There are butterflies everywhere.
They dance around us through the mist as the dim rumbling swells to a roar. We turn a corner and the tranquil waters we’ve crossed via a metal walkway suddenly give way to the staggering sight and sound of Garganta del Diablo — the Devil’s Throat. We stand on the Argentine viewing platform, dazzled by the great maw of tumbling, thundering water. It’s the climax of our day of wonder at Iguazu Falls.
A two-hour flight from Buenos Aires is the gateway to this South American bucket list adventure at Iguazu National Park on the Argentinian side of the border with Brazil. From our rainforest accommodation just outside Puerto Iguazu we clatter along the red-dust roads in a coach that picks up other travellers along the way. At the stone and timber Iguazu National Park Visitor Centre we find maps and information and decide our plan of attack.
There is a range of tours that you can pre-book online, at your accommodation, or at the Visitor Centre. We opt for a morning of DIY exploration, along with an inflatable boat ride on the Iguazu River and a trip on the Rainforest Ecological Train to the Devil’s Throat as our ultimate adventure. We begin with a stroll along the Upper Trail and are met at every turn with vast curtains of cascading water, swirling mist and rainbows hanging in the air. It is indescribably beautiful.
In 2011 Iguazu Falls was recognised as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, and it’s not hard to see why. Depending on rainfall and the time of year there are between 150 and 300 separate waterfalls in the national park (most on the Argentinian side), which was created in 1934 and declared a World Heritage Site in 1984. Walkways are well-maintained and accessible for most people. Maps and signs in English and Spanish dot the routes. Modern facilities, cafes and seating areas sit inconspicuously beside the rainforest, which is home to wildlife such as jaguars, monkeys and tapirs. I’m determined to spot a toucan before the day is through!
We stop at a cafe for an early lunch of empanadas, getting up close and personal with some of the local coatis (members of the raccoon family) who emerge from the rainforest daily at lunchtime seeking scraps. As we watch, thinking how cute they are, one daring member of the group jumps onto a chair and attempts to steal food from a small child! Once they’ve had their fill they scurry back into the jungle with a swish of their furry tails.
We continue our journey via the Lower Trail where we can fully appreciate the incredible scope of the waterfalls. Here we don raincoats, stow our gear in waterproof bags and hop aboard an inflatable boat for our river excursion. Our driver takes us sedately past San Martin Island towards the falls on the Brazilian side, then ups the tempo with some accelerated turns, and finishes with a drenching underneath a waterfall. I’m amazed at the power of the rushing water, which leaves me gasping for breath.
We are soaked to the skin but soon dry off in the sunshine as we head back up the trail to board our train to the Devils’s Throat station, a few kilometres away. We sit on timber bench seats and take in the beauty of the surrounding rainforest as the open-sided train lumbers along at a leisurely pace. I spy a monkey swinging through the trees but, sadly, no toucans.
We alight and embark on the twenty-minute walk through forest and over streams to the Devil’s Throat waterfall. At almost 700 metres wide and 82 metres high, this horseshoe-shaped wonder is the park’s pièce de résistance.
Despite years of imagining what this will be like I am totally unprepared for the scale and majesty of the falls — and the roar that fills my ears. The view across to Brazil is breathtaking. No-one on the viewing platform speaks. Awestruck, everyone simply attempts to take in the spectacle.
We linger for as long as we can but have to make way so others can also enjoy the splendour. Iguazu Falls is a pageant of nature that is almost impossible to describe. Add it to your bucket list!
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Additional images: Bigstock
Geraldine Massey won her first writing prize when she was eight for a story about travelling with Howard Carter on his expedition to discover Tutankhamun’s tomb. It was an early indicator of her lifelong enthusiasm for writing and travel. An experienced corporate communicator and editor, Geraldine once wrote text for Centrelink payment brochures and is now a writer and editor for WeekendNotes. In recent years she has become a ‘wedding traveller’ — using family weddings in New Zealand, Argentina and the USA as jumping-off points for further exploration.