The Pantanal of Brazil is the world’s largest tropical freshwater wetland area, and is a great location to photograph a number of species including caiman, giant otters, hyacinth macaws, and many other tropical bird species. But forget all that: the Pantanal is the best place in the world to see and photograph wild jaguar! I spent a week in October 2014 exploring the Pantanal, and I absolutely fell in love with this lush ecological paradise.
Jaguars are, of course, the Pantanal’s main attraction. Normally elusive and difficult to spot, the open waterways of the Pantanal make photographing jaguar easier than just about any other place in Central and South America. I was not disappointed, managing to photograph plenty of jaguars during my visit: I saw (and photographed) jaguar almost every day, and one day was lucky to see four! In Mayan mythology, the jaguar was seen as the ruler of the Underworld. As I photographed this magnificent cat resting in the jungle, I imagined that it was guarding an entrance to a dark, secret world. I used flash to balance the exposure between the shadowed cat and the sunlit leaves.
Of course, you’ll see more than just jaguar when visiting the Pantanal. The number of bird, mammal, and reptile species in these immense wetlands is simply staggering, and in the open marshes of the Pantanal, all this wildlife is easy to spot. This mating pair of jabiru storks put on quite a show one morning, and I had an open view of their activities after climbing up to a viewing platform.
Among my favorite landscape features of the Pantanal are the giant water lilies found in the marshes. I was lucky one evening to get a colorful sunset, the perfect backdrop for the curving arrangement of lily pads in the foreground.
Yacare caiman were everywhere: some were small, while others were big brutes almost ten feet long. One evening as storm clouds built, I hopped out on a sandbar looking for something interesting to serve as a foreground in a wide-angle shot. I nearly stumbled upon this big caiman while exploring the shore, not noticing it until I heard it hissing at me! I couldn’t resist of few quick shots with the storm clouds in the background, after which I quickly backed away.
I made many amazing memories while in the Pantanal; my encounters with jaguars, of course, stand out the most. There is something awe-inspiring about these magnificent animals that is hard to translate into words or even pictures. It is, quite simply, something everyone should experience. To see more of my Pantanal photos, visit my website: Dreamscapes – Pantanal.
About the author: World-renowned professional photographer and Tamron Image Master Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to several leading photo magazines and the author of numerous books and instructional videos. You can see more of Ian’s work at www.ianplant.com.
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