rainy season.  But of course, I would have never guessed foxes ate crabs either.

Caimans are the only reptiles that stay with their young.  Caimans are very docile relative to alligators and crocodiles.  We were able to get very close to them.  I was told the only time they might attack is when protecting their young.  We saw a mama with her babies, and in hindsight probably encroached upon her a little too much.

Capybaras are the largest rodent in the world.  Agoutis, that looked like a small rat, were too fast to photograph.  I’d never heard of a peccary.  It is basically a wild pig.  The red brocket deer were tiny.  The first time Alex spotted the deer at night, I couldn’t see it through the telescope, as I was looking for a large deer like I see in Texas or Colorado.  This deer was like the Dik Dik, a small antelope, in Africa.

Our best experience was an anteater.  The first two anteaters we saw were far away, and we wouldn’t have even noticed them if Alex hadn’t spotted them moving in the distance one morning.  The third anteater, however, we spotted in the night on the side of the road.  We stopped the jeep by the anteater which crossed the road and sniffed around a bunch of bushes.  As we shined the light on it, the anteater tumbled down a small hill and to our amazement started lumbering toward us.

Obviously, the anteater couldn’t see well, but I thought it would have at least smelled us given its sense of smell is 40 times more sensitive than humans.  It must have had a cold as it got to within a foot or two of us before it turned right and rooted through the nearby bush without sensing any danger.  We darted to the other side of the bush when the grey and black giant anteater with a very hairy tail, literally turned directly toward our feet.  It nearly touched us before it realized something was wrong, and it loped across the street.  The experience was so exhilarating.  Little did we know that had it decided to sniff our feet, we could have lost a toe while it dug with its sharp claw.

We spotted three types of monkeys; the Brown Capuchin Monkey, the Howler Monkey, and the Callitrhix Pantanal Monkey.

The birds in the Pantanal were prolific.  We spotted various hawks, macaws, parakeets, toucans, storks, kingfishers, herons and more.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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