August 2007: We spent three weeks exploring Brazil, from Rio de Janeiro's legendary Maracana stadiium to the idyllic beaches of Ilha Grande, ending up in the depths of the Pantanal, near the border with Paraguay, where we spent time with giant otters, capybara, caiaman, rheas, anteaters and crab-eating foxes.

One day I will travel to the Amazon, but I'd been told by other photographers that the Pantanal is the more rewarding destination for wildlife, especially in the context of a relatively short trip, so this was top of my hit list. We stayed at Fazenda Rio Negro, which really is in the heart of the swamp – the Pantanal is one giant wetland, covering 88,000 square miles (the entire United Kingdom covers 94,000). We were there in the dry season, which meant we were able to explore our immediate surroundings by foot, horseback, jeep and canoe. In the wet season I was told those options are limited to just canoe (or other water-borne modes of transport).

As the name of the lodge suggests, it sits on the banks of the Rio Negro, a piranha and caiman-infested river that runs through the Pantanal. It is an exceptionally diverse area for wildlife, with the headline-grabber being the elusive jaguar. Unsurprisingly, the closest we got to one of these beautiful big cats was a footprint. Sightings are rare – although that didn't stop me obsessing for the duration of our trip, and ensuring that I will return to complete the mission one day.

Rio at dusk, as seen from the Corcovado.
Cristo Redentor - 38 metres high and weighing in at 1,145 tons.
Rocinha, Rio's largest favela.
Street life, Rocinha.
The view from Vila Canoas, one of Rio's smaller favelas.
Estádio do Maracanã, Rio.
Jetty, Praia de Palmas, Ilha Grande.
Jetty, Vila do Abraão, Ilha Grande.
The ghost town at Dois Rios, Ilha Grande – the site of a former prison. Now truly one of the most eerie places I've visited.
Caiman, Pantanal. The Pantanal is the world's largest wetland and is home to caiman, piranhas, jaguars, capybaras, wild boar, anacondas, monkeys and more than 400 species of birds.
Capybara, braving the piranha and caiman-infested waters at dusk.
Female anhinga, on the banks of the Rio Negro.
A rare albino jabiru stork.
Hyacinth macaw.
The closest we got to a jaguar.
Beautiful machine it may be, but it was incredibly loud and probably not the best mode of transport if photographing animals is your goal. We were considerably more successful when travelling by horse, canoe and on foot.
Toco toucan.
Yelllow armadillo.
You can see the wounds this poor fellow is carrying.
Giant river otter, Pantanal.
Neo-tropical otter with a fish supper, Rio Negro.
Pygmy owl joins us for lunch, Fazenda Rio Negro.
Southern tamandua anteater, Pantanal.
Crab-eating fox, pantanal.
Pair of hyacinth macaws.
Red-footed tortoise.
Greater Rhea in the grounds of Fazenda Rio Negro. The rhea is from the same family – as you might expect – as the emu and ostrich.
Horses at dusk, Rio Negro.
Hyacinth macaws settling down for the night.
Fazenda Rio Negro – deep in the heart of the Pantanal.
Dawn over Rio Negro.
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