Pantanal: Day Five

Day Five: Cabin Fever Sets In

      We resumed our regular 5:30 AM wake-up today and the big question of the day was, “Will we see another jaguar?” The morning started off a little cool as the sun was behind some clouds. After a while whizzing around on the motorboat, it became clear there also weren´t a lot of creatures out. I was getting tired of being on the boat and wished we could get out and do some hiking. No such luck.   This made me wonder about explorers and pirates back in the olden days. How did they spend months and months on a boat without any exercise? It is definitely not something I´m used to doing.

Rays of sun burst through the clouds in the early morning light
Rays of sun burst through the clouds in the early morning light

Lots of water, not a lot of animals
Lots of water, not a lot of animals
Amazon Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher
Preening
Preening
Cocoi Heron in flight
Cocoi Heron in flight

The most exciting spotting of the morning was a family of river otters playing on the bank of the larger Paraguay river.   I actually spotted them. Well, to be fair, I only saw a black object splash into the water and it turned out to be one of the few large animals we hadn´t seen yet: the giant river otter. Douglas is actually an expert in river otters as well as birds, so as soon as we pulled over to photograph them, he and Vagno began making all of these ridiculous sounding otter calls. They must have been dead on, though, because several more otters emerged from their den up on the hill and joined the others in the water. The otters were probably some of the strangest looking things I´d ever seen. They looked a bit like seals but with razor sharp teeth. And they were long and black and slithered around much like an eel would. They also had this amphibious layer over their eyes, which made them look blind. Douglas said it is protection for their eyes so they can see fish in the river. We watched the otters play in the water for a bit and they were really putting on a show for us. They scrambled up the sand dunes and then barreled their way back into the river, peeking their heads up behind the water hyacinth every so often, so we would know they were there. I truly think they were playing hide and seek with us. They were fascinating!

river otters at play
river otters at play
shaking the water off of himself
shaking the water off of himself
The look says it all!
The look says it all!
Swimming around
Swimming around
Hamming it up for the cameras
Hamming it up for the cameras
River Otter sliding down the bank into the water
River Otter sliding down the bank into the water
Playing hide and seek
Playing hide and seek

On the way back to the boat we also stopped to pick up the night camera that Douglas had left underneath the wood stork rookery. When they emerged from the brush the camera was absolutely caked in bird shit. So much so, that the camera was completely unrecognizable. While we were waiting for lunch we downloaded the pictures from the camera. There were only ten, but in the last picture it was clear that a jaguar had indeed, been under the rookery at 10:10 PM the night of the 14th, which seemed very exciting to all the crew on board. The image of the jaguar in the night camera gave me the chills.

Douglas retrieves the night camera
Douglas retrieves the night camera
night camera caked in bird poop
night camera caked in bird poop
Jaguar captured on the night camera
Jaguar captured on the night camera

However, lunch was extremely delicious and made me forget all about the eerie outline of the jungle cat captured on the camera. We have actually eaten very well on the boat which means I´ve definitely not lost any weight, like I was anticipating. Douglas grilled up some beef ribs with some of his homemade bbq sauce (including liquid smoke imported from the United States) and I ate my fill. Douglas´s philosophy is, he eats well at home, so why shouldn´t he eat well on the boat? I guess I agreed with that philosophy so I ate so many ribs that I actually felt quite ill and had to lie down and take a nap after lunch. After the meal, Jon stayed upstairs with Douglas going through all of his pictures and classifying the animals. They decided that it would be Jon´s new goal to document 100 different species on the trip and Douglas was going to help him do that.

Our cook takes the afternoon off while we dine on ribs
Our cook takes the afternoon off while we dine on ribs

So, during our afternoon boat ride we were looking for jaguar, but really trying to find other species of birds that were new to add to our species count. My favorite was the toco toucan, which somehow Jon spotted high up in the trees. I´ve decided that I´m not really a great wildlife spotter. If we haven´t seen anything in more than 10 minutes I tend to close my eyes, relax, and let my mind wander. It was at this point after being on the motorboat for over an hour without any exciting wildlife sightings that I decided I´d had enough of being on water. Before the afternoon ride I slipped while getting in the boat and seriously banged my shin, which almost led to a total meltdown, but I kept it in check. Only two more days, I thought. But I guess I shouldn´t complain though- good food, relaxing boat rides, wildlife I´d never even dreamed of seeing… plus Jon is really enjoying himself. Snapping away with his camera, he is truly in his element.   It has been a joy to be here with Douglas who goes out of his way to point out new species to both of us and to help Jon figure out his expensive new camera, which happens to be exactly the same as his. Douglas is a professional photographer, so I´m glad that Jon is getting some lessons. I could definitely see him becoming quite the wildlife photographer in our future travels. He definitely has the patience for it.

Jon: wildlife photographer extraordinaire
Jon: wildlife photographer extraordinaire
Eli- not the greatest wildlife explorer
Eli- not the greatest wildlife explorer
Anhinga in the wild
Anhinga in the wild
A cocoi heron struts his stuff
A cocoi heron struts his stuff
Toco Toucan
Toco Toucan

During dinner at the end of the day we lamented that we didn´t see another jaguar and, actually, I noted that there wasn´t a lot of wildlife out and about in general.   But Jon seemed to be happy enough with all of the birds and mentioned several times how sad he was that our big boat had started the long journey back to Caceres. I realized that I had absolutely nothing to complain about, except some seriously swollen feet. Not sure what´s going on with that, but perhaps tomorrow I will wear compression socks and really complete the wildlife nerd look.

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