When researching a large family week long Brazilian safari in November, we found the options are limited to either a private concession or areas where the masses go, which from previous experience is Puerto Joffre. Puerto Joffre is very busy as everyone is restricted to the waterways and sightings are more two dimensional as you can only see what is happening on the river bank. However, private properties such as Caiman Lodge, allows you to drive and walk around which is similar to a typical African safari. Staying at a lodge also gives you a far greater chance of seeing a better diversity of large mammals such as the tapir and giant anteater and of course the elusive jaguars, which like their African counterparts the leopards, can be incredibly shy.
Puerto Joffre can feel like sitting in the middle of the great migration with hundreds of other tourists, whilst a lodge feels more like the private concessions of northern Kenya, Botswana or the Kruger National Park.
When travelling with children it is difficult to keep them focused when all they can do is sit on a boat, which is why we chose to stay at Caiman Lodge. The children so enjoyed time with the researchers of the On-cafari Jaguar Habituation team, especially making plaster cast of tapir and jaguar footprints. We also experienced a canoe safari on the many waterways, but if you are going to do this activity, you have to remember to keep your hands out of the water as the population of caimans in the Pantanal is said to exceed 10 million. If you have the time I would suggest you do both and definitely include at least two days in the Bonito area drifting down crystal clear spring fed rivers as well as a host of other experiences unique to this area.