Maarten Schäfer

We arrive in Cuiabá in the late afternoon and we meet Ailton Lara at the airport. Ailton lived all his life in this area and has become a wildlife specialist. “Tomorrow we have an early start,” he tells us when he drops us off at our hotel. “Don’t forget: long sleeves, a hat and mosquito repellent.”

Close encounter with a jaguar

It’s 6 am when we drive out of town in the direction of the Pantanal, a wetland the size of England. The road is straight and the traffic is almost non-existent. After a two-hour drive we make a stop in a small town called Poconé where Ailton stops the jeep near the marketplace. “Here we will buy food and water for the coming days,” he says when we stroll over the local market.

“One day we will eat beans, rice and meat, the next day it will be meat, rice and beans.” I laugh, but at the look at Ailton’s face, I see he’s not…

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