This had been something I had dreamed of ever since arriving at Caiman Ecological Refuge.
Every morning we go out to look for jaguars. There is a bridge, called Paizinho (Little Father) that is a good starting point to look for tracks. A nearby Camera Trap tells us that jaguars frequent the area, but seldom do we get to actually see them as they use the man made bridge to cross the water. Every guest who comes here will pass over this bridge a number of times during his or her stay. The bridge is iconic of Caiman Ecological Refuge as it marks the entrance to the main access road to the lodge.
The other night I was out with the Projeto Onçafari team when we got the jaguar sighting of a lifetime. Fantasma, the big male jaguar of the area, was on patrol. He was calling, scent marking and walking fast. At this stage he was still a kilometer away from the bridge, but his direction was perfect. We took the gamble and left him, racing forward to get to the bridge. High risk, high reward is a motto of mine.
We got to the bridge, got our car into position, and checked our camera settings. We were ready. Now we just needed the big boy to cooperate. My heart was pounding as the minutes ticked by.
All of a sudden in the distance I could hear his heavy breath and his pads hitting the dry earth. I turned the spotlight on and looked up the road.
I could not believe that he was coming. I could not believe we were in the perfect position and this was actually going to happen.
The Ghost appeared out of the Darkness and walked across the bridge.
After 6 months I finally managed to get the shot of a jaguar walking across the iconic bridge of Caiman. And not just a jaguar, it was THE jaguar, possibly one of the biggest in the Pantanal. This series of photos will aid me in reliving those few seconds for the rest of my life.
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister