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Pantanal Photography Tour - Wildlife, Birds, Jaguars

Brazil, South America

Pantanal photography tour © Greg Downing

On a special Pantanal photography tour, experience the best of Brazil’s diverse wildlife and unique habitat teeming with mammals, birds, and reptiles.

Photograph the World’s Largest Tropical Wetland

Home to hundreds upon hundreds of bird and wildlife species, each day in the Pantanal is different within an ecosystem that’s filled with diversity and animal activity. This Brazil wildlife tour takes place during the dry season, which is historically when birds are concentrated along the riverbanks and in locations where there is still standing water. Visiting the Pantanal during the dry season is also the best time to photograph jaguars in the wild.

Each day you will enjoy the natural sights and sounds of feeding frenzies in the wild as countless herons, ibis, storks, terns, screamers, and jacanas vie with dozens of hungry caiman. If you’ve never been to Brazil’s Pantanal before, it’s an incredible wildlife experience you will never forget!

Caimen with prey in the Pantanal © Greg Downing

Extend Your Experience for Even More Bird Photography

After the main Pantanal photography tour concludes, you have the option to extend your trip to visit a special ecolodge near Rio for even more bird photography. At the ecolodge you will experience the thrill of watching and photographing dozens of species of tanagers, toucans, hummingbirds, and more—the perfect ending to a wildlife and bird photographer’s dream come true.

Cuiaba river © Greg Downing

Travel with Experts on Your Pantanal Photography Tour

Expert Bird and Wildlife Photographer

NatureScapes.net Founder & President Greg Downing will be your Pantanal photography tour leader for this trip, guiding you along the way with your photography and actively helping you spot the best photo opportunities.

Knowledgeable and Accessible Bird Guide

You will also have an experienced bird guide traveling with your group, helping everyone locate and learn about the diverse bird species you will see that are located along the TransPantanal Highway, rivers, and wetlands.

Experienced Drivers in the Fastest Boats on the River

Carefully chosen and experienced boat drivers will position your group exactly where you need to be to find jaguars and achieve the best photography along the Pixaim River, Cuiabá River, and surrounding tributaries. For this photo tour you will relish in navigating via the fastest boats on the river, with a limit to 3 photographers per boat. This ensures you will have access to both sides of the boat at the same time, giving you freedom to move and get into position.

White-winged swallow © Greg Downing

Itinerary

Day 1, August 18
Arrival in Cuiabá, Brazil

Our representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel for the evening. Flights typically arrive in the evening.

Deville Prime Cuiabá (D)

“On my first visit I was astounded by the variety of bird life in the Pantanal—most of them extremely tame and approachable, especially by boat. This is the best place in the world to photograph a variety of kingfisher species at close range without any set-up.” –Greg Downing

Large-billed tern in flight © Greg Downing

Day 2–3, August 19–20
TransPantanal Highway; Boat Trips on the Pixaim River; Wildlife and Bird Photography

Traveling south along the TransPantanal highway will yield some truly amazing photo opportunities. Some sections of the highway are lined with thousands of caimans and waterbirds as far as the eye can see. Yellow-billed and large-billed terns flit over isolated pools, offering great chances to practice photographing birds in flight.

We’ll arrive at our first ecolodge for lunch. Boat trips on the Pixaim River are undoubtedly the highlight of staying at this lodge. Your experienced boat drivers know how to get up close and personal with numerous herons (with luck both agami and boat-billed among more common species), sunbittern, sungrebe, up to 5 species of kingfisher, giant otters, and maybe even a Brazilian tapir. The lodge area itself is an oasis full of birds any time of the day, and feeders bring in chestnut-eared aracari, orange-backed troupial, grayish saltator, grayish paywing, and others.

The gallery forest along the river is difficult for photography, but you may want to give it a shot since it offers an escape from the blazing sun! With persistence and the help of your guide, you can spot great birds like pale-crested woodpecker and helmeted manakin, or monkeys including brown capuchin and silvery marmoset. With so much diversity to photograph, this location is a great opportunity to check many species off of your “must-see” list!

