Iguazú: the Incredible, Rebellious Falls of South America

Iguazu distantMy brother and I had agreed on two excursions together during his time in Argentina, the first one being to Iguazú. Iguaz-who? You may not have heard of this incredible natural wonder, pronounced e-hwah-zoo, be prepared to be wowed.

My excitement had been building as the date approach for our journey to this awesome waterfalls on the northern border of Argentina and Brazil. Meaning “big water” in the local indigenous Guarani language, from the photos online I’d perused, it looked more gigantic than merely big. Even American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt supposedly exclaimed “Poor Niagara!” when she laid eyes on the spectacular site, barrelling down from upwards of 82 metres (269 ft), two thirds the height of its North American counterpart. But it would be more than just “size” that made them impressive.

Up we rose early, trudging sleepily off to Buenos Aires domestic airport on the first day of the “holiday” part of my stay in Argentina. We’d booked locally priced plane tickets (as described here) so were a little nervous we might get called out and end up in the Argentine international frauders’ prison, but once we boarded completely unnoticed and sunk into our seats, our little adventure was officially beginning and free of stress.

Over our many evening trip-planning skypes, my brother and I had tossed back and forth hotel ideas, eventually spurged on the luxurious Loi Suites, if our bargain flight went off without a hitch, it would all balance out. We certainly had no regrets as our taxi turned off the main vibrant ochre dirt road and through the jungle to this beautifully designed boutique hotel. Built to fit right into its surroundings, the setting is both peaceful and stunning, not making us in the slightest want to leave, therefore, we spent our first afternoon relaxing by the pool, taking in the gorgeous subtropical rainforest… and some margaritas.

The next day would be our day at the falls and the national park which encompasses it. Again a bit of a splurge, we opted to accentuate our visit by signing up for a “full adventure” package which included a drive through the rainforest, a boat ride up the Iguazú river up to the falls, however, beforehand we had a few hours of free time to explore on our own, so off along the paths we embarked, eager to catch our first glimpses of Iguazú. Well, the first exotic sighting was of coatis, small animals hanging out around the snack bar areas hoping to pilfer some goodies from tourists, that, while do not totally resemble, reminded me of racoons, and sure enough they are of the same family and with the scrounging nature. We also spotted some attractive chirping birds and various sized slithering lizards.

We delved further through the rainforest path. We eventually could hear the rumble and feel the mist slowly rising in the air. Rounding another bend there she was, peeking out of a disjointed frame of green branches. I could only imagine what it must have been like centuries or even millennium ago when a weary traveler through the jungle might have stumbled across this amazing cascade (hopefully not by boat from the river above) and the awe that must have struck them. For Iguazú is not “one fall,” rather hundreds of falls tumbling down, escaping out of clusters of greenery clinging to the rocks.

We turned another bend, crossed another little foot bridge, each time coming face to face with a new facet of its splendour. In due time we made our way to the meeting point of the adventure tour. We all piled into a forest tour truck to have our young guide give us an informative talk along the way teaching us about the flora and fauna of Argentina’s rainforest. Then lifejackets and waterproof bags firmly fastened, we boarded a catamaran to zoom up the river. The mist we’d been dusted with up above was nothing like the dousing we were about to receive. Seeing and feeling the falls up close as our driver teased us around the base of several of the larger falls showering us with all its might, really fulfilled the experience. Now all we needed to do was dry off and try to hold on to the memories as long as we could.

I couldn’t help thinking back to my one and only first to North America’s great falls, Niagara, on the border of Canada and the U.S. I was taken down by my sweet and thoughtful last boyfriend while living in Canada, a little romantic weekend. It was crisp January day and the perfect horseshoe had icicles forming on its edges. It was almost too perfect, too orderly, too cold. Here I now was, having been around the world, absolutely loving the chaotic enchantment by its South American twin, or possibly, rebellious little sister. Maybe these two beauties are actually quite symbolic of the differences North and South continents?

Iguazu rainbow

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  • Karin B says:

    I first saw these falls on the “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” segment on the Today Show (US) a few years ago and thought they were GORGEOUS. Your photos confirm!! I hope one day I can see them. 🙂


    • Thanks Karin! I’m not surprised they stuck in your mind from the TV segment, they are truly exceptional!! It’s a nice change of pace to be surrounded by resounding nature like this instead of the pounding city. I hope you get to experience them one day!

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