Birds, River Otters, and More

We saw much more than just jaguars on our boat trips on the Cuiabá River. We also saw plenty of birds, of course; more on those later. And lots of caimans, which are Central and South America’s version of the alligator. For those really into the nerdy details, the ones we saw in the Pantanal were spectacled caimans, while the ones we had seen back in the Atlantic Forest were broad-snouted caimans.

Occasionally we’d pass a capybara, or a family of capybaras, along the shore—capybaras are the world’s largest rodent, weighing up to 150 pounds or more, and they have a cuteness factor that’s hard to beat. They’re found only in Central and South America.

A cocoi heron with a fresh-caught catfish.

As for birds, well, they were everywhere. We saw the three main species of Pantanal kingfishers—Amazon, green, and ringed—and Ricardo got a glimpse of a green-and-rufous kingfisher, but our efforts to track it down were interrupted when the boat driver got word of a jaguar sighting. Wading birds were especially common; we saw many cocoi herons (they look vaguely similar to the great blue herons we see in North America), striated herons, and rufescent tiger herons, along with a capped heron. There were great egrets, too, but we pretty much ignored them because they’re so common in North America. Same with anhingas: We’d see one on a tree branch along the river and we’d just keep on going. Neotropic cormorants were too ubiquitous to get excited about, either. Read more

Jaguar Watching

After spending our first two days in the Pantanal roaming around grassy fields and wetlands, we moved on to Porto Jofre, where the southern end of the Transpantaneira Highway meets the Cuiabá River—and there we spent the better part of two days on boats on the river.

My room at Porto Jofre. Four beds to choose from!

Wikipedia describes Porto Jofre as a “settlement,” which I guess is a few notches below a town or village. In an earlier post, I explained that the area once was primarily a destination for sport-fishing, and then about 12 years ago fishermen started seeing jaguars along the river; today, the jaguars are the big attraction. We stayed in a place that apparently got its start as a fishing camp, as evidenced by the accommodations: Each room had a barracks-like collection of four single beds in a row.

The routine at Porto Jofre was pretty straightforward: Get up around 4:30 am, breakfast at 5, pull your gear together and head to the dock by 6:15, get into the boats and go. We’d spend most of the morning Read more