Jaguars & Wildlife of Brazil's Pantanal

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The Brazilian lowlands known as the Pantanal form an enormous wilderness in the heart of South America. This flat rain-fed region, laced with waterways and submerged beneath silvery sheets of floodwater for half the year, is one of the most photographically productive wildlife habitats on the entire continent.
"I had never thought about going to the Pantanal and it turned out to be one of the richest experiences I have ever had while traveling."
- S. Arkin

Few places offer so many animals of such variety, so spectacularly visible, as the Pantanal. One reason for the incredible exuberance of animal life is the sparse human settlement of the region. Because of the damp land and annual flooding, large-scale cultivation is impractical and access remains difficult—except by boat. Giant cattle ranches lay claim to the land, but they are stocked at low density, and ranching has done little to change the essential character of the landscape. These days, more and more of these fazendas are being converted into ecolodges.

Jaguars, the third largest "big cat" on earth dwells deep within the Pantanal's tangled floodplain forests. Here, they have remained one of the planet's most photographically elusive large predators—until now! Along several Pantanal rivers, jaguars have become habituated to the growing activity of commercial and sport fishing boats over the past few years. Because of their growing familiarity with this increasing river traffic, jaguars have learned to relax on the banks in the shade of riverside trees. From exposed vantage points and camouflaged lairs, they monitor these rivers and wait for prey along their sandy banks. Being enthusiastic swimmers, they often cool down with a refreshing dip as the day heats up. The amazing Pantanal jaguars are the world's largest jaguar subspecies and big, photogenic males can weigh over 300 pounds. It is not unlikely to see these largest American cats stalk capybaras and caiman during the coolest hours of the day.

Photographing jaguars in Brazil's PantanalOn this Pantanal photo tour we shoot a fantastic variety of wildlife while exploring the Transpantaneira Highway by air-conditioned mini bus and by cruising numerous waterways in small boats. By building the "highway" through the wetland, the mounding of soil for the roadbed has created the adjacent "borrow pit" as a by-product that extends for countless miles. Here, our cameras capture jabiru, the world's largest stork—an iconic symbol of the Pantanal. Families of capybaras are often seen wallowing and feeding right alongside the voracious caiman. Capybaras resemble giant guinea pigs—this conspicuous rodent attains weights exceeding 130 pounds! Noisy groups of endangered giant otters patrol these same waterways and we should have good opportunities to photograph them at close range.

The abundance and diversity of large mammals can be seen on all sides, yet many of the region's big mammals have not been photographed extensively. Marsh deer, coatimundi, giant anteaters, tapirs and giant river otters are all potential targets for our lenses. And now—during the dry season in the Pantanal—rarely-seen jaguars are a welcome new addition to Pantanal's photographic repertoire!

Jabiru in flightAlong with breathtaking jaguars, the Pantanal's other truly great spectacle is provided by the amazing variety of water birds that utilize these wetlands to probe, sift and stab for prey. They include huge numbers of egrets, herons, ibis and wood storks, as well as spoonbills and jabiru. Bird photography is exceptional here, reminiscent of Florida's Everglades in the 1800s before its degradation. Other interesting species to photograph at close range, such as toco toucans, hyacinth macaws, snail kites and buff-necked ibis, add spice to this exceptional photographic adventure.

If you're a serious nature traveler and never been to the Pantanal, you've really missed one of Planet Earth's greatest wildlife habitats and photography destinations! Elusive jaguars and a throng of other charismatic wildlife provide undreamed of photographic opportunities.

Compelling Reasons To Travel With Us

With amazing accessibility to jaguars and a host of other wildlife, Brazil's Pantanal has enthusiastically been added to many nature photographers' "must do" lists. In recent years, numerous new trips have cropped up offering photographers the chance to photograph in Pantanal. What sets our Jaguars & Wildlife of Brazil's Pantanal photo shoot apart from the rest? Plenty!

