The Phantom and the Wetlands - Wildlife Photography Tour
The Pantanal, Brazil The Pantanal, Brazil The Pantanal, Brazil The Pantanal, Brazil

The Pantanal, Brazil
23 September to 3 October 2017
Bookings Closed: Please note that bookings for this Tour have been closed. Please get in touch with us if you have questions.


  • An utterly invigorating excursion into one of the greatest tropical wetlands of the planet
  • A fabulous opportunity to see and photograph the otherwise elusive top-cat, the jaguar
  • A plethora of interesting subjects encompassing mammals, reptiles and magnificent birds
  • An unforgettable experience of visiting a unique and invaluable ecosystem
  • Extensive on-field photography assistance and off-field learning with Skipper Jayanth Sharma
  • A wealth of natural history revelation and an array of captivating events and experiences

This is a Toehold Special

You peel your eyes. You ache to see form in every dark recess. You scan each break in the foliage. You vie for that fleeting glimpse; that quivering look; that obscure form.

But as the boat drifts ahead, strutting out in the open like a ruler and not skulking in the shadows like a ghost is a phantom who has shed his invisibility cloak to reveal his rosetted raiment.

You've opened your eyes to the jaguar and your heart to its greatest wetland home - the Pantanal.

How is it?

In the heart of South America, imagine one of the planet's largest wetlands, sprawled over at least 140,000km2 in three countries, and you begin to get a picture of the Pantanal. A basin that is a result of the depression of the earth's crust, it constitutes an epic river delta that will ward away your depression with its wealth of unique wildlife.

The world may regard the Amazon as a great wilderness, but for those with wildlife at heart and camera in hand, the Pantanal has emerged in recent times as a destination second to none.

Hundreds of species of birds, butterflies, flowers, fish and mammals constitute this precious paradise. Flora are rich, with around 3500 plant species inhabiting the 'complex', and the forests are moist tropical Amazonian and semiarid woodland, and grasslands covering the areas of seasonal flood.

Inarguably, though, the prime attraction of this paradise is the apex predator, who, in all his felinity, is that intoxicating mélange of power, beauty and grace that has inspired an array of consumer products from bathroom fittings to luxury car marquees.

The jaguar was born to dominate your psyche. A solitary predator that enjoys swimming, hunting and biting - for its jaws are twice as powerful as a lion's — this star of many an ancient Mayan myth is quite literally armed to the teeth. With the looks of a leopard and the habits of a tiger, it commands fandom and elicits total fascination. And in the Pantanal, it comes in size XL as standard.

At 160kg, a male can weigh as much as a lioness, and easily trounce its forest counterpart, which is decidedly smaller. All that stockiness helps because the jaguar is a heavy diner, preferring to fetch its meat from the mart wholesale, and to that end routinely wrestling down big prey that is on the wrong side of 300kg.

While deer, tapir, and capybara — the world's biggest rodent — are fair game, even the caiman and the mighty anaconda might not escape ending up on the jaguar's spread if it sets its eyes on them. With a unique killing technique of puncturing the victim's brain with its lethal fangs, the jaguar packs quite a crack in its jaws and an inescapable magnetism in its eyes that is well worth flying miles to see.

What you will see and photograph:

There is one of two things you can do in your lifetime — see a jaguar on the riverside from a boat or not see a jaguar on the riverside from a boat. If you prefer the first option, which is the one we'd recommend, the Pantanal is arguably the best place in the world to do it.

Big, beautiful and deadly, the jaguar is an embodiment of elusive charisma. Here are six of its stellar attributes you must know.

Although the Pantanal is submerged underwater for most of the year, in the dry season starting June, with all the cat lovers in the same boat, a glimpse of the 'Tiger of the Americas' can get you doing a samba. But this is far from a one-dimensional quest for the protagonist, and rather a spirited pursuit for the multi-hued riches of the Pantanal wetlands.

And so you are likely to experience photographic satisfaction from eclectic sources, including at least seven species of mammals, two varieties of reptiles and virtually countless species of birds.

