First day on the river

Julinho appears to rescue me from the sun, we are ready to leave with his ‘lancha’. It’s a slender low alluminium motor boat, being only the two of us we have plenty of space. We travel along rio Cuiabà for a while, passing two big fazendas ( Fazenda Sao Bento and Fazenda Sant’Ana) the only human settlements in the area along with Porto Jofre Hotel.
Soon it’s only us and nature – gorgeous, lush vegetation surrounds the golden river waters. Thick forest whith high trees supported by intricated roots that emerge from the waters merges in savannah-like vast fields, dotted by small sand beaches where families of capybaras doze on the sand. I think my senses are appeased even if we are not lucky enough to see jaguars.
As we get deeper
into the region I notice that Julinho has changed expression. Alertly he scans the river banks and sometimes lowers his sun-glasses, I wonder how he can be able to spot animals in this intricate mixture of sun and shadow, branches and leaves.
Suddenly he turns off the mo
tor and the grim expression on his face turns into a big smile: there he is, he whispers releaved, hidden by the foliage, a jaguar walking slowly in direction of a clearing.
I feel dizzy with excitement, it’s the first time I see a big cat in the wilderness. I take some pics almos
t without looking in the viewfinder…Julinho passes me his binoculars; he is magnificent, a big imponent male. Not disturbed by us he lies down partially hidden in the shade of the trees. He is still to far for taking decent pictures with my lenses, so I just enjoy observing him through the binoculars Julinho kindly shares with me. We are blessed by luck, after a while we hear a noise in the vegetation….and another jaguar appears roaring loudly. A female! Unbelievable, Julinhos face glows with happiness, once more nature has gifted him with a great sighting.
The conditions are perfect, it’s only us and them…we haven’t seen a boat since our departure from Porto Jofre. We don't attempt to get closer, letting the jaguars at ease and are rewarded. We get it all, jaguar drinking water of the river, jaguars courting, jaguars coming out to the sand beach, jaguars roaring like crazy, jaguars scratching themselves, jaguar grooming himself…we take a lot of pictures and Julinho films them too. We stay there for about 2 hours and a half, under the burning sun, everytime they dig into the jungle Julinho suggests we can go to a beach and eat something…and the jaguars come out again…three or four times, then they finally disappear from our point of view.
Sunburnt, hungry but absolutely appeased we stop at a little sandbeach nearby. We have a refreshing bath in the Tres Irmaos river and then eat the sandwiches talking about our encounter.
I feel that although Julinho makes very clear that there is no guarantee of seeing jaguars in the wild he still get’s very stressed about it….by the way, there are some greedy operators that actually sell tour packages guaranteeing almost 100 % the spotting of Jaguars in the area. To fulfill this promise they use invasive method's like feeding jaguar's with dead animals as bait, hunting the river banks 24 hrs with radio-equipped speed-boats that pass the information about jaguars positions interfering with their natural behaviour. This has nothing to do with conservation or wildlife-spotting, it's just business, dirty business. I wonder how people 'fall' for this kind of tours, but maybe they just don't mind, important is to take home some nice close-up shots of a jaguar without loosing too much time in an uncomfortable environment.
Well, good news is that last week finally the camp of this so called Jaguar Research Center owned by a us-citizen, Charles A.Munn(he claims to be a renouned scientist, but is under investigation for biopiratery in Brazil, and is well known in the rest of South America for his illegal conduct in relation
to indigenuous communities, his organization Tropical Nature was thrown out of Ecuador,check at www.tropicalnature.info), situated illegally in the core of the Parque Estadual do Encontro das 'Aguas was confiscated by force by officers of CEMA, CENAP and local police deputies, after he had been intimated to leave the place repeatedly.He has bought the land after the institution of the Parque area in 2004, but has in no way an authorization from CEMA to operate there with tourism.(Link to Ministerio Publico do Estado de Mato Grosso http://www.mp.mt.gov.br/conteudo.php?cid=45811&sid=44)

I stillll cannot believe I was so lucky…we think of Nobu, he would have enjoyed being there, but maybe his ‘pè-friagem’ would have prevented the jaguars to appear? Who knows… We leave our nice beach, the sun is already low on the sky and we don’t want to arrive late at Maria and Carmindo’s.

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