Mark - USA
Douglas was waiting for us and started taking care of us immediately. He was professional and personable right from the get go and we enjoyed our drive down to Piuval, with a stop or two to get supplies (including some deodorant and toothpaste that was in our missing luggage). We got to know one another on the drive down and he involved Ren in the conversation and asked lots of questions and told us a lot about the flora and fauna, as well as the history of Brazil, and the detailed itinerary for our trip. After eating dinner, we took a night drive. We were about 75 yards down the long drive when Douglas spotted a tamandua! We watched as he walked across the field and climbed a tree and disappeared. We continued our drive, ultimately seeing a crab eating raccoon, a crab eating fox, lots of caiman, a fish eating bat, other birds and a tapir. We saw a couple of others on night drives and they did not see anything that we saw. Douglas was a great wildlife spotter. The following morning at Piuval, we went horseback riding, which was a lot of fun. Ren had not been on a horse before and he particularly enjoyed it when we went through the water! Douglas was great and pointed out lots of different birds, including the Tiger Heron which quickly became Ren's favorite. After the horseback ride, we walked a trail and found capuchins and went up the watch tower and saw a giant anteater. That afternoon, we went on a driving safari with another group. Their guide was kind of loud, which made it a little less enjoyable, and was constantly asking Douglas questions, which Douglas handled very professionally while he was still constantly scanning for animals to identify. At the end of the road (close to the lake with the long bridge and watch tower), we saw blue maccaws, howlers, a great horned owl, and lot of parrots and other birds. We took an early morning walking safari on our last day at Piuval. We saw an agouti and some birds but not much else. We then worked on trying to figure out where our luggage was and, as you know, ultimately drove back to Cuiba to retrieve it. A quick note on Piuval: the accommodations were nice and the food was fine. There were a lot of young (and loud) children when we were there, which Douglas said was unusual. I like kids just fine but they were pretty loud and obnoxious. Also, some of the other guests helped themselves to some of the water in the five gallon bottle that Douglas had left outside of our room! No big deal though and we told them it was not a community bottle. After retrieving our bags, we headed down the Transpantaneira highway towards Porto Jofre. Again, we had great conversation with Douglas, who by that time had already had a long day and it was not even half over. We talked on a wide variety of topics – Brazil, the US, politics, education, biology, animals, etc – and had a really nice drive. Plus, of course, we got to see more animals, including an anaconda on the road just before we got to the hotel and a beautiful sunset. Douglas was great about stopping the truck and letting us explore safely along the road and get as many pictures as we wanted. He was patient and informative always. Dinner at Porto Jofre (and all the other meals afterwards) was great, as was the room. Douglas got us all checked in and gave us the appropriate safety talk. We met for breakfast the next day (and every following day) at 6. Now, for a 12 year old, that's really early but Ren was excited to get up and go search for Jaguars. Our driver was Beto, and he was great. We had a successful morning, spotting a jaguar, lots of river otters, caiman, capybaras and innumerable beautiful birds. Douglas was great, talking in detail about all of them and he was an amazing bird spotter. He clearly has a great love and knowledge of them, which was contagious and really got Ren excited about them too. Pretty soon Ren was spotting and identifying them too! The afternoon brought two more jaguars and a confrontation between them and a river otter family. Not surprisingly, there were about 15 other boats at that sighting but it was ok and we were able to be located in a prime viewing spot. Dinner soon followed and a game of pool/billiards in the game room and then an early bedtime. The following day brought two more jaguars and giant river otters, along with many birds. Douglas spotted a very cool lizard and some really interesting species of hawk, and had a great conversation with Ren about how the bubbles/foam in the water was caused by decaying water lilies in response to a question from Ren. Constantly, douglas was sharing his love of the Pantanal with us and answering all of our questions, and Ren had a lot of questions! That afternoon, Douglas spotted a jaguar hidden in dense brush and we had it all to ourselves for about 10 minutes before it wandered back in the jungle. Our last full day at Porto Jofre was absolutely freezing. We did not see any jaguars in the morning but we saw some other cool things including a male Marsh deer swimming across the river and a giant river otter mother swimming with her baby in her mouth. That afternoon, we saw four jaguars including the first two which Beto spotted from a great distance, howlers and lots and lots of birds. When we got in the car to start the drive back to Cuiaba, Ren said "Douglas, I just want you to know, that when you drop us off at the hotel tonight, I'm going to give you a hug." Without missing a beat, Douglas replied "I'm going to give you a hug too. That's how we do things in Brazil!" That exchange really sums up well our time in the Pantanal with Douglas. He shared with us his love of the animals and ecology of that very unique environment. He was personable, open, engaged, professional, kind, smart and funny. He never once got frustrated with Ren (or me!) or anyone or anything else. I never saw him frustrated or aggravated even while he was working on our luggage issues or making the drive to and from the airport to retrieve it. I honestly cannot say enough positive things about Douglas and the way in which he represented your company. I would be happy to serve as a reference for any future travelers who are considering using Wild Pantanal and Douglas. If you have any specific questions about the trip, please let me know. Thanks again for all the work you did to make this trip one that Ren will remember always (as well as your behind the scenes work on our luggage issues too).