“ONE of the most notable natural marvels of South America” is how one encyclopedia begins its description of these outstanding falls located near where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet. What makes them especially attractive is their natural setting—a virgin tropical forest. Truly jewels set in a background of green. No wonder that a visit here is a must for tourists to South America!
“Iguaçú” means “Great Water” in the Guarani language. And great it is, for the thundering falls can be heard 20 miles [30 km] away. Depending on the season of the year, one can count nearly 300 different waterfalls plunging over an immense precipice. Some of the falls do this in one plunge, while others drop to a ledge halfway down and then take another leap to the bottom of the gorge. It is estimated that during the rainy season, nearly 13,000 cubic yards [10,000 cu m] of water crash over the falls in one second. As a result, the vast caldron below produces a mass of mist and spray, which on a sunny day presents a series of colorful rainbows all day long.
The main part of this wonderful display is the famous Garganta do Diabo (Devil’s Throat, or Gorge), described in a tourist brochure as “the most majestic panorama of the whole show, a circle of fourteen falls which hurtle down over cliffs almost 90 m [300 ft] high.”
Probably the best way to view the falls is by helicopter. After such a ride, one tourist said: ‘Our pilot seemed to sense our appreciation for the beautiful scene below. And instead of going far afield as he often does, he made several passes back and forth over the whole length of the canyon. Our cameras and video were in constant use as they registered for us this wonderful display of Jehovah’s creative works.’
Other visitors are content just to stroll along the many pathways and walks that have been prepared for them. From the Brazilian side, one has a full panoramic view of the falls, whereas on the Argentine side, it is possible to hike right alongside the individual falls and, in some places, cross over them from one island to another on concrete walkways. Most visitors do both, feasting their eyes and focusing their cameras on the spectacle of the falls framed by the luxuriant green of the immense rain forest stretching out toward the distant horizon.
Those who are on the alert will see the swallows as they dart in and out of the clouds of spray and then up to the tops of the trees before they take another plunge. Or they will see flocks of squawking green parrots that dive into the falls near the top where the water is not so deep, and then they just cling to the edge of the cliff, only to reappear suddenly and fly to the treetops, where they preen themselves.
And if the visitors watch more closely, they will see the large hanging nests of the noisy red-rumped cacique, a type of weaver bird. The birds live in colonies, and their nests, made from long grass fibers, hang from the lower boughs of the trees. All of these, together with the many varieties of butterflies, lend a colorful touch to a visit to the falls.
Truly, Iguaçú Falls must be seen and heard to be fully appreciated. Formed in 1939, Brazil’s Iguaçú National Park, which is the setting for this stupendous display of natural beauty, is visited by thousands of tourists each year. They are not disappointed, nor will you be if you include it in your next trip to South America.