Today's brand of dedicated wildlife holidays has, quite literally, opened up the world for nature enthusiasts to encounter a range of species in a more accessible and intimate way. While the experience may take you out of your comfort zone to unfamiliar and, in some cases, challenging or extreme environments, the opportunity to observe wild animals in their natural habitat is both fascinating and rewarding. |
An Encounter With a Big Cat
One of the popular wildlife holidays takes participants to the Brazilian Pantanal, to experience a sighting of the Jaguar. A Jaguar watching tour with an experienced, reputable operator gives you the very best opportunities to encounter this magnificent big cat, and to observe its beauty, grace, and unique behaviours within its natural context.
Visiting the Pantanal
When you travel as part of a guided wildlife tour, all the land travel arrangements, accommodation, and safety aspects will be taken care of, but in order to make the most of your Jaguar watching experience, you can do your part by ensuring you are fully prepared.
It's important that your clothing is comfortable and also provides protection against the sun, biting insects, and anything else a tropical wetland environment might throw at you.
The advice for travel outfits is always to layer – which gives you the most options – and the packing tips for when you’re heading to South America on a Jaguar watching tour are no different. Pack as lightly and practically as you can and choose multi-purpose, quick drying outfits where possible.
You should include several sleeveless tank tops; a couple of short sleeved t-shirts; one long-sleeved shirt or light sweatshirt; shorts, or a longer length skirt for women; and a pair of light coloured and lightweight trousers or cargo pants. In terms of footwear, bring a pair of flip-flops as well as some comfortable trainers or sports shoes suitable for walking.
While for the vast majority of the time during the prime wildlife watching months - between May and September - the weather is hot and sunny in the Pantanal, the occasional cold fronts bring with them unseasonable wind and rain, so it's advisable to pack an insulated waterproof jacket (one that folds down very small) and a beanie.
There will be plenty of opportunities to cool off in the safe swimming spots of the Pantanal (and you'll certainly want to), so bring a sensible swimsuit. You'll also need decent sunglasses, a broad brimmed hat with a chin cord (caps are not really practical as they can easily fly off and you'll be spending a lot of time in boats), and high-factor sunscreen.
It's a good idea to bring a small daypack to take with you on excursions, as well as a refillable water bottle and some effective insect repellent. While malaria is not a problem in the Pantanal, even in the dry season sometimes the insects can be persistent.
You don't need to bring any special equipment, a decent pair of professional standard binoculars can greatly enhance your wildlife watching experience. Look into brands like Leica, Zeiss or Swarovski, which are all known for their superior light-gathering technology. But don't invest in expensive binoculars and unpack them for the first time as you're just about to head out on an excursion; make sure you take some time to learn how to use all the 'on-board' features properly before you leave home in order to make the most of the technology.
If you're a nature enthusiast, a Jaguar watching tour to the spectacular Brazilian Pantanal has the potential to be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Pack lightly and sensibly, respect the land, its wildlife and its culture, and leave nothing but your footprints.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching in the Brazilian Pantanal region. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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