Category Archives: Recent Trips

Recent Trip Report: 2017 Jags of Brazil Photo Tour

2017 Jaguars of Brazil Trip Report

I’ll keep this recent trips description short and sweet by letting the images do my talking! This was my ninth year coming to the diverse Pantanal region of Brazil. Rarely do you see a destination get better over time, but that is certainly the case here. The wildlife and ability to photograph it have continued to improve over the years as animals become more habituated to tourists and photographers.

We have three generations of Jaguars along these rivers now whom have grown up with boats following and watching them…they just don’t care! I continue to find the majority of guides and boat drivers to be very respectful with regard to approach distance and mitigating disturbance while observing these cats. This last part is extremely important as it is the total experience and not just getting a good Jaguar image which is the most important thing for me!

So nuts and bolts…20 different Jaguars and 45 sighting of Jaguars during 7 days on the river! Those numbers are staggering! This was by far the most productive year we’ve had for Jaguars. The majority of our sighting were also cats doing cool things like walking along the river, swimming, hunting, mating, and climbing trees! We had five different pairs of breeding Jags this year which makes me think of my Aug. 2018 trip which will likely provide several females with cubs along the river!

Many times during this year’s trip we left one Jag sighting to go see another Jag 5 or 10 minutes down the river. At one point we had a Jag on the river bank stalking Capybara and directly across the river was another Jag! “Which Jag do you want to watch” was a discussion I needed to have with my driver and clients! That’s a great decision to be stuck with.

Beyond the great Jaguar viewing, we had our usual wonderful and diverse Pantanal fauna to experience and photograph including: Hyacinth Macaws, Giant River Otters, Caiman, Kingfishers, Storks, Herons, Hawks, Egrets, Tapir, Ocelot, and more birds.

For my 2018 Pantanal Photo tour we will continue the schedule we did this year which is 2 nights at our South Pantanal Lodge and 7 nights in Jaguar Land. This is 2 extra days photographing Jaguars than other photo tour companies!

Recent Trip Report: Pumas in Chile

Pumas Quest 2016 — Toft Photo Recent Trip Report

It’s was a short one week turnaround after a month in Africa to tracking Pumas in Patagonia, but I hoped my new titanium hip and I were prepared for it! Just a short background on this trip. I’ve been hearing about Pumas in Patagonia for a while now and the thought of reliably seeing wild Pumas on foot finally made me go to Chile last April, 2015 to see for myself. I had a great scouting trip in 2015 with many Puma sightings in terrific landscapes and kept my fingers crossed for my first official Puma Quest tour in April of 2016.
Pumas in Chile

After some travel delays for half my small group (due to an airlines strike), we all reached our destination in the beautiful Torres Del Paine NP. Three of the clients had already spent their first afternoon with a very well-known Puma named Hermanita and were beaming with excitement during our first breakfast together. Yes, I certainly was very happy for them, but three of my other clients had not seen their first Puma yet, so after a quick bite, we hit the van for a short ride to a good location to start our “Puma Quest”. One of the huge advantages we have over some other company’s running puma trips in the area is our “three-spotter team”. An hour before my clients and I leave the hotel, our team of experienced puma spotters have positioned themselves on hilltops in a per-determined location to start the process of finding a Puma for the day. This first morning proved the effectiveness of this system as it need every other morning on our trip — within minutes of putting on our photo packs and starting to hike, we receive a radio call from the spotters giving us the good news that a Puma has been spotted and we should get our butts there ASAP!!!! What a great radio call to get! We don’t have any easy stroll to our first puma however…after about an hour of quite difficult walking and hiking, we reach a rocky cliff overlooking a majestic mountain lake and lay eyes on our first Puma for 2016 (well, four of us do! As I mentioned, three of the clients had their first puma the afternoon before). As we approach, the Puma is walking along the rocky cliff and finally settles into a little cave to relax. Here we stay for the next 3 hrs. watching a very tranquil Puma sleeping. Yes, Puma watching has very exciting moments — and also a lot of very boring moments! Pumas, like other cats, sleep a ton! We actually spend some time in the afternoon photographing another Puma that wonders into the area near our sleepy cave sleeping Puma and finish the day back with our young male Puma who wakes up and gives us some very nice images at the last light of day. A great start for our Puma Quest 2016 trip!

