By: Lauren Thomas
After some time in Rio de Janeiro , and a quick trip to the Amazon and to Brasilia , our group arrived late one night in the small airport of the Brazilian city, Foz do Iguassu . The bus took us directly to our hotel and it wasn't until the next morning at breakfast that I realized the amazing beauty of the waterfalls that surrounded us.
Las Cataratas do Iguassu stem from the Iguassu River , Iguassu meaning "big water", and serve as a border between Brazil and Argentina . More than 270 separate falls gushing down from the height of 170-250 feet make this a massive natural wonder, and when you're there you can feel the immensity engulf you. There is always the sound of the pounding water, and of the birds that squawk while flying around through the mist. The mist makes the air heavy, and if you're close enough it'll soak you! The falls stretch along approximately two and a half miles, with coves and rock-islands forming the shelf line. This picture is taken from the Brazilian side, of the walkway that begins outside our hotel and ends here with this beautiful, in-your-face view.
The Legend of the Waterfall, as offered by the Hotel Tropical das Cataratas, tells of a tragic love story between two Caingangue Indians, Naipi and Tarobá. Naipi was the daughter of the tribe's chief, and was so beautiful that the river waters stopped when she looked at her reflection. These Indians believed M'boy, the serpent-shaped god, ruled the world, and so they offered Naipi up as a sacrifice, and she was to live only for his worship. The young warrior Tarobá, though, had fallen in love with Naipi at first sight, and on the day of the offertory ceremony, when the chief and priest were drinking and the warriors were dancing, he snuck her away on a canoe heading down river. M'boy heard of their escape and became furious, twisting his body in the underground he penetrated the earth and opened up the crack that formed the Iguassu falls. Tarobá and Naipi's canoe was taken by the great strength of the water, and they disappeared forever, but according to legend, Naipi turned into one of the central rocks below the falls and Tarobá became a palm tree inclined over the river. The last line of the legend reads, "Eternally watched by their god, the lovers still contemplate each other."
You wouldn't do yourself justice to only visit one side of the falls, especially because it is so convenient to get across into Argentina . Border control was a very casual experience, nothing like it would be here in the US , and both countries have beautiful national parks in the area surrounding the falls. The view from both sides is unbelievable; Brazil offers a more panoramic scene while in Argentina you're able to get right up close, from both above and below the drop-offs. After the being in the Amazon I thought I would never see anything that could compare, but these falls were absolutely magnificent! And, in fact, they are surrounded by a rainforest- although it is semi-tropical rather than Amazonian.
The Brazilian national park is larger than the Argentinean side, with 1550 sq km versus 550 sq km. Our exploration of the Brazil forest was a guided jeep tour, followed by a boat ride into the waterfalls. The guide pointed out various trees and plants, the one I remember most is the poison ivy- the leaves were huge! On our trip to Argentina we were able to spend a good four hours walking through the park. I walked on the superior and inferior circuits (upper and lower), amazed the entire time by my surroundings. The vegetation was so lush, the colors so bright, and the sounds of the water and birds so prominent. I saw beautiful butterflies that are distinctive of this region, and a crazy lizard with a bright blue tail.
In these parks there is said to be 2000 species of plants, layered in six levels, from the floor to the low, middle, and high tree canopies. Parrots, parakeets, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, toucans, and hawks can be found in the forest, along with monkeys, sloths, raccoons, anteaters, and jaguars (among other things). I didn't observe any of these up close in the parks, however I did see a few toucans in a tree outside the breakfast hall at our hotel one morning. They were smaller than I had envisioned, but their beaks were bright and distinctive as expected.
My experience at Iguassu falls was amazing, and I hope I have shared some of my enthusiasm. This is definitely a must-see for any visit to this incredible country.
Taken from the Brazilian side, this picture shows the span of the falls in Argentina
(2002). The lonely planet: Brazil . 5'th ed. Australia : The Lonely Planet Publishing.
(2003). Iguacu falls. retrieved Feb 10, 2004 , from Hillman Wonders of the World Web