There aren’t many animals that can render a caiman lifeless with one crushing bite that punctures the brain and pulverises bones. Jaguars can. Distinguished by their rosette-shaped black spots, these fierce yet graceful predators of the jungle are the third-largest of the big cats, after lions and tigers. Once found roaming across large swathes of the Americas, today jaguars are an almost threatened species.
If you want to see these majestic beasts in the wild, one of the best places is Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland and home to one of the densest concentrations of wildlife on the planet. July is the dry season in these parts, when the jaguar’s prey clusters around shrinking waterways, luring the cats close. During a boat safari through the Meeting of the Waters State Park, also known as the Jaguar Zone, you’ll get within a whisker of these water-happy felines. If you’re lucky, you might even witness these killer cats in action as they lunge at deer, caiman and tapir.
Six-night tours with Pantanal Jaguar Safaris cost from around US$2,270, including transfers, overland and boat safaris, accommodation and all meals.