By CHANTAL COOKE
Three million gallons of water per second, nearly 300 waterfalls and over 250 species of butterfly; this is the Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil.
It’s difficult to know where to look sometimes – the waterfalls are dramatic and pull the eye, but the butterflies are beautiful too – large and colourful – and they flit around you demanding attention. The solution is to take it slow and soak (sometimes literally) it all up. Pause to gawp at the sheer power of the falls, then gasp as a bright butterfly lands on your hand extending its long tongue to lick your skin – so delicately you can’t even feel it!
The Iguazu Falls are within the Iguazu National Park – which straddles both Argentina and Brazil. It is 1700 square kilometres of sub-tropical rain forest and provides a home to, among others, jaguars, capuchin monkeys, parrots and toucans – as well as some very bold racoon-like coatis who will steal your food at any opportunity. But it’s difficult to get angry as they do look cute – however beware they have very sharp teeth so don’t try petting them!
If you have a day at the Falls then it’s worth planning to visit both the Argentine and Brazilian sides – you may think ‘what’s the difference – it’s a giant waterfall’ – but in fact the view and experience is quite different in each country.
On the Argentina side you’ll catch a little train that takes you through the jungle towards the most famous part of the falls – the Devil’s Throat. Once you disembark there is an easy, scenic walk along about 1km of metal catwalks that takes you over the river to a viewing platform, allowing you to look straight down into the throat of the devil. Expect to get wet – the air is thick with spray as millions of gallons of water rush headlong down 82m to the river below.
Although it would be suicidal to try to reach the Devil’s Throat in a boat it is possible to take a zodiac up the river and stop off at some of the other waterfalls – and see them from water level. An open truck will take you on a short journey through the jungle to the pier where you load your shoes and bags into a large waterproof sack, don a life jacket and board the zodiac for a thrill-seeking –fairground-ride along the river, culminating in a mad dash into a waterfall. The water feels like tiny stones and any thoughts of remaining dry anywhere are banished. It’s such fun we all shout for the captain to take us in again – and off we go, hands raised and shouting with glee!
Once back on land, dripping from head to toe, there is a walk along rocky paths and steps to a variety of different viewpoints from which to enjoy the dozens of waterfalls.
From the Brazilian side you catch a bus which will take you to the ‘trail head’. There is an easy walk through the jungle – look out for lizards and capuchin monkeys – to the catwalks. These take you along the edge of some of the falls, over rivers and through the jungle, and allow you to get a variety of great views and different perspectives of the water. Everywhere in the park (whichever side you are on) look out for caimans, yellow orb spiders, black vultures, catfish, and turtles – with butterflies perched on their noses.
The walkways are well designed and really allow you to get a sense of the river, the waterfalls and the jungle. It’s easy walking – so nothing too strenuous, and at the very end, after you have seen the Devil’s Throat, there is a handy lift you take you up the hillside the back to the buses.
If you haven’t already eaten then the Porto Canoas restaurant offers a good buffet a great view of the Throat (and the Argentine walkway where you were earlier, or will be later, in the day).
It is reported that upon seeing Iguazu, the United States’ First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed “Poor Niagara!” I wouldn’t want to discourage you from visiting Niagara – but I would encourage you to visit Iguazu.
Loi Suites is a quiet and attractive hotel in the jungle, close to the park with wooden bridges through the trees connecting the main hotel (with spa, pool, restaurant and bar) to the guest rooms. If you want to go into Iguazu town itself it’s about a 20 minute taxi ride.
British Airways flies direct to Buenos Aires. From there you’ll need to pick up a domestic flight to Ushuaia.
To arrange your tour to Argentina contact Argentina Travel Partners
About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.