_H7Q7496FinalFinalOur second full day has us back to the same area we were on Day 1 and we get our first Puma contact within 20 minutes walk from our vehicle! We all get some very nice images as we follow her coming from a distance directly to our location. This is the very relaxed super star Puma “Hermanita” again which makes following her at close distance very easy since she is totally obvious to our presence. After about 3 hrs. of watching and following Hermanita, she finally lays down to have a catnap. During her nap a couple guanacos have wandered into the vicinity and start to feed 200 meters from our sleeping cat. Yes…things get very interesting – very quickly from this point on!!! We position ourselves on the other side of the guanacos, just in case our super star decides she is ready to eat. Hermanita does decide she might have a go at one of the guanacos and begins her slow, cat-crawl stock. My group is completely in awe at what we are witnessing. When she gets within 15 of her prey, Hermanita makes a rush at the fleeing guanaco and pursues her quarry for about 50 feet before she breaks off her attack. Wow!!!! We all couldn’t believe that we just witnessed a Puma hunt!

That same afternoon we decided to move positions and spend time at a lake which I had great success photographing a mother Puma and 7 month old cubs last year. Once again upon arrival at the lake a Puma had already been spotted by our advance Puma team and off we went. Upon reaching the white lava rock which surrounds the lake we look down and see our Puma. Wait…what is the small tan object next to her? It’s a Puma cub! And over there in the bushes, another cub, and another! Quickly the cubs retreat into the foliage as the mother Pumas moves off a short distance and lays down. EH7Q1701This we find out is the same relaxed mother Puma that I photographed last year in this same location, but with her brand new set of cubs! How lucky could one group yet? We figure the cubs may be just under 2 months of age and are still quite nervous to be out and about with mom. Over the next couple days we see the family at a distance but never quite get in a terrific situation for photography. Our group realizes that we are just super lucky and privileged to be able to see this young Puma family in the wild.

On one of the days near the lake we also see and photograph this mother Pumas older cubs from last year. These two brothers are about 1.5 years old now and will likely be parting ways to lead their solitary lives very soon. I couldn’t be happier about our Puma Quest tour for 2016 and can’t wait to return in April of 2017! Will this mother Puma still be with her yearlings?? Will Hermanita make a successful hunt in front of us next year? Will we see the two male brothers in their own territories? How many new Pumas will we see???

Recent Trip Report: 2016 Botswana Photo Safaris

Botswana is a destination I’ll be very happy to visit every year for the rest of my life! I was fortunate to have two groups of wonderful clients this past March, one for my usual Botswana Photo Safaris itinerary and the other with a special Bots/Namibia tour.

Looking through my select images from our first camp, Chitabe Lediba Camp, I find wonderful leopard images, a pair of majestic male lions, a larger pride of female lions and older cubs, Cheetahs stalking, large herds of Impalas running (captured as slow shutter blurs, which is my favorite!), Zebras in amazing morning rainbow-fog light, dwarf Mongoose pocking their heads out of a termite mound, and Hippos with hundreds of Egyptian Geese in the same small pool. Yes, it’s been another great start of another great Botswana adventure at Chitabe! Four days in Botswana feels like a year of experiences!

On to our next camp is in the heart of the Okavango Delta, which puts us closer to large water features that surround Vumbura Plains camp. The only large predator that we missed at Chitabe was Wild Dogs. We were actually on the trail of a pack on our last morning at Chitabe, but needed to leave before we caught up with them. So to everyone’s delight, we had our first pack of Wild Hunting Dogs on our first afternoon drive! After watching them sleep for about two hours (not so exciting), but when they get up, perform their greeting ceremony and trot off to hunt…now we are talking exciting! I’ve tried to describe following a pack of Wild Dogs as they hunt before and it never seems to convey the adrenaline rush and excitement of the real thing — go figure!

