The Pantanal

Destination Introduction

Toucan
Toucans are plentiful in the Pantanal

The Pantanal is the most spectacular and largest (210,000 km2) wetland system in the world and is located in central-west Brazil as well as Bolivia and Paraguay. It is one of the most biologically rich areas on the planet with extraordinarily diverse flora and fauna. Consequently it is the perfect location for any nature photographer. There is large seasonality in the Pantanal, as it has a wet and dry season. In the wet season, most of the land floods, but in the dry season there is very little rain at all. Both times of year offer a completely different experience for photographers.

Photographic Subjects

Armadillo in the Pantanal
Armadillo in the Pantanal

The main photographic subject in the Pantanal is the wildlife. Of the wildlife, one can see many species of exotic bird life including toucans, birds of prey, macaws and many other species. One of the most well photographed animals in the area are the caiman which are extremely common and can be found during the dry season at almost any source of water. In January, caimans can be observed ‘fishing’ with their jaws open ready to snap, offering a great opportunity for a stunning photograph! Jaguars, tapirs, anteaters and armadillos are just some of the many animals that can be found in the Pantanal. Many people are surprised at just how many species they see whilst staying there.

Photography Tips

Caiman in the Pantanal
One of the many Caiman in the Pantanal

By and large, the best time to visit the Pantanal for bird life is the wet season which is from October to March and conversely, the best time for land animals is in the dry season from April to September. In the dry season, water is concentrated into small areas few and far between and here there is a greater concentration of wildlife to be photographed. One of the best ways (if possible) to actually photograph the fauna is to remain in one place, for example by a lake instead of walking. This way, you can have the camera ready and you may well spot a lot more! Often, local people or guides know the best places to see wildlife. Useful equipment includes a large external flash for your camera which can bring out colour in a bird’s plumage and a long lens which is recommended for getting much closer to the animals – it really makes a difference! For this however a tripod is essential for focal lengths of 400mm or greater to eliminate camera shake. It is often a good idea to arrange some trips by vehicle rather than foot as the animals do not associate the shape of the vehicle with a human form – this can get you closer to an animal for longer.