Where to see jaguars in the wild

Photo © Expedition Leader Cassiano (Zapa) Zaparoli

Elusive, stealthy and stunningly beautiful creatures, jaguars are a sight that many people hope to see when they venture into the Amazon rain forest. The Amazon is one of the most probable places on this planet to spot a jaguar.

Habitat destruction, farming and human-wildlife conflict have put jaguars on the “Near Threatened” list, but they thrive in the protected regions of the Amazon rain forest such as in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. The largest cat in the Americas and the principal predator of the jungle, the jaguar plays an important role in balancing the food chain and protecting the rain forest as a whole.

Although wild jaguar sightings are rare, here are five tips for maximizing your chances of spotting one of these enigmatic cats on your Peruvian Amazon adventure.

Tip #1: Plan your trip for the Amazon’s drier months

Easily the most important tip we can give you would be when to visit the Peruvian Amazon during the drier months of June and July. The reason for this is that the dried-out watering holes force prey to congregate around any remaining water sources. And where there is prey, there are jaguars. Additionally, the cooler air this time of year brings out wildlife that would normally be hiding away due to the intense heat.

Tip #2: Have an expert guide help you track jaguars

Relying on the expertise of a highly trained naturalist Expedition Leader is a sure way to increase your chances of spotting a wild jaguar in its natural habitat. Professional guides can draw upon their extensive personal experience with tracking jaguars and have access to vast repository of scientific and local knowledge that enables them to identify subtle signs of feline predator activity.

Natural Habitat Adventures & World Wildlife Fund

Photo © JJ Huckin

Tip #3: Set out in the morning or daytime

Jaguars are most active during the daytime, when they are usually out looking for food. Start your search in the early morning to give yourself enough time to spot one of these beautiful beasts. Their activity levels typically peak at dawn and dusk.

Tip #4: Be quiet and still

Jaguars are equipped with both binocular and color vision, as well as a heightened sense of hearing, so they are likely to detect you well before you detect them. The best thing you can do is remain as quiet and still as possible throughout your search. Jaguars are far more likely to run away than come closer to humans, so it’s best to tread lightly and silently.

Tip #5: Head to the riverbanks

Once you are inside a protected Amazon rain forest reserve, the best place to spot a jaguar is along the riverbanks. Excellent swimmers, jaguars often live and hunt by the region’s many rivers. You’re likely to spot one basking in the sun on a riverbank or swimming in the water. Because of their spotted coat, jaguars camouflage so well with the jungle vegetation, making them nearly impossible to spot in the forest. Heading for the vegetation-free riverbanks is your best bet for a sighting.

A nice byproduct of searching for jaguars in Peru is the many other rain forest wildlife you’ll likely spot along the way. Since the best place to spot a jaguar is where their prey, feed and drink, you may see everything from macaws to peccaries, tapirs, capybara and caimans.

If spotting a jaguar is high on your list of nature travel experiences, then be sure to keep these five tried-and-true tips in mind when you visit the Peruvian Amazon so you can have a better chance of catching a glimpse of these rare and magnificent jungle cats.

How can I see a wild jaguar in the Amazon?

Photo © Lucas M. Bustamante

This guest post was contributed by our partners at Explorandes Peru.