Jaguar in the Pantanal wetlands © Andy Rouse/Minden Pictures
What"s the best place to see a wild jaguar? The Amazon rainforest may be more well known, but the Pantanal is the world"s largest tropical wetlands—and the place you"re most likely to spot a jaguar in the wild. The Pantanal"s estimated 70,000 square miles cover part of the western side of Brazil and extend into Bolivia and Paraguay. Portions of the Pantanal are protected within national parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It"s difficult to travel there during the wet season (November-April)—high temperatures make it nearly unbearable, and rain and flooding often close roads. Hotels in the region even shut down for periods of time each year. May through September is the dry season, when temperatures cool off and conditions are more friendly to both people and many animals. If you plan to visit, pack some binoculars and keep your eyes peeled for a big spotted cat sitting blithely on the riverbank.