Journey to Iguazu Falls

The journey to Iguazu was extremely long, we had set off the night before from Bonito on a shared bus driving all the way through the night to get to Foz do Iguacu on the Brazilian side. We arrived at about 6am after 8hrs on the bus. It wasnt comfortable and I had a lass next to me that kept leaning on me through the night and waking me up. I suppose its all the experience and character building.

When we go to the hotel we were all pretty tired and grumpy, we had breakfast at the hotel and they allowed us to check in early. We headed upstairs to our rooms and crashed for a couple of hours. It was a good job we got to have a sleep as I had ben looking forward to seeing the falls since I booked onto the trip.

We headed off early afternoon to walk around the Brazilian side of the falls. We parked up had some very expensive lunch at the café entrance and headed off to the start of the walk. Our guide was really informative however all I wanted to do was walk off to look at the falls. The guide was discussing the fauna and flora that we could see in the area, the most famous being Coatis, which I hadn’t seen yet. Our first view of the falls were well off however it was beautiful. We were told to not take too many pictures at the start and just to make our way to the end of the track

Iguazu Falls are located on the Iguazu river on the border of Argentina and Brazil. It is the largest waterfall system in the world with around 275 waterfalls and around 62000 cubic feet per second of water cascade down the falls. In rainy season the larger falls can join up to make one large fall. Iguazu is also one of the seven natural wonders of the world and when you’re there its not hard to see why.

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We did spend a lot of time at the end of the walkway and I must have taken well over 200 photos between my phone and camera. We headed off out of the park and towards the very expensive hotel which is located within the national park we had a seat outside in the sun with a glass of wine with a lovely view of the falls in the distance. A few of us had decided to go for a helicopter ride over the falls and to meet up with one of the other group in the Bird Sanctuary across the road afterwards. I was a little nervous as I am petrified of flying at the best of times. One of the guys jumped in the front and me and my room mate went in the back and then a random guy jumped in with us which was a shame as my room mate was then forced to sit in the middle where your view is pretty rubbish. However we worked it out so she could get some good shots. The flight was only around 15 min and most of that time was flying to and from the falls.

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The views were well worth the expense and its something not everyone gets a chance to experience and I would recommend it.

After the high of the helicopter ride we headed over to the Bird Sanctuary, it wasn’t that expensive and it was brilliant. Most of the birds you get to see up close as you can go into their aviaries. I spent about 30 minutes in with the hummingbirds trying to get a perfect shot of one of the hovering. I managed to get quite a few good shots though so it was well worth it.

That night we headed out for a group meal to a restaurant near the hotel. Eating out in Brazil is a bit different as most places are normally buffet style – price per head or price per weight. It is very meat orientated as well so can be difficult very vegetarians to have a varied diet. The drink was pretty cheap in the hotel so my room mate and myself shared a bottle of wine. We all headed off to bed pretty early as it was going to be a long day on the Argentinian side of the waterfalls.

Our group merged with another G Adventures group that morning to get to Iguazu on the Argentinian side, just to make it easier for the border crossing. It was a very odd set up, we technically speaking never left Brazil so we had an entry stamp into Argentina but not out of Brazil.

It was a bit of a mad rush to get on the train in the national park to get down to Argentinas most famous waterfall “Devil’s Throat”. The train is very small and they cram you in the seats and it moves incredibly slowly, so be warned if you don’t like small spaces. Once we got there we sat around and waited until the rest of our group arrived and headed off down the pathway across the river.

There are around 14 waterfalls making up the Devils Throat which plunge around 350ft into the river below. In the video clip above you can see Great Dusky Swifts which fly very close to the waterfall. The spray is immense and rises high above the waterfall. It truly is spectacular and I don’t think words, pictures or videos can summarise just how amazing this place is.

After the Devils Throat we headed back up on the train and headed off around on one of the many walks that you can do around the national park. On the Argentinian side there are a lot more waterfalls and it is slightly better however if I had a choice to do both again I would as the Brazilian side gives you a better perspective. But if you do the Argentinian side first don’t expect too much from the Brazilian side. The walk went on for a couple of hours and we took our time and just enjoyed the scenery.

We did have a close encounter with a Coati which came down from one of the trees next to me which was brilliant. They are extremely cute.

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After this long walk we had a nice sit down in the sun having some lunch, in my case this was an ice cream chocolate milkshake. We hung around for the jet boat experience which we had paid for yesterday. This experience takes you on a boat up the river very close to the waterfalls and underneath a couple of them.

The trip to the jet boat dock was very good, we had a guide who spoke about deforestation and the animals that can be found in the area. We got on the jet boat at the back as apparently that was the best seat. It started out pretty slow however it soon picked up. We got to go under two waterfalls, one rather small one which was a tad disappointing and then a very big waterfall. We did not go under this waterfall however from the video below you can see we got soaked anyway, and it was incredibly fun.

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After this we walked up to the top of the path and headed off towards the van for our return trip to the hotel in Brazil. A couple of us booked onto a night time tour of Iguazu as it was a full moon event, so we had to get back to Brazil eat and come back again in a taxi on your own. We got a taxi from our hotel across the border into Argentina and he waited for us while the tour took place which is a few hours so be prepared to pay a little extra.

If the night time tour is an option you get then I would definitely suggest booking onto an early slot. We were told to get there for 8pm however our tour didn’t start until 9pm meaning we wouldn’t get back to the hotel until close to midnight and we had to be up very early the next day. It was very cold at night in the park and I wasn’t dressed for that, so I was freezing. We got on the train and had the slow ride back down to Devils Throat. By this point I was cold and tired and a bit annoyed at the organisation of it all, however as soon as we got to the falls I was amazed. The full moon lit up the water and it looked fantastic. I was also surprised at the heat coming off the water, making it actually quite warm by the water. I took a lot of photos but only a few came out which showed the light on the water, my camera got soaked in the process as the breeze was blowing the spray towards the tourist deck.

All in all, every single one of the experiences at Iguazu was amazing and should be a must do for anyone visiting Argentina and Brazil. Not many people get to see Iguazu at night so if there is a full moon when you are touring I highly suggest you book early and get on the trip, as we were lucky that our guide managed to sneak us on.

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Gruta do Lago Azul and Rio da Prata Snorkelling

While travelling through South America (La Paz to Rio de Janeiro) with G Adventures we met up with fellow travellers that had travelled from Brazil in the Salt Flats in Bolivia. We were chatting about best things to do in Brazil and they told us about Rio da Prata which was apparently not to be missed (they had missed out due to not knowing to pre-book). While I had wifi I contacted the hotel we were staying in Bonito and tried to get all of us on the tour as we didn’t want to miss out. We had almost 2 weeks to wait and see what was to come, but we were assured it was spectacular. Its the only activity in my years of travelling that I have booked that far in advance.

When we got to Bonito we were greeted by thunderstorms – all afternoon and night. It was very impressive. We had arranged to also go to Gruta do Lago Azul (Blue Lake Cave) in the morning then head off to snorkel in the afternoon however due to the storms and the amount of rain coming down both activities might be cancelled and it would be the only day we could do both as we were leaving the day after. We tried to get sleep through the storms and hope that the trip we had planned weeks ago would not be cancelled.

We got up at 6:50am for 7am departure to head out towards Gruta do Lago Azul, not knowing if it would be open for us to venture down to see. The weather had finally cleared up and the sun was shining and the ground had already started to dry up so we were all hoping that the water might have subsided. Thankfully when we got there they had the open sign out.

Gruta do Lago Azul means Blue Lake Cave. As the name suggests its a cave with stunning blue waters. Amazingly we had to wear hard hats to go down into the cave (so far in Brazil the health and safety had been lacking). There are ALOT of steps going down into the cave, these were very slippy from the torrential rain the night before.

As you descend into the cave you are surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. The tour guide did speak a bit of English but our G Adventures guide decided to come along for the entire day so she helped with the translation.

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Between September and February the waters are an intense blue colour. There are prehistoric fossils which have been found in the cave which unfortunately you cant see, fossils include a giant sloth and a sabre-toothed tiger. You can spend hours staring into the beautiful blue water and trying to capture the perfect shot. The photos below have not been enhanced on photoshop – it really is that blue!

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From The Gruta do Lago Azul we headed towards Rio del Plata. We had a lovely afternoon chilling out in the hammocks and enjoyed a very delicious buffet lunch. We waited around for around an hour and a half before we were called to get kitted out in wetsuits. The area is protected so wetsuits are mandatory to protect the waters, they also ask you not to have freshly applied suncream as well as it can pollute the water.

The tour starts with a 4×4 drive to the start of the trail which leads through the forest of the Prata River and its tributary Olho D’Água River. The area is protected by a Private Reserve (RPPN). The trail leads to the main spring of Olho d’Água River where the snorkeling tour begins.

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As soon as you get in the water you are amazed about how crystal clear the waters are. We snorkelled around the entry area for a while, so you could adjust the snorkel mask and for the guide to make sure you would be safe and listen to his instructions. The tour was amazing, the waters were so clear, there were hundreds of fish all around you. I have uploaded some videos and photos from the tour, however it doesn’t capture the tranquillity of the area or just how beautiful and how well the Brazilians look after the Olho D’Água. They are very proud of the area and try hard to keep it pristine for future generations to enjoy.

 

The video below is further downstream so there are less fish but still the crystal clear waters and surroundings make it very enjoyable. You don’t really need to swim, just float and let the light current take you downstream. They do ask you not to move arms and legs much in the water as well so you don’t disturb the ecosystem.

You do have to get out at one point along the way and walk for a bit, this is so you don’t get taken down some white water. You get straight back in though and continue your journey towards Prata River. There is a large area where you can jump in and take some good photos. None of us wanted to do this but we did take a couple of underwater shots.

From this point you continue downstream and you can tell immediately then you hit the Prata River as the water temperature drops a few degrees. You do have the option to get out here if you are tired or cold, or you can continue snorkelling downstream to the get out point. The river is not as clear here but there are some really big fish you can see which are worth it.

Overall this trip is well worth the money, it might not be cheap but the memories last a lifetime!

Enjoy!