Carnivorous Coaties and Selfies In The Mist At The Iguazu Falls

February 28, 2016  •  2 Comments

An adventurous journey under the precipice of the massive Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.

"I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."

Kurt Vonnegut (do you think he might have visited these falls?)


February 8, 9 & 10:

We caught the noon bus for the Argentine city of Puerto Iguazú at about noon. Puerto Iguazú is a bustling border town sitting on the confluence of where the Rio Uruguay flows into the Rio Paraná on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. Just a few kilometers outside of this town is the spectacular Iguazú Falls. The falls are a series of gigantic multi-leveled cascades that extend for over a mile in roughly a horseshoe shape. They are up to 250 feet high with thousands of cubic meters of water a second pouring over their edges, the sound and energy of all this cannot be described in words. They are set in the most beautiful forest inhabited by an exotic variety of flora and fauna. 


Our first visit to this amazing natural wonder was sometime in June, 1977 when we drove there from Asuncion with friends. We visited both sides, the Argentine and the Brazilian. At that time the number of other tourists there was minimal, and very often we had parts of the trails to ourselves. Part of the reason might have been that it was the South American winter and not many folks were on vacation, and the other was that tourism to this site was hardly at the level that is has grown to now. 


This time, on our first day, we took a bus from Puerto Iguazú to the National Park on the Argentine side of the falls. The entrance to the park has been expanded, and the entry price has gone up. On our first trip, we were able to drive our car to a parking lot not far from the beginning of the trails to the falls; now access is only gained via a small-gauge train that shuttles passengers the quarter mile or so to the trails. All the changes were understandable as they facilitate the movement of the thousands of tourist who come to see these wonders during peak season, as well as serve to cut down on the pollution that the automobiles bring. Bryna had her FitBit on, and it recorded that we spent the whole day walking over 16,000 steps through the steamy verdant forest and over metallic catwalks viewing the incredible series of falls from vantage points above and below the cascades. It was hard to estimate the number of tourists there, but one of the rangers told us it was in excess of ten thousand per day! We were just three in the crowd on some catwalks that could have used a traffic cop to keep the masses moving. This was especially true at some of the more popular viewing points where you had to wait in line to make a photo, or in the case of many of the tourists, use your selfie-stick over the heads of the crowds. We did a quick estimate of how many possible photos of the falls were made each day, and came up with over 100,000 based on 100 photos made per person. I have to take that number a bit philosophically and assume that given the vast quantity being snapped, my humble digital images have a highly depreciated value compared to the Kodachromes I made back in 1977 before the ubiquitous smart phone was ever imagined.


Some changes to the experience since 1977:

  • exponentially more tourists from all over the world.  We heard many languages on the trails.
  • more control of access and movement within the park
  • more touristy adventure activities: boat rides into the mist of the falls, for example 
  • wider and more sturdy walkways over the falls, better overlooks
  • lots of park rangers monitoring and directing the tourists’ movements
  • more snack bars, including a Subway!
  • coatis, relatives of the raccoon, more visible and aggressive at seeking scraps of food around the snack bars. They have adapted to the masses of humans who have invaded their habitat and get their revenge by making pests out of themselves.   


The next day, Wednesday, we took the bus from Puerto Iguazú to the Brazilian side of the falls. It is a great complement to the extensive trails of the Argentine side. It’s a shorter experience, and most of the views are from above, looking down into the falls. Again the park was crowded with tourists, and entry was controlled. We bought tickets at the large and spacious entrance building, complete with restaurants and gift shops, and then waited in line for a double-decker bus to drive us about a third of a mile to the drop-off point, which is across from the Hotel Cataratas, the elegant pink and white five-star hotel that still looked pretty much the same as it did the first time we saw it in ’77. 


I was OK with being among the masses of tourists viewing the falls. It was, after all, summer in South American, and most of the tourists were either Brazilian or Argentine. I suppose it is not too unlike the experience of going to our own Yellowstone or Yosemite in the summer.  It was certainly a very different experience compared to the almost exclusive access that we had during our first visit, but it was nonetheless as awesome and  impressionable, and when I got tired at photographing water, there were always the Coatis or my fellow tourists who made good subjects.

Looking across one of the many cascades of the Iguazu Falls to a viewing platform on the opposite side.


Shelley and Bryna on one of the walkways over the many portions of the Rio Parana that flow over the falls.


Now just imagine the awesome sound that all this water is making.


The resident rascals in the forest around the falls, the coatis have figured out that where there are humans, there is food.


The lunch line...


I don't recall seeing one coati on our fist trip in '77, but now they are a ubiquitous part of the experience.


Shelley had a bit of a surprise when this one jumped into her bag looking for food while we were on the Brazilian side of the falls.


Just another case of Mother Nature striking back at the dominant species.


Turistico Humano were the dominant species crowding the walkways at the falls.


The engineering and construction of the walkways by both Argentina and Brazil were brilliant and really brought us up close and almost into the falls, a very amazing and unforgettable experience.


Water water everywhere...


A friendly Brazilian park ranger keeping the masses of tourists moving.


That's Bryna making a GoPro selfie in the mist. It was so hot that day that under the falls was a great place to cool off.


The photo-phenomenon that's sweeping the planet.


With new and innovative devices to make it even easier.


You weren't there unless it's on Facebook.


Now for some more water shots: A walkway on the Brazilian side brings you right over a part of the falls called the "Devil's Throat"


This view from the Brazilian side reminded me of some sort of primordial water-world. 

This scene reminded me of a Chinese brush painting.


And at the end of the day, after all the walking, the heat, humidity, fighting off Coatis, avoiding being in someone else's selfie, and if you are on the Brazilian side of the falls, I recommend that you stop by the beautiful Hotel das Cataratas for an ice coffee by the pool.






Damn, boy! The first shot of the falls with the thick, dramatic clouds and the peopled platform for scale - wow. And the selfies are worth a feature for their humor alone.
Wow such beautiful photos of an amazing trip. Spectacular waterfall shots- interesting selfie shots....great travel log, too. Back to nature... 21st century style!
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