Time was running out for us, but we could not leave without visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Iguazu Falls shared by Argentina and Brazil. Both parks, on both countries received the UNESCO status due not only to the natural beauty, but to the great amount of rare and endangered fauna and flora. The falls are now a finalist for the “Natural Wonders of the World” Competition. Unfortunately we could spare only one day for the visit. Normally that would be ok for visiting one side, but we wanted to do both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides. We had to take our luggage with us and go through immigration at the border in between the visit as that was the end of Argentina for us and Iguazu was our entry point into Brazil. It was one hell of an exhausting marathonic day, but well worth the trouble for the impressive sight the falls are.
Our visit took place during the last days of rainy season so we ended quite wet, both from the constant rainfall and the powerful mist of the cascades on the Brazilian side; but they say this is the perfect time to visit the falls as you get to see them at their mightiest. Iguazu Falls consist of 275 falls over a course of 2.7 km on the Iguazu River, with 80% of the falls being on the Argentinian side. The falls separate the Iguazu river into upper and lower river. In the Argentinian sides there are walking trails where you can opt to see the falls from the middle or from the top. The biggest concentration of water is at the U shaped falls called the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo), the actual border between the two nations. This is where the cataracts are at their mightiest and tallest, at an altitude of 80 meters high. An eco-train takes you close to the Argentina’s Devil’s Throat and from there you walk 1 km along the walkway over the Iguazu River to reach it. The amount of water falling at the site, its power and speed is a delight to watch, nature at its wildest. From there you are just a a few steps from Brazil, and you can even see the spectators at Brazil’s side and version of the Devil’s Throat.
Water is the main player at Iguazu but the fauna and flora are also part of the show. Plentiful bright green diverse vegetation gives Iguazu its beauty. A large variety of over 400 butterflies inhabit the area, some with an unbelievably beautiful combination of bright design on its body; as well almost 500 birds call Iguazu home, one of the largest concentrations on earth. We saw an amazing species of small birds that actually live inside the falls. You can watch as these birds fly directly at a high speed into the falls with no hesitation and find a resting spot behind the water. And the resident pet of the falls is the coati, a mischievous raccoon – opossum type mammal that will steal your food if it has its way, if unsuccessful you will find them digging the ground with their elongated noses to get aliments. They look cute and are very accustomed to visitors, they will let you touch them; but that would be a bad move as some of them carry rabies. We also got a glimpse of a mountain rat, which looked very cute with freckles and all, but a rat nonetheless. While we were there the rainy foggy day and the dark clouds gave the setting an ominous feeling, which to me went perfectly well with the site it is. The Guarani indigenous tribe was the original inhabitant of the region, but sadly Portuguese and Spanish conquerors destroyed their habitat, enslaved or killed them.
Because of our deadline and our reluctance to take group tours we opted to take a costly taxi ride from the Argentinian Falls to the Brazilian Falls stopping at immigration. Now we know it was unnecessary. We saw everything on both sides without getting up so early and still had time to spare at the end of the day, the cheap public bus option would have suited us fine. The border crossing was really fast and easy, first time we didn’t even have to get out of the car.
The Brazilian side was a different story: very modern and efficient administration, plenty of transportation options, credit card facilities, and better personal service. Certainly they only own a small portion of the falls, but it’s the best. You have a picture perfect view of the multiple falls on the Argentinian side on the trail that leads you to the grand finale, Brazil’s Devil’s Throat. You can walk to it and get soaked by all the heavy mist. There is also an elevator which takes you to a viewing point on top of it all, from where you can watch the magic being created.
On the Brazilian side there are also plenty of adventure activities to do. Rapelling, Rafting, Kayaking are part of it, but most people do the boat ride which brings you upclose to the base of the Devil’s Throat. On The Argentinian side all adventure activities had been canceled for the moment due to a recent mortal accident. We had a fabulous time and if we had a choice to go back to one side it would definitely be Brazil. To learn more about the history of the falls and the doomed fate of its original inhabitants watch the excellent award winning film “The Mission”.