Jaguar photography in Pantanal is truly a unique experience. It differs a lot from from photographing Africa’s big cats. In comparison, jaguars are very active during the day. During many of our jaguar photography tours, we have seen many different behaviors during the day.
Although the northern Pantanal has the highest density of jaguars in the world, we recommend patience and dedication. To search for jaguars is not easy, jaguars blend into the environment perffrectly. An experienced guide is very important to increase the rate of success on finding jaguars and photographing them. We discovered early on that exploring by boat is the optimal way to approach jaguars due to its quiet nature.
An experienced guide is the succesfactor during a jaguar safari. Understanding the jaguar and anticipating its behavior is key. Active scanning, interpreting behaviour and anticipating what could happen makes the difference between a regular image or THE Shot of a lifetime!
Patience is the second factor of a successful strategy for great jaguar images. Many operators stay only a short while at a jaguar sighting or leave when another sighting is called over the radio. Occasionally, we go to another sighting but in most instances we decide to wait for by a single jaguar we spotted in the brush. All boats are gone to look for other jaguars or go back to the lodge for lunch, but we end up with action shots by simply waiting. Our experience proves that patience pays off.
Between mid-may and November is the best time to photograph jaguars in the Pantanal. The dryseason start from mid-may. The water level drops significantly and the temperatures during the day are hot (30C-43C). The low water level and high temperatures attract jaguars to the rivers to drink, cool off and hunt the wildlife gathered there.
The whole dryseason (mid-may till november) is great for jaguar photography. Each month shows a slightly different facet to the experience. The month of June is early in the season, which means there are very few boats on the river. In June, many jaguars return to the prime hunting grounds when the water level is getting low again. In june there is also an abundance of caiman, and the chance of seeing jaguars hunt caiman in the open is much higher compared to other months.
September, October and early november are great due to the rising of the temperaturs during the day. The rise of temperature forces the wildlife to spend more time drinking or cooling down near the water. From mid October visitors may experience interesting and different weather situations and have a more private experience around jaguar sightings.
What gear is best to use depends on your objectives on how to potrait the jaguar and its habitat. However from our experience guiding (pro) photographers for over 13+ years including Steve Winter, Berty Gregory and many other professional photographers we learned the following set-up is mostly used.
2 camera bodies, one equiped with a zoom lens 70-200mm, and the other camera body with a prime lens such as a 400mm f2.8, 500mm f4 or 600mm f4.
Other lenses such as 200-400 or 100-400 are very versatile and great for use in Pantanal as well. Ofcourse the lower the F-stop number the better for low light conditions and creating nice Bokeh backgrounds.
For a prime lens I personally would lean towards either a 400mm or 500mm lens. For very intimate head poitraits use a 1.4 or 2.x extender. A 600mm is quite heavy and in many occasions to close when wanting to frame the jaguar whole.
Other gear which is important to bring are:
We stay at lodges located at Porto Jofre, which wildlife experts agree forms the best spot in the world to see jaguars.
Find out about our Pantanal safaris: