Pantanal’s Big Five


August 9 to 26, 2025
Private Trip Available
Cost: $14,900
Leader: Rafael Andrade
Group Size: 10
Days: 18

Safari Overview

Explore the vast Pantanal for South America’s Big Five – jaguar, giant anteater, giant otter, ocelot, and South American tapir. Travel via boat, private bus, and safari vehicles through regions where marshes, lakes, and streams provide a diverse ecosystem that fosters superb encounters with these awe-inspiring mammals plus many beautiful birds, like the hyacinth macaw. Journey down the famous Transpantaneira Highway in the northern Pantanal to Porto Jofre where cruises on the Cuiabá River afford numerous opportunities to see jaguars, giant otters, and other wildlife not easily seen by land. While in the southern Pantanal, stay at Caiman Lodge, a top wildlife destination, and a sure bet for giant anteaters and ocelots. Join biologists in the field to learn about this region’s wildlife research and conservation efforts. Don’t miss this spectacularly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve!


  • Boat downriver to spot jaguars cooling off on the banks while keeping an eye out for giant river otters.
  • Head out at night to search for nocturnal animals such as ocelot, giant anteater, South American tapir, and yacaré caiman.
  • View the world’s largest parrot, the hyacinth macaw, and the prehistoric-looking jabiru stork along the Transpantaneira Highway.
  • Join conservation researchers in the field and learn about this region’s conservation issues.

Want to learn more? Check out our blog post from our 2023 trip!

Itinerary Updated: May 2024

Wildlife Safari Coordinator: Elizabeth Coler

Private Trip Available

FAQ Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
Aug 9 Arrive in São Paulo, Brazil. Hotel Panamby Guarulhos, Guarulhos D
Aug 10 Group flight to Cuiabá in the morning, then drive the Transpantaneira Highway to Araras. Araras Eco Lodge, Northern Pantanal B, D
Aug 11 Explore Araras. Araras Eco Lodge, Northern Pantanal B, L, D
Aug 12 Morning game drive at Araras, then drive and sightsee south to Porto Jofre. Hotel Pantanal Norte, Porto Jofre B, L, D
Aug 13-16 Boat trips on the Cuiabá River to find jaguar, giant otters, monkeys, and birds. Hotel Pantanal Norte, Porto Jofre B, L, D
Aug 17 Morning boat ride, then fly from Porto Jofre to Pousada Aguapé. Pousada Aguapé, Southern Pantanal B, L, D
Aug 18 Learn about local issues and wildlife at Pousada Aguapé with conservation researchers. Pousada Aguapé, Southern Pantanal B, L, D
Aug 19 More research at Pousada Aguapé; drive to Fazenda San Francisco in the afternoon. Fazenda San Francisco, Southern Pantanal B, L, D
Aug 20 Search for giant anteater, ocelot, and other wildlife at Fazenda San Francisco. Fazenda San Francisco, Southern Pantanal B, L, D
Aug 21 Search for wildlife in the morning, then travel to Caiman Lodge. Caiman Lodge, Southern Pantanal B, L, D
Aug 22-23 Look for giant anteaters and other wildlife around Caiman Lodge. Caiman Lodge, Southern Pantanal B, L, D
Aug 24 Morning game drive at Caiman Lodge, then travel to Campo Grande. Hotel Deville Prime, Campo Grande B, L, D
Aug 25 Fly from Campo Grande to São Paulo and then homeward. B
Aug 26 Arrive home.

Our Trip Leaders

Rafael Andrade

Rafael studied Environmental Management, specializing in Tourism, the Environment, and Social Responsibility. He began his work as a naturalist guide in 2013 throughout the Amazon and Pantanal, later becoming the head of guides for the Pantanal’s Caiman Lodge. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and passion for nature and wildlife with travelers while also integrating the local communities and the importance of respecting the environment.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Travel to São Paulo, Brazil

Aug 9

Arrive in São Paulo for an overnight and welcome dinner before your group flight to Cuiabá the following morning.

Fly to Cuiabá then drive south to Araras

Aug 10

Mato Grasso Antbird
© Grace Chen

Transfer to the São Paulo Airport for the mid-morning group flight to Cuiabá, located in the northern part of the state of Mato Grosso. Upon arrival, drive across 56mi of the Cerrado region (Brazilian savanna) to the town of Poconé, and then drive 26mi south to the entrance of the Transpantaneira Highway – a truly extraordinary gravel road traversing some 93mi of the Pantanal. You will continue south down the Transpantaneira to Araras.

Explore Araras

Aug 11

Explore the grounds of the Araras Eco Lodge, which include 7,413 hectares of wetlands, forest, and savannah. You can find birds, such as the cinereous-breasted spinetails and Mato Grosso antbirds, in the woodlands around the lodge and along an elevated boardwalk. The Araras property extends east of the Transpantaneira into the dry grasslands where you have a great chance to view both lesser and giant anteaters. After dinner, you will go on a night drive, the best time to encounter tamandua (also known as the lesser anteater) and perhaps a South American tapir.