Pantanal Ecolodge (B, L, D)

Kingfisher © Greg Downing

Day 4, August 21
Transpantal Highway; Jaguar Photography

This morning during our Pantanal photography tour we will drive to the end of the TransPantanal Highway, making a few stops along the way in areas with lots of activity. We’ll arrive at our very nice hotel just in time for lunch.

We will enjoy five nights here in the heart of the best place in the world to see jaguars in the wild. Afternoons are the best time to photograph jaguars, and we’ll have our first outing after lunch.

Pantanal Ecolodge/Hotel (B, L, D)

Jaguar walking, Brazil © Greg Downing

Days 5–8, August 22–25
Private Boat Excursions for Jaguar, Wildlife, and Bird Photography

Each morning and afternoon we will board our private boats searching for jaguars. We have the fastest boats on the river! There will be a maximum of 3 shooting participants per boat to ensure you have access to both sides at all times. This process involves cruising up smaller tributaries of the Cuiabá River and watching carefully for any movement or signs of jaguar. The boatmen are experts at this and share information with each other. If a cooperative jaguar is found by another boat, we’ll try to get to the spot as soon as possible.

We also won’t ignore other photo opportunities, and should encounter sungrebes, black-collared and great-black hawks, scores of herons and kingfishers, as well as giant otters, tapirs, capybara, and possibly even other cat species during this part of our Brazil wildlife tour.

Pantanal Ecolodge/Hotel (B, L, D)

Giant otter, Pantanal © Greg Downing

Day 9, August 26
Bird Photography

After one last search for jaguars, we head to another ecolodge at the northern edge of the Pantanal. This lodge is a truly amazing place for bird photography—numbers of both species and individuals can be astronomical, and the wide-open nature of the area makes great shots a given. The habitat is a mosaic of open pasture, wetlands, and scrub interspersed with islands of forest.

We will spend our time stalking southern screamer, plumbeous ibis, red-legged seriema, bare-faced curassow, greater rhea, whistling heron, blue-fronted parrot, long-tailed ground dove, great rufous woodcreeper, white woodpecker, and red-crested cardinal, to name just a few. This is also our best spot to photograph hyacinth macaw, which can be seen in good numbers every day. We’ll take our time trying to get perfect shots of these majestic birds.

Pantanal Ecolodge (B, L, D)

Hyacinth macaw © Greg Downing

Day 10, August 27
Bird Photography; Cuiabá

After breakfast you will enjoy a relaxing morning, reflecting on our trip together or getting those final bird portraits in. After lunch we’ll head back to Cuiabá, arriving in the late afternoon.

For those not participating in the optional extension you may arrange flights out of Cuiabá late this evening or opt to spend the night in Cuiabá and depart the next day.

Those wishing to extend to Três Picos will spend this night in Cuiabá.

Deville Prime Cuiabá or flight returning home (B, L, D)

Wattled jacanda on riverbank © Greg Downing

Day 11, August 28
Departure or Optional Extension

Those not extending to Três Picos State Park area will board their scheduled flight for home today.

Everyone participating in the optional extension will take a flight today to Rio and then a transfer to a very special ecolodge lodge nestled in a beautiful valley where we spend the next 3 nights. The cost of the flight from Cuiabá to Rio, as well as all meals and transportation, are all included in the extension.

Guira cuckoo © Greg Downing

Day 12–13, August 29–30
Bird Photography at Três Picos State Park

The lodge we will be staying at is located just 2½ hours from Rio de Janeiro within the Três Picos State Park, tucked away in its own beautiful 20 hector private valley at an altitude of 3,750ft (1,150m). Surrounded by forest, the lodge sits in a truly special location and has its own trails, providing you with the opportunity to see many bird species within a short distance.

Birds are abundant on and around the grounds of the ecolodge. Our primary focus will be on photographing “set-ups” at feeders, where we expect many species of tanagers, hummingbirds, toucans, and more. We also have the option for hiking excursions of all skill levels into the Atlantic Forest where you will seek out and photograph more elusive birds.

