Octavio Salles Photography

Photo Tours in Brazil

Posts Tagged ‘Pantanal’

Jaguar Photo Tour announcement

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 3 de October de 2010

Jaguars of Brazil Photo Tour
September 25 to October 04, 2011
Limited to 10 participants

Join me on this very special photo tour to photograph one of the most elusive big cats in the world, the jaguar. Our destination will be the incredibly wildlife-rich Northern Pantanal, at the Meeting of the Waters State Park, a place growing in popularity today as, hands down, the most dependable place on Earth to see a wild jaguar. As a matter of fact we will very probably encounter several of these almost mythical cats.

Most jaguars are found at rivers shores, either resting or hunting. During a recent scouting trip our only one boat on this trip found 7 jaguars in only 3 1/2 days, photographing 5 of them in different situations/scenery. The most time we spent on a cat was around 3 hours (!!) and we really only left because it was getting dark. Average time with a cat varies a lot, but I’d say an average of 30 minutes to an hour. So what that means? Bring lots of memory cards! LOL

The greatest difference from my photo tour to a few others you will find out there to the same region is, basically, the structure I use. I am a professional photographer and I know the needs of a photographer, but I am also a brazilian, with years of experience in the Pantanal and a naturalist guide. I don’t need a second local guide to tell me what I’m looking at. I know all the birds and the mammals. I am familiar with the environment and I know that there are options. Lets make it clear: all other photo tours are organized by outsiders, people who, despite having good intentions, have been here maybe a few times at best and they don’t know the language nor the options.

But I know there are better options than what they use, is just a matter of planning and knowing where to look. My accomodations are infinitely better – clean spacious rooms with air conditioning, hot private shower, free internet access, great food, cozy living rooms and dining area and even a pool for that midday heat relief. And, most importantly, my boats are years ahead of what they use. I mean, these are stable, 19′ center console boats with good inside space to set the tripods and shoot freely from both sides of the boat without the constant fear of over $15,000 worth of gear falling overboard. Also, we are having a max of 2 photographers per boat (plus a jaguar-experienced boat captain), not 3.

Like the competition, our boats also have radios to communicate of a jaguar sigthing to other boats of the group, thus increasing the odds of everyone, but unlike the competition our boats are equipped with very fast 115hp engines, which means all the difference between getting to the action quickly or spending precious time riding a small unstable boat just to arrive and see that the cat is gone.

But back to our subjects, there are also many other great things to photograph, like family groups of giant otters, the smaller neotropical otter, the huge Jabiru Stork, all 5 South American kingfishers, capybaras, tapir, many hawks, etc. During the first couple of days of the tour we are also staying at a lodge along the famous Transpantaneira road where we will be able to photograph Hyacinth Macaws, toucans, araçaris, parrots and will be on the lookout for a giant anteater. The lodge also has an observation tower right near some trees where tame howler monkeys hang out.

Trip cost: US$ 6,899 per person
Included: Domestic flights, accomodation on dbl occupancy, all meals, ground transport, boat and captain, unlimited boat fuel, park fees, internet access, photo instruction, fully hosted trip.
Not included: International flights, overweight luggage fees, most drinks, phone calls, laundry, tips, trip insurance.

Contact me through my website if you are interested in this trip.

Photo: Milton Stamado

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Jaguars!

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 28 de September de 2010

I first started my last Pantanal photo tour with a scouting trip in late August to Northern Pantanal, a place where Jaguar sightings are regular. For sure nowhere else on Earth you stand a better chance of seeying one. We (only one boat) actually saw 7 in 3 1/2 days! Pretty amazing huh? Seeying a Jaguar in the wild is a great thrill, I vividly remember when our boat captain pointed to one sitting on the bank of the Piquiri River, just 40 minutes from our start on the first morning. There he was, a big male Jaguar just sitting there, looking at us. My favorite photo of the session was the one below, with the big cat mad at us. Although it seems we were really close, we were actually a good distance away. This was shot with a 600mm from the boat, there’s a slight crop to it too.

The Jaguar is the third largest cat in the world (the largest in the Western Hemisphere). In the Pantanal they feed mainly on capybara, peccaries and caiman (a croc), but livestock from local ranchs also form an important part of their diet. Different from other big cats, which usually kill by suffocating, the jaguar uses its immensely powerful bite to actually instantly crush the skull and brains of their victims! It’s brutal.

