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!