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Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Seal River Lodge offers more than Polar bears.

Anyone who wants to see Polar bears from eye to eye must visit the Seal River Lodge in Canada - but there is more to see than the «Big White Bears».

It's my fourth trip to the Polar bears on Hudson Bay. This time with guests and so I left my "big lenses" at home and traveled "light". Nevertheless, I was able to photographically capture the fantastic nature experiences. This also thanks to the latest technology from Nikon!
The Seal River Lodge is located about sixty kilometers north of Churchill, just off Hudson Bay. An exceptional cold has built up more ice this year than it usually has around this time of the year. The spectacular sunrise shows how the warmth of the sun fights with the cold of the ice.

Oddly enough, there are no bears around the lodge on our first day at the lodge. Whether they are already on the ice - or waiting for the ice in another place? Hard to say - nature is definitely not a zoo. But on our walking safari we soon find a flock of Willow ptarmigans. These animals, feathery brown/white in summer, have adapted completely to the white environment. They forage on the shoots of the shrubs and are not aware until late - but not too late, that danger approaches in the form of a Polar fox.


Still hungry, the Polar fox roams the area. In the Arctic winter, survival is difficult. Suddenly he pricks his ears as he hears a Lemming, a kind of Mouse, under the blanket of snow. With a giant set he jumps in the air to use gravity to break through the snowpack. But even here he is unlucky - and the Lemming survives.

Even with the Polar hares the Fox has no luck. They have changed their summer dress and wear their winter fur. Only the tips of the ears remain black. So they are well camouflaged. To see further, they can stand on their hind legs and when they run, they can easily reach a speed of over 50 kilometers per hour.

There are still the Caribous, the Reindeer of North America. But they are too big and the Polar fox has to wait until a Wolf kills a caribou and leaves something behind. But the Caribous are careful and the stalking Wolf has no chance. And so the Polar fox will stay hungry that day. The variety of animals in the Arctic is simply overwhelming. Even for me, this day closes without a picture of a Polar bear - but other than the Fox, I do not have to go to bed hungry. 

The chances of having good Polar bear encounters are optimal at this time of the year. The ice is still not sustainable enough and there are still too many places with open water. Mother Nature is gracious and spoiles me with dreamlike experiences on the following days. Two females Bears, waiting together for the ice and spending their time roaming and playing. And this in the most beautiful morning light, on the ice and near the lodge.

Polar bears are curious and sometimes they come to the protective fence around the lodge where they can be observed from close range. The fence maintains distance and the guides ensure, that the Bears do not get cocky. This allows to observe the big, impressive animals from a distance as close as about one meter. An very emotional moment.  

The Polar fox is still on the lookout for something to eat. For me, a wonderful time comes to an end and I am grateful that I was able to show my guests these unique experiences. The tour was arranged by the Travel agency «Background Tours» of Switzerland and thanks to careful planning, the snowstorm the next day can not stop us from returning home in time.

Many thanks to Mike and Jeanne Reimer and the entire staff of Churchill wild, who make this unique experience possible. Anyone interested in such a tour in 2019 can contact me under: r.hug@mpl.ch .

More pictures can be viewed under the following link:


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pantanal: Land of the Jaguar

"He who kills with one leap," is the name of the Jaguar among the natives 
To photograph jaguars can be quite difficult and fascinating at the same time. The world's third largest cat of prey is found only in the southern part of North America and in South America. It prefers dense vegetation and likes to keep up with rivers and lakes. Therefore, the chances of a sighting are particularly good in the "Pantanal". The "Pantanal" is a large tropical wetland and stretches over an area of approximately 230,000 square kilometers and is almost six times as large as Switzerland. It covers the south-west of Brazil as well as parts of Paraguay and Bolivia. The ecosystem is unique in the world and includes flooded areas, savannahs, forests, jungles and steppes. Every year the "Pantanal" is flooded by the waters of the Rio Paraguaí. Only the slightly higher areas remain dry and allow humans and ground-living animals to survive. In the autumn, the water slowly drains and leaves a fertile area with an incredibly rich flora and fauna. 

From the Brazilian city of Cuiabà I reach the "Land of the Jaguars" via the "Transpantaneira", a 145 km long gravel road with 127, some simple wooden bridges. Reaching the end of the road, the journey goes on with a small motorboat to the "Jaguarflotel", a special "houseboat" with comfortable rooms, built especially for Jaguar observations .



Jaguars are often seen along the riverbanks, as they like the water - but "often" has to be relativized. In the partly very dense undergrowth it is very difficult to see the animals and sometimes I spend hours on the river, until a call comes trough the radio, that a Jaguar was sighted - or we find one ourselves. Then, however, the boats drive with high speed to be first on the location. Jaguars are very good swimmers and often swim along the riverbank, always looking for prey. Prey consists of about 75% caimans and about 25% capybaras.



Giant otters live in lakes and slow-moving rivers. These, up to 2 meters long, sociable animals are day-active and can be observed well while they are fishing or sometimes even take a sunbath. I can witness an interesting interaction between Giant otters and a Jaguar, when the cat got near their den. The Jaguar gets mobbed away with a lot of activity and an unbelievable noise. But as soon as he gets up and hisses, the Giant otters dive - at least the less brave. Disturbed in his rest, the older male prefers to seek a quieter place. Nevertheless, the otter females bring their young to a safe place.

Normally, Jaguars are loners and meet only during the mating season. I am lucky to observe a nice encounter, when two "half-sisters" of different age meet. The cat in the first image is extremely tense when she perceives the scent of another animal. But then relaxes when she realizes it is her "half-sister". A very special viewing in the last light of the sun.

Besides wild cats and giant otters, the Pantanal offers beautiful riverbank sceneries, especially with the yellow blooming Cambara trees. But also the Capybaras and the many Caimans, warming up on the bank or swallowing a huge fish, are always nice motifs. The variety of the birds is huge - below two large specimens from the large diversity: a King vulture and a Great black hawk.

In "Jaguarland", I am of course mainly focused on the Jaguars. But the Pantanal offers much more! In the next blog, which is coming soon, I will report about the beauty of the Southern Pantanal. For the third time in a row, I spent some time at the Fazenda Barranco Alto. It must be very beautiful that I return again and again - it is very beautiful!

More images under:

Brazil 2017 Jaguarland