During the Brazilian winter months (May through September) the fruit feeding stations at the lodge are amazing! Regular birds that often visit the feeders include:

  • Brassy-breasted tanager
  • Ruby-crowned tanager
  • Burnished-buff tanager
  • Saffron toucanet
  • Blond-crested woodpecker
  • Maroon-bellied parakeet
  • Plain parakeet
  • Crested oropendola
  • Azure-shouldered tanager
  • Sayaca tanager
  • Magpie tanager
  • Golden-chevroned tanager
  • Gilt-edged tanager
  • Slaty-breasted wood-rail
  • Great kiskadee
  • Green-winged saltator
  • Blue dacnis
  • Black-goggled tanager
  • Bananaquit
  • Blue-naped chlorophonia
  • Rufous-bellied thrush
  • Pale-breasted thrush
  • Creamy-bellied thrush

The hummingbird feeders can also be very productive attracting regular visits from:

  • Scale-throated hermit
  • Violet-capped woodnymph
  • Brazilian ruby
  • Black jacobin
  • White-throated hummingbird
  • Sombre hummingbird
  • Versicoloured emerald

Ecolodge (B, L, D)

Southern lapwing © Greg Downing

Day 14, August 31
Bird Photography Três Picos State Park; Airport Transfers

After capturing our last few shots we will head to the Rio airport for flights home. If you wish to spend the night in Rio, you may arrange that as an option and depart the next day.

Includes

  • All accommodations, based on double occupancy (single supplements are available and cost an additional $385 for the main tour, $215 for the extension)
  • All meals from dinner on August 18 to breakfast on August 31 (for those extending)
  • Up to 10 separate outings on private boats looking for jaguar, with a maximum of 3 participants per boat (boat is designed for up to 8 with driver)
  • Services of guides
  • All photographic instruction
  • Airport transfers to and from hotels
  • The flight to Rio is included for those who opt for the tour extension

Does Not Include

  • Round trip airfare to Cuiabá, Brazil or leaving Rio for those who opt into the extension
  • Fees for passport, immunizations, and travel insurance
  • Visas (Visas are required for U.S., Canadian, and Australian citizens)
  • Airport taxes
  • Alcoholic beverages or soft drinks while on the boat
  • Laundry, phone, and other items of a personal nature
  • Tips for the bus and boat drivers, lodge staff, and birding guide (may be arranged in advance)

Capybara portrait © Greg Downing

Why We Don’t List Specific Lodges

By selecting NatureScapes.net as your photo tour company, you can trust that Greg has personally chosen each location for specific reasons and has secured lodge bookings far in advance for your group. With more than 15 years of experience traveling the world hosting photo workshops and tours, Greg knows exactly what accommodations photographers expect for the perfect photo tour experience.

We do not list the lodges by name because locations are sensitive, and we’ve worked hard to keep them exclusive for our photography tours. For that reason we do not disclose specific lodges until we receive your tour registration form and deposit.


If you are registering for this trip, please email us at editors@naturescapes.net after you submit your registration form and indicate whether or not you wish to include the extension. The extension to the Três Picos State Park area is limited to 8 participants.

If you would like to register for this workshop, please fill out our registration form. A non-refundable deposit (listed above) is required to reserve your spot. Please refer to our workshop information section for our cancellation and refund policies.

Workshop Information
  • Dates: Aug. 18-28, 2018 (2 openings)
  • Cost: $6,995
  • Deposit: $1,250
  • Participants: 10
Extension August 28–31, 2018: $2,495; limited to 8 participants
Single Supplement: $385 main trip; $215 extension
The single supplement fee reflects our actual cost and is subject to availability. If you are a single traveler and we are unable to place you with a roommate, you will be placed in a single room and charged the single supplement fee.
Leader

Greg Downing

Greg Downing

Greg has been traveling the world teaching professional and amateur photographers for more than 15 years hosting his instructional workshops and seminars. Instructing photographers of all experience levels Greg has earned a reputation for his gracious and generous teaching style.

Greg’s images are known for their unique style, exacting composition and strict attention to detail. Continue reading »