Unparalleled Experience
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris has 25 years of experience offering Pantanal photography tours—far more than virtually any other photographer/tour company leading trips to the area. Our local guide has worked in the Pantanal for more than 35 years and is considered a pioneer in nature and photography tours to the region. Experience matters when you are photographing in an area as vast as Brazil's Pantanal. We waste no time getting you exactly where you need to be for the very best photography—each and every day of your trip.

Smaller Group Size
We limit our groups to 8 participants with 2 leaders—far fewer participants than other groups which typically take 12–15 photographers, plus the leaders. With fewer participants we are able to move more nimbly and with less impact on both wildlife and habitat. Fewer people photographing is almost always desirable, but especially so when traveling in small boats, as we do when photographing jaguars.

Toucans in Brazil's PantanalJaguars—And A Whole Lot More
With us you get 5 full days of jaguar photography plus additional days at two ecolodges. Because these lodges are in distinctly different habitats, you photograph a much wider diversity of the many species found in the Pantanal.

Accommodations Matter (A Lot!)
When we're out in the field shooting we "play hard" getting the most out of available light and photographic opportunities. When we're not shooting, we want to retreat to accommodations that offer comfort and a chance to rejuvenate for the coming day. Our chosen accommodations do just that!

While photographing jaguars we stay in a wonderful hotel complex on the bank of the Cuiabá River, in the very heart of jaguar country. The bedrooms, in spacious duplex cottages, are quiet and comfortable. The food is outstanding. There is a refreshing pool, and the expansive manicured grounds allow plenty of acreage for walking or jogging, if desired. Water lillies PantanalDuring lunch breaks there are opportunities to photograph resident (and tame) hyacinth macaws, as well as toucans, parrots and numerous waterbirds. Adjacent to the hotel is a spectacular and photogenic flotilla of Victoria amazonica water lilies—with the world's largest lily pads—on an oxbow lagoon that is accessible only from the hotel. Jaguars occasionally hunt capybara along the shore of this lagoon and, staying in prime jaguar territory, we often photograph our first jaguar of the day within 15 to 30 minutes, by boat, from our hotel!

Compare our lodging to the four "floating hotels" where most photography groups stay. Rooms on these "flotels"—originally built for use by local sport fishermen with little need for space, comfort and amenities—typically measure about 10x10 feet (some are smaller) and pack the shower, toilet and twin beds all into a space about the size of a walk-in closet. Add two photographers to each room and guests are "up to their necks" in luggage and photo gear. Generators thrum throughout the night and the walls are thin enough to hear snoring in adjacent rooms. Deck space is very limited and there is little room to walk around—and nothing to photograph while on board. Once aboard these flotels, you rarely touch land for the duration of your stay. We have never had a trip member say they wished they had stayed on one of these boats instead of our hotel!

Better Boats, Fewer Passengers
We use small, nimble speedboats to get us to the jaguar action quickly. Their size allows us to get deep into narrow photogenic backwaters—prime jaguar habitat that larger boats carrying 6–8 photographers can't access. Best of all, we limit our boats to just 3 photographers in each, so you have ample space for gear and room to get great shots. Speedboat on Cuiaba River PantanalSome tour groups may put as many as 20 people into a long cramped boat! Each of our boats has a retracting sun shade (not a luxury, but a necessity!) for those times when we are anchored mid-river during a long jaguar photo encounter. Our boatmen are incredible jaguar spotters—they have a "sixth sense" for finding these cryptically camouflaged big cats along the river. Because our hotel has more "jaguar boats," combined with numerous sports fishing boats, we have the largest and most efficient radio-linked network of jaguar spotters on the river.

Air-conditioned Vans
Finally, while traveling over the dusty Transpantaneira Highway from lodge to lodge we use comfortable air-conditioned buses. Compare our vehicles to the open, hot, military-style trucks used by many tours—whose passengers need bandanas and masks to cover their faces against the thick dust kicked up by cars and passing cattle trucks.