Morning safari then drive to Porto Jofre

Aug 12

Hyacinth Macaws
© Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris

After an early morning safari at Araras, you’ll journey south down the Transpantaneira Highway to the Cuiabá River in Porto Jofre, making stops along the way. Water lingers alongside the Transpantaneira, concentrating a wide variety of wildlife. You'll stop at some excellent places to stretch your legs and take photographic opportunities.

Search the Rio Cuiabá surroundings by boat

Aug 13-16

© Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris

The best chances to spot jaguar are on the Rio Cuiabá. The jaguars in this region are protected and have become accustomed to boats full of photographers pointing lenses at them. You’ll ride in boats that can quickly reach the various tributaries of the Rio Cuiabá where the cats may be lounging or hunting.

You'll enjoy morning and late afternoon private boat trips when the sun isn’t directly overhead. Besides the beautifully colored birds, keep an eye out for mammals, including black-striped tufted capuchins, the crab-eating fox, South American tapir, and the enigmatic ocelot. You may encounter the most noteworthy reptiles throughout the Pantanal, including hundreds of Yacaré caimans and some green iguanas, and if you are lucky, you may come across a rare yellow anaconda.

Fly from Porto Jofre to Pousada Aguapé

Aug 17

Start today with another morning boat trip. After lunch, take a charter flight to Pousada Aguapé, a remote working ranch with abundant opportunities for wildlife encounters.

Search for wildlife at Pousada Aguapé

Aug 18

White-lipped Peccary
© Grace Chen

With a base near Pousada Aguapé, the Peccary Project (Projeto Queixada) has partnered with the surrounding rural community to protect the Pantanal’s biodiversity. The ranch’s sustainable practices have contributed to the high wildlife diversity you will see as you tour the area. Local researchers from the Peccary Project will show you their conservation work in the region, including their work on the critically endangered white-lipped peccary.

Morning search for wildlife, then drive to Fazenda San Francisco

Aug 19

Continue your search for more magnificent birds and charismatic mammals of the southern Pantanal region. In the afternoon, you will travel to nearby Fazenda San Francisco.

Explore the Pantanal around Fazenda San Francisco

Aug 20

Here, you’ll have your best chances of finding giant anteater and ocelot on game drives and during nightspotting, and sometimes you may even see jaguar, maned wolf, and South American tapir. Fazenda San Francisco has extensive native forest, wetlands, and grasslands, but it’s also a working ranch with cattle pastures and vast rice fields. The owner and staff work very hard to preserve wildlife, particularly to protect the rare mammals. Blue-and-yellow macaws, parrots, parakeets, toucans, and toucanets are plentiful right around the lodge and are extremely habituated. You’ll game drive in the evening and at dawn for the best action, and enjoy breaks on the lodge grounds during the warm part of the day.

Fazenda San Francisco game drive, then travel to Caiman Lodge

Aug 21

Take another early morning game drive before heading to the famous Caiman Lodge.

Explore wildlife around Caiman Lodge

Aug 22-23

Yacare Caiman
© Grace Chen

Caiman Lodge, which is best of the best of nature lodges in South America, has charming accommodations, a very experienced friendly staff, delicious food, very high-quality service, and best of all, amazing wildlife! This is our favorite location in all of the Pantanal. You’ll begin your explorations in the beautiful surroundings for birds and other wildlife. You’ll also enjoy night drives to spot nocturnal wildlife in action. You have good chances for locating jaguars, but the overall wildlife experience while immersed in beautiful native habitat is the highlight here at Caiman, named for the plethora of Yacaré caimans, who peer with their gleaming, beady eyes at night. With luck, you will encounter mother giant anteaters with young on their backs, gray brocket deer, pampas deer, two species of armadillos, tapeti (Brazilian rabbit), and crab-eating raccoon. Elusive wildlife is very challenging to photograph, so you’ll spend ample time in nature to be sure to get some great images.

Morning at Caiman Lodge, then depart to Campo Grande

Aug 24

Spend the last morning photographing the resident macaws and other species. If the light is not ideal, or the group prefers, you can take a drive to the river for some action there!

Travel homeward

Aug 25

You’ll transfer as a group to the Campo Grande Airport for your flight to São Paulo and then homeward.

Arrive home

Aug 26


Explore the Pantanal to seek South America’s “Big Five” –  jaguar, giant anteater, giant otter, ocelot, and South American tapir.

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Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Trip Cost, double occupancy $14,900
Single Supplement Contact Us

Costs are per person, double occupancy, not including airfare (except for three internal flights), singles extra. See Included and Not Included sections for more details.