Around the swamps if you smell a rat, it must be a capybara, the world's largest living rodent. Looking like the fruition of a quirky amorous liaison between a swine and a marmot, these gregarious creatures, otherwise closely related to guinea pigs, can be seen in groups of up to 20 when they're not hiding from predators underwater, which they can do for up to five minutes at a stretch. Apparently they seem to like nothing as much as a relaxing swim in the water, because they're also perfectly capable of doing the one thing you'd never want to do during a swim — snoozing!

South America's second largest land mammal is no less an object of intrigue. The South American tapir, which can live up to 30 years if a jaguar doesn't bite its lifespan short, looks like a developing elephant nipped in the bud and finished with the ears of a hippopotamus. But all comparison ends there, as this precious species inhabits an altogether different continent, fighting its vulnerability to extinction.

The endangered giant river otter brings up the trio of glossy-brown-coated mammals sporting a predilection for aquatics, with the added distinction of being the longest weasel. And perhaps because it haunts the Amazon River and the Pantanal with unique vocalizations, it is known by a variety of imaginative names, among which 'River Wolf' and 'Water Dog' are chief, but when 'periscoping' in the midst of a fishing hunt, it most closely resembles a limited aquatic edition of a meerkat!

Reptilian attractions are not trivial in the very least. While anacondas, who can swallow down prey as big as marsh deer and as unwieldy as caiman, are seen in the swamps, the caiman themselves are material for intriguing observation and rewarding photography, as they lie close to water hyacinth or on a stunted tree stump looking like living fossils.

And then there are the lovely birds that are known to have roughly the same effect on man as trance music. Toucans, with their garden-scissors-sized beaks and beautifully coloured eyes and necks, the astounding red-and-green macaws and hyacinth macaws in their resplendent plumes, and the Amazon kingfisher lead the 'aero show', while the sight of a jabiru stork tending to her young on the nest in the midst of sensational baby-pink piuva flowers provides the kind of moments that life is worth living for.

But the weirdest of them all is the giant anteater — the largest species of anteater anywhere in the world, the best chance to see which lies on the optional pre-Tour extension to Bonito. Although its diet is composed of the minuscule creatures that ants and termites are, it can grow up to seven feet in length, and is one of the few mammals with absolutely no teeth, for the simple reason that it doesn't need any. Its peculiar looks, however, are bound to yield images with a cutting bite!

Finally, the showcase species, the capuchin and howler monkeys, ensure that touring a place with lofty expectations was truly never so justified.



At Toehold, we are passionate about photography just as you are, which lets us understand your travails and needs perfectly. And we use this insight to specially design our Photography Tours so they give you a toehold to excel at the art and set you up for success.

The Toehold team at your disposal will keep you tuned and geared, so you come in empty-handed but go out with bagful of images and tales of an experience that is better lived than heard.

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Please note: The Jaguar Expedition commences at Cuiabá on the morning of 24 September 2017, and end at the same place on 3 October. Participants are advised to arrive in Brazil at Sao Paulo on 23 September, stay overnight and take a morning flight on 24 September to Cuiabá. Participants from India are advised to take the Emirates flight arriving on 23 September, and book a room in the Bristol hotel for that night's stay.

Entry into Brazil requires a valid visa. Please get in touch with us well in advance to have your visa application for the Tour processed.


  •   DAY 1    24 September 2017, Sunday: Anteaters in Bonito

    Domestic Flight: Azul Brazilian Airlines AD-2912 (GRU — CGR) departure 09:15 (arrival 09:55)

    We recommend you take the Azul Brazilian Airlines flight AD-2912 departing Sao Paulo (GRU) at 09:15 and arriving in Campo Grandé (CGR) at 09:55.

    Upon arrival, we are greeted by our trusted guide, who is extremely experienced and has a wealth of knowledge on reptiles, birds and the coveted jaguar. We drive to reach Bonito, a small town famous for its blue waters, and check in to our hotel. In the evening, we pursue giant anteaters and hopefully enjoy some wonderful photographic opportunities with these unique creatures.

    In the evening we enjoy the first of many interactive sessions from the Skipper before dining and retiring for the night.

  •   DAY 2    25 September, Monday: Sinkhole Photography and Optional Floating Tour

    In the morning we explore a nearby sinkhole and spend a generous amount of time enjoying photography around its surroundings. A sinkhole is a natural depression in the earth formed by a chemical phenomenon. The sinkhole we will visit is a great place to photograph macaws, especially, various perspectives of which can be made at this picturesque location.

