I was wowed the first time I saw Niagara Falls as a child, and have been lucky enough to see them regularly ever since as I’ve always lived within a three-hour drive of them.
That experience also sparked a life-long interest in waterfalls that I’ve pursued to this day. Any chance I have to see or visit a waterfall, I try to take advantage of it.
So when I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to rent an apartment and co-working office space in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a month, I knew I couldn’t travel all that way without seeing Iguazu Falls. That spurred my decision to visit Rio de Janeiro as well since, if I had to buy a visa to see the falls from the Brazilian side, I might as well get more for my money than just one day’s use.
So I flew from Toronto to Rio, spent three days getting to know one of the most geographically blessed cities in the world, and then caught a two-hour flight south to Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. I stayed a night at the clean, efficient and modern Concept Design Hostel, but was quick to dump my bags off and catch the city bus to the falls -- about 17 kilometres outside the city -- as soon as I arrived in the late afternoon on Wednesday.
The falls are located in Iguacu National Park, which was created in 1939 and established as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. It’s part of the largest remaining Atlantic forest of southern Brazil.
Iguazu Falls extend in a semi-circular pattern for 2,700 metres, of which 800 metres are on the Brazilian side. The number of falls are variable, depending on the river volume, and range in height from 150 to 270 metres. The falls have names including Floriano, Deodoro, Benjamin Constant and Devil’s Throat.
The water was more brown than I anticipated, but that’s owing to the large amount of deforestation which has taken place over the past 50 years, which causes soil to erode and flow into the river — causing turbidity.
The general adult entrance fee to Iguacu National Park’s Brazilian side is R$63 (about $25 Canadian), which includes a shuttle bus that takes you from the entrance farther into the park to where a walking trail begins north of the Iguacu River.
The relatively short trails and catwalks provide great panoramic views of the Argentinean side, including some of San Martin Island that are unavailable from across the border.
Just watch out for the quatis, a raccoon-like animal that can grow in size to 113 centimetres and 7.2 kilograms. They're even more annoying than raccoons, however, and less afraid of humans. They’re commonly on the trails and I saw one jump on a picnic table to try and take a woman's food as she sat there. They’ll scratch and bite if provoked, and some carry rabies. Just walk by and don't eat or open any food around them and you shouldn't have any issues.
Probably the most famous of the Iguazu Falls is known as Devil’s Throat, and a catwalk allows you to go right out to it, while an observation deck and tower are right beside it. Wherever you choose to view from, you’re going to get wet, it’s just a matter of how much. If you didn't have time for a shower in the morning, spending time in Devil's Throat will quickly solve that if you walk into the heart of it.
I spent two hours exploring the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls and caught the second last shuttle bus back to the entrance. The experience was so exhilarating that it was difficult to leave, but I still had the Argentinean side of the falls to look forward to on Thursday.