It's pretty amazing how their color pattern mixes well with the environment. Its tricky to spot a jaguar from a distance, even if it's out in the open like this one.

I am now developing a photo tour specifically to photograph Jaguars next year. It will be a great itinerary, better than what you find out there.. I guarantee. Stay tuned!

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Back from the Pantanal!

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 23 de September de 2010

Hi guys, I am now back from my 2nd. tour this year to the Pantanal. It was exceptionally dry due to the La Ninã effect in the Pacific Ocean, so for that reason the Rio Negro was very low and some animals that are usually very abundant, like hawks, kingfishers and water birds, were less frequent than usual. But regardless of that we did get some very good shots. In Bonito we made some fantastic shots of the flying Red-and-green Macaws, once again proving that time spent there means several amazing shots.

I am just starting to go through my photos, but so far I really liked this… the motion blur adds life and speed to the image… and believe me, these macaws fly real fast! Where else on Earth do you have the realistic chance of photograhing scenes like this during a short stay? Next years trip is already online.

D700, Nikkor 600mm f/4, 1/80 @ f/10 - ISO 200

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Seed dispersers

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 19 de August de 2010

Seed dispersion in natural habitats has always been a topic of interest to me. Some of the relationships between fauna and plants is really interesting. For example take the huge Brazil Nut tree, native to the Amazon. The only animal capable of opening up its incredibly hard shells to reach the seeds inside is the small Agouti. Without them, the seeds would never reach the outside world and thus would never germinate. But the story starts with one specific kind of orchid that thrive only in healthy primary rainforests. This orchid produces a scent that a certain species of bee needs to use in order to attract females for reproduction. This bee is the only one that will visit the Brazil Nut flowers and thus pollinize it. So without the orchid there would be no bees, without the bees the tree would never accomplish reproduction and would never produce fruits and seeds. This is the reason why Brazil Nut trees planted in cities never fruit. They are too far from primary forest where there are bees and orchids.

But back to the small Agouti, once the hard shells fall explosively to the ground (you don’t want to stand below a fruiting Brazil Nut tree!), these rodents move in and start munching on the hard, inch thick shells. They reach the large seeds and eat a few but also bury some for later. Thankfully Agoutis don’t seem to have a good memory, because many seeds are buried and forgotten, germinating to maybe one day become the king of the rainforest. Agoutis do the same thing to disperse the seeds of the Acuri palm (the one it is feeding at the photo below). The Acuri is an extremelly important food item to macaws, specially the Hyacinth Macaw.

Azara's Agouti feeding on an Acuri palm fruit

Another extremelly important seed disperser, this time of smaller seeds, are the toucans and araçaris, such as this striking Chestnut-eared Araçari, a relatively common bird in the Pantanal and adjacent areas. Some of these seeds, such as those from the Açai palm (yes, the energetic drink) can only germinate after the pulp is digested by these birds and later the clean seed is regurgitated somewhere else far from the mother tree. Both photos here were made at the extensive garden and forest trails of the hotel we use in Bonito, during the first part of our Pantanal Tour.

Chestnut-eared Araçari

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Hyacinth Macaws

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 11 de August de 2010

The big Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) is, in my opinion, one of the most (if not THE most) beautiful parrots in the world. Seeying them flying in the wild for the first time is an experience you won’t forget. I remember when I saw my first ones, back in 1990 when I was only 10 years old, it was at the Paraguay River during a fishing trip.

Their native home range goes more or less from the Pantanal or nearby Bolivia all the way to southern Amazonia, passing through central Brazil. However, after many years of intensive bird collecting for the pet trade (a single bird can cost over US$ 20,000!), they have been almost extinct from central Brazil, with separate population in the NE (near Amazonia) and, especially, in the Pantanal. Pet trade collecting does not happen anymore in the Pantanal and so the bird is making a great comeback. In the Pantanal they are already common birds, frequent around the fazendas of the region. They are still considered an endangered species though. Estimates from 2003 say that are at least 5,000 birds in the Pantanal and 2,000 birds elsewhere. There may be more Hyacinth Macaws in captivity throughout the world.

Like other parrots, they often mate for life. Their nests are made in big natural tree holes, especially of the Manduvi tree, where 90% of their nests are found. The macaws may excavate the hole to make it bigger. The same hole may be used in another time by other species, like large owls, Muscovy Duck, hawks, toucans, etc.

