Brazil Trip 101: Iguaçu Falls

9 06 2012

Upon seeing Iguazu, the United States’ First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed “Poor Niagara!”

Overview

Cataratas do Iguaçu or Iguazu Falls is huge complex of waterfalls along the Iguazu River dividing Argentina and Brazil. The Iguazu is a cataract waterfalls, meaning it is a huge and powerful waterfall, which is apt since the name Iguazu has been derived from the indigenous Tupi language meaning “big water”.

Argentina’s side of the Iguazu Falls. Best viewed from Brazil.

The falls can be seen from either Argentina or Brazil. Having an amazing natural wonder parked just in their backyards, both countries made sure that airports, hotel facilities, roads, and transportation are set up for the convenience of tourists that would visit the falls. Oh, regarding what Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed and having personally seen both Niagra and Iguazu, I definitely agree.

Our Trip

Straight off our 15-hour flight from Doha to Sao Paulo (SP-GRU), we checked into our domestic flight to Foz do Iguacu (IGU). While not as convenient as the Doha airport, the domestic wing of the GRU airport was alright. There are enough food establishments around though most were pricey. Yeah, imagine a McDonald’s burger meal at SGD 25. You will find a number of money exchange counters to change your dollars. Make sure you budget accordingly. Don’t change all your dollars, and at the same time, make sure your money lasts through a weekend as most banks and exchange establishments will be closed.

We took off at 2345 for a short 1hr 30min flight via GOL arriving at 0130. Ensure that you have booked your hotel in advance. At 1:30 in the morning, straddling a backpack and trying to find a place to stay is not cool. Our free hotel pick up took us straight to the hotel which was only 5 minutes away.

From the airport going the opposite way from the hotel, would take you to the entrance to Parque Nacional do Iguacu.

A simple brick gateway to one of the world’s natural wonders

Parque Nacional do Iguacu

Our primary objective is to see the falls but there are also other activities you do in the park. We booked through Falls Vision Receptivo, a rappelling activity on the first day and the Macuco Safari on the 2nd. Falls Vision is a local tours and activities business, with its office located right outside the Arrival exit in the airport. The staff are extremely friendly, helpful, and quite knowledgeable of the area. They speak pretty good English which is a bit of a relief. There are taxis that ply the area to and from the national park entrance. However, I recommend taking the bus as taxis charge BrR 15-20  for a short 5 minute ride whereas you pay less that BrR 2 to take the bus. Additionally, its an added experience to be able to tryout the local transport system, and you get forced to interact with the locals.

Map of the Brazil Iguazu National Park

Rappel and Rafting

The rappel site offers a great view of the 1st photo above and a glimpse of the succeeding photos below. The time you spend here depends on how long you let yourself go. The guide was very friendly and interactive. He even engaged us when we were asking what sort of words can we use when we watch a soccer match and the opposing team scored. You get the picture…

Rappel and Rafting

Towards the rappel site

After you reach the bottom of the rapper tower, you have the option to take go white water rafting. The whirlpools along the river is strong which, in my opinion, adds that umpf in adventure. Unfortunately, we were on a budget and didn’t push through with that. Instead, we had to take the 20 minute stair climb all the way back up to where we started. TrailThere is trail from the rappel towards the viewing platform that traverses along the lower part of the Iguazu River. While it is mostly cemented and with railings put up to prevent tourists from falling off, it is still a great nature trip experience.

One of the falls in line with the series of falls you will see. This one is the first one you will see from the rappel site.

The wind is clean, fresh, and cool from the falls but at the same time humid and earthy from the rain forest. There a lot of viewing decks that offer picturesque views of the main falls and the auxiliary that drop towards the same river. Here are a series of shots we can’t help take during our stroll.

A view of the rapids below and mist coming out of the main falls

One of the view decks along the trail. If you go take the Macuco Safari boat ride, you’ll get to go under a couple of those falls.

Even if it is sunny, the air is cool. Sighting the view deck that goes closest to the Devil’s Throat.

The end of the trail with view deck towards the Devil’s Throat

The end of the trail is a fork to the tower and to the view deck towards the Devil’s Throat. Here you will need to ensure all your electronic devices are kept in a dry bag. The mist generated by the falls will definitely get you wet. If you have not brought a change of clothes, you might need to think twice but the view from this point onward is definitely worth getting soaked. Devil’s ThroatThe Devil’s Throat is were the falls is at its strongest. The currents here are said to be stronger than that of Niagara Falls and second probably only to Victoria Falls.

From the trail to the viewing deck

This part of the park is the centerpiece of the national park. This were most of the viewing decks are concentrated simply because it is the most awesome natural sight you will ever see. That was probably an exaggeration but it was one of those sights that take your breath away.

Top view of the Brazil viewing platform. To the right is the edge of the falls. To the left is the Devil’s Throat.

The deck crosses the only step pool of the falls and tries to reach out as close as it can towards the main falls. The experience of just witnessing the awesomeness of Mother Nature here is great. The view was spectacular, the breeze and water were clean, the falls was powerful – as a photographer, you won’t be able to take a bad shot. As a traveller, it makes the whole day journey worth it.

View from the platform

Further forward, left side… Once you get here, it gets colder and more wet…

From a set of falls on the left to another on the right

View of the river after the falls

Lookout  Tower

View from tower right beside the falls

Devil’s Throat

See the tourists at the Argentinean side

Macuco Safari

The Macuco Safari is a 15 minute ride in the rain forest aboard the jeep which look like the Hippo Tours in Singapore, a 15 minute walk along a trail to view the small Macuco Falls which is similar to a walk along the Bukit Timah trail in Singapore, and a 30 minute boat ride which we were looking forward to. This is definitely a must do when in the park. While the jeep ride and the walk was a bit so so, considering that tropical rain forests are rather similar to those here in Asia and most plant species are here are similar to back home, the boat ride was one for the books. If you want interaction with some of the local tourists, take the jeep ride and walk.

Entrance to the Macuco Safari inside the national park

The Macuco Safari Jeep

Deck for the Macuco Safari Boat Ride

The Macuco Safari Boats

Video of the Macuco Safari Boat Ride

No words can describe how much we enjoyed the ride. Good thing we had it all on video. 🙂

Tips

  1. Plan your activities in advance. The more activities in a day, the less you spend on entrance fees into the national park.
  2. Prepare your sunblock and insect repellents.
  3. Drop by the town area and take the bus. Bus service starts as early as 6am and ends just around midnight. There are taxi services but they are infrequent.
  4. Bring along your excitement and upbeat attitude despite the long haul flight you just arrived from a few hours before.
  5. Interact, ask, learn, take lots of pictures, and never forget to have fun!

Macuco Safari Boat Ride

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