Iguazú Falls: A Gift of Nature

On the bus ride from the airport (Aeropuerto International Cataratas del Iguazú), our guide reminded us how lucky we were. He said, "If you were here yesterday, you would have been soaked, it rained hard yesterday. Today is a little bit cloudy, but a perfect day to visit the park.” It was spring in Argentina and Brazil – one of the best times to see Iguazu Falls (another best time to visit is fall). Summer is intensely hot and humid, and in winter, the water level is considerably lower. Our guide gave us a little information about the National Park for which the falls are part of the ecosystem protected by both the Argentine and Brazilian government. He talked about logistics - how long it should take us to walk the upper circuit (trail) and the lower circuit, but gave no statistics about the falls. He told us about the birds (Great Dusky Swift) that fly through the mist and nest on the rocks behind the waterfalls.

Iguazú Falls (Cataratas del Iguazú in Spanish, Foz do Iguaçu in Portuguese) lie on the Argentina/ Brazil border and are a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Divided by various islands into separate waterfalls, two thirds of the falls belong to Argentina.

We walked the Argentine side. About twenty minutes stroll from the park entrance; we took the train at ‘Estacion Catarata’ to reach the entrance to the main route/walkway to the Devil’s Throat or Gargantua del Diablo. It was a long walk to the viewing platform. We could see the spray way over the falls from midway of the trail. Approaching Devil’s Throat, I heard the thunderous sound of violent magnificent falling waters.

Devil's Throat

The views of the river(s) were magnificent that I stopped to take photos. I could not pass up taking pictures of the landscape. Every mile of it was picturesque.

We took the train back to walk the ‘lower circuit’.  I thought seeing the Devil’s Throat was amazing enough, but I was awe-struck by the sheer beauty of it all: miles of cascading waters accented by a rainbow.

We walked the trail to Salto Arrechea and the smaller falls. Walking the lower circuit, I felt the spray, rather got literally wet from the spray and figuratively soaked in the beauty of nature. 

As I walked the lower circuit towards the Sheraton Hotel, one of my tour mates approached me. She said, “Aren’t you the person who sat in first class” A little surprised I admitted that I was indeed that very person seating on seat 2A.  I recognized her as the woman who on that flight from Buenos Aires to Iguazu was eyeing my seat as if to tell me that I was not supposed to be in first classIt then occurred to me, “yeah, seat 2A, I was the only one among the group seating in first class?” Ah, it did not matter how it happened or where it came from, I took it as a surprise gift from Santa. Like the perfect weather and the timing, seat 2A was part of a wonderful wrapping of the perfect Christmas present: Iguazu Falls, a gift of nature. I could not ask for a more wonderful Christmas present.

On the ride back to the airport, our guide said, “I have something for you; open it when you get home.” He handed us some folded pamphlets containing some information about the National Park and the Falls. I opened the pamphlet and found a map of the falls. I began to understand why we did not need the map; Park Nacional de Iguazu offers a well-planned and environmentally minded walk to the falls, no one could get lost.  

It was only on our way back to the airport that our guide started giving us statistics about the falls: There are 275 cascades spread in a horseshoe shape over nearly two miles of the Iguazu River. Some have no names because they disappear when it does not rain. The average amount of water that goes thundering down 270 feet is about 550 cubic feet per second. The flow of water changes according to the season. During the rainy season, the rate of flow of water going over the falls may reach 12,700 cubic meters per second. When flooding occurs, the waterfalls turn reddish. There was a time (drought of 2005-2006) when the falls were dry. Downstream from the falls where the Parana and Iguazu rivers meet, are the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. It was there where one of the largest dams in the world and the Itapúa hydroelectric power plant was built.  I then realized why he was careful about giving us some statistics about the falls before the walk. Numbers are hard to grasp and don’t matter in describing Iguazu Falls. You have to experience it, hear the magnificent thunderous sound of the waterfalls and see the sheer beauty of cascading waters. The best way to describe Iguazu Falls is to use superlatives. Iguazu Falls are among the most amazing natural wonders I have ever seen.

NOTE:   All photos by the author
Bring light rainwear, the mist from falls will settle on your clothing and make it damp. Don't use insect repellant, the insects are friendly, the butterflies most wonderful.



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