They feed almost exclusively of very hard seeds, of the natives Acuri and Bocaiúva palms. These seeds (or small coconuts) are so hard that you will have a hard time trying to brake one with a hammer, but these guys can crack them very easily only using their powerful beaks.

I shot the short video below during our last photo tour to the Pantanal, at Fazenda Barranco Alto, a truly special place. The macaw’s nest is in a Manduvi tree. Also notice the huge Jabiru nest at the same tree!

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Pantanal Photo Tour – August 2011

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 4 de August de 2010

I am now officially announcing our next Pantanal photo tour for next year. This will be again at famous Fazenda Barranco Alto, a huge (and I mean it… 27,000 hectars!!) private property and private reserve located at the heart of Southern Pantanal, in one of the best areas of the country for varied wildlife, including Giant Anteater, Tapir, Marsh Deer, Giant River Otter and the occasional Jaguar or Puma. Birds abound too, with many nesting Hyacinth Macaws (largest parrot in the world!), Jabiru, Raptors, Kingfishers, Owls, you name it…

All of the guests who I have brought here fell immediately at home, as the resident staff is super friendly and you feel at home the minute you step out of the plane.

The group is for a maximum of only 8 photographers, which guarantees that we have the whole small lodge to ourselves and so all the boats and safari open vehicles 100% dedicated to us and our photography. To access the lodge’s private airstrip we are getting 2 chartered airplanes, which will leave us good space for extra baggage… you know what I mean, those “light” 500 and 600mm.

This time there will also be 2 leaders, to split us in groups and so better distribute activities. I will be one of course and the other will be my good friend and great photographer André Goldstein. He’s lived in the US for over 10 years and so speaks perfect english too.

Just like last year, we will finish our trip at a huge natural crater south of the Pantanal where gorgeous Red-and-green Macaws nest and fly around, providing amazing photo opportunities like the one below. August will be the peak of activity there, so we can expect a lot of birds flying (like every couple minutes or so).

To see more details please visit this link: http://www.octaviosalles.com.br/pantanal2011.html

Red-and-green Macaws playing in mid-air

Giant Anteater

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Great travel deal! Jaguars in the Pantanal!

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 20 de July de 2010

On next September I’m doing a scouting trip to what is, without a doubt, the single best place on Earth to almost surely photograph a wild Jaguar. This is a great opportunity to photograph at this place with a very special deal, but it’s for ONE person only! You won’t find this kind of price and conditions again, especially considering that the prices being charged are well below the usual for this operator.

Itinerary:
August 30: we get a flight from Sao Paulo Int’l Airport at 10:10 AM towards Cuiabá. There I will rent a car and drive us to one of their lodges along the Transpantaneira, the Pantanal Wildlife Center. We can start photographing along the way (mainly birds, raptors, caimans). We sleep there this night only.

August 31: early morning transfer to Porto Jofre and boat transfer to our “mothership”. They are not using camp tents anymore (as in the video), so we are staying at a big motherboat with air-conditioned cabins. Almost full day searching for jaguars on our own exclusive boat – this is huge, we won’t be sharing the boat with anyone else so we can focus entirely in our photography! Our guide has a radio to communicate with others in search of jaguars. Success rate for a 3-day stay is 99%, very often with several different Jaguar sightings.

September 01: full day photographing Jaguars.

September 02: full day photographing Jaguars.

September 03: morning transfer back to Cuiabá with photography on the way along the Transpantaneira. We take a flight at 06:30 PM back to São Paulo Int’l Airport.

Cost:
Because this is a scouting trip, I won’t be charging anything for my services. The cost of the trip is charged in Reais (brazilian currency) and so is subject to small variations according to exchange rate fluctuations. It is around R$ 5,300.00, or around US$ 2,900.00. The price includes domestic air fare, ground transportation, all lodging (full catering, except drinks), single occupancy on air conditioned rooms and exclusive boat. Price does not include int’l air fare, over-weight luggage fees, tips, meals while on the road, side trips.

Trips to this place usually cost over USD 7,000.00 and that is sharing the boat with other photographers. You don’t want to miss this deal.

Possibility of seeying a Jaguar:
First off, I have neber been to this exact place, so I can’t personally offer any guarantees, that’s why this is a scouting trip. But quoting a document from them: “Guests who stay for 3 nights have a 99.5% chance of seeying 1 or more Jaguars by day“. September is considered the best month for observations.