When you consider all the essential details that we've combined to make your trip comfortable, safe and very photographically productive—we know you'll choose our Jaguars & Wildlife of Brazil's Pantanal!


Check out these trip reports from our latest Pantanal photo tours:
John Shaw's
Mark Thomas'
For trip questions or to enroll give us a call at (206) 463-5383

Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Depart from home on overnight flights.

Day 2 (Jun 17, Jul 1, Jul 14, Jul 27, Aug 10 or Aug 23)

Arrive in Cuiabá and transfer to our hotel. The group meets for dinner tonight. (D)

Day 3

This morning we depart for the Transpantaneira Highway, the main artery through the floodplain, looking for the unusual mammals and some of the more than 360 species of birds found in the Pantanal along the way. The area is especially good for wading bird photos—thousands of jabiru, American wood storks and great egrets congregate in huge flocks. Overnight at our lodge along the Rio Claro. (BLD)

CapybaraDay 4

We explore nearby private ranches that feature a wonderful mix of photogenic land birds and water birds, including roosting nocturnal great potoos, active jabiru on nests, sunbitterns, parakeets, kingfishers, inquisitive caracaras and other birds of prey. Part of our day is spent searching for photogenic mammals, including tame brown capuchin monkeys that come within close-up range for their favorite bananas, endearing black-tailed marmosets, rare giant and collared anteaters, marsh deer and tapirs. (BLD)

Day 5

This morning we travel further southward, deeper into the heart of the northern Pantanal. Along our route, the wetlands become increasingly open and we pass through several different marsh and forest habitats en route to Porto Jofre and our comfortable lodge. Hyacinth macaws in treeThe afternoon features opportunities to photograph hyacinth macaws and giant Victoria amazonica water lilies populated with a resident flock of wattled jacanas that forage across the top of the large circular leaves. (BLD)

Days 6–10

Each morning we travel by speedboat on the Rio Cuiabá and its tributaries—with only three photographers in a boat—into the vast realm of the jaguar. Here, along the banks of the river, we have the best chances of photographing jaguars at this time of the year. Our recent trip participants have seen several of these huge predators during the day—many of them at very close range for extended periods. Scout boats are sent out, in advance, along the river and all of our boats are in radio contact to deliver us to the big cats as quickly as possible. We stay at a comfortable hotel, with spacious rooms, situated along the Cuiabá River in the heart of jaguar country—where it is not unusual to find jaguars within 10 minutes of our hotel! Using comfortable and nimble speedboats we cruise the river looking for the best photo opportunities for cats, endangered giant otters and a wonderful variety of other wildlife. (BLD)

Capped heron PantanalDay 11

We travel northward along the Transpantaneira through broad open savannahs and wetlands punctuated by forest islands, stopping to photograph whenever good opportunities present themselves. Thousands (literally) of yacare caiman can be found in the drying sloughs along the roadway—this area sports one of the largest concentrations of crocodilians in the world! Afternoon photography and overnight accommodations are at a backcountry lodge situated well off the main road. (BLD)

Day 12

We enjoy a full day of photography at our comfortable, rustic lodge that affords the wonderful hospitality of the "Old Pantanal" of a bygone era! The Rio Bento Gomes crosses our ranch from east to west. A river otter with his catchIt flows only part of the year and in the dry season—during our visit—a series of lakes and ponds of various sizes and surrounding habitats give rise to the photogenic bird-rich area starting just feet from the lodge. Now is our chance to seek out photogenic situations with hyacinth macaws, toco toucans, ferruginous pygmy owls, numerous parrots, and a throng of land and water birds. This location is truly terrific for bird photography. (BLD)

Day 13 (Jun 28, Jul 12, Jul 25, Aug 7, Aug 21 or Sep 3)

An early morning departure brings us back to Cuiabá in time to connect with afternoon flights to São Paulo or Brasilia and evening flights home. (B)

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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Jaguars & Wildlife of Brazil's Pantanal

Jun 16, 2022 - Sep 03, 2022


A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

A deposit of $1,000 per person is required. Full payment of the trip fee is due 150 days prior to departure date. We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
122 days or prior:
121 to 91 days prior:
90 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of entire trip fee
100% of entire trip fee

Emergency evacuation insurance is REQUIRED for this tour. As noted in Section 3 below, we send a brochure for trip insurance to US and Canadian residents. The policy offered includes the emergency evacuation coverage required for this trip. Participants purchasing trip insurance on their own—that is, not through our office—should confirm that emergency evacuation is included in their policy.