    After 11 in the morning we then take a floating tour (optional) of Rio da Prata which is a fantastic excursion on a river, where we float using snorkels for four kilometers amidst plenty of beautiful fish and other underwater creatures. Swimming is a mandatory skill to complete this tour and this is an optional excursion. Participants can spend time at the sinkhole or at the hotel if they are not interested in the floating tour.

    In the evening, we return to the domain of the giant anteaters to better our images of them.

  •   DAY 3    26 September, Tuesday: Morning Macaws and Transfer to and Overnight in Cuiabá

    Following another hopefully productive session photographing macaws, we drive to Campo Grandé, and take the 22:15 flight to Cuiabá (CGB; please see below for flight details). Overnight in hotel.

    Domestic Flight: Azul Brazilian Airlines AD-2852 (CGR — CGB) departure 22:15 (arrival 23:24)


  •   DAY 4    27 September, Wednesday: Transfer to and Overnight on the Pixaim

    Leaving early in the morning, we drive to Southwest Pantanal. We spend the day around the incredibly located lodge looking for toucans, anaconda, hyacinth macaw, Amazon and giant kingfishers, hawks and the jabiru stork, before retiring overnight in the lodge. This evening we get a final opportunity to capture some stunning sunset and back-lit images of the birds and caiman in the Pixaim as we set on smaller boats for a short boat ride in the evening.

  •   DAY 5    28 September, Thursday: All Day on the Pixaim

    We spent the entire day exploring the wildlife of the Pixaim. Between the field sessions we enjoy highly illuminating sessions on natural history and photography from the Skipper, enabling ourselves to make the most of our photography.


  •   DAY 6    29 September, Friday: Boat Safaris to Sight and Photograph Jaguars

    After breakfast we board the safari boat, and venture through the curvy river, making our way to the flotel close to the heart of jaguar land which will be our home for the next four nights. A flotel is a 'floating hotel' — essentially living quarters built on top of rafts that float over water, decidedly a most romantic hideout on a trip to the Pantanal.

    Then we set out on our maiden boat safari, looking for jaguars. Small speed boats are the best way to explore and photograph in the narrow waterways of the Pantanal. Being completely open, they are ideal for photography and seating only three participants in each boat, we ensure everybody has ample room for storing their equipment as well as positioning themselves in the right angle for a photograph.

    Smooth-sailing in the shallow waters, we acquaint ourselves with the unique habitat and look for subjects to photograph in the ecosystem. Early luck can produce the coveted sight of a jaguar but even otherwise, there is plenty to keep you occupied.

    Upon our return from the safari, we dine and retire overnight in the flotel.

  •   DAYS 7 TO 9    30 September to 2 October, Saturday to Monday: Boat Safaris and Overnight Stay in Flotel

    For three more magical days, we enjoy day-long boat safaris, giving ourselves thereby the maximum chance to bag memorable experiences and make images of jaguars, chiefly, and all the other attractions, including caiman, capybara and the bounteous avian life.

    Both mornings we leave after breakfast at around 7:00, and stay out on safari all day, coming back for a short lunch break or carrying packed lunch for the afternoon to keep us going.

    In the evenings, Skipper Jayanth Sharma will chair fascinating and highly interactive sessions of ChaayaaChitra
    ChaayaaChitra: Photography Techniques, Tips, Tricks
    , ChitraTantra
    ChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critique
    and Charchaaloka
    Charchaaloka: Presentations, Lectures, Discussions
    which are designed to be extremely informative, engaging, inspiring and an awful lot of fun. Participants get to learn a wealth of photography and natural history during these talks and can glean highly useful tips and techniques that can then be put to use during the next day's shoot.

    A scrumptious buffet dinner will be spread out each night to augur well for a good night's rest, so we may rejuvenate ourselves for a full day's adventure and photography ahead.

  •   DAY 10    3 October, Tuesday: Morning Boat Safari and Transfer to Sao Paulo via Cuiabá

    After an early-morning boat safari as a final attempt at finding jaguars, we lunch and are transferred to Cuiabá by road, whence we fly to Sao Paulo.