The Jaguars are located at the riverbanks, where they rest or hunt. They are used to boats and will allow a good approach without running away. This means hours of shooting Jaguars, always from the safety of a boat.

If you have interest please contact me ASAP at phototrips@octaviosalles.com.br

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No fisherman’s tale!

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 5 de July de 2010

Kingfishers are amazing birds. Like their name suggest, no other bird can catch fish so effectively. In the rich waters of the Pantanal we can find all 5 species of neotropical kingfishers. During our last trip we had a good time photographing these guys from a boat. Kingfishers are usually wary birds, but if you silently approach them from a boat they will let you get very close. So close in fact that sometimes I just could not focus with my 600mm!

The video below shows one of these moments, with a client taking some shots of a Ringed Kingfisher. We use silent electric engines on the boat, so that we can approach and position the boat at the best angles without scaring the bird.

Ringed Kingfisher, female


The Ringed Kingfisher is the largest one. Normally they are very aggressive to intruders, and that includes competition from other kingfishers, but since there are so many fish in the Pantanal rivers they will tolerate other kingfishers around during the dry season.

Amazon Kingfisher, female


The Amazon Kingfisher is a bit smaller and also very common. We saw this whole sequence: the bird dived in the water and caught a small Pacu, a fish far too wide for its throat. It first hit the fish hard against the branch several times to kill it, you can see the fish scales at the branch. Then it proceed to try to fit the fish and swallow it. I thought it wasn’t going to make it but eventually it literally folded the fish in 2 with its powerfull bill and swallowed it whole. A big meal for sure!

Green Kingfisher, male


This one is a much smaller kingfisher, very cute. Comparing to the huge Ringed ones, these guys are tiny. A good way to tell them apart from the Amazon Kingfisher, besides the obvious size difference, are the small white spots on the wing.

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Macaw festival

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 29 de June de 2010

On my Pantanal tours I always include a visit of a few days to a truly fantastic place just south of the Pantanal. This is an impressive natural crater where Red-and-green Macaws nest and roost. But in order to fly out of the deep crater they must fly in circles to gain height, and this means truly amazing opportunities for flight shots! It’s a bird photographers Disneyland, with the difference that here it’s all real 🙂

The history of this place is a great example of good conservation measures that is taking place now in many parts of Brazil. Back in the 70’s and 80’s this crater was used by local people to dump garbage and, its said, even criminals. People used to practice shooting at the macaws and they were all but exterminated of the place. Eventually a good man bought the property (which was worth less than average because of the crater – it occupied what could otherwize be a pasture for cattle) and saw the potential for eco-tourism early on. The semi-deciduous forest around the crater grew back and the macaws started to return. Initially just one single pair, but they were the most important ones, they represented hope.

The place was transformed into a private nature reserve recognized by the brazilian government. This means that it can never be destroyed again, even if eventually the property is bought by somewhere else in the future. Today the days of destruction are long gone, and over 60 pairs of macaws nest there each year, and the number is growing. Many other birds are also present, like Peach-fronted Parakeets, Blue-fronted Parrots, Blue-crowned Motmots, Buff-necked Ibis, Laughing Falcons and many many more.

I’ve got hundreds of flight shots this past trip, but I can’t post right now the best ones because I’m saving them for an upcoming photo contest. So these will have to do for now. All were shot with Nikon D700 and Nikkor 600mm f/4 AF-S.

They usually fly in pairs, but a few times a day all of them fly together. That means over 30 macaws at least, all circling and screaming, a show not to be fortgotten.

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Pantanal mornings

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 26 de June de 2010

I love mornings, the best time of the day. The air is fresh and clean and birds are super active. In the Pantanal this is specially true. You often wake up well before sunrise with the raucous choruses of Chaco Chachalacas, maybe followed by the lodge’s resident Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl somewhere at the garden and then the elusive Collared Forest-Falcon call echoing in the twilight. With the first sun rays showing in the horizon is time for the parrots and macaws to wake up, hundreds of them flying overhead towards their feeding grounds.

This morning the sunrise was quite nice and we shot a few frames with the wide angle lens. This was with a Nikon D700 and Nikkor 24mm f/2.8.

A few minutes later I found this Rufescent Tiger-Heron hunting for breakfast at the same wetland. I slowly approached it with a 600mm on and took some pics.

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