The Pantanal

Hyacinth macaws. (Click to enlarge.)

If you’re only vaguely familiar with the Pantanal region of Brazil, that’s understandable—it’s been a tourist destination for less than 15 years. Ricardo Casarin, the guide assigned to us for the Pantanal portion of the trip, told us that the region was originally known for its great sport-fishing, and then in about 2006, fishermen started reported seeing jaguars—jaguars!—along the river banks. There aren’t too many places where you can see those in the wild. Word spread, tourism grew, and today if you Google “Pantanal jaguar tours,” you’ll find plenty of tour operators eager to take you out on the rivers to find the big cats.

National Geographic has a good overview article on the Pantanal, which it calls “Brazil’s best-kept secret.” The Pantanal is an enormous wetland, 10 times the size of Florida’s Everglades. It floods in the rainy season, and most people visit in the dry season—roughly May through September—when it’s more marshy and more accessible. Plus, when the water recedes in the dry season, the wading birds and other wetlands species crowd into the water that remains, which makes the wildlife really concentrated and Read more

Travel Day

We packed up and left Ecolodge Itororó around 6 o’clock on Sunday morning, July 8, and it wasn’t until late Monday afternoon that we were holding cameras in our hands again and photographing wildlife. It was only 36 hours or so, but it felt like forever.

The first part of our trip was clustered around the pins near the Atlantic coast; the second part, nearly 1,000 miles inland. (Click to enlarge.)

The Glenn Bartley workshop is somewhat distinctive among Brazil photo workshops, in that it offers four days of shooting in the Atlantic Forest followed by six days in the Pantanal. That was part of what appealed to me about the trip; many other trips focus entirely on the Pantanal. But Brazil is a big country, and getting from the Atlantic Forest to the Pantanal makes a travel day inevitable. You can see from the Google Map I created for myself for the trip that there’s a big gap between the two regions—they’re about 1,000 miles apart.

So a van picked us up at Itororó and drove us to the domestic airport in Rio de Janeiro, about two hours away. There, we took a GOL Airlines flight to Brasilia, and, after a layover, another GOL flight from Brasilia to Cuiabá—a city of nearly 600,000 people that is essentially the gateway to the Pantanal region.

Andy Foster, Glenn’s co-leader, was invaluable in many ways throughout the trip, and especially so as Read more

Two Weeks in Brazil

In late June I went to Brazil for two and a half weeks to do nature photography, focusing mostly on birds but also some other wildlife. I spent the first half of the trip in an area called the Atlantic Forest, and the second half in the Pantanal, an enormous wetland that’s home not only to hundreds of bird species but to jaguars as well. In fact it’s one of the few places where you can see jaguars in the wild. Anyway, I thought I’d share with you a more or less day-by-day account of the trip.

I signed up a year ago for the trip, a photography workshop offered by Glenn Bartley. Soon after, I heard that my friends Elizabeth and Steve—whom I met on a photography workshop on St. Paul Island last summer—had signed up for the Brazil trip too. And not long after that, Elizabeth asked if I’d be interested in joining them in going down a few days early to do some shooting on our own. Before I knew it, I had signed on for a total of 18 days in Brazil. Read more

Brazil!

While I’m pretty pumped about hosting the Alumni Association’s trip to Antarctica next January, I’m also in the beginning stages of salivating over a vacation I’m planning for next July: to Brazil. I’m signed up for a photography trip to the Pantanal region with Glenn Bartley Nature Photography.

The Pantanal is a ginormous wetland area—like Florida’s Everglades, but 10 times bigger. And it’s teeming with wildlife, including caiman (similar to crocodiles), anteaters, monkeys, and giant river otters. You’re also almost guaranteed to see capybara—the world’s largest, and perhaps cutest, rodent:

Capybara. Photo by Dagget2.

The Pantanal is also one of the few places left where you can see jaguars—and, for many visitors, that’s the main draw.

Jaguar. Photo by Dagget2.

But what interests me most are the birds: hyacinth macaws, spot-billed toucanets, jabiru storks, several kinds of kingfishers, tanagers, and more. To spend the better part of two weeks photographing all of that is my idea of the perfect vacation.

To get an idea of the beauty of Brazil’s birds, Read more