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation. A CANCEL FOR ANY REASON policy is available.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger (trip participant) in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft or other conveyance, and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts, bankruptcy or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay, cancellations or changes in flights or other tour services, and by force majeure including sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine, epidemics and outbreaks, or other causes.  All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in flight schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure due to low enrollment, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) At the company’s sole discretion, suspend or postpone any trip due to force majeure in which case the trip may be rescheduled, or a refund issued less any non-refundable deposits paid to tour component providers on behalf of the passenger, or a travel credit given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 4) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 5) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Enrollment Conditions and Release and Assumption of Risk sections must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Jaguars & Wildlife of Brazil's Pantanal: Easy Activity Level

Small bus and boat travel.  Easy walking on manicured hotel grounds and flat adjacent wildlands.  Early morning boat departures return to hotel for lunch and break before returning to the boats for an afternoon photo session on "jaguar days."  Some mornings can be cold due to cold fronts emanating from Antarctica.  There are no toilets on the river requiring landing the boat and use of "the bush."
Trip Details
Multiple Departure Dates 2022
Fee: $8,995 from Cuiabá, Brazil
Deposit: $1,000
Limit: 8 participants
Activity Level: EasyEasy
Tour 1: Jun 16–28, 2022
Leaders: Mark Thomas & Paulo Boute
1 Space Available
Tour 2: Jun 30–July 12, 2022
Leaders: Mark Thomas & Paulo Boute
2 Spaces Available
Tour 3: Jul 13–25, 2022
Leaders: Mark Thomas & Paulo Boute
Tour 4: Jul 26–Aug 7, 2022
Leaders: Mark Thomas & Paulo Boute
2 Spaces Available
Tour 5: Aug 9–21, 2022
Leaders: Mark Thomas & Paulo Boute
1 Space Available
Tour 6: Aug 22–Sep 3, 2022
Leaders: Mark Thomas & Paulo Boute
  • Tour timed for Pantanal dry season dates—and the best possibility for spectacular jaguar images
  • Five full shooting days for jaguar photography with only 3 participants in each boat
  • Shoot a wider variety of accessible wildlife than any other location in Central and South America
  • Tour limited to a maximum of eight participants and two leaders
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Tour Leaders
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

Paulo Boute

Paulo Boute


This was an exceptional photo tour both in terms of excellent logistics and outstanding photography opportunities. The tour leaders were exemplary—extremely knowledgeable, personable, and incredibly helpful. They always put the client first and made sure we were in the ideal location for capturing the best images. The wildlife photography on the trip was simply incredible. What a terrific experience. Clearly one of the best photo tours I have ever taken.
—K. Kennedy

Mark Thomas and Paulo Boute are superb tour leaders who abound with enthusiasm for the adventure, share knowledge about all wildlife in the region, and provide individual attention to each client. Mark's photographic expertise, which he shares with the clients, maximizes the opportunity for successful photography. Paulo's knowledge of jaguar habitat and birdlife is extraordinary and maximizes understanding.
D. Wisler

I have travelled widely and frequently but have only recently begun to indulge my love for nature photography by utilizing photo workshops. On no other photo venture I’ve taken to date was I exposed to such a concise, wide-ranging, and well-presented body of photographic guidance and information as on this trip.
—B. Specker

Paulo Boute is an exceptional leader and highly knowledgeable about his country and culture…the photo opportunities were once-in-a-lifetime.
—J. Marmillo