Anyway, imagine traveling 20 mph off-road through every kind of habitat (water, mud, mopani scrub…) and trying your best to keep your eye on a least one dog as they trot, split and run in and out of tall grass and bushes working on scaring up some likely prey animal (which is usually an Impala, Kudu, Stein Buck, Reedbuck, or other antelope). When the prey animals find out the dogs are on the hunt all chaos breaks out! Impalas start running and pronging (unusual running/jumping which shows their fitness to the predator) in all directions with the dogs quickly coming on and seen from all angles trying to bring down their prey — now this is just an amazing thing to witness. Keep in mind that this whole time you are also crashing through the bushes at 20 mph trying to stay up with this action! This hunt ends with the pack feeding on a young Common Waterbuck as the mother antelope watches from 20 meters away. Real nature isn’t cruel or nice — it just IS. Yes, it’s a tough scene to watch for some, but when you realize these predators are coming up on denning season (and Wild Dogs eat meat), something has to die for these guys and for the next generation of Wild Dogs to exist.

More tranquil and beautiful scenes also await us at camp Vumbura, like the herd of glorious elephants we see crossing the flooded channels as we head to camp on that first afternoon. Or, the Leopard we see head down the tree he has been resting in for the past 3 hours (yes, we waited!) right at the perfect last 5 minutes of sunset — glorious! We are in the right spot and at the perfect time! This is what being on a photo safari in Africa is all about — patience and knowledge giving us great luck!

A couple other notable sighting and photo ops include Kudu after Kudu jumping over a river, Red Letchwe running and jumping at full speed through the open water of the Delta, a Hammerkop bird catching and eating a large frog, large herds of the rare and elegant Sabal Antelope, and pairs of endangered Wattles Cranes feeding in the marshland. Ahhhhhh Botswana!

For our last stop we head north out of the Delta to our last camp Kings Pool in the Linyanti. This is another great location to spend time with my favorite African animal, the Painted Wolves or Wild Hunting Dog. And spend time with them we do — tons of time with more crazy hunts and terrific behavior from these highly endangered predators. We also slow down and spend quality time with pods of Hippos as they jostle each other and gap mouths wide in threat to the humans on the bank of their pools. Elephants and Giraffes also delight us with their parental care and unworldly proportions and shapes! The diversity of Africa never fails to delight me!

Ok…is it March 2017 yet? I want to go back to Botswana! Come join me!

NOTE: we currently have an open cabin in each of my Botswana 2017 departures! Registration ends May 31, 2015. REGISTER NOW!!

Wild Puma Hunting a Guanaco

Puma Hunt from J Lab Media.

Shot in Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile during our Toft Photo Puma Quest 2016, we were lucky enough to see a wild puma hunting a guanaco!

Photographing Pumas in 2016

Puma Quest

My recent scouting trip to Torres Del Paine NP in Chile was a complete success. Our primary photo query was the magnificent Puma or Mountain Lion. To follow and photograph these spectacular cats on foot was a dream come true. We saw several mothers with cubs, large male on a kill, and two ridiculously habituated sisters at close range. The scenery in this park and surrounding area was breathtaking! One of the most important factors for our success was the ability to work on a huge private ranch connected to the park and to employ talented local guides. This allowed us to follow the Pumas and not be held to recent park restrictions regarding walking off trail in the National Park.

I am planning on leading a small photography tour group (8 max) on another “Puma Quest” in April of 2016. The physical fitness level needed for this trip is high. We commonly walk 2-3 miles per day carrying all camera gear and endure cold temperatures and high winds. The dates and cost will be coming soon. Please email if you have interest in joining this Puma Photography trip for 2016!