Professionally organised Jaguar tours to the vast jungle wetlands and rainforests of the Brazilian Pantanal offer the best chance to enjoy a privileged sighting of these solitary and secretive big cats in their most prolific natural habitat. |
The best Jaguar tours' itineraries include not only the opportunity to undertake excursions at different times of the day and night (in order to maximise the chance of sightings), but also take participants to the animal's different habitats – including swamps, savannah plains, dense rainforests, and out to explore the riverbanks by boat.
A Diverse Habitat
The big cat's home range, which, for a male, can stretch over an area as large as 54 square miles, often comprises a varied habitat. While they spend much of their time hunting in the dense tropical and sub-tropical rainforests that they favour, they are also quite happy in pampas grasslands, mountainous scrub, shrubby regions, swamps and marshlands, around rivers, and even in open terrain.
When not hunting, they like to make a den in which to rest or sleep. They like a soft underlay, so often use leaves, rotting trunks and other forest detritus to cover the ground.
Then and Now
A revered symbol throughout centuries of Native American culture, at one time the big cat roamed a far larger territory than it does today – from the most southerly point of South America right up to north of the Mexico/USA border. Today its habitat has shrunk dramatically, with the most significant populations to be found in the Amazon Basin and other remote areas of Central and South America.
In the USA, where the animal is protected under federal law, they have been sighted (very rarely) in parts of Texas, New Mexico and in the Cerro Colorado Mountains, in Arizona.
With high-profile conservation initiatives – like the Panthera organisation's 'wildlife corridor', which is being created in order to enable the big cat's genetic preservation and safe passage through the human landscape – steps are in place to restore vital areas of habitat.
The Brazilian Pantanal
The sprawling wetlands of the Pantanal are the largest in the world, encompassing some 75,000 square miles across several countries, including Brazil. Its hugely diverse eco-system supports a mind-boggling array of plant and animal species in an aquatic and terrestrial landscape – including the Jaguar. An apex predator, and one of the few feline species comfortable with swimming and hunting in water, the big cat plays a vital role in maintaining the balance of the eco-system by keeping down the populations of smaller species, both in and out of the water.
The Oncafari Project is an initiative that's aiming to habituate the big cats in this region in order to promote eco-tourism to aid in the conservation of such an important habitat. (Habituation does not involve any domestication of the animal, but aims to get them accustomed to the presence of tour vehicles.)
Jaguar tours to the Brazilian Pantanal bring wildlife lovers to the best place on Earth to see this much sought-after and highly elusive creature. Exploring their vast, diverse habitat – from dry savannahs and flooded marshlands to dense, deciduous rainforests and wildlife-rich rivers, streams and ponds – affords the opportunity for encounters with this majestic animal in both its land and aquatic habitat.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar tours 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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