Brazil and Argentina share the honor of being homes to one of the most amazing creations of nature – the Iguazú Falls. Both countries facilitate visitor access, but each offers a different experience. In Brazil, you can see the entire chain of waterfalls from a distance, whereas in Argentina, a large territory of the Iguazú National Park can be explored.
Native inhabitants of this territory, the Guaraní people, described origenes of the falls in this beautiful legend:
” Many years ago, there was a big and monstrous serpent which lived in the Iguazú river and its name was Boi. Once a year, the guaranies had to sacrifice a beautiful virgin and throw her into the river to please Boi. One year, a young boy whose name was Tarobá, became a leader of the tribe. He was madly in love with a beautiful girl named Naipi. When he discovered that she was to be sacrificed, he kidnapped her and intended to escape in a canoe. Boi found out about it; she got furious and her anger was so deep, that she split the river into halves forming a massive gap. She caught the lovers, turned Tarobá into a palm tree, and Naipi, with her beautiful, long hair, into falling water. She disappeared in the Devil’s Throat and from there she watches Naipí’s and Tarobá’s suffering eternal separation. However, on sunny days, the rainbow surpasses Boi’s power and joins the two lovers.”
A visit to the park is a full day adventure, that includes walks and trails leading through lower and upper parts of the falls, a train ride, and a short boat shuttle to San Martin island. This variety of activities allows visitors to admire that miraculous land from different perspectives. Even though, in the Park, it is only allowed to walk within the designated areas, and visitors must follow the marked paths, it is entirely up to them which path or destination they choose. We decided to see the biggest fall first.
To get there, we followed a 1km long bridge, built above the extensive Iguazú River. If you carefully scan the shallow river bottom, you may see turtles, fishes and caimans. On small pieces of land grows a variety of plants and trees, giving home to many species of butterflies and birds. All this turns the walk into a very exciting experience.
From a certain distance we could already see the mist rising above the fall; then we heard the noise, and finally, at one point we just stopped. We couldn’t believe our eyes. It was like an image taken from one of those catastrophe movies – a big hole sucking up all that is around,…or a giant flushing toilet!
It was our first contact with the Devil. Still, we had no idea what was about to come. We rushed forward to get a closer view. And yeah!! You can get really close to the beast!!
This U-shaped fall is called Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat) and the name already tells a lot about its nature. Every second, 12000m3 of water fall 80m down, with such a strength and speed, that the rising mist makes it impossible to see where the fall ends.
Standing in front of Garganta del Diablo has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. It is really hard to define how it felt to be there. My heart stopped for a few seconds, while my face was trying to figure out the right expression for this unfamiliar emotion. It was a peculiar mixture of happiness, fear, astonishment and respect!
When the sun shines, a beautiful rainbow appears, and the greatness of the scene is overwhelming. It turns into a very personal, almost intimate experience. You just stand there and feel so small, so fragile. In fact, tourists get surprisingly quiet there. Maybe the noise of the falling water disturbs communication, or maybe the view makes people realise how meaningless they are in the face of nature.
Yet, only a few hundred meters further, life proves the contrary. Humans’ interference with nature is significant. There is a spot in the park, where most of the trails meet. It is an assembly point for tours and groups of visitors. Every day, hundreds of tourists choose to grab a snack or have their lunch there. Over the years, the smell of food has been attracting animals and drugging them out of the forest. As a result, dozens of coatis have lost their natural fear of people, and they spend their entire lifes walking around the tables and robbing tourists.
Coatis became an additional attraction to the park. We spent over an hour watching series of hilarious events involving those bizarre mammals. They specialise in looking friendly and harmless, and in this cleaver way, they take advantage of naive tourists. People get easily fooled by their innocent look, they stop, take photos or squat to touch them. It gives the animals an opportunity to have a “good sniff” of their victims’ bags and pockets.Once they locate the food, they conduct a quick, unexpected attack. They work in groups and they are very fast, so most of the time they are successful! Once they get in possession of food, they disappear in the forest.
We were sitting on a bench, watching them run away with somebody’s bag of crisps, when a single coatie approached us. I was holding an empty chocolate bar wrapper. The animal came to me slowly, and delicately put his front paws on my lap. I got infatuated by his cuteness in a split second. Then, when I less expected it, he grabbed the wrapper with his maw and pooled with an unusual strength, helping itself with the long claws. It was impossible to win that combat, I had to let go.
We decided to look for an alternative place to eat, not to share our lunch with coatis. We chose to have a picnic on the beach of the island. La Isla San Martin is one of the most beautiful parts of the park. Once you get there by boat, you can have a bath in the river, just meters away from the falls, and admire some incredible views.
Our visit to The Iguazú National Park was not just a fantastic visual experience. There was some kind of a spiritual dimension to it. Most of the time I was speechless and I could only press the button of my camera. I wanted to capture every single thing I saw. I couldn’t get enough, even though I knew that no matter how many images I carry back with me, I won’t be able to capture and preserve the emotion.
Here is a fragment of the BBC series “Planet Earth”