    Domestic Flight: Azul Brazilian Airlines AD-5155 (CGB - CGR); departure 16:07 (arrival 19:10)

    We recommend participants travelling from India to take the Emirates flight which departs for Dubai at 01:25 on 4 September, Wednesday. Participants will have a layover of about six hours in Sao Paulo to connect to this flight.

USD 6,240*
5% GST Extra
Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
USD 12,250*
5% GST Extra
Per Couple on Twin Share Accommodation
Toehold Patrons
USD 6,030*
5% GST Extra
Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
Toehold Patrons: Customers who have participated in at least three previous Toehold Photo Tours

* Exchange rates listed here as on the date of payment will apply. Additional bank charges may be payable at actuals.

  • Twin-sharing accommodation in comfortable lodges
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and hot beverages (coffee and tea)
  • All transfers within Brazil except domestic flights
  • Visa invitation and registration
  • Permits and photography fees
  • All airfare, for both international and domestic flights
  • Stay in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro while transiting to Pantanal
  • Any kind of personal expenses or optional tours, extra meals and beverages ordered
  • Insurance, laundry and phone calls
  • Bottled water and soft drinks
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • All applicable taxes
  • Anything that is not included in the Inclusions list
Payment Terms
  • USD 1500 booking amount (non-refundable)
  • USD 3000 before 25 March 2017
  • Remainder before 25 June 2017

  • All figures per person.
Cancellation Fees
  • USD 1500 on or before 25 March 2017
  • 50% between 26 March and 30 June 2017
  • 100% on or after 1 July 2017

Please note: The date of written (email) communication of intent to cancel is the date considered for calculation of the cancellation fees.

Terms and Conditions

  1. Participants who have a medical history of blood pressure, heart-related problems or asthma are advised to seek medical advice before enrolling for this Tour.
  2. Fitness to complete the Tour is the only criterion for participation.
  3. Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt Ltd. shall not be responsible for injuries, damages, or losses caused to any traveller in connection with terrorist activities, social or labour unrest, mechanical or construction failures or difficulties, diseases, local laws, climatic conditions, abnormal conditions or developments, or any other actions, omissions, or conditions outside the travel partner's control.
  4. All clients travelling with Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt Ltd. must complete and sign a reservation form and the "Release of Liability, Assumption of Risk & Arbitration Agreement" form.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the requisites to participate in this Tour?

    Apart from interest, a valid visa and related documents, and a minimum level of fitness are essential. Visa assistance will be provided.

  • I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?

    Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away! However, in order to make the most of the Tour photographically, we recommend that you be familiar with photography fundamentals. If you're not, we suggest you join a Art and Science of Photography Workshop before the Tour.

  • By what mode or modes will we explore the Pantanal?

    We will go around in the Pantanal by boat, by motor vehicle, on foot and optionally, even by horseback.

  • How sure are you about photographing wildlife on this Tour?

    Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. The Pantanal is a great place to photograph the elusive jaguar and an array of other species but since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings are guaranteed.

  • What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?

    For birds, a lens with a focal length of around 400mm is essential. For mammals, a telephoto zoom lens in the range of 100 to 400mm works very well but since a lot of the photography will take place from a boat, a longer focal length can come in handy as well. A wide-angle or normal zoom to capture landscapes or creative perspectives of wildlife is recommended, along with a macro lens if possible for closeup flora work. An image-stabilized lens and a camera body that performs well at high sensitivities are boons since light conditions can often be challenging and a great deal of photography will take place from a boat. However, if you do not have appropriate equipment, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras and lenses for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Click here to see what we offer.

  • How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?

    Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven't experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge-sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed.

© - All Text, Photographs, Videos and Narrations are properties of Toehold Travel & Photography Private Limited.


The Pantanal, Brazil


  • Date: 23 September to 3 October 2017

  • Tour Cost:
    USD 6,240 + 5% GST
    Per person

    USD 12,490 12,250 + 5% GST
    Per couple

    Toehold Patrons
    USD 6,030 + 5% GST
    Per person

    All fares excluding flights

  • Skipper: Jayanth Sharma


Did you know? Photography enthusiasts joining this Tour and every other Toehold Photography Tour are eligible for a nett discount of 10% on all equipment rentals. Talk to us to avail of this offer!


We accept all major credit and debit cards.