If you are a single traveler, we will find a roommate for you, but if we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement. Single rooms cost extra and are subject to availability.

Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Final March 2, 2025 Remaining balance

Payments are due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space.


Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another trip if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.


  • Carbon offsets for the duration of this trip.
  • All leaders, transport, park entry fees, and boat trips for all activities unless described as optional.
  • Three internal flights.
  • Accommodations for the nights of August 9 through August 24.
  • Meals from dinner on August 9 through breakfast on August 25, except meals listed as Not Included section.
  • Bottled water throughout the safari.
  • Transfers on August 9 and August 10 via complimentary hotel airport shuttle between Hotel Panamby Guarulhos and the Sao Paulo Airport (GRU), plus transfers on August 25 between Hotel Deville Prime and the Campo Grande Airport.
  • Trip Planning Materials – information about entry requirements, flights, packing, gratuities, etc.

Not Included

  • Carbon offsets for your flights to/from this trip.
  • All airfare (except flights listed as included), airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Round-trip airfare is approximately $850 to $1,000 between the US and São Paulo, depending on origin.
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • COVID tests.
  • Extra hotel nights.
  • Lunch on August 10.
  • Gratuities – tipping is always discretionary. However, it is culturally expected in Brazil to show appreciation for good service. A gratuity of $525 per participant (about $35 per participant per day) will be added to your final payment.
  • Emergency evacuation insurance and trip cancellation insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Traveler Form.


The Pantanal can be very hot, from 90 to 100+°F (32 to 38+°C), especially during midday and afternoons. The occasional cold snap may blow through, dropping the temperature to the 60s°F (~15 to 20°C), so layer clothes to manage these changing conditions!

Fitness Level

Most wildlife viewing is done from small boats and vehicles. Walks to search for wildlife are generally less than an hour over relatively flat trails or along gravel roads. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging.


Detailed logistical information is included in the Trip Planning Materials we will send you.

Flights you book

  • Arrive in São Paulo, Brazil (GRU) by 4:00pm on August 9.
  • Depart from São Paulo, Brazil (GRU) after 12:30pm on August 25.

Flights we book

  • Three internal flights are included in the trip cost.


Should I visit the Pantanal or the Amazon to see wildlife?

While the Amazon is much more famous, the Pantanal is the best place to see Brazil’s wildlife as it has much greater biodiversity and a higher density of that biodiversity. The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland and therefore attracts many large mammals (the Big Five), smaller mammals such as monkeys and capybaras, and many beautiful birds.

When is the best time to go to the Pantanal?

We visit in July through September during the dry season when wildlife tends to concentrate around the ponds left after the wet season’s floods. Fields are now dry, enabling us to hike and drive safari-style through them to look for wildlife. It is also warmer during these months and the coolness of the river entices jaguars to the riverbanks to cool off. July through September are also good months to see plentiful birds.

Am I guaranteed to see the Pantanal’s Big Five – jaguar, giant anteater, giant otter, ocelot, and South American tapir?

Our goal is to see the Big Five, but we cannot guarantee that we will see them all as wildlife is wild and unpredictable! But to best meet our goal, we spend the maximum time in nature to greatly increase our chance of seeing the Big Five and lots more.

Why do you spend so much time on rivers in the Pantanal?

During days near the Cuiabá and other rivers, we spend a lot of time in boats as it is the best way to see jaguar and other wildlife. Wildlife is accustomed to tourist boats and feel safe around them, generally allowing us to approach to watch and photograph them.

Should I worry about seasickness on the Pantanal’s rivers?

The rivers in this region are calm and we have never had problems with anyone getting seasick.


All lodges have private baths and air conditioning.

Motion Sickness


You will travel by air-conditioned private bus, boat, and commercial air. Some remote roads in the Pantanal are unpaved, dusty, and bumpy. Some of the drives between regions are long, between one and five hours, but most of these are on paved, modern roads. The boats are comfortable (the seats have backrests) and are easy to get in and out of. Although the boats have limited space, you have room for your daypack and camera gear near your feet and on your lap.


Our company ethos has always regarded conservation as inseparable from responsible tourism. We struggle with the dilemma that traveling worldwide expends climate-changing carbon. However, we wholeheartedly believe that traveling with us will cultivate your passion for conserving our beautiful world while stimulating each destination’s local economy. We encourage you to explore the various ways in which Cheesemans’ operates within this context:

  • Ecotourism and Conservation for Brazil.
  • Cheesemans’ Trips are Carbon Neutral.
  • Offsetting your Travel to/from our Trip: We ask you to pledge to offset the carbon emissions for your travel to and from our trips. You can purchase offsets with most airlines (Delta includes them automatically), use our handy carbon calculator and donate to Sustainable Travel International, or contribute to your favorite offsetting organization.


Read our current